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Discussion Starter #1
Hello. I was wondering if I could tap some saxophonist brains on this great forum or maybe even tax some saxophonist brains because I can't see an easy answer to my question.

I'm currently in the process of finalising a composition for Alto Saxophone and Piano in D flat which I have named 'Waves.' It is written the old fashioned way using notation and has been through many changes. It was meant to be a classical composition but has mutated into something rather jazzy over time.

I am ready to publish the score now, however the incessant struggle to perfect my work has reared its ugly head again with this question: How much emphasis I should place on writing embellishments and grace notes on my score, to give it the quasi improvised and highly expressive, natural sound I require from a saxophone performance?

I have uploaded two files from the first page of the Saxophone score to illustrate my point if someone on here could be so kind as to take a little look for me.

The first file illustrates almost what I can hear a jazzy saxophone playing in my minds ear.
http://paul-magee.com/scripts/altosaxophonewithembellishments.jpg

The second file only includes essential grace notes and doesn't indicate the sliding of last notes from phrases to first notes of the next phrase if that makes any sense.
http://paul-magee.com/scripts/altosaxophoneminusgracenotes.jpg

If the two pages were played alongside each other, would they sound that different?

Any help is greatly anticipated and appreciated.
 

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Yes, they would sound different. If the score will be played in a classical setting then the saxophonist will play exactly what is written.

Sax players all embellish a melody differently. If you want it embellished your way, the way you hear it, then go with #1. If you would prefer to rely on the saxophonists own ad-lib embellishments (which would sound more natural, expressive and jazzy) then go with #2 and indicate that you require the saxophonist to ad-lib the melody.

Hope this helps

EDIT: Either way, it will still sound like the same melody.
 

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Really good question. You should get Barry Sachs to chime in here.

For me, #2 "Freely interpreted" is more natural. I'd lose the double dot in the first measure of the melody. If you make your notation more "jazz standard" it will imply a jazzier interpretation. Donald Rausher believed in writing literally. He hated fermatas and preferred 6/4 measures. Johnny Carisi liked a more interpretive approach that assumed some idiomatic knowledge on the performer. If you want a "stars" feedback look up Howard Klug on the internet and email Dale Underwood at [email protected], [email protected] and ask him too. They're both sweet hearts and tell them Dave Morgan sent ya.

I made a lot of money as a copyist for Ralph Burns, Torrie Zito and Elliot Lawrence. Best practice is "don't think".

If you want an editor send me the manuscript in Sibelius or Finale.

Dave in NYC
 

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If I saw either of those charts, I'd try my best to read the ink exactly. Honestly, even something as simple as the choice of font makes a big difference for me, so much that I have a hard time swinging tunes when I see them in the very formal font used for most notation. I certainly think there should be written direction to play as written or ad lib, and maybe even a mention that you want it played in a "jazz style," though that leaves a lot of wiggle room, too. If you have the opportunity to get the professional help that's offered here, I'd say TAKE it!
 

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Bar 20: the first of the two grace notes preceding the triplets does not need the courtesy flat (on either version). That aside, I would much prefer the first version. You wrote this in a "straight" typesetter's font, and the explicit notation is more in keeping with that tradition. I would not correctly imply the interpretation you wanted if I were presented with the second version. You sprinkled SOME grace notes in the second version, which gives the impression that if you wanted it, you would have written it.

Another note: try to avoid bad page turns. Where you put it on the "explicit" version is perfect. Even if you decide to go with the less explicit version, you should leave the page turn there.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you all very much for your helpful and swift replies.

Suryo. I'm pretty sure some careful and subtle ad-libbing is inevitable if it is to sound something like the interpretation that I hear in my minds ear which is the only interpretation I have to go on. The music, especially the piano part, does have a slightly jazzy feel to it in places and the solo sax performer may be able to compliment the whole piece by not playing the sax parts note for note literally and without some expression. Consequently I will write 'molto espressivo' where appropriate because I am unconvinced that a saxophone should be played in a note for note manner where the range and expressiveness of such an instrument seems to almost go beyond the limitations of conventional notation.

Evadnagrom. Dave, it's a paradox isn't it that the second version is purer notationally but doesn't necessarily reflect what a performance by a jazzier musician might sound like which would probably transcribe by notation into something more like the first version! I worry about these things believe it or not.You suggest a jazz standard might imply a jazzier interpretation but I tend to write all my music in the old fashioned way, and since I would probably place this piece in a classical jazz genre, I believe it might be appropriate to keep to the standard format.

Your 'don't think' when you are publishing comment is a tricky one for me on this occasion. I'm too unfamiliar with the saxophone to be writing the accomplished music I perceive for the instrument. I wish I had a saxophonist at my disposal to play through passages but I don't. So with such limited resources I must think unfortunately and wish that my score looks and sounds as I intend.

I will deviate slightly because when I write piano parts, I have a constant dilemma about where multiple voices are concerned and whether I should be writing each bar with or without secondary voices without over complicating the score. I would much prefer to write four part harmony as much as possible for piano, but it simply looks 'way' too messy on the score if over used. It is usually a compromise for me but of course you must have your own ideas regarding the fit publication of scores?

Thank you very much for the links by the way. I will certainly be in touch with your friends for more advice.

If it is alright with you, I will send you my final draft of the score which I have published in Sibelius for your perusal once I have come to my conclusions. In the event that someone does wish to play it, I may just be needing your services and though I write in the 'classical' style, it would be interesting to see if the score is to your taste.

DanPerezSax. Thanks for the comment. It is essential that you do read the notes carefully of course. We composers spend a long time deliberating over them! The fonts are somewhat like the way a meal is presented... although the meal will always taste the same regardless. A font telling you to play C... is a font telling you to play C essentially. Similarly and speaking as a composer, a performer might prefer a particular font but he shouldn't let something like that deviate from a good performance and the pursuance of excellence. Fonts are eye candy to my mind.

Mal2. You're quite right about the superfluous natural on the grace note at bar 20, but these grace notes were hastily added to illustrate my original point and uploaded to the server.

Your point about if I wanted the grace notes I would have written them because I include the essential ones in the second score is the crux of my dilemma. There are grace notes, and there are nuances a saxophonist can bring to a performance by sliding from one note to the next which gives another dimension to a performance - or by flicking the fingers and adding little grace note embellishments to the performance and much more I am sure. This isn't easily identifiable using traditional notation because grace notes are grace notes and do not define whether they are essential or improvised. I could place the suggested grace notes in brackets? How far should I go?

In conclusion so far, I may place notes in the score indicating that the addition of flourishes are optional, so long as the main thematic ideas and passages remain largely unspoilt.
 

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In conclusion so far, I may place notes in the score indicating that the addition of flourishes are optional, so long as the main thematic ideas and passages remain largely unspoilt.
This is probably best. As far as the issue with gracenotes vs. flourishes goes, you're not really going off into uncharted territory here. There is standard notation for glissandi, bends, etc., so you can add those if you want them. Flicking a key for an extra-fast grace note... well, that's a grace note! I agree that adding any grace notes to the score implies that you want the player to read the ink, and coupled with the legit font it's a no-brainer. It's fine to leave a note with your score that spells out what you want your players to do, though.

You may think that the font is eye candy, but like everything else, it is part of the way the composer conveys his idea to the player. Of course, if you spell everything out, you can write the whole thing in a jazz font and have the guy play it straight, but why? When I worked doing copywork a few years ago, my boss told me the most important thing to remember was to make it easy for the player to give you what you want. You can go crazy with the details, but make sure everything you do works towards that goal. Be patronizing with the chart: make the Coda sign huge and unmistakable, when in doubt, add the courtesy accidentals, beam your 8ths consistently, write the little "3's" on the triplets, etc. Everyone has their own standards, but that rule has worked out well for me.

PS, I think you misunderstood my first comment. Of course a "C" is a "C" is a "C." You just get used to seeing things certain ways, and a swing chart in a "classical" font or vice versa does make it a touch less comfortable to read, at least for me and the few friends I've talked to about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well I went with my instincts and indicated some grace notes in brackets which indicate subtle slides but they're not obligatory. I do like the look of the jazz font dan although my classical instincts got the better of me. Perhaps people will play it staight after all.

I took your advice Dave and wrote to Dale sending him the final draft of my score for his opinions. I may tweak the sax parts based on those opinions yet. Thanks for the referal. As a token of my appreciation I am happy to send a limited copy of the same score to anyone interested particularly those who have been kind enough to comment on this forum. That would be a pdf of the full score and a pdf of the alto sax score.

I can be e-mailed at [email protected] if you would like to request your free copy.

Thank you once again.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Nothing back from Dale Dave on the Saxophone part regarding slides to grace notes, although I find the piano part that I composed in the middle, too complicated now. I suppose my feelings demonstrate why we musicians depend on feedback to a certain extent.

I guess, I might just have to settle with my instincts after all which is to write definite notes, that slide from previous notes to new notes, as grace notes in brackets. It looks a little messy, but it conveys my meaning. It's all I have to go on without advice from you guys.

I will post a link to the score in my next post.
 
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