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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I'm a professional singer but just got back in to playing my sax (professionally) for the first time. I got lucky
and had a few gigs during COVID with my 5-piece band in which I sang lead and played solo on my sax.
I have a gig in July and August with a big band (not mine) and there will be 4 sax players (bari, 2 tenors, and me on alto)
and drums, keys, bass, guitar. I'm kind of nervous because I'm never played pro on my sax with other sax players in a section
and the band manager said there's no horn charts (EEK!). I'm just wondering what do I play if there are other horn players? Just play
by ear? Play unison for the most part? I'm used to seeing horn players using charts when there's more than 2 horn players.
Any advice?

Genre of music is 50's-90's - blues, rock, soul, funk. pop.

Thanks!
 

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Just a stab in the dark from someone who's definitely a non-pro, but are there any music publishers putting out charts for the music you're playing? Maybe you could find something online and pay for the arrangements? Not optimal, I know, but better than being embarrassed in public I'd think. Take this for what it's worth, an uninformed guess at what you might do. So not worth much.
 

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Playing in unison won't cut it. It's going to be impossible for all 4 of you to improvise decent horn arrangements. That sort of thing requires arranging. Either do it yourself, buy some arrangements or hire someone to do it for you. But it's really the responsibility of the band leader. He/she should have enough sense to know a horn section needs arrangements.
 

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saxophone, flutes and lil' bit of clarinet
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Someone needs to designate a horn section leader and then the leader will play the riffs that you all have to follow by ear. It can either be unison or harmony if you’re daring. Since they are songs from the 1950s to the 90s, they are probably expecting to hear something similar to what was on the original recordings. Even a single line lead sheet type chart with a single horn line would be helpful.
 

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That sounds like too many saxes if they are equally experienced to you. You either need charts, or to lose at least one sax.

Have you had any rehearsals yet? Is there a leader among the saxes? How ‘bout a band leader?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Someone needs to designate a horn section leader and then the leader will play the riffs that you all have to follow by ear. It can either be unison or harmony if you’re daring. Since they are songs from the 1950s to the 90s, they are probably expecting to hear something similar to what was on the original recordings. Even a single line lead sheet type chart with a single horn line would be helpful.
Thanks. I was thinking that too. I texted one of the sax players. She usually has horn charts so maybe we can work something out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
That sounds like too many saxes if they are equally experienced to you. You either need charts, or to lose at least one sax.

Have you had any rehearsals yet? Is there a leader among the saxes? How ‘bout a band leader?
We have a rehearsal in 2 weeks. I texted one of the horn players regarding charts. Just waiting on her response.
 

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Celebrate that someone's hiring four sax players!
Yippee! Go out and buy some quartet charts and rehearse!

I miss my classical quartet. <boo hoo> Never to happen again...
 

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Definitely four horns require arrangements. There are plenty of four-horn plus rhythm charts available--just not for this particular instrumentation.
There are a limited number of saxophone quartets that use a rhythm section, but the horns typically are soprano, alto, tenor, and bari. There are tons of mixed-horn quartets with rhythm section, but those horns typically are trumpet, alto, tenor, and trombone. In either case, there's a lot that needs to be transposed.
I can send you lists of what's in my colloection if you'd like to scope them out.
 

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We have a rehearsal in 2 weeks. I texted one of the horn players regarding charts. Just waiting on her response.
Have you a set list of the music that you are to cover? That’s the place to start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Definitely four horns require arrangements. There are plenty of four-horn plus rhythm charts available--just not for this particular instrumentation.
There are a limited number of saxophone quartets that use a rhythm section, but the horns typically are soprano, alto, tenor, and bari. There are tons of mixed-horn quartets with rhythm section, but those horns typically are trumpet, alto, tenor, and trombone. In either case, there's a lot that needs to be transposed.
I can send you lists of what's in my colloection if you'd like to scope them out.
That would be great!
 

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You better get busy writing charts, otherwise please record it and post it. I can always use a good laugh.
 

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Several times I have been involved with horn sections that do not have written arrangements. Perhaps it is a dying art but it's absolutely feasible with a good ear and a good knowledge of the genre. I think many of the old jump bands of the 30s would do head arrangements.

Depending on whether there is time to rehearse or it's more od a jam, you might accept that (a) on one hand it may not be as tight as you might like, but (b) on the other hand it looks a lot better not to have a horn section reading charts on a performance. Some looseness can be a good thing, although there are people who will disagree with me. And there is a difference between a nice looseness and a sloppiness but as this is in the Working Pros section I assume we are talking about experienced professionals anyway.

When I've been involved mostly it's been R & B and you either know the song or everyone riffs based on a lead from one or other. Obviously unisons are easy (and often appropriate anyway).

We have a rehearsal in 2 weeks.
You have the luxury of a rehearsal - even better.

Obviously all of the above does depend on context and genre.
 

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I've also been in that situation many times. It depends a lot on the music, but if they're expecting you to play whats on the recording and just figure it out yourselves in one or two rehearsals that's kind of crazy... Did they give you a setlist at least so you can check those things?
If there are specific melody lines, Careless Whispers or something, just pick one of you to play it...

If it's a looser situation, there are a lot of strategies to make things work. If you're playing a blues for instance, wait a couple choruses for things to simmer, meanwhile one of you can think up a basic rhythmic idea and sing it to the other people. Cue each other in and out of it. Or just one of you plays it for one chorus and the others add voices in harmony chorus by chorus. Basically what Pete suggested.
Also, maybe the bari just does a line and you do the response. Bari plays the tonic in 8ths on the downbeat and you three play a hit on the and of 2 playing the chord tones, extensions, whatever fits... I'm also assuming you all understand harmony and voice leading.

Simple background hits aren't that hard to come up with on the spot. Of course, you have to be flexible enough while doing this to notice if the song is going to change at some point. And, while being super creative and organizing this with the horns, you also have to remember, keep it simple and don't get in the way of the rest of the music.

Also, the entire band has to be able to improvise with you and what you come up with. If they can only perform a song one specific way.... it's going to be difficult.

Who are the other horn players? Have they done this before?

By the way, I wouldn't really recommend looking for a written sax quartet of a song you're going to perform. I'm sure you could learn things from it but I would pretty much guarantee you can't actually play it in the group. If someone wrote a sax quartet arrangement of Sittin on the Dock of the Bay, that's to make the whole song come out from a sax quartet. The bari is the bass, the lead alto usually is the melody, the other two harmonizing, adding rhythmic support, whatever. That's not at all what a sax section does in a band. In a band, the bass player is the bass player. And the vocalist will be very happy to sing the melody without you doing it as well. I'd think a perfect way to get fired from a band would be to show up and play a sax quartet part with an actual band. Not to mention, they may play with a completely different form. And who knows what key the vocalist prefers...

Might be something like playing these two clips at the same time:


That World sax Quartet recording is one of my all time favorites by the way.

Check out James Brown horn arrangements.

Or this by Prince. Or am I breaking ol saxontheweb rules here... This kind of horn arrangement could maybe be approximated on the spot.
 

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best thing to do is play the songs exactly like the record as possiable. if there were trumpet parts -you take them on alto. octave unison parts when all else fails. it can work if all players are at pro level. work out the cord harmonies at practice and assighn each part etc. some one has to take the responsibility as section leader.
 

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Several times I have been involved with horn sections that do not have written arrangements. Perhaps it is a dying art but it's absolutely feasible with a good ear and a good knowledge of the genre. I think many of the old jump bands of the 30s would do head arrangements.

Depending on whether there is time to rehearse or it's more od a jam, you might accept that (a) on one hand it may not be as tight as you might like, but (b) on the other hand it looks a lot better not to have a horn section reading charts on a performance. Some looseness can be a good thing, although there are people who will disagree with me. And there is a difference between a nice looseness and a sloppiness but as this is in the Working Pros section I assume we are talking about experienced professionals anyway.

When I've been involved mostly it's been R & B and you either know the song or everyone riffs based on a lead from one or other. Obviously unisons are easy (and often appropriate anyway).



You have the luxury of a rehearsal - even better.

Obviously all of the above does depend on context and genre.
I agree improvised horn parts are totally do-able by 2 or 3 good players. But when I saw 4 saxes, that's just too complex for most players to pull off and sound sophisticated. If you're just playing unison lines or very simply harmonies, you've just got redundant players that may as well not even be there. If the leader wants 4 saxes, he/she probably has something better than unison in mind. Or maybe the horns are just intended to be wall paper. Who knows.

I've tried to improvise 4 part harmony, and it's very difficult not to repeat notes and step on each other. Unless all the horn players are Jacob Collier clones, I just don't think 4 parts is practical.
 

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I find a combination of musescore and Chordify can let me do an acceptable arrangement in about an hour, two at most, with luck And a bit of playing along / working it out ( im in a 4 piece horn section alto, tenor bari with an excellent bass trombonist with remarkable range)
 

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But when I saw 4 saxes, that's just too complex for most players to pull off and sound sophisticated.
I agree, but nobody said it had to sound sophisticated. It all depends on genre and context. If I want sophisticated and all the horns to be playing perfect notes I'd write arrangements.
 
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