The Saxophone should know it’s place.

When talking, the other day, about appropriate mouthpieces for the C Mel, Alan referred to a couple of very skilful saxophonists who use alto mouthpieces. In my view, if you wish to play sweet music, there are many instruments out there which will do it better…made for the job.

The saxophone, especially in the larger sizes, has a unique voice. Of course, because of it’s flexible nature, it can be manipulated to play sweetly…but really it wants to get down and boogie. Even it’s only real pal, the electric guitar, needs an FX rack to compete. There are those who talk of many roles for the sax, forcing it into corners where it does not belong:-

Classical sax…. another oxymoron. Only for the odd piece for which a sax is requires, will you ever see one in a Symphony Orchestra…if you want to hear a sax go to a jazz/blues/R&R joint. The sax does not belong here; it’s like changing the rules of Cricket.

The sax, because of it’s sound, it’s history (and, to a degree, the players associated with it in the mind of the public) place the saxophone firmly in the bad boy jeans & leather jacket category. SOTW talks of “sacred sax”….really just an attempt to make belief in the supernatural “with it”.

The raucous, gritty, sound of the sax should be celebrated, not castrated.

The bigger the horn the more pronounced these features become…the baritone being the grittiest. However, the bari is relatively quiet and not as agile or penetrating as the tenor; so it falls to that instrument, with all it’s gorgeous nuances, colours, and voices, to represent the family. Much the same sound can be achieved with a C Mel, using the Bb tenor mouthpiece so why not celebrate the fact that it is a unique instrument instead of putting it in the role of clarinet, oboe or whatever.

We can go to the Opera another night….we are off now to the Juke Joint.

This entry was posted in C Saxophones, Eb/Bb saxes, Mouthpieces. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Saxophone should know it’s place.

  1. lewis says:

    To preserve Alan’s good name, I should mention that I wrote the above article 🙂 ….Lewis.

  2. alan says:

    Good points, Lewis, and well taken. No need to worry about preserving my good name – that went quite a while ago 🙂

  3. Jonf says:

    Couldn’t agree more. The sax needs to be raucous and free, otherwise it’s just like alcohol-free wine. Sacred sax? A sax playing hymns? Give me strength. Classical sax? Don’t waste my time.

  4. lewis says:

    Welcome…I like you; a man after my own heart.

  5. alan says:

    No-one has mentioned ‘folk-sax’ yet… Come on Owen, wade in ! I’ve played (Bb) tenor in a folk band – my blue period, mid 70’s – and it did fit amazingly well. Or maybe I’m just a sympathetic player… I suspect C-Soprano would do even better.

    Look at / listen to Bruce Springsteen & The Seager Sessions Band. I just have to get the CD and DVD after seeing it on BBC3 (?). A complete horn section along with two country fiddles and a steel guitar etc. etc.

  6. ukebert says:

    You are of course quite right Alan. The saxophone is amply suited to Folk music, although it’s main purpose is to give the music the qualities that Lewis is talking about, just in a folk context. So it’s using the instrument in the same way (for the most part), just playing different music. Actually the sop is particularly good for folk, and I’ve seen a fair few C Mels hanging around the place. Perfect instrument for a session that, just quiet enough not to drown out everyone else, just loud enough to make yourself noticed.

  7. lewis says:

    I have to agree. The soprano does indeed fit into Folk music….in fact, I would stay only IF there were a soprano in the band. 🙂
    C melody, or at least in the tenor mode that I use, would be too raucous.

  8. ukebert says:

    Depends on the band. I’ve heard tenors used to great effect in bands like La Bottine Souriante 🙂

  9. lewis says:

    The reason why we hear the saxophone in such a diverse variety of styles is, of course, it’s flexibility: something not possible with a banjo or mandolin.
    Alan is right when he says that, played sympathetically, it fits well with almost any sort of music.
    I too, frequently play in numbers not immediately associated with tenor…last week I banged in a couple of solos in the eminently guitar orientated “All Along the Watchtower”…fitted quite well I was told.
    Still does not get the juices flowing like howling along with a good Blues/R&B band….something about being able to use all it’s voices, colours and range….give it unto me!

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