Voicing Exotic Saxophones (Soprillo and Bass Sax)

Amber on bari sax2 An intermediate sax player like me can only play a new instrument by spending a lot of time working on the voicing of the new instrument. It took me, at that time an alto and bari sax player, over a year to find my sound on the tenor sax. From everything I’ve read, the tenor and actually the soprano can be very difficult to get comfortable with for musicians who primarily play the alto and/or bari sax. I don’t know if it is the Eb versus Bb thang; I suspect there is much more to it. And I know some stellar professional musicians who won’t play anything but their main instrument because of this voicing challenge.

I did discover once I’d made progress on the soprano sax that certain tricks, if you will, can make your adoption process faster and smoother. For example; the high end of the soprano sax range was difficult for me until I started playing soprano clarinet and sopranino sax. Then the high notes were hard on the sopranino until I started trying to get the high notes on the soprillo to speak. Kinda makes sense doesn’t it.  :o)

JaAG_BassSax So when it comes to the bass sax, I struggled mightily on the Buescher TruTone that I had tweaked by Paul Woltz of Kennelly Keys. After a year or so of struggling with the intonation challenges that plague intermediate player (such as me), I finally sprung for an Eppelsheim bass sax. Oh the sound is sublime and the whole range of the instrument was available to me from day one.

I am now excited about two performances that I am planning. At Christmas (2008) I hope to play Ward Baxter‘s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” which is a concert band piece featuring the bass sax as the solo instrument. This will be performed at Seattle’s Center House 6 December at 5 PM.

The other performance will be recording of a New Year’s song TBD that I will get a rhythm section to provide background for. I’ll post this on Microsoft Soapbox (this link is of the Dissonance my jazz xTet a number of years ago) and YouTube. I got the idea for the second project when listening to some rather weak performances on YouTube that were probably weak because of some of the limitations associated with using a vintage instrument and I suspect the musician did not spend the time working on voicing.

The last thing I’d like to do is get some of my sax playing buddies to record a sax quartet piece that includes a bass sax. But that’s a stretch goal for this year.  :o)

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra), and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Eppelsheim, Music, Music Instruments, Saxophone, soprillo. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Voicing Exotic Saxophones (Soprillo and Bass Sax)

  1. Rambling says:

    If you are in it for certain, when ever you post a video of that nature, please tell us. 
    You know, until I became a posse member I had no idea there was such a thing as a soprano sax and for certain I did not know there was any soprano imstrument at all.  Truly I am learning.

  2. Beth says:

    I like the pictures.  Is this a granddaughter in the picture?  Said cautiously as I don’t know if you are old enough to have grandchildren or not.  😉

  3. Lizzie-Beth4Him says:

    Are you aquainted with the "Poirot" theme?  It would be hard to imagine that you weren’t.  K and I enjoy the musician playing the soprano sax in the theme and until reading your blogs I wasn’t aware of the diversity of instruments and what they can individually do with some expertly playing them.  The theme I mentioned is a good example of that.
    Looking forward to any possible videos you may perform in.

  4. JaAG says:

    That is Amber trying out the bari sax. She is indeed my granddaughter and the next in the family to start on clarinet.  :o)

  5. Elizabeth says:

    "I don’t know if it is the Eb versus Bb thang; I suspect there is much more to it."Is that like an East Coast vs West Coast thing?  😉

  6. Deb says:

    Man, you are a busy soul.  I bought tickets to see Wicked at the Orpheum here in Mpls Nov 23.  Can’t wait. I will be looking forward to seeing you on Youtube.

  7. Deb says:

    Jim,  Lizzie-Beth mentions the "Poirot" theme.  I have a set of the dvds.  I love that musical theme. 

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