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  • Writer's pictureMatthewSaxStudies

Collective Beauty

learn saxophone

I ran a rehearsal last night for one of my saxophone groups, and it struck me (as it has done lots of times before) how powerful playing long notes collectively can be.

Do you practise with friends and/or other saxophonists? If not, you should definitely try it.

As a warm up, try all of you simultaneously playing long notes for a couple of minutes.

The beauty of this is that it

  • warms up your instrument,

  • warms up your embouchure,

  • warms up your ears

AND it is impossible for you to play a wrong note! You create different effects..."crunchier" sounds and more obviously harmonious sounds, but none of it is wrong.

You will create some sounds and harmonies that you would not have done in any other situation, and they are often amazing!

In my rehearsal last night there was some truly wonderful sounding harmonies and it prompted me to share the idea with you.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on. Here's some tips to think about when you do it:

  • make sure that you are all in tune

  • start one at a time so that you gradually build up the sound

  • balance your volumes - if one person is playing quiet, gentle notes then don't come in blasting a bottom Bb!

  • listen to yourselves, to each other and, most importantly, the collective sound created.

This works with 2 instruments, but for best results you need 3+ instruments.

I hope that you have fun with this.

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Alan John Curtis
Alan John Curtis
May 08, 2022

Looking forward to trying this at our next Jazz Impro session, Matthew.

May 09, 2022
Replying to

yes, it's usually pretty special in those sessions :)


May 06, 2022

Great idea We tried it out at the rehearsal of our big band for a few minutes....the difficulty

was the balance. I have the added difficulty of wearing hearing aids!! not only for balancing volume but also they affect intonation, frustrating and I'm still trying to find a satisfactory solution. Your blog has some great tips for practice, and I am still enjoying the Jazz studies, tunes. Thanks Matthew.

May 06, 2022
Replying to

Hi Melvyn,

Yes, with a whole big band it would be tricky I think. Perhaps you could have a rolling idea where each section does it for a minute then swap sections? Or even have a"Mexican Wave" effect where there's only 6 people playing at a time, so it continually changes and evolves who's playing.

I've found the biggest challenge with this has been the listening, but this is also one of the biggest areas of improvement with groups of players that try it.

I know hearing aids can be difficult to play with. I was talking to someone last night who takes them out, but then puts ear plugs in when playing.

Glad the blog is useful and that…

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