02/25/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 56)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 56

Date: 02/25/2013
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)


In my practice session this morning I centered my attention on the use of singing while playing a pitch. I am able to sing from the tenor low Bb up to the high F with consistency, but beyond that range it becomes extremely difficult. While practicing I came upon a fingering that, when sung into the horn at particular intervals, very suspended and overtone-rich tones would emerge.

This improvisation uses only three sung pitches with a single “chord” fingering. The chord will not speak as you hear it in this improvisation unless I am singing into the instrument. In concert key, the sung pithces are C#, D, E (each about a quarter step low). While playing the fingering and singing into the horn, I found that on the fifth of the chord many new tones emerged. During this improvisation I played very conservatively, and this chord and singing combination could yield so many other colors. The fingerings used are as follows–through most of the piece, I use: (Left Hand) B-A-G Keys, Low Bb, Octave // (Right Hand) F-E-D Keys, Low C, side F. On the “second” pitch, a Concert D (quarter step low), this fingering and singing combination created many contrasting colors you hear during this improvisation. There were however a few times when I wanted to hear this second pitch played and sung in the unison, and I would also open the Fork F key to enable this to happen. I would then put it down again when moving back to either the first or third pitches.

During this piece there is about a 10 second period where a new tone emerges in the upper register. In addition, there were also extremely high pitched whistle tones that would occasionally enter the sound field as a result of the combination of singing and fingering the above notes. A fascinating result of this entire process is that the horn seems to create the same kind of timbre as the human voice. This is similar to when a saxophone or human voice, etc. is played into a piano. Because of the overtones, you will hear what sounds like the instrument itself being resonated into the piano. While practicing this piece today, for just a moment in time I actually believed that the horn was singing a minor third below my own sung note. It was an extraordinary feeling to believe even for a moment that the horn could actually be speak these two pitches clear as day as though they were coming from my own body and not the horn itself.