06/19/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 170)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 170

Date: 06/19/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)


I spent nearly my entire practice session with the colors explored in this improvisation.  I have from time to time stumbled on fingerings that produce very quiet, hidden bends with contrary motion.  The sounds captured on this improvisation are only possible at an extremely low volume with a very focused air flow.  I struggled to properly capture this piece today because of the fragile nature of its parts.  Even the quietest of whispy air sounds, saliva crackles or high pitch pockets of air escaping my embouchure would upset the structure of things and rob the gesture of its natural beauty.  I have explored this particular set of sounds and fingering combinations before, but the conditions with my body and reed selection were perfect for it today.

I used a fixed fingering action during this piece, slowly opening and closing the F key in the right hand, but never fully closing it on the tone hole.  This fingering was as follows:

(Left Hand) B-A-G keys, Octave, Fork F, Low B // (Right Hand) E-D keys.  Slowly open and close the Low F in the Right Hand.

With this fingering action, two separate pitch bends would occur.  The first was a gentle ascending bend from a Concert D to E, and the second a gentle descending bend from a Concert C to a Bb.  To achieve this a quiet, very focused air stream must be used.  I had a medium strength reed, and while doing the bends a high amount of back-pressure is felt in the body.  In order to avoid having the sound “explode” into high volume, the air flow must be carefully regulated depending on which bend is being played–ascending or descending.  In this way there is a momentary, subconscious shift in pressure that my body needed to become comfortable executing through an hour or so of practice before attempting to record the improvisation.  In the upper register, I held, or occasionally pulsed a Concert D.  This was done with the embouchure in the midst of focusing on the two contrary motion bends going on beneath it.


The image “Mystery of the Street” accompanying today’s post by Umbo (Otto Umbehr) 1928.