09/01/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 244)


12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 244

Date: 09/01/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


So many of my improvisations lately have used a specific region of the instrument and very selective fingering cycles.  The execution in these pieces has used levels of volume that are mostly quiet to medium loud.  Today I decided to work with a very subtle core finger motion at an extremely low dynamic level.  My approach to this improvisation was two fold.  First, I wanted to make the use of a continuous trill as an underlying characteristic of all the sounds in the piece.  This was done with the use of trilling the octave key.  Secondly, I wanted a recurring melody with a harmonic accompaniment buried within it.  Overall I wanted to explore a calm, reflective mood in this piece.  I had the image of taking one long, unhurried breath and exhale.

I developed this piece while practicing, and my process was very similar to so many of my improvisations.  I began with an initial figure that sparked my interest.  In this case it became the opening figure for the piece and a major framework for the entire improvisation.  I alternated for some time between two fingerings.   The fingerings and pitches were as follows:

Fingering 1

Pitches: Alternating between A and Bb (quarter step sharp).

(Left Hand) B-A-G keys, Octave, Low B // (Right Hand) F-E-D keys.  Trill the octave key constantly.

Fingering 2

Pitches: C (with the octave trill creating a slight change in pitch as it was opened and released)

(Left Hand) B-A-G keys, Octave, Low B // (Right Hand) F-E-D keys, Low C  Trill the octave key constantly.

Eventually the alternating of these two fingerings becomes the beginning of the melody.  I added a slight amount of pressure to add a Bb in the upper register to the existing A/Bb pitches to Fingering 1.  With this same amount of embouchure pressure an A in the upper register is also added to the C in Fingering 2.  This created both the melody and some contrapuntal motion in the chord progression beneath it.

There are two additional chords used in the upper register and in the melody.  I heard these as Major and Minor shapes respectively.  I alternated at will between these two chords, and the melody then takes on a shape which explores a mood of parallel major and minor tonalities. The two chords were played with the following fingerings:

Major melodic/harmonic shape:

(Left Hand) B-A-G keys, Octave, Low B // (Right Hand) F key.  Trill the octave key constantly.

Minor melodic/harmonic shape:

(Left Hand) B-A-G keys, Octave, Low B // (Right Hand) F-E keys.  Trill the octave key constantly.


The image “30” accompanying today’s post by Mariah Robertson (2009).