12/21/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 355)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 355

Date: 12/21/2013

Instrument: Tenor saxophone

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


At the end of my practice session this afternoon I decided to revisit a specific sound texture that I work with from time to time.  My Side C key has a small bit of lost motion in it.  This results in an incredibly short delay in the pressing of the key to finally its preferred immediate opening.  The lost motion is so slight that under normal circumstances it is almost unnoticeable.  However, a year or so ago I discovered that if I use the Low D fingering with the Low C# key open, and just slightly press the Side C key, a reverberation occurs that causes a few changes to occur, including a distinct buzzing sound and natural “warble” oscillations in the pitch.  This is really only possible if I use a loose sub-tone embouchure shape.  If I then press the Side C with still the smallest bit of additional pressure, a magical transformation can take place, where the low D adds a second D, but a full octave below.  

As in the human voice, with training a saxophonist or vocalist can push their range further up, but we are told there is an impassible low point at which a saxophone or vocalist can go no lower based on the limitations of their instrument, that is, without employing extended techniques that can break this “rule."  During this improvisation I used the Low D fingering while opening 1 of  three other bell keys, the C#, B, or Bb.  The first appearance of the sub-octave D is at :20, and it is then frequently used again throughout.  There was no singing into the horn whatsoever during this piece, but the moments of pitch oscillation and even a split-tone with a C# a major 7th above were all the result of slight differences in key pressure, embouchure, and air flow.

I used no tonging during this improvisation until a slight entrances at 2:45, and finally actual double-tonging at 3:55.  After the brief use of this technique, I then omitted tonging once again and instead focused on air flow and embouchure.  Beginning at 4:30 I started using an extremely loose sub-tone mouth shape with much more air.  This resulted in far grittier tones and much better pitch oscillation than with the use of my tongue.


The image "Between Dimensions” accompanying today’s post by Sylvia Wald (1950).