Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Layers of Sound: "The Sonic Onion"

Many feel that once they can play the soprano in tune, then it's "mission accomplished." But I'm sorry to say: This is only half the battle!

Players have this misconception because they don't play the instrument enough to know that there are several layers to the instrument's sound. It's like an onion. The more you peel it, the more layers that surface to be peeled.

To get to this point takes years of practice.

Here are some layers I have discovered, along with ways to nurture them--and not necessarily in this order:

Layer 1: Playing in tune. Tuning the octaves is good check your pitch. It's almost like tuning a piano.

Layer 2: Producing a tone rich with overtones. This is where the book "Top Tones for Saxophone: The Fourth Octave" comes in handy.

Layer 3: Being able to play with a sub-tone. Listen to Steve Lacy and Lucky Thompson for this. They are great teachers for how to utilize the low register of the instrument.

Layer 4: Playing dynamics levels from pianissimo to forte. Practicing classical etudes is great for this. I like the ones by Marcel Mule.

Layer 5: Speeding up and slowing down the airflow by changing the position of the tongue.

Layer 6: The altissimo register

Layer 7: Multi-phonics

Layer 8: Microtones

And as I continue to peel this sonic onion, I'm sure more layers to conquer will surface.

But don't let these things overwhelm you. Just take it one layer at a time!

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