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Thread: How to Play Chords on Alto Sax?

  1. #1
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    How to Play Chords on Alto Sax?



    I am new to jazz, and at a jazz band at my school this is one piece that we are playing. I was practicing the piece but I have never seen this notation before. How exactly do I play this? (I play the alto sax, but I suspect that this question can be answered by any woodwind or brass player)

  2. #2
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    Well, as far as I'm concerned, you can't play chords on an alto sax.

    Those chords are left for the guitar to play (your school's jazz band probably has a guitar player).

    EDIT: what is the song by the way?

  3. #3
    www.jakehanlon.com Jakeweiser's Avatar
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    what you see here with the chord changes with the diagonal slashes is the standard notation in a chart where the piece wants you to improvise a solo.

    The chords are there to give you the harmony that is going on in the rhythm section. In this example you are playing a 12 bar blues in your key of E.

    This notation is used in all instruments in charts to indicate solo sections as well in rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass) when to play those exactly chords.

    Since this is simply a blues progression you can get by with using blues scales (for example E G A A# B D would be the notes in an E minor blues scale). However, in more advanced jazz or perhaps more authentic jazz circles you can use the notes that make up each chord to improvise with.

    When you see E7 you can use these notes (E G# B D) when you see the A7 chord use (A C# E G) C#7(#9) (C# E# E G# B) and lastly B9 (B D# F# A C#)

    this if course takes a lot of practice, but mixing the blues scale with the chord notes will get you a pretty happening solo.

    So in short, in an Alto Sax part, when you start seeing chords and slashes it means this is your solo, stand up and make something up based off what the chords are telling you.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Al6Jets18 View Post


    I am new to jazz, and at a jazz band at my school this is one piece that we are playing. I was practicing the piece but I have never seen this notation before. How exactly do I play this? (I play the alto sax, but I suspect that this question can be answered by any woodwind or brass player)
    hey jets18. i assume you're talking about the spots you've got 'circled' at the top of the page and the other little section toward the bottom. these are just chord symbols w/ "time slashes" underneath. the slashes just represent quarter notes so here there are 4 to the bar. they just help you to see the time go by and help you see where the harmony falls in time. that section up top is just a blues in E. both there and at the spot toward the bottom it's actually written (words) into the part - "Solo." time to improvise my man!

  5. #5
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    All: thanks very much.

    I don't understand too much advanced music theory as outlined in jakeweiser's post, but I think I understand what to do now. Thanks a lot.

    Edit: Forgot to say, the song is One Mint Julep by Rudolph Toombs, this particular piece is arranged by Alan Baylock.

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