Playing a New Saxophone Song

Part of the Saxophone For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You want to learn a new song to play on your saxophone, and this section tells you how to do so effectively. You can learn new saxophone pieces and even master difficult songs this way. The idea is that you approach the song from different angles. Put appropriate emphasis on note material, rhythm, and dynamics. Follow this approach:

Examine the key and scale

Your first glance should be toward the notation on the upper left. What is the key signature? Does it contain sharps or flats? For instance, one sharp in the key signature indicates G major, and one flat indicates F major.

When working on a new piece, you learn the key by playing the corresponding scale. This is a good approach for preparing to play the song.

Practice the notes and fingerings

Practice the notes and their fingerings independently of the rhythm. As soon as you recognize the notes instantly, finger and blow all the notes of the song in sequence. You can handle difficult note combinations best if you repeat them often, that is, if you “loop” them.

Work on the rhythm

At this stage, work on just the rhythm, meaning figure out the note and rest lengths without considering their pitch. Go through individual bars of the song. Clap the rhythm. In the case of rhythmically complex measures, get an overview by penciling the main beats (1, 2, 3, 4) with a vertical line above the notes. Clearly structure each measure. Filter out difficult rhythms and clap them several times — just like the note combinations — and “loop” them.

Pair the notes with the rhythm

When the notes and rhythm are second nature to you, combine the two. Approach this measure by measure and increase the tempo gradually.

Pay attention to breath marks and song sequences

When you can play the entire song, go into more detail. Pay attention to the notated breath marks and try only to breathe where indicated. If no breath marks are given, try to find spots at which it makes sense to inhale, and mark them with your pencil. You should inhale only after slurs, and during rests in such a way that you always have enough air for playing.

Also try to notice a few other things: Musical symbols, such as repeat signs, that could be marked with first and second endings. In addition, look for Da capo (D.C.), Dal segno (D.S.), and Coda symbols.

Focus on articulation and dynamics

Musical notation also includes articulation symbols that give instruction on how you should use your tongue and air. Emphasize the accented notes (>) accordingly, or play notes with the staccato symbol (snappy and short) as indicated.

Next pay attention to dynamics:

  • p (piano = soft)

  • mp (mezzo piano = half as soft as piano)

  • mf (mezzo forte = half as loud as forte)

  • f (forte = loud)

Crescendo and decrescendo also indicate volume, which you should consider.

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Saxophone For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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