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Tuba, which one? Which key?

in Brass

I'm not a brass player, I'm a violinist. I'm just writing for myself with MuseScore, trying to build my composition and orchestration skills. How do you decide which tuba to use in compositions? Wikipedia says that some tubas are more commonly used in UK, the other is more commonly used in US. If I ever have a real player to write for, then I'll write for that persons instrument. Until that happens, can you give me any suggestions, comments etc? (I posted one of my composition exercises , with a tube, to this group, it's the variations on Swanee river) Thanks.

What horn and what metal?

I was thinking about trying to get money to buy a new, professional horn, and I was wondering what kind of horns are the best. I know that the Berlin Phil plays on Alexander 103s, and they always seem to get good reviews, so I would definitely look at those, but I also know that there are other fantastic instruments and the Alexander might not be the best fit for me. Right now I play a Holton H179, and it works quite well for me, but I have college auditions next year and then college itself, and I think that a better horn would be beneficial.

I was looking online at alexander 103s, just for fun, and I saw that there are several different metals that they use. Each has its pros and cons, but I couldn't find which most people prefer.

If it helps at all, I prefer playing high horn (1st or 3rd).

[article] Sax as a transposing instrument and writing music for saxophone

Saxophone (no matter what type we are talking about: alto,tenor, soprano, bari or some less used ones) is so-called “transposing instrument”. It means that you are “in a different key” than “concert pitch” instruments, such as piano, guitar, (double) bass, etc. If you are not familiar with the “transposing instruments” thing, I suggest that you read the first section of the wiki article before continuing with this review, it is pretty well explained there:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposing_instrument

So, to get the pitch you need when writing some sax part, you need to transpose it up (from concert pitch):

  • For soprano sax: a major 2nd
  • For alto sax: a major 6th
  • For tenor sax: a major 9th (1 octave + major 2nd)
  • For bari sax: a major 13th (1 octave + major 6th)

As you can see the difference between soprano and tenor is one octave (as well as the difference between alto and bari).

Soprano and tenor saxes are called "Bb instruments", it means that for the “C” note in these instruments’ part the actual sounding pitch will be “Bb”.

Alto and bari saxes are called “Eb instruments”; so if you write the “C” note in some part for this instruments, you will actually get the sound of “Eb” concert pitch once it is played.

All this stuff seems to be quite complicated for someone that has never dealt with transposing instruments before, but using MuseScore notation software you can quickly make parts for saxophones even if you do not know all this transposing instruments theory (though this knowledge is vital for composers). There is a quick video tutorial on the topic, I'll post a link in the end of this post.

One more thing to remember: once you have written some sheet music for saxophone, check the range - the saxophone part (make sure that it is not shown in concert pitch, so unpress the “concert pitch” button in MuseScore editor while viewing the part) should have pitches only inside this range (from small octave “Bb” to 3rd octave “F”) :



The only exception is bari sax - it has the additional low “A” note, which, by the way, sounds pretty cool. Good arrangers, like Gordon Goodwin, often use this feature of bari saxophones. Of course, there are also altissimo pitches, but that is a separate topic for conversation.

If you wish, you can check the whole sax family at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxophone#Saxophone_family

This table from wikipedia is really “true to the fact”. Sopranino and sopranissimo saxes sound “higher” than concert pitch instruments: I mean that the first-octave “C” notated in sheet music for these instruments will actually sound as 1st-octave Eb and Bb respectively. All other saxes sound “lower than written”, just remember this rule. However, the most used saxes have been already mentioned before, so other ones are pretty rare,I should say.

And one more thing to be aware of when writing a piece for sax ensemble: saxophones and saxophonists are not perfect, and an arranger, especially writing for an amateur/student sax ensemble, or even for big band, should try not to overuse (I write the pitches that occur in sax part, not in concert pitch, of course) notes higher than 3rd octave C# (high notes tend to sound out-of-tune-high) and lower than 1st octave D (on some medium quality saxophones it’s hard to play those pitches, especially if saxophone is not in a perfect condition).

Don’t hesitate to add some thoughts and more tips on the topic in comments.

Don't you worry 'bout a thing arrangement.

Hey guys,

So I have a problem with the arrangement I am making for a Sax Trio. The song is called Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing by Stevie Wonder, but for this trio I wanted to transpose the Tori Kelly version from the movie Sing. 

Unfortunately, I don't know all of the notes since there are no other sheets of this version on the internet. I'd hope that some of you could help me with finishing this piece of music.

Thanks to those who would like to help!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI5VmfngnNQ

You can find my score in my profile ;)

Range?

Hello there! I was wondering about what everyone's range was. I am so self conscious that I have a tiny range. I also find that for big concerts where we play 10-12 pieces I can barely hit high notes at the end. I was looking for tips on how to expand range and build better endurance. Anything will help! 

Help with Sax sound

Hi everyone! 

New to the alto sax and i have a quick question, when i go to play i have about one or two seconds of just air and then the sound comes out fine - is this caused by my breathing, embouchure or reed? I have no idea? I just want a clean sound to come out the moment I begin. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :)