Saxophone Forum


by The_§ax
(147 posts)
9 years ago

Lead Alto

I am lead alto sax in a couple of swing bands here and there, and I was wondering if anyone on this forum could tell me what qualities I need to succeed as lead alto. I am really happy with my sound and my projection, because i can be heard over a whole band, but what else can i do.

Reply To Post [Report Abuse]

Report Abuse

Replies

  1. by vipegrad
    (47 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Lead Alto

    Well first of all it would be good to know what formats these bands are. For example, a lead alto in a more professional band would be in charge or the alto and possibly entire sax section, or even the band. There are many variations on this, and then there are other, less effective styles, like my high school jazz band. We do not have section leaders, but even if leads were identified, they have no more responsibility than the rest of us. I do not reccomend this as organization is lacking. I will therefore assume that in your bands, being a lead means you actually lead the section. In this case there are a few things to remember. First of all, it is good that you can be heard over the band, but you also need to be able to blend well together. Each of these skills are important, depending on the situation. Second of all, learn your part better than anyone else, that way, if anyone is confused, they can listen to you and mimic your style, thus creating a uniform sound. Now for actual leadership qualities. When leading people, dont get a big head. People will listen to you more if you dont order them around but wrather help them and give your imput while taking theirs. The best leaders are those who lead by example, and not by an iron fist. So, to be a leader, treat everyone with respect, no matter how they treat you. Know your music. Add your voice to the ensamble, and dont stand out obviously unless it is called for. Those are some of the basics for you.

    Reply To Post


  2. by jamterry
    (573 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Lead Alto

    Sonny Rollins told me that what you don't play is as important as what you do play. I will paraphrase that to: What you don't say is as important as what you do say. Don't get hung up on yourself.

    Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


    1. by The_§ax
      (147 posts)

      9 years ago

      Re: Lead Alto

      Thanks guys. I do have most of these skills, but I will continue to work on them.

      Reply To Post


      1. by knorter
        (205 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        Those were great suggestions about the leadership role. I think I would like to address the playing role of the lead alto. I am going to assume that we are talking about a big band set up (trumpet, trombone, and sax sections, with rhythm section and charts). The first thing is to learn how to listen and in what order of importance. You should hear behind first-the lead trumpet player is the boss. Period. This is true when the whole band has a tutti section together. However he or she phrases is exactly how you will phrase it and encourage your section to phrase it. To address people within the section that are not together, I would initially not call them out personally but rather make a general comment like "I hear someone playing the 3rd beat of measure 4 long, but the brass are playing it short, can we all write that in and play it together." Most times your friends are learning too and do not hear what they sound like. You just need to help them start hearing the right things. Secondly you hear sideways to your section to make sure they are following. When just the sax section has a soli then you are the boss. You decide what is the way to phrase. As you get more experienced and encounter professional lead altoist you'll learn that there are more than one way to phrase things. In the meantime consistency. I've worked with Dick Oatts(who I believe to be one of the best lead alto players ever!) on several occasions and we've talked about this issue. He was very firm about being consistent. If your section knows how you are going to play it and you do it the same every time, then they know how to phrase it themselves. This will take work on your part in the beginning. Every time you get a new chart you'll need to decide the phrasing of every note within just the sax parts. Dynamics too-don't be afraid to make a change. Just let the section know "I have been playing this note short but let's try it long just to see" They will appreciate your dedication to the music. Your time feel is also extremely important. You must think of locking in every note. If you drag or rush even a little it gets amplified by the section. Work hard on your time feel and swing 8ths. The notes should pop in time. If I think of more I'll write later. Remember to not make anything personal. A player is either with the rest of the band or not and most times it is not on purpose if they are wrong. The big band is not a democracy. The hierarchy (not counting the band director) is lead trumpet, lead alto and lead bone, everyone else. Otherwise we would never agree on how to play something.

        Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


        1. by vipegrad
          (47 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Lead Alto

          Well Put. I do have a question for you knorter about your touring status with Diva. Will you be joining them in February of 2006 at the Frank Mantooth Jazz Festival produced by New Trier High School? Thanks.

          Reply To Post


        2. by knorter
          (205 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Lead Alto

          vipegrad-I'm not sure, I've officially left the band because I'm really busy in NYC. I still go out with the band occasionally depending on their needs and my schedule. The band is fun you will definitely enjoy the concert no matter who is there.

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


        3. by jamterry
          (573 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Lead Alto

          My first teacher was the band director at New Trier High School. He lived four doors the street from me. He is the one that stood me next to the stereo to transcribe, and sent me to Northwestern university summer institute. Small world :)

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


      2. by golferguy675
        (600 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        Dick Oatts is the best. If you can understand what he's saying. The guy I used to study with studied with him for a long time, and I've gotten to talk and play with him some too. He's amazing. I transcribed his solo in Blue for Alice. Great Stuff. The biggest issue in my opinion with playing lead alto is time. You have to have a great feel for time, because especially in a school setting, other players dont often have the greatest time. You have to know how to play rythms, and you can't let what the others are playing wrong make you waiver. Usually, they'll catch on after you play it a few times. What Christ said is important, about listening to the lead trumpet. The lead trumpet really dictates things like crescendos, accents, articulations, etc. Make sure and exemplify that in your playing so the other altos who may not listen quite as well can hear you.

        Reply To Post


      3. by EL Seano
        (255 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        jamterry, you talked to Sonny Rollins??? You lucky b*st*rd

        Reply To Post


      4. by jamterry
        (573 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        Sean, Sonny Rollins is a really intense dude. His thoughts go way beyond music. I think he is improvisation personified. As always, nice to hear from you :) Terry

        Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


      5. by EL Seano
        (255 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        How'd you manage to come in contact with him though?

        Reply To Post


      6. by jamterry
        (573 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        Sean, I was at a gala for a music video corporation here in LA. Sonny was at the party. A friend of mine has her editing company in this corporation. It was a huge party.

        Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


      7. by phathorn
        (165 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        Dick Oatts is amazing to talk to and listen to I met him at a NASA convention in 93. I also had the honor of meeting Joe Henderson a few years before he passed away. What a gentleman!

        Reply To Post


      8. by EL Seano
        (255 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Lead Alto

        Damn, you people are so lucky. I met Gary Bartz during his Aussie tour, great guy, awesome player. Mr Henderson and I share the same birthdate, what a coincidence.

        Reply To Post