The Horizontal Saxophone

The Last Piece in the Puzzle

Are you producing the smooth melodic lines you’ve hoped for? We’ve talked about a few things that will help you reach this goal. Here’s a quick review (with links) to the specific posts:

  1. Snap your fingers
  2. Keep your air constant/consistent (don’t pulse air)
  3. 3 exercises/tips to help produce smooth melodic lines

Now, let’s talk about the last piece of the puzzle (for now) for creating smooth lines.

Vertical or Horizontal?

Take a look at this:

How to play beautiful saxophone lines

Would you describe each beat as vertical or horizontal? Even the stems on the notes scream vertical (or up and down). Because of counting, and the visual nature of notation, we tend to play vertically. This can result in a melodic line with accents and pulsing air. Sometimes we teach music this way, even to young students. For example, look at the following:

How to play beautiful saxophone lines

This is a common addition (the arrows) that teachers use to help students count. This displays the upbeats and downbeats in the measure. This works well for helping the student with time and counting, but it also has a negative side effect. The student begins thinking vertical and not horizontal. Of course we need to think vertically if we are having issues with counting and rhythm. But, when that is no longer an issue, we need to think horizontally.

Connect the Dots

Do you remember playing connect the dots as a kid? That was one of my favorite parts of going out to eat at a family restaurant when I was young. We would get a kids menu and it would come with crayons and connect the dots (among other games). Once we connected each dot in its proper order, it displayed a picture.

How to play beautiful saxophone lines The image above is an example of “connect the dots”. I tried to create my own “connect the dots” saxophone as an example, but let’s just say that this turned out better. Even though the connect the dots above is a design (and not a specific object) I hope it’s enough to help you remember this game.

Connecting the Dots in Music

Similarly, we need to connect the dots while we play. So instead of thinking this:

How to play beautiful saxophone lines

We need to think this:

How to play beautiful saxophone lines

Think of the line running through the notes as your constant air stream. This (and a visually horizontal perspective) will help you lead from one note to the next and avoid unnecessary accents. Here’s another image of what a line might look like:

How to play beautiful saxophone lines

Of course this image does not contain notes, but it shows how we should connect one note to the next (the dots represent notes and the line represents our air). Here’s the same image with the notes added:

How to play beautiful saxophone lines

As you begin to think of connecting the dots as you play music, the melodic lines will come out smoothly and effectively. You’ll be able to snap your fingers without accenting notes, and it will be easier to keep your air constant and consistent. Good luck and let me know if you need additional assistance on this topic. You can ask questions in the comment section.

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Have fun playing!

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