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Thread: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

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    Default Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Hi folks,

    I think a good way of getting out of the hot lick rut is to try to listen to soloists that play other instruments. I listen a bit to jazz, and some of the finest phrasing and tone known to man do, in my opinion, come from many of the sax players. I particularly like cool jazz alto sax player Paul Desmond (from the Dave Brubeck Quartet) (he aimed for a tone that sounded "like a dry martini") and "The Girl From Ipanema" man Stan Getz. Smooth as silk.

    To learn their phrasing, you just have to sit down and listen and maybe transcribe their soli.

    But how would you go about to emulate the sound of a smooth sax? (No synths, no MIDI )

    Anyone tried? Any tips or thoughts?

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Well most uses lowergain od's with emphasis on the lowermids...abit like a honking Fender with good lows.
    ZenDrive will be a good choice, Robben Ford likes saxplaying, and he has based some of tones and playing around that!

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Just thought I'd post a couple of examples of the abovementioned sax players:

    Paul Desmond

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6Phn1YqXL0


    Stan Getz

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gghq6pvtQHY

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    If you listen to Charlie Christian (the live stuff ffrom Minton's), you'll hear a pretty good approximation of a saxophone...maybe a Ben Webster sort of sound. It would be difficult to get a Desmond tone, but lots of people try...some things to consider; playing legato, slurs, a strong fundamental, varying your articulation...all standard jazz guitar techniques.
    Last edited by ES350; 01-29-2010 at 06:43 AM.

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    He Did the Monster Mash DrNewcenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Copping a sax technique isn't so much a problem as getting the tone, which is what I think the OP seems to be after (hence his no midi/no synth statement).

    Ultimately it depends on how close you intend to get to a sax tone, specifically the samples you posted.


    Sax players do have a wide range of tonalities from each other, for those guitarists/non sax fans who didn't know.
    There's the softer tones all the way up to the blaring and raspy tones.

    I'm hearing the more smooth tones from the Stan Getz clip.

    At any rate, you'll a ton of EQ (3-band amp/parametric won't cut it, you'll need 15 band graphic to cut/boost specific freqs).

    You'll also need a slight overdrive effect to cop the rasp of brass.

    On top of that, you'll need something that can automatically shift the guitar's tones to match certain sax tones - the smooth and mellow tones are simple but you're limited to the 4th-6th strings, and only to the first 5 frets. If you go into higher notes you'll lose the sax tonality unless you use an auto-wah that can be set to specific notes, as well as how much the effect is engaged.

    As well, to emulate the "breath" effect for each note, you'll need either a gated reverb or reverse reverb effect that swoops in at the start of each note.
    On top of that, you'll have to learn to play ahead of the beat so the breath starts early enough for the note to sound when it's supposed to.


    If you don't want it to sound like completely fake crap, I'd suggest a guitar-based synth unit instead of trying to make a guitar + guitar amp sound like a sax.


    That is if you care about how close to the real thing it is.

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    try this lol
    our first drummer died in a bizzare gardening accident!



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    'Cause all the girls are sluts,
    And the beer tastes just like piss.

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Hm.. Doc; what freqs would you suggest we should boost or cut? Looks interesting to try out that stuff..

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    He Did the Monster Mash DrNewcenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    On the TSR-12 patch I was trying to use, my EQ was set to +15dB@160Hz, -15dB@250Hz, +12dB@400Hz, +15dB@630Hz, -15dB@1K, -15dB@1600Hz, +15dB@2.5K, -9dB@4K, -15dB@6.3K, -15dB@10K, -15dB@16K
    For the ADA, it was set to Clean Tube with OD1 set to 6 and OD2 set to 7, and flat EQ.

    Using a mahogany neckthrough/mahogany body/rosewood board lightweight (SG-type), and a Duncan Custom.

    This gets a "close" tone to single notes played through an Alesis QSR using the "Tenor Solo" sax preset program (#76, for those with the same unit).

    However, as I said, once the notes shift to the next octave range (the D-string and beyond), the sax's tonality changes and you get more of the "squeak", which the guitar can't do without the wah and/or maybe adding pinch harmonics.
    But as long as you stay on the A string up to the 5th fret, you'll avoid farting on the low E (unless that's what you're going for), and have a smooth sax-like tone.

    Depending on your technique, of course.

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    Riffologist Extraordinaire Tor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Thanks, doc! Gives me a good starting point for experimenting.

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewcenstein View Post
    Copping a sax technique isn't so much a problem as getting the tone, which is what I think the OP seems to be after (hence his no midi/no synth statement).

    Ultimately it depends on how close you intend to get to a sax tone, specifically the samples you posted.


    Sax players do have a wide range of tonalities from each other, for those guitarists/non sax fans who didn't know.
    There's the softer tones all the way up to the blaring and raspy tones.

    I'm hearing the more smooth tones from the Stan Getz clip.

    At any rate, you'll a ton of EQ (3-band amp/parametric won't cut it, you'll need 15 band graphic to cut/boost specific freqs).

    You'll also need a slight overdrive effect to cop the rasp of brass.

    On top of that, you'll need something that can automatically shift the guitar's tones to match certain sax tones - the smooth and mellow tones are simple but you're limited to the 4th-6th strings, and only to the first 5 frets. If you go into higher notes you'll lose the sax tonality unless you use an auto-wah that can be set to specific notes, as well as how much the effect is engaged.

    As well, to emulate the "breath" effect for each note, you'll need either a gated reverb or reverse reverb effect that swoops in at the start of each note.
    On top of that, you'll have to learn to play ahead of the beat so the breath starts early enough for the note to sound when it's supposed to.


    If you don't want it to sound like completely fake crap, I'd suggest a guitar-based synth unit instead of trying to make a guitar + guitar amp sound like a sax.


    That is if you care about how close to the real thing it is.
    Wow, I'm impressed. I'll sit down one day and test that out. However, I didn't actually mean imitating the sax down to the nth frequency (if that makes any sense), but more an approximation. But I really appreciate your answer.

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Ebow time... hehe. Love those things.
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    Two words - Allan Holdsworth. Two more words - John Coltrane.

    Cop the phrasing and the Attitude first. Worry about the tone later.

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    Default Re: Tonal Challenge: How to sound like a saxophone?

    I have a similar problem in that I really like to do things that flute players do.

    One aspect that some to mind: both in the flute case and the sax case your problem is that those guys have extensive control over what is happening as the tone "rings out", whereas most of your control is at pick time.

    To do interesting stuff on an electric guitar at post-pick tone-ringout time you basically have to have some pretty heavy distortion that is right at the edge of flipping over into more or less pronounced overtones. That means a little change in what the strings do gets multiplied because the distortion is right at the edge. Then, little variations during ringout can do post-pick expressions, such as left-hand vibrato and feedback.

    As a first approximation you want a guitar with a steel tremolo block, a Strat neck pickup and a Big Muff. Which is, BTW, what Gilmour does much of the time.

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