According to the Dictionary definition “Soul is the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiment”
When it comes to music, the human voice is about as expressive as it gets. It tends to touch the average person’s heart because of its innate ability to express human nature. That said, the sound of the saxophone conjures a myriad of emotions.
The saxophone, popularly dubbed as the sexiest sounding instrument, is often compared to the human voice in terms of its soulful and expressive sound qualities. Hence, with enough finesse and practice alongside a myriad of emotions, the saxophone can become one of the most vocal sounding instruments out there.
From bending notes to focusing on dynamics, the saxophone is a musical instrument in a class of its own. It is often about how to play the saxophone skillfully with soul and expression that will eventually determine the quality of sound from the saxophone.
HOW TO PLAY THE SAXOPHONE WITH SOUL AND EXPRESSION
Here are a few skills to practice that will help to express powerful emotions on the saxophone.
1. Easy on the scooping or bending of your notes.
The best saxophonists in the world have mastered the art of scooping and shaping their notes. There’s no doubt that bending notes adds excitement and emotion to any solo but there’s a fine line between expressing emotion and scooping to the point where it’s distracting to your audiences. Over-scooping may not cause your loved ones to commit you to the local mental institution, but it definitely communicates that you are an amateur.
2. Study the lyrics.
Knowing the lyrics will do wonders in bringing out soul and expressions that wouldn’t have emerged otherwise. For tunes that were written with vocals, it would help you know and tell the story of the song if you understand the lyrics.
The lyrics itself could help you determine how to approach each word, phrase, or stanza with particular dynamics, vibrato, or sound effects. For instrumental music, it helps to know the story behind the tune. What emotions would the songwriter want to conjure from his listener.Don’t forget about dynamics.
Dynamics are a great way of adding elements of depth, drama, and storytelling to your playing. Granted, there are some great players out there who don’t make much obvious use of dynamics, but focusing on dynamics is one of the easiest ways to make your playing more expressive.
3. Experiment with Sound Effects
Sound effects go a long way when it comes to getting an audience to feel something deeply and dance heartily, so it may be time for you to get some saxophone sound effects under your belt. From growling and flutter tonguing to overtones and altissimo, there are plenty of sound effects saxophone players can use to augment the natural expression of their instrument.
4. Practice conscious vibrato.
There are countless approaches to vibrato. There’s the approach of holding the note out straight for a moment and then vibrato-ing with slightly increasing intensity into the release of the note. This is an extremely common approach to vibrato in jazz and jazz-related music.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to use vibrato, but I would recommend at least being conscious of how you’re using it, so that it becomes a more accurate representation of what you’re trying to convey. This approach will certainly help you have yet another dimension to add to your powers of expression.
5. Tell a story, paint a picture
When playing, whether we’re interpreting written music or improvising, it’s good for us to use things like rhythm, melody, inflection, dynamics, vibrato, attacks, releases, etc to paint a musical picture. It might start lighthearted and go dark before ending in joy (not a very unique story arc, but it’s just an example). The point is, once you become invested in your story, your natural soulfulness will flow through you and directly into the hearts of your listeners.
6. Get inspired by listening, watching, and reading.
Expressive and soulful playing is a natural outgrowth of one’s powerful inspiration to make music. Of course, we all know that listening to as much music as we can possibly digest is key to gaining inspiration.
Please know that simply reading this article isn’t going to put true soul in your playing. But hopefully, you will find yourself with heightened powers of authentic, soulful self-expression after putting these concepts deep into your brain, and in some cases, even the practice room.
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