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Thread: blending with your section

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    Default blending with your section

    Can someone explain to me what it means to blend with your section?
    I'm not sure what my teacher means by it or even how to go about doing it

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    Bubba06's Avatar
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    Default Re: blending with your section

    You could think of it as everyone being one. In a high school band at the local university, the director always tells us to play in our "trios." Essentially, you shouldn't be able to hear yourself over the person sitting next to you on either side. It can get a bit more complicated, but I believe that to be the general idea.

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    Default Re: blending with your section

    Blending with your section takes several things into account. Intonation is a no brainer. Everyone in the section, and the whole band, for that matter needs to be in tune with the same standard, which is usually the keyboard since that's the one insturment that doesn't tweak or change it's intonation.

    Phrasing is extremely important to a cohesive sound. If you are playing jazz-like, jazz, or swing for example a string of eighth notes may be written as straight eighth notes, but the section lead or band leader may want it interpreted as a sequence of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes... not uncommon. The flip side is you may be so used to playing eighth notes as dotted eighth/sixteenths that the lead may tell you he/she wants them played as straight eighths... as a section you have to match the phrasing of the lead or things will start sounding "muddy." Also be sure you start and stop a phrase with your section mates or you'll be "exposed" playing when no one else is.

    Pay attention to the VOLUME annotations on your arrangement. Don't overblow anyone else, but don't wuss it up either.

    Go back and listen to some of the "old" big band tunes like Glenn Miller's Chattanooga Choo Choo and listen to the sax section sounding almost like a chord organ. Also listen to just about any of Les and Larry Elgart's sax section work. Their band(s) are distinctly identifiable by their sax section sound because of they way they blend... nobody matches the Elgarts for phrasing. Playing as a unit, as a section, is very important in big band arrangements for saxes, especially when all those trumpets and trombones think that the audience is there to hear them.
    "Zoot" would a good name for a kid...

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: blending with your section

    Quote Originally Posted by jrvinson45 View Post
    Go back and listen to some of the "old" big band tunes like Glenn Miller's Chattanooga Choo Choo and listen to the sax section sounding almost like a chord organ.
    This type of "old time" extreme blending can involve not just all the saxophones getting similar tone and dynamics, but actually matching and synchronising vibrato.

  5. #5

    Default Re: blending with your section

    Talking in Big Band terms, here. I think matching intonation and phrasing (and articulation and vibrato) is pretty much a given. I've always seen particularly playing 2nd alto as being like flying wingman for the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels. Your focus is on the leader; you try to match exactly what they are doing and hope they don't fly you into the side of a mountain.

    Beyond that, I think of blending in terms of matching tone quality. And here, some bands do and some don't. Lots of big bands have tenor players noted for their solo sounds, not how well they blend with the section - and those bands work. So tone quality-wise, you can go for a blend, like a barbership quartet where the individual voices are indistinguishable, or go for some other barbershop examples, where you hear 4 egual but distinct voices. As a contrast to the Elgart sound, think Ellington where you can pick out the individual tones.

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    Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor Merlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: blending with your section

    Quote Originally Posted by 35TangoTango View Post
    As a contrast to the Elgart sound, think Ellington where you can pick out the individual tones.
    Even though Duke's band had fairly individual tones, there was still a sense of blend to the section. The tone of Harry Carney for example, was distinct and was balanced louder relative to most other bands - but it gave the section an unmistakeable sound. As Gerry Mulligan once remarked: "Duke's band had two saxophone sections - and one of them was Harry Carney!"

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    Default Re: blending with your section

    Quote Originally Posted by 35TangoTango View Post
    Lots of big bands have tenor players noted for their solo sounds, not how well they blend with the section - and those bands work.
    I attended a Benny Goodman concert just before he took that famous trip to Moscow. Phil Woods was lead alto, but Zoot Sims was the Tenor "soloist". The rest of the section played as a section, and when he wasn't soloing, Zoot sat there with his horn in his lap.

    My response was oriented toward the OP who indicates that he is new to the section thing. Telling him that individuality is really the key when his "teacher" wants him to blend with the section is a good way to get him out of the band. Not all section players get solos. In middle school, it's not only the best players who get to stand out, it's the upper classmen. ...All things in time... The operative word in the original post, I believe is "blend."
    "Zoot" would a good name for a kid...

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    Peter B's Avatar
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    Default Re: blending with your section

    My concert band leader on certain numbers asks for ...."that sax section sound"...In particular when we play a Duke Ellington medley brilliantly arranged by Calvin Custer. It starts with 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore' and the saxes are just sort of doing their own thing within the band, but then we get a big key change into 'Do Nothin' Till You Hear From me' and the sax section takes over. Big swingy four bar alto, tenor, bari saxes only intro to this number and I tell you, it sends a tingle down your spine. It's like jvrvinson45 says, it's like an organ just a beautiful, together wall of sound. In time, together, as one - phew - makes you weak at the knees. For me that's what blending with your section is all about.

    PS: Actually, after I'd posted this and went to sit and let my dinner go down I realised that I'd missed out the most important thing about blending with your section. The fact is that in my band at least, and I guess in most bands, the various sections are always ribbing each other. There are always nice, friendly, inter section digs going on and even within sections there is a friendly banter amongst the various players. Certainly in my band the altos, tenors and baris are always looking for opportuities to get one up on the others in the nicest, friendliest way. But when you get a "sax section moment" that all disappears like snow before the sun and you come together as a section as tight as a drum and just make it happen. That's the personal side of blending with your section - just as important as the musical side of it all.
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