Section voicings

saxophones | trumpets | trombones | mixed


Because of the large range of the saxophone section, from the alto (or soprano) down to the baritone, the saxophone section sounds well in all styles of voicings.

The example below demonstrates root position voicings. Notice that extended notes - 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths - are generally kept in the treble clef range and that 3rds and 7ths are voiced imediately above the chord roots.

There Is No Greater Love

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In this example various types of voicings are used. Notice that at the end of the example the baritone leaves the saxophone section and becomes part of the bass section joining the bass guitar and bass trombone.


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The saxophone soli below is not one of your average harmonizations. Michael Abene uses various types of voicings within these 9 measures. It is almost entirely five-part density written in a linear style. Bill Dobbins book, Jazz Arranging and Composing, A Linear Approach, is very useful in learning this style of writing. While most saxophone section writing is in a four-part, block or drop-2 diatonic parallel style, Abene makes use of quartal harmony and contrary motion.

Oleo (concert pitch)

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Click here to stop.

Common voicings used in the saxophone soli.

Writers will usually not use the same type of voicing throughout a saxophone soli, although block writing was very successful with the group Supersax. Thad Jones would move from four to five-voice harmony very frequently. He would also move in and out of the drop 2, drop 2-4, and root position voicings, sometimes within the same measure.

NOTE: See the first example above for sample root position voicings.