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Prelude, Fugue, and Dance


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So I have a few saxophonist friends, and I got the idea to write a sax quartet. I sent each movement to one of these friends after I wrote it to check the parts, and she told me it all looked pretty good, with a few caveats (like how playing constant fast staccato quavers can get tiring in the third movement - so I put some tenutos in).

The first movement, 'Prelude', grew entirely out of the first bar, which I just wrote without thinking and then really liked. It has some complex syncopations but my friend says the rhythms look fun and not too difficult.

The second movement, 'Fugue', is definitely more a quotation-marks "Fugue" than a real fugue, but I don't feel too bad about that. The idea came to me in bed one night when I was trying to think of a contrasting middle movement, and then I just had fun with chord progressions. I kept the quaver movement running throughout the movement but tried to use voice swapping and countermelodies to keep it interesting.

The third movement, 'Dance', was borne out of two separate ideas that again both came to me in bed at night as I was trying to sleep - the chord pulses at the start, and the staccato quaver chords, the latter of which is still one of my favourite ideas I've had recently. I was worried the offbeat 5/4 parts would come off too cheesy so I tried to keep the structures fresh and unexpected.

I've sent the piece to a few people so far, and I think at least one will try and get a quartet to perform it at some point.

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I have no critique on the music itself. Your rhythms are very nice and interesting! Harmony is nice too.
As a saxophonist, I love that you have considered to write for saxophone quartet.

Sometimes the music of the Prelude reminds me of some Mario Kart songs.
The melodies are simple, but still blend well with the complex rhythms.
Make sure that the baritone saxophone for which you write has a low A key. Some have it and some don't. Check it!
You prove in this Prelude that you master the saxophone writing skill.
The tongue slaps will add an extra dimension when the music is performed by real musicians.

The Fugue reminds me of Bach, I don't know which piece, but it's also in 9/8. I think it's one of the 15 inventions in G (major or minor).
This movement is my favourite, because all voices are independent, yet they form a very dense atmosphere.
The saxophone has an octave key, which makes it possible to play an octave higher without having to press many other fingerings for playing the same note, but then an octave higher:
If you want to play a low G (written) and then a high G, you will first have the fingering of the low G and when playing the high G you only have to add the octave key. When playing legato and ascending from a G to a high G the transition is very smooth, but when playing legato and descending from high G to low G there can be a 'sob.' Especially the transitions from middle D, E and F (with octave key) to any other note without the octave key can be hard to not let it sob. The problem is that your main theme contains many of these intervals: m. 84 D* - G; m.85 E* - F#; etc.
Saxophonist can train to prevent this sob effect, but it depends on the level of the players. You shouldn't worry that much about this problem, because it occurs in almost every piece. However, I think it's useful for you to know this information.

The third movement is very nice. It stimilates me to dance!
M.179. Tenor. The D - Eb trill is very awkward and almost impossible, you have to change that.
Mm. 211 - 214 + mm. 247 - 249. Baritone. Don't 8va in any saxophone part. We hate to read it, because we can't, honestly. All notes should be written normal, i.e. without octave clefs or 8va lines, except when writing in the altissimo register. However, even then the notes are mostly written without any 'reading supports.'

By the way, I would delete all the saxophone names, except the names on the first line of each movement. There are namely no other instruments than these four saxophones, so you don't have to indicate these at every line in the score. 
Can you tell me why you change the key signatures in the music? I tend to make more accidental mistakes when the music is full of key changes than when there is no key signature (or one) and all accidentals are written in front of the notes. Why don't you stop with one key signature?

Overall I love it! Note that the feedback I give to you are mostly details and finishing touches. This is because I see that you already know basics about the saxophone family.
The music is wonderful and I look forward to hear the recording of the music performed by actual players.

Kind regards,


*Thank you for tagging me! @Monarcheon


Edited by Maarten Bauer
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@Maarten Bauer

Thank you so much for this detailed feedback from a sax player! The players I have in mind range from quite decent to quite good (they're music students studying performance after all), so I'm not too worried about the 'sob' you mentioned (which I wasn't aware of before) especially if you say it's quite common. The friend I was mostly talking to about the piece is a bari sax player, and she has always said that I can write down to concert C for her, so I'm assuming her sax can do that.
The awkward trill is something I hadn't anticipated, I'll wait until I hear back from the players I sent it to and if necessary I'll think of a different idea for those bars.

The other points you mentioned (8va, key signatures) are probably because I'm used to writing for instruments that are more used to them. I'm not too worried about these either because the players are quite used to playing in wind bands/orchestras where they will often get quite ridiculous looking parts, but again if they say it's easier without then I'll change them.

I'm really glad you like it! I can't find a whole lot of original sax quartet music on youtube (I was pointed to Eugene Bozza's 'Andante et Scherzo' as a good example of one), so I'm happy to try and add something :)

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 4-7-2017 at 1:55 AM, stewboy said:

I'm really glad you like it! I can't find a whole lot of original sax quartet music on youtube (I was pointed to Eugene Bozza's 'Andante et Scherzo' as a good example of one), so I'm happy to try and add something :)

One certainly can find much original saxophone quartet music on YouTube. However, one must know the names and composers to find it. There are also common arrangements that I would also suggest to study, since these are arranged on such a high level that they can be treated as original works.

Here are some original classical  saxophone quartets:

Here are some arrangements for classical  saxophone quartets:

I hope that this helps a bit. This is just a tiny selection from the repetoire. The saxophone quartet is one of the most popular ensembles to write for in these times.


Kind regards,


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