Solos in Duo

A Pedagogical Tool for Applied Saxophone Instructors and Students

I. Introduction

            Solos in Duo is a resource to help saxophone students and teachers prepare several pieces in the standard repertoire, focusing on the ensemble between the saxophone and accompanying piano part.  The most challenging sections of each piece have been extracted, and the piano parts have been transposed for saxophone.  Skilled teachers will frequently incorporate and discuss the piano part during lessons, perhaps singing sections, playing individual pitches, or playing single lines on the piano, but the challenge of transposing by sight is often too difficult to effectively play the accompaniment on the saxophone.  In the following pages,  the original saxophone part appears on the first staff of each system, and the accompaniment parts have been transposed for saxophone in the lower staff.

The purpose of this project is to help students and applied instructors incorporate the accompaniment much earlier in the learning process.  Too often, a student will have learned and perfected an entire solo, and even have performed the piece in lessons and studio class without the accompaniment, only to reach the first rehearsal with a pianist to realize that parts of the music are underprepared.  In the academic environment, rehearsal time can be elusive.  Collaborative pianists are impossibly busy, frequently playing thirty or more recitals and juries each semester, and the accompaniment parts for the saxophone literature are notoriously difficult.  With limited rehearsal time, it is of the utmost importance that the student be familiar with the piano part before attempting to rehearse.  The exercises contained within this thesis serve to help the student and the teacher incorporate these accompaniment parts before the first rehearsal, and are targeted at the most common pitfalls in seven works of the standard repertoire.  These pitfalls might include rhythmically difficult passages, awkward entrances, issues of intonation, balancing expressiveness with clarity, and general ensemble playing.  A short description of each exercise is included, with advice from this teacher on how to approach the challenges of each section.  These seven works were chosen based on their popularity in undergraduate juries, and the pieces currently being studied in the University of Colorado saxophone studio.

            This method contains several distinct advantages for preparing a student for performances of this music.  Playing music with two like-instruments makes tuning easier to hear because the instruments contain the same overtone series.  The tell-tale “waves” in the sound between two out-of-tune notes will be heard equally throughout the overtone series, rather than solely in the fundamental.  The matching overtones will also create stronger resultant tones, further highlighting any intonation issues.  It will therefore be easier to identify them in the saxophone sound and will help less-advanced students to hear issues of intonation.  These duos can also help to identify issues with a student’s sense of tempo.  While the metronome is a useful tool for all musicians, but it does have some limitations.  A metronome is a static tempo reference, and will not incorporate any changes of tempo.  While some modern metronome applications will allow the user to input tempo changes, the programming process is time consuming and still does not achieve a true rubato.  The duos in the book allow the teacher to create a steady tempo reference, while following the student through expressive tempo changes.  They also afford the student the ability to try different expressive techniques, and helps him or her communicate these changes to a collaborative musician.  This book will also help the student to listen to the music long rests, rather than simply counting measures.  This will always result in a more musical performance.

            Teachers should keep the following in mind when using this method.  First, the accompaniment parts should be played without vibrato, to mimic the fixed-pitch piano.  These excerpts of these pieces have been chosen and broken up in order to focus on a small number of musical challenges.  The exercises are not meant to be performed, but rather to be used as a tool in private instruction.  Students may also use the duos with one another for creative new ways to practice. 

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II. Paul Creston: Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (Click to expand)

Mvt. I, Measure 20-29 (Fig. 2.1)

The mid-measure saxophone entrance at measure 27 can be challenging. The saxophone continues the sixteenth note line started by the piano at the beginning of the measure. It can be helpful to write this rhythm into the original saxophone part.

Mvt. I, Measure 68-86 (Fig. 2.2)

This section presents several challenges to the young saxophonist. The tempo slows at measure 71, and because the pianist is playing the sixteenth note subdivision, that part will bear the bulk of the responsibility for the tempo change. To complicate the matter, when the slower tempo arrives at measure 72, the piano plays a duple subdivision while the saxophone is in triplets. The tempo gradually increases at measure 79, until the rit. in measure 85. The saxophonist should especially make sure to maintain consistent tempo through the mordents.

Mvt. II, Measure 8-14 (Fig. 2.3)

Intonation is the primary focus of this exercise. Most of this section hovers between the octave break (C#-D) and the octave key split (G#-A), both of which tend to be problem areas for tuning on the saxophone. The saxophonist should also strive for even tone through this section.

Mvt. II, Measure 42-end (Fig. 2.4)

The closing diminuendo in the second movement presents an intonation challenge, especially in the final bar. These final two notes tend to be sharp on the alto saxophone, and the diminuendo will only exacerbate the problem. The saxophonist can feather the right hand first finger (without depressing it all the way) to bring the pitch down.

Mvt. III, Measure 1-15 (Fig. 2.5)

To the listener, this section can often sound like the meter is shifting, even through the 2/4 pulse remains throughout. The saxophonist should make sure to keep even tempo, as the tendency in this section is to rush.

Mvt. III, Measure 74-88 (Fig. 2.6)

The challenge in this section is the same as the previous one, but the roles have been reversed. The saxophonist needs to take care to not rush the sixteenth note passage when the piano takes over the melody in measure 76.

Mvt. III, Measure 163-183 (Fig. 2.7)

The entrance at measure 179 can be challenging because the quintuplet at the end of the measure can confuse the pulse. It can be helpful to write this rhythm in the original saxophone part. This is a section that is made significantly easier when the saxophonist is listening to the piano rather than merely counting rests.

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III. Alfred Desenclos: Prelude, Cadence et Finale (Click to expand)

A note to students and teachers: Most published parts for this piece do not contain measure numbers or rehearsal marks. For rehearsal, students and teachers should write measures numbers in both the solo and accompaniment parts. In this method, the Cadence has been labeled as a single bar, measure 41.

Measure 1-8 (Fig. 3.1)

The opening bars of the Prelude begin on the saxophone’s low B, a typically difficult and unresponsive note. The saxophonist should strive for clear response without over-emphasizing the B, which is actually the second note of the arpeggio beginning on the piano’s concert G.

Measure 18-32 (Fig. 3.2)

In this section the piano has continuous triplets, while the saxophone plays both sixteenths and triplets. The mordents in the saxophone part at measures 19 and 31 further complicate the issue. This section should be practiced with a metronome first to ensure steady tempo can be maintained before adding any rubato.

Measure 61-66 (Fig. 3.3)

Following the Cadence, the piano interlude is very dense and technically complex. It can be difficult to follow the pulse through the constantly changing meters. My advice to the saxophonist is to listen for the rhythmic pattern at measure 61. The articulation pattern becomes more regular in measure 65, which will help prepare the saxophonist for the entrance in the latter half of the bar.

Measure 74-80 (Fig. 3.4)

The piano part in this section is syncopated and unpredictable. Steady pulse is paramount for the saxophonist to have a chance to align these rhythms. This method will help the saxophonist to align the syncopations visually as well as musically.

Measure 108-113 (Fig. 3.5)

Although the saxophone’s figure at measure 112 is the same as the piano in measure 110, the intervening measure 111 can disrupt the rhythmic flow, making the saxophone entrance at 112 difficult. The saxophonist should be prepared to begin immediately after the sixteenth note triplet figure in the last beat of 111.

Measure 143-151 (Fig. 3.6)

Following the fermata, the tempo should be slower, gradually gaining speed until the fermata in measure 151. This is a section where a live accompanist will be much more helpful to the saxophonist than a metronome, due to the changing tempo. The saxophonist should strive to communicate the accelerando clearly, especially trough the technically challenging passages.

Measure 159-end (Fig. 3.7)

There are two challenges in these final bars. First, the altissimo A in the penultimate measure has a tendency to be bright and sharp, so the saxophonist should strive for purity of tone and intonation. Second, the unison final bar can be difficult to align. The saxophonist should give a clear cue on the downbeat of the final measure to clarify the entrance on the second sixteenth note.

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IV. Alexander Glazunov: Concerto in E Flat for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra (Click to expand)

Rehearsal 2-3 after Rehearsal 4 (Fig. 4.1)

One of the first challenges of this piece is the intonation and response on the soft low D’s. This pitch tends to be sharp on most saxophones; sometimes adding the low B key can help to lower it, but be careful that this does not compromise the tone. At Rehearsal 3, the grace notes can cause some problems in steadiness of tempo. Practicing with a metronome can help, but a metronome will not acknowledge the slight rit. that most pianists add at the end of each phrase. This exercise allows the saxophonist to practice both the steady tempo in the first two bars of each phrase and the rit. in the last bar.

4 before Rehearsal 7-Rehearsal 9 (Fig. 4.2)

Many saxophonists take a Romantic interpretation of this section, drastically pushing and pulling the tempo starting at Rehearsal 7. This duo will help to maintain ensemble through the tempo changes, particularly the stringendo starting two measures before Rehearsal 8.

4 before Rehearsal 14-Rehearsal 16 (Fig. 4.3)

In the con moto section, the saxophone plays in a triple subdivision over the piano’s duple subdivisions. Most editions of this piece also include three tempo alterations in each phrase (accel., allarg., and rit.), resulting in a very difficult section for ensemble precision. The student should strive to play as expressively as possible without compromising the integrity of the ensemble.

Rehearsal 22-Rehearsal 24 (Fig. 4.4)

Following the cadenza is another section of liberal tempo changes. The student should aim for clarity and communication though the animando, calando, and accel. before the 12/8.

Rehearsal 50-end (Fig. 4.5)

This final section of the Concerto might be the most expressively dramatic. These sections are combined with technically challenging musical material and a small amount of altissimo. This method will help the student to communicate expressively and clearly to the collaborative pianist.

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V. Jacques Ibert: Concertino da Camera for Alto Saxophone and Eleven Instruments (Click to expand)

Measure 3-Rehearsal 3 (Fig. 5.1)

The introduction to the Concertino presents several challenges to the saxophone entrance at Rehearsal 1. The piano begins on the second sixteenth note of measure 1, playing a three-against-two pattern across changing meters. With this extremely complicated figure, the best course of action for the soloist is to ignore the first two measures and begin counting the six-bar rest at measure 3. Beginning at Rehearsal 1, the challenge is to maintain ensemble through the syncopated figures in both parts. This duo will help by allowing the soloist to align the syncopations visually as well as musically.

2 before Rehearsal 15-Rehearsal 19 (Fig. 5.2)

This section contains syncopation through changing meters, a common obstacle in the Concertino. Additionally, the saxophonist must count six beats during the sustained high Eb, while the piano plays fast scalar figures. Beginning in the piano interlude at Rehearsal 16, the phrase length and the perceived downbeat shifts several times. The key for the soloist is to listen for the beginning pattern of the melody, found in this reduction in the first measure of Rehearsal 16. This phrase begins three times over the course of the interlude. The soloist should count these three phrases, then listen for the eighth and quarter note pattern at 17, followed by five beats of sixteenth notes before the entrance in the 2/4 bar. At Rehearsal 18, the accompaniment has been changed from the exposition section while the solo part remains identical. Though the walking bass line at 18 is easier to follow than the syncopations at Rehearsal 1, the saxophonist should still be aware of the difference.

7 before Rehearsal 22-end Mvt. I (Fig. 5.3)

The saxophonist should practice listening for the two four-bar phrases in the rest at Rehearsal 22. The primary challenge of this section is maintaining consistent tempo through the trills at Rehearsal 23, listening to match the pianist’s tempo in the trill in the final four bars, and line up the closing six notes.

2 before Rehearsal 24-2 after Rehearsal 24 (Fig. 5.4)

The challenge of this section is intonation after playing unaccompanied. The piano enters at the downbeat of Rehearsal 24 on a concert E, a perfect fifth below the saxophonist’s G#. This is typically a sharp note on most saxophones, so the soloist needs to lower the pitch. If adjusting the embouchure alone is not sufficient, it might be helpful to feather the F key on the right hand to close the G# key slightly. A note for teachers: The concert E (middle C#) in the accompaniment is typically a flat note on most saxophones. Take care that the teacher is not playing flat, which will make the student overcompensate on the G#.

2 before Rehearsal 25-Rehearsal 26 (Fig. 5.5)

The altissimo in the lyrical movement can make or break a performance of the Concertino, which is a particular challenge regarding intonation. Most students tend to use too much pressure from the jaw in the altissimo register, resulting in extreme sharpness. This excerpt can be used two ways: first, playing the existing accompaniment part as written here, and second, playing the solo part down an octave while the student plays the 8va. Both exercises will be helpful for intonation.

Rehearsal 34-Rehearsal 36 (Fig. 5.6)

After the five bar rest, the solo part joins the piano mid-phrase, with a 3/4 measure to confuse the counting even further. This excerpt will help the student to practice the uneven counting.

Rehearsal 44-end (Fig. 5.7)

The primary challenge in this section is to maintain ensemble through the technically difficult hemiola at Rehearsal 45. The sixteenth notes must be handed off smoothly between the two parts before Rehearsal 46, and perfect counting must be maintained between through the C-Eb tremolo and descending sixteenth notes. This exercise will also help the soloist hear if the final high F# is sharp, a common mistake.

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VI. Paule Maurice: Tableaux de Provence (Click to expand)

Mvt. I: Rehearsal 10 4 after Rehearsal 12 (Fig. 6.1)

The primary challenge in this section is the chromatic figure at Rehearsal 11. Poor technique can cause the tempo to become inconsistent, often arriving at the Eb dotted half note late, and subverting the tempo for the entrance at Rehearsal 12. The student should listen for each piano downbeat in the chromatic section at Rehearsal 11.

Mvt. I: Rehearsal 15-end (Fig. 6.2)

The melody trades between the two parts in this section. The players should strive for an even sound, volume, and articulation between the melodic sections. Many students also lose track of the tempo in the pianissimo trills approaching the end of the movement. It would be helpful for the student to write the rhythm of the piano part in the final five bars into the original saxophone part.

Mvt. II: Rehearsal 1-Rehearsal 2 (Fig. 6.3)

In this section, the piano fills in the gaps in the saxophone part, frequently playing one note before or after a saxophone line. The players should strive for an even tempo through these compound sections, especially through the rit. molto in the fourth bar of the section.

Mvt. III: 2 after Rehearsal 6-end (Fig. 6.4)

The five-measure rest can be challenging to count, especially because the following entrance occurs mid-measure. The saxophonist should listen to piano melody, particularly the diminishing rhythm five and six measures before the end of the movement. This will help to align the final two measures.

Mvt. IV: 6 before Rehearsal 1-3 after Rehearsal 1 (Fig. 6.5)

The left hand stack of the saxophone, featured prominently in this section, is notoriously flat on most instruments. The side Bb key can be added to B and C to raise the pitch.

Mvt. IV: 3 after Rehearsal 3-2 after Rehearsal 4 (Fig. 6.6)

Intonation can be very challenging in this section. The first six bars of the section will be extremely sharp on most saxophones. The right-hand first finger can be added to the notes C# and above to help bring this pitch down. Saxophonists should also experiment between the palm and front fingerings to determine which is more in tune. On the opposite side of the instrument, the low C# and C in the last two bars of the section will tend to be fairly sharp as well. An adjustment in the voicing position and/or a mute can help to lower the pitch.

Mvt. IV: 2 before Rehearsal 7-end (Fig. 6.7)

The saxophonist should strive for clarity and communication through the molto riten. one measure before Rehearsal 7. The closing measures are particularly transparent, and special attention should be given to intonation, especially on the last C#. The side C key, or the “forked” G+octave fingering, can be used to raise the pitch of this typically flat note.

Mvt. V: Rehearsal 3-4 after Rehearsal 4 (Fig. 6.8)

In this section, the melody trades between the two parts at one- or two-bar intervals. The saxophonist should pay special attention to the length of the final note of each phrase; it must be long enough to avoid sounding clipped, but short enough for the piano melody to come forward. Ensemble can also be challenging in the hemiolas beginning six bars before Rehearsal 4.

Mvt. V: Rehearsal 7-Rehearsal 9 (Fig. 6.9)

Although it is not marked in the music, most performers take a dramatically slower tempo at Rehearsal 7, gradually increasing the tempo until Rehearsal 9. The saxophonist should communicate this clearly to the collaborative pianist, maintaining the integrity of the sixteenth note subdivisions regardless of the choice of tempo.

Mvt. V: Rehearsal 13- 7 after Rehearsal 13 (Fig. 6.10)

Maurice employs a fugue-like technique at rehearsal 13, which can make it difficult to hear the entrance of the saxophone part. This method will help the saxophonist to align this entrance both visually and musically.

Mvt. V: 9 after Rehearsal 15-end (Fig. 6.11)

It is important for the saxophonist to know that the piano will be playing even sixteenth notes against the sextuplets in the saxophone part in the penultimate measure. The saxophonist should also strive to play the final A in tune; this note is sharp on most saxophones, and the diminuendo will exacerbate this problem. If an embouchure adjustment is not sufficient, the first finger on the right hand can be added.

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VII. Jeanine Rueff: Chanson et Passepied (Click to expand)

Measure 1-6 (Fig. 7.1)

The first saxophone entrance in this piece can be challenging. Middle B tends to be a flat note on most saxophones, while the F# above it tends to be fairly stable. Students can try venting the side Bb key, but should be careful that this does not adjust the pitch too far.

Measure 11-19 (Fig. 7.2)

The top of the lower register on the saxophone tends to be quite flat. Saxophonists should absolutely use an alternate fingering for the opening C#, either the side C key or the “forked” G+Octave key. The saxophonist should also take care to not let the pitch sink during the crescendo.

Measure 21-27 (Fig. 7.3)

In this section, the challenge falls in the final two measures. The saxophonist should be aware of the piano’s rhythm in the penultimate bar of the Chanson; it can be helpful to write this rhythm in the original saxophone part. The last high B tends to be a sharp note on most saxophones, and playing it softly will only exacerbate the problem. Slightly lowering the right hand first finger can help, but be careful not to close it all the way, as this will produce a Bb. Lastly, it is important for the soloist to recognize that the piano has a fermata on the last note, while the saxophone does not.

Measure 28-38 (Fig. 7.4)

The piano part in the opening of the Passapied gives the impression that the piece is in 2/4 rather than 3/8. Looking at the accompaniment part can help the saxophonist to follow the hemiola across the 3/8 barline. Alternatively, the saxophonist might prefer to count the six duple figures, which is this author’s preferred method.

Measure 48-59 (Fig. 7.5)

The end of the saxophone phrase in this section should be dovetailed with the piano entrance. The saxophonist should also listen to, rather than count, the piano interlude in order to make the mid-bar entrance in measure 58.

Measure 68-75 (Fig. 7.6)

À l’aise is generally interpreted as a slower tempo, and most players will add a slight ritardando in measures 70 and 71. The rit. should be smooth and clear so the pianist can fluidly connect the sixteenth notes in measure 72.

Measure 89-99 (Fig. 7.7)

The performers have a choice in this section. They may gradually increase to the original tempo, or the piano may be suddenly faster in measure 92. If an accelerando is employed, the saxophonist should speed up evenly in measures 89-91, remembering that the pianist will be subdividing sixteenth notes through those three measures.

Measure 112-end (Fig. 7.8)

The tendency of most young saxophonists is to rush the sixteenth notes in this section, especially those in measures 118 and 122 which start off the beat. Measures 124-134, like the beginning of the Passapied, contain a series of hemiolas creating a feeling of 2/4. It can be very helpful to write these syncopated piano rhythms into the original saxophone part, and the saxophonist should be aware that these measures are identical to measures 28-31.

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VIII. Heitor Villa-Lobos: Fantasia for Soprano or Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra (Click to expand)

A note to students and teachers: The accompaniment part for the Fantasia appears in two versions, one for Bb Soprano Saxophone and one for Eb Alto Saxophone. The intonation advantage discussed in the introduction is the strongest between two soprano saxophones, but private instructors may not always have a soprano saxophone with them. For this reason, the alto version is provided also.

Mvt. I: Beginning-2 after 3 (Fig. 8.1)

In the first few measures of the Fantasia it can be difficult for the soloist to find the beat. The hemiola pattern starts on the second eighth note of the first measure, making it a challenge to hear the tempo. The best practice is for the soloist to begin counting the bar before Rehearsal 1, following the dotted whole note. It can be helpful to write this rhythm into the original solo part.

Mvt. I: Rehearsal 4-2 after Rehearsal 5 (Fig. 8.2)

The moins tempo at Rehearsal 5 can be a difficult transition. The piano controls the rallentando in the measure before 5, then the saxophonist must join the new tempo. To make matters even more difficult, the saxophone part ties over the bar, leaving the saxophonist to set the new tempo on the second eighth note. In many performances of this piece, the tempo does not feel settled until a measure or two into the section. This duo will help the student to practice communicating the new tempo clearly and immediately.

Mvt. I: Rehearsal 17-end (Fig. 8.3)

There are two primary issues in this section. First, the phrase from Rehearsal 17 through the fermata is very long, and students will often rush through the three tied whole notes in order to take a breath sooner. To avoid this, it is important to hear the piano line underneath the whole notes to keep a steady tempo, and continue to hold through the piano’s rest as the music is marked. The student also needs to know that the piano has one additional quarter note in the penultimate bar. Again, it can be helpful to mark this into the student’s solo part.

Mvt. II: Rehearsal 6-measure 2 of Mvt. III (Fig. 8.4)

The second measure of Rehearsal 6 presents a rhythmic challenge. The saxophone part is subdivided into sixteenth note sextuplets, while the piano is in eighth note triplets. This is further complicated by the fact that the saxophone is tied across beat two by one sixteenth note, while the piano moves on the second eighth note. In the third bar, the piano switches to a straight eighth note accompaniment, then quarter note triplets in the fourth. In the third and fourth bars, the saxophonist should listen to align beats 1 and 3. The last issue in this movement is the final three notes; many players use the closing sixteenths of Movement II to set the tempo of the eighth note for Movement III.

Mvt. III: 2 before Rehearsal 9-end (Fig. 8.5)

The saxophone entrance after the piano interlude before Rehearsal 10 can be challenging. The saxophonist should count the eight sixteenth note figures in order align the pickup to Rehearsal 10 through the rallentando. This duo will also help the musicians to match the tempo change to presto in the last three bars, as well as align the grace notes to the final fermata.

For Two Soprano Saxophones

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For One Soprano and One Alto Saxophone

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IX. References

Creston, Paul.  Sonata for Eb Alto Saxophone and Piano.  1939.  West Conshohocken: Templeton Publishing, 1945.  Print.

Desenclos, Alfred.  Prelude, Cadence et Finale pour Saxophone Alto et Piano.  1956.  Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1956.  Print.

Glazunov, Alexander.  Concerto en Mib pour Saxophone Alto et Orchestra à cordes.  1934. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1936.  Print.

Ibert, Jacques.  Concertino da Camera pour Saxophone Alto et Onze instruments.  1935.  Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1935.  Print.

Maurice, Paule.  Tableaux de Provence: Suite pour Saxophone et Orchestre ou Piano.  1955. Paris: Editions Henry Lemoine, 1990.  Print.

Rueff, Jeanine.  Chanson et Passepied pour Saxophone Alto et Piano.  1951.  Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1951.  Print.

Villa-Lobos, Heitor.  Fantasia for Soprano or Tenor Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra.  1948. San Antonio: Southern Music Publishing Co., 1963.  Print.

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