Quarter Tone Saxophone

About the Book

This book is a work in progress.

Quarter Tone Technique for Saxophone is a technique book that will demonstrate how to produce quarter tone notes in a fluent manner with full sound and proper intonation.

In the early 20th century, composers such as Alois Hába, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, and Charles Ives began composing quarter tone works for instruments such as piano, clarinet, and voice. In the mid 20th century, composers such as Dean Drummond and Easley Blackwood began composing in quarter tonality, as well as other microtonal systems. This style of composition was, and still is, experimental. There is not yet a standard notation system (though one is beginning to emerge) and there are not many references for performance and composition with quarter tones.

The piano is able to achieve quarter tonality through two ways: a second layer of keys and strings can be added, where these strings are tuned up or down a quarter step, or two pianos can be used, where one is tuned up or down a quarter step. Piano is currently one of the most commonly selected instrument choices for quarter tone composers, but performance of these pieces requires that a piano be modified in one of these ways.

At present, not many composers create pieces which take advantage of quarter tones. This is the case partially because most instruments are designed only to work in the 12-note standard tuning system, including the saxophone. However, the saxophone, as well as many other instruments, do have the capacity to play quarter tones. The saxophone has a continuous range of quarter tones throughout most of its natural range, as well as a few quarter tones on the lower end of the horn. A master of the technique will be able to play quarter tone music as fluently as standard chromatic music.

The goal of this technique book is to encourage saxophonists to learn this technique and to encourage composers to write for it. Quarter tonality presents new melodic and harmonic possibilities that can bring previously unexplored textures, colors, and atmospheres to music.

This book enables the musician to perform quarter tone compositions by providing the musician with fingerings and short exercises for each note, chord studies, scale studies, ear training exercises, and etudes. The scale and chord studies exposes the musician to the quarter tone harmonic atmospheres while providing consistent, technical exercise drills the musician can use to improve his technique. The ear training enables the musician to hear the quarter tone intervals in his mind without actually playing the saxophone - more specifically, the 1/4 and 3/4 quarter tone intervals.

The etude compositions exposes the musician to the compositional and musical possibilities the extended technique provides.

When the book is published, Dixon will also publish a duet for alto and bari saxes, a few sax quartet compositions, a Quarter Tone sonata for tenor sax and piano, and other compositions. He will continue to compose for quarter tone saxophone and work with other composers to create quarter tone composition projects.

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Quarter Tone Saxophone
Quarter Tone Technique for Saxophone