Extended Techniques to “Beatbox” on the Saxophone by Derek Brown

Over the past 10 or so years, I have been slowly adding more extended techniques to my saxophone vocabulary. This is fairly common with all types of sax players. After learning the fundamentals of tone, technique, scales, improvisation, etc, many players are interested in exploring some of the more advanced and unique sounds that a saxophone can create, such as altissimo, double tonguing, multiphonics, and slap-tonguing (among MANY others!).  What is less common are the individual ways in which we apply these extended techniques to our own unique style.

I call my style “BEATBoX SAX.”  And like most innovations throughout music, I’m not necessarily “reinventing the wheel.”  Yes, I’ve developed some techniques that I haven’t really seen elsewhere (like some of the percussion sounds I make through the horn, or the way I use rings and physically hit the thumb hooks on my sax), most of what I’m doing is just my own personal way of combining these various extended techniques into something very rhythmic and funky.

While I’ve heard other sax players use slap-tonguing or tongue ramming to play bass lines, and others occasionally using percussive “pop” sounds, and still others double-tonguing melodies, one of my favorite  things to do is blend these elements together (or more accurately: rapidly alternating between the three), creating the illusion of three separate instruments playing together: bass, drums, and melody. 

To discuss exactly how I go about doing this would take up way too much space here.  But I actually do this elsewhere!  Along with my various music videos, I have about 30 BEATBoX SAX Tutorial videos on Youtube where I get really specific about most of the various extended techniques that I use to create my style of playing (https://www.youtube.com/user/beatboxsax) Of course, a lot of these take a LONG time to master.  But if you take these slowly, one-at-a-time like I did, hopefully they will inspire you to find your own creative ways of using them.

Be yourself and don’t be afraid to take musical risks!

Derek Brown

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