How to Growl on the Saxophone

After rereading one of my older posts on how to ghost a note on the saxophone, I'm reminded that even simple sax techniques--or tricks, if you wish--seem like a mystery at some point in a saxophonist's learning curve. So it is with the growl. It's easy once you know how to do it, but until then, you listen to players who use the growl--Phil Woods does so to great effect--and wonder how the heck they do that. Let me enlighten you. The technique is so easy to acquire that if you've got your horn in your hand, you can be growling in fifteen seconds and have a pretty good feel for the growl in a few minutes. What's the secret? Sing or hum into your instrument while you're playing it. Pick a tone lower than the range you're playing in. That's it. I repeat: Just sing or hum into your instrument while you're playing it. The extra source of sound creates conflicting overtones that jostle with each other to create a growling effect. (That's my simple, non-technical explanation.) You can experiment with humming certain pitches relative to the notes you're playing--an octave below, a fifth below, and so forth. I don't worry about such stuff myself, and maybe I should pay more attention to it. But I've never had any problems getting the essential effect. Note that growling is not the same thing as flutter tonguing. The two techniques may sound somewhat similar, but I think that most ears can easily tell them apart. They're very different approaches that produce different effects. If you enjoyed this article, check out the many other helpful articles, exercises, and solo transcriptions on my jazz page.
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