Christmas duets for violin and baritone saxophone or sousaphone

October 15, 2019, 11:54 AM · My niece plays the baritone saxophone and the sousaphone. Any ideas for duet music written for the peculiar pairing of violin and baritone sax or violin and sousaphone? The sousaphone parts would have to be very easy, as she is a beginner with sousaphone.

Replies (5)

Edited: October 15, 2019, 1:11 PM · Can easily get a lead sheet for any number of christmas songs and have your niece honk out the root and fifth of each chord while the violinist just reads right off the page.

If their theory is on the weak side, it'll teach them how to read chord notation as a bonus.

October 17, 2019, 6:09 AM · In essence, Cotton has offers an excellent answer. Write your own. This isn't harsh, but encouragement to solve a problem forever.

Presumably the niece has more skill on the bari sax, and can hold a melody.

Write out the Christmas song melody (and chord symbols) in the treble clef of a Grand Stave. Play through this (violin?) several times, and adjust the rhythm (syncopation, just a touch, here and there?) and add some interesting notes to any dull (long?) notes. That is, adapt the melody until it is just to your taste. Work with a tempo in mind, and plan the big picture dynamics of your piece. Write in articulation that occurs to you.

Reharmonise any part of the progression if it seems to stay on one chord for too long. (You might like to choose a new chord for each measure, using substitute chords, or standard progressions, to replace the repeated chord. Don't go crazy with this reharmonization for Christmas songs, though: reharmonize in style.)

Write the chord roots on the first beat of every measure in the bass clef.

Decide on the "feel" you want: two beat, four to the bar, boogie, etc. (Get any fake book pianist to demonstrate this to you, if this doesn't make sense.)

Now, work back from the end of each phrase, adding a note to the bass line to lead into the new chord root. Your choices are, in the main, as scale step above or below the new chord root, a P4 or P5 above or below the new chord root, or a semitone above or below the new chord root. In general, choose a note that takes your bass part in contrary motion to the melody. (Don't write below the stave, and don't go far above the stave.)

Now, add chord tones, or, if you create a stepwise line, scale tones, to join the first beat of the bar with your last note in the bar. Aim for curved phrases, most often in contrary motion to the melody.

Now, plonk your way through the bass line on an instrument (piano?), to get the sense of the musical line you have created. Try to sing the melody while you do this. Make any adjustments to pitch in the bass line at this stage. Adjust the rhythm of the bass line as necessary, keeping the feel you have previously chosen in mind, but adding more movement in the bass line where the melody is stationary, especially at the end of phrases.

Most Christmas songs have AB or AABA form, so you might like to ensure the bass line is moderately different (but still in style) for the contrasting section (B).

Add your dynamic markings, any further articulations (slurs, especially to avoid sawing in the bowing), tempo markings. Oh, and copy the last four bars of you chart to the beginning, giving you an introduction.

This will give you a playable fiddle/Bari sax duet, especially if you make small adjustments to the melody for each A section.

Add three sharps to the key signature of the bass part (or, remove three flats), and add a treble clef sign, and pass it to the bari play: a transposed, fully ready-to-go bari part.

It is much trickier to add a fiddle accompaniment to a bari melody, and I won't shoot from the hip here: you are stuck with a fiddle on melody, and bari counter-melody bass part with this approach.

When you feel happy with your work (after the musicians have played it), write four more charts like this. It is not until you have successfully written about five charts in a style that you consolidate the skills.

I hope this helps.

October 17, 2019, 7:17 AM · Oh goodness--I'm trying to find a way to engage my niece--with a high likelihood of failure no matter what I do. Cotton: I doubt she has any knowledge of theory, and another adult giving her a lecture is probably not the right approach at this time. Graeme: Of course, I could write the arrangement myself with a lot of time and effort, but I was hoping there were some easy work-arounds.
Edited: October 21, 2019, 11:20 AM · There probably isn't a really easy solution, but the baritone sax has pretty much the same range as the cello, and there are plenty of arrangements of Christmas tunes for violin and cello. You could take the cello part of these and follow the last step of Graeme's advice, and "Add three sharps to the key signature (or, remove three flats), and add a treble clef sign, and pass it to the bari play: a transposed, fully ready-to-go bari part." So some work, yes, but probably something you could do in one evening.

And to avoid having to use wite-out or other messy options, you could just buy some of these:

October 17, 2019, 6:55 PM · Your niece is able to carry and play a sousaphone and bari sax, so I imagine she is a teenager. Having two instruments suggests she is quite advanced on bari, and can probably play other saxophones, too. If this isn't the case, why is she doubling on sousaphone? Is she drowning in expectations? (At some time, she must have been quite motivated, just to end up on bari.)

You are confronting transposition, no matter what, but you need not play duets, perhaps. Just unison (octaves), bari and fiddle, might be the first step, where getting her "onside and motivated" might be a step before playing duets. Sneak in some two part writing once she willingly turns up every week with some certain signs of pleasure in playing with you.

If you are a strong player, and know your instrument well, the basic arranging process I outlined above will produce a very playable arrangement in less than two hours.

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