The Hidden Notes

The Hidden Notes offers a window into a unique sound world. It is a celebration of the saxophone and all the beautiful colours that are hidden just beneath the surface.

When a musician plays a note of a certain pitch, the musical instrument vibrates or resonates, producing a complex pattern of sound waves made up of many different frequencies. The most noticeable sound wave is called the fundamental, but there are other waves with higher frequencies, called harmonics. These are the hidden notes.

About 10 years ago, while practising saxophone in a north London flat, I stumbled across a fingering that produced several notes simultaneously. It was such a strong, rich sound that I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Every now and again I would chance upon more of these sounds, feeding my curiosity and mounting excitement about their potential to broaden and enrich the sonic qualities of the saxophone. My fascination continued to grow until one day, around August 2011, when I decided to fully explore the possibilities of this beautiful, mysterious soundworld.

At first I did this through trial and error, and then later studied the main publications on saxophone multiphonics. I soon realised that I would need to create my own system, if I wanted to incorporate these sounds into tonal music. Current publications generally present all the weird and wonderful multiphonics the author could find, but do not attempt to order or refine the tuning of these note combinations for use in a tonal context.

I have spent the last four years developing and refining a tonal approach to the sonically fascinating soundworld of saxophone multiphonics and overtone patterns.   Through the use of special fingerings and blowing techniques it is possible to produce several notes simultaneously, extending the sound world of the saxophone from a monophonic to a polyphonic instrument.  Circular breathing then allows for the development of continuous rhythmic patterns, opening up many new exciting rhythmic and textural possibilities.

Saxophone multiphonics

A multiphonic is the simultaneous sounding of more than one note on an instrument that is normally capable of playing just one note at a time.

Overtone patterns

Overtone patterns are based on the natural overtone series. Each degree of the overtone series has a different tonal quality and can be used as a false fingering to add color. Some combinations work better then others and it is really only through trial and error that you can discover which combinations are actually practical and affective.

I have done a lot of work on exploring the different possibilities and through this have found many great sounds and patterns, that I could have never imagined previously. Many of the patterns work especially well, when combined with circular breathing, to create complex cyclical rhythms.