#89 How To Play The Sax Solo On "Hey Laura" By Gregory Porter

sax hall of fame Sep 27, 2020

I'm all about the classic, famous sax breaks on Get Your Sax Together, but this week we're going right up to date with Tivon Pennicott's lyrical tenor solo on the Gregory Porter track "Hey Laura" from his 2013 album Liquid Spirit. For me, this is the perfect blend of jazz and soulful pop.

Be sure to pick up your free PDF for Hey Laura here, which has got the sax solo written out for alto AND tenor. Here are the Q&A topics covered in this lesson, with video time stamps (min:sec). Clicking on the time stamp will take you straight to that portion of the video on YouTube (in a separate tab). Full Time stamps for the video and a complete transcript are available at the bottom of the blog.


Who plays the sax solo on Hey Laura by Gregory Porter? (0:51)

  • the tenor solo on Hey Laura is played by American saxophonist Tivon Pennicott
  • Tivon Pennicott is a three time Grammy Award Winner


What scales are used in the Hey Laura sax solo? (2:20)

  • the whole solo (apart from one grace note) is on the major scale of the home key and emphasises the major pentatonic. For tenor it's E major, for alto, B major.

Is it hard to play the sax solo on Hey Laura?

  • if you play alto, this solo isn't too bad. Not easy peasy, but do-able. If you play tenor (like the original), then you have to be able to play altissimo F#, G and G#, which can be tricky
  • you can check out my How To Play Altissimo video to get that range under control! 
  • as with every solo, it's very important to see the notes as the starting point, then spend time ,watching the phrasing, timing, sound and feel


 What are the notes for the Hey Laura sax solo?

For full fingerings, get your free PDF for Hey Laura here. These are the notes for the melody line of each phrase.

* = second octave, ** = third octave

__ = a longer note

  • phrase 1 - tenor (3:00): E   F#  G#  B  C#  E*  F#*  E*  G#* F#* E*  C#  G#  B__C#  G#___
  • phrase 2 - tenor (3:28): G#  A  C#  E*  G#*  B*  A*  G#*__F#*  E*  C#  (F#*) G#*  C#  E*  F#*  E*__
  • phrase 3 - tenor (3:59): F#*  E*  G#*  F#*  E*  F#*  B*  G#*___
  • phrase 4 - tenor (4:16): E**  D#**__B*  G#*__C#*  B*__G#*  F#*__
  • phrase 5 - tenor (4:30): B  C#  E*  F#*  G#*  B*  E**
  • phrase 6 - tenor (4:50): B  C#  E*  F#*  G#*  B*  E**
  • phrase 7 - tenor (5:35): F#**  G**  F#**  E**  G#**  E**  B*


  • phrase 1 - alto (3:00): B(low) C#(low)  D#  F#  G#  B  C#  B  D# C# B  G#  D#  F#__G#  D#___
  • phrase 2 - alto (3:28): D#  E  G#  B  D#*  F#*  E*  D#*__C#  B  G#  (C#) D#*  G#  B  C#  B__
  • phrase 3 - alto (3:59): C#  B  D#*  C#  B  C#  F#*  D#*___
  • phrase 4 - alto (4:16): B  A#*__F#*  D#*__G#*  F#*__D#*  C#__
  • phrase 5 - alto (4:30): F#  G#  B  C#  D#*  F#*  B*
  • phrase 6 - alto (4:50): F#  G#  B  C#  D#*  F#*  B*
  • phrase 7 - alto (5:35): C#*  D**  C#*  B*  D#**  B*  F#*


Where can I find a backing track for Hey Laura? (7:07)

  • I've made a backing track, that you can play along to, here!


So that's it for this week, I hope you enjoy learning this beautiful solo. We can all learn a lot about playfully soulfully but jazzily from this one! Don't forget to get your free PDF for Hey Laura here, lovingly transcribed as always for tenor and alto. Next week, following up on the wild success of my How To Play Altissimo video, I'll be showing you as many different fingerings as I can for the third octave altissimo notes on alto sax. Until then, keep practicing smart and I'll see you later! 

Jamie :-)


Video Timestamps

0:00 - intro performance

0:25 - intro and titles

0:51 - about Hey Laura

1:43 - how to get your backing track for Hey Laura

1:50 - how to get your free PDF sheet music for Hey Laura

1:58 - how to get your free one hour masterclass

2:20 - the scales used in the solo








5:48 - phrasing like the original



7:41 - outro

8:44 - outro music and bloopers


Video Transcript

Hi, I’m pro saxophonist Jamie Anderson and you’re watching Get Your Sax Together. I sax up your Sunday every week, with free online saxophone lessons teaching you great technique tips, player profiles and breakdowns of your favourite sax solos. Today you’re gonna learn Tivon Pennicott’s classy tenor solo on Hey Laura by Gregory Porter.


Hey Laura is featured on Gregory Porter’s 2013 album Liquid Spirit and features the lyrical tenor work of American tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott. Pennicott is a three time Grammy Award Winner, and performs on the Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert, as well as touring with Gregory Porter and his own creative projects. I’ve always loved this solo, as it’s the perfect blend of jazz and poppy soul, so when Get Your Sax Together viewer Dr Phil Assante suggested it, I instantly knew it would be a great fit for the channel. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love Gregory Porter? In fact, comment below, sharing YOUR favourite Gregory Porter track. Talking of which, I did my own arrangement of Water Under Bridges (my favourite Gregory Porter track), for multiple woodwinds, and you can check out that performance using the card linked above now. That’s pretty cool that one, I think you’ll enjoy it. Make sure you watch right to the end of this lesson, cos I let the backing track run for YOU to play along with, and use the link in the description below to download your free PDF sheet music transcription, which is written out for tenor AND alto sax. Before we learn the first phrase, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to go and check out my one hour Saxophone Success Masterclass, which is an awesome FREE lesson with me covering a whole load of stuff that will get you sounding instantly better on sax. Just use the URL below, or click the link in the description.

[STING: The Notes]

Tivon’s solo, apart from one tiny grace note, exclusively uses the major scale of the key, and focuses on the major pentatonic notes, so even if you’re beginner on sax you might be ok with this one. I must admit though, it’s a bar steward of a key, especially for alto, but I believe in you! It’s a B major scale for alto or an E major scale for tenor. If you’re unsure of your pentatonics, then go and check out my video linked on the card above now. The first phrase is a stop time break and uses the major pentatonic of the key. The secret here is to mimic the unique phrasing that Pennicott uses. You can’t really phrase it as he does at this slow speed, but check out the original to get it dialled in, cos it makes all the difference.

[phrase 1 slow]

The second phrase uses the minor eleven arpeggio of the chord, then switches back to a pentatonic phrase. Again, the devil is in the detail here with the timing and phrasing. Here’s phrase 2, played slowly…

[phrase 2 slow]

Phrase three is really a continuation of phrase two and, like the rest of the solo, Pennicott uses scoops to get up to key notes. I’d recommend that you check out my lesson on bends, falls, scoops and all the rest of it using the card linked above now. Here’s phrase three in slow motion.

[phrase 3 slow]

Phrase 4 is just gorgeous, and features a descending pattern with a kinda lopsided rhythmic emphasis. This is a great phrase to really show off your tone.

[phrase 4 slow]

Phrase five is very similar to phrase three.

[phrase 5 slow]

Phrase six goes up the pentatonic scale on the beat, then zips up to a final high note, nicely cueing up the last phrase.

[phrase 6 slow]

Just when you thought it was safe, the final phrase comes along and bites you on the backside! If you struggle playing altissimo notes, go and check out my epic lesson, linked on the card above now, cos this goes up to a high F#, G and G# for tenor, but feel free just to take it down the octave. If you play alto you’re ok, as it only goes up to a high D#. I’m not certain what fingerings Tivon used, but it’s the sort of phrase that you’d typically use the front F key for, so I played the F#, G and E with my front F key. If you’re a tenor player, don’t get your knickers in a twist over it though, just take it down the octave - it’ll still sound great.

[phrase 7 slow]

[STING: Putting It All Together]

Now we can put it ALL together. I know I keep going on about this every solo breakdown, but the notes that I’ve just taught you are only the start of the process. Definitely get the free PDF from the description, to learn the notes and basic rhythms, but it’s the nuances of phrasing and timing that really make this solo stand out. Listen to the original on loop until you can play along with no difference between you and the original. That’s the secret here. I’ve knocked up a backing track for Hey Laura, and after I’ve played it, the backing track will then run again for YOU to play along with. Remember, the PDF is written in what’s called “cut common time”. That means that the quarter notes move quite fast. I did this so you don’t have to decipher with a bunch of complicated looking sixteenth notes. Have fun guys, this one’s an absolute beauty!



[STING: Before You Go]

So that’s it for this Sunday, I hope you enjoyed learning Tivon Pennicott’s awesome tenor solo on Hey Laura, by the one and only Gregory Porter. Don’t forget to pick up your free PDF using the link in the description, and if you wanna learn some more in-depth sax stuff go to double-u double-u double-u dot get your sax together dot com, forward slash masterclass, to get your free one hour lesson with me. I’m constantly humbled and encouraged by all the support I get from you guys, so thank you so much for that, and rest assured, there will be more and more great stuff for you to enjoy every Sunday at 7am! Go ahead and give the video a thumbs up, leave me a comment, subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon to be notified when I upload new content and check out my Insta and Facebook pages. Following up on the wild success of my altissimo technique video, next Sunday’s lesson will give you as many different fingerings as I can find for the third octave notes. Until then, practice hard and practice smart, but above all, enjoy your music. See ya later!


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