#82 Smooth Operator (Sade) Part 2 - Learn The Famous Sax Solo

sax hall of fame Aug 09, 2020

Nothing says smoochy, romantic saxophone quite like Sade's Smooth Operator. The track was released on Sade's debut 1984 album Diamond Life, and features the tenor saxophone of multi-instrumentalist band member Stuart Mathewman (aka Cottonbelly). For this video, which is Smooth Operator part two, we'll be learning the famous solo section in the middle. If you want to learn the recurring melody section go and check out Smooth Operator Part 1.

Be sure to pick up the free PDF sheet music for Smooth Operator and if you want to play along you can get the backing track here. 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 at the bottom of the blog.


Who plays the sax solo on Smooth Operator by Sade? (0:49)

  • the sax solo on Smooth Operator is played on tenor sax by multi-instrumentalist band member Stuart Mathewman (aka Cottonbelly)


What saxophone is used for the solo on Smooth Operator? 

  • the Smooth Operator sax solo is played on tenor sax by Stuart Mathewman (aka Cottonbelly)


What are the chords for Smooth Operator?

  • in concert pitch, the chords for the solo section of Smooth Operator are: |Dm C  |Gm7 Am7 |
  • the key of the song is concert D minor (E minor for tenor and B minor for alto)


Who is Sade?

  • Nigerian born Sade, full name Helen Folasade Adu, is one of the most successful British female singers of all time.
  • Her most successful album, Diamond Life, was one of the most successful albums of 1984


What are the notes for the sax solo in Smooth Operator?

-=low C# and below, *=second octave, __=longer note

  • phrase 1 - tenor (2:01): E   D   E   G  E   F#  G  F#  G   A   G   A  B   A   B   D*  F#*___
  • phrase 2 - tenor (2:44): D*  B  B  D*  E*  F#*  G*  A*  F#*__G* F#* D*  E*
  • phrase 3 - tenor (3:19): G*  A*  B*  D**__E**  D**  B*  Bb*  A*  G*  A*
  • phrase 4 - tenor (3:50): Bb*  A*  G*__A* G* E*  F#*__D*  B  D*  E*
  • phrase 5 - tenor (4:22): A*  B*  Bb*  B*  D**  E**  F#**  G**  F#**  E**  E**
  • phrase 6 - tenor (4:47): B*  C*  C#*  D**  B*__G*  E*  F#*__D*  B__


  • phrase 1 - alto (2:01): B   A   B   D*  B  C#  D*  C#  D*  E*  D*  E*  F#*  E*  F#*  A*  C#*___
  • phrase 2 - alto (2:44): A  F#  F#  A  B  C#  D*  E*  C#__D* C# A  B
  • phrase 3 - alto (3:19): D*  E*  F#*  A*__B*  A*  F#*  F*  E*  D*  E*
  • phrase 4 - alto (3:50): F*  E*  D*__E* D* B  C#__A  F#  A  B
  • phrase 5 - alto (4:22): D*  E*  F*  F#*  A*  B*  C#*  D**  C#*  B*  B*
  • phrase 6 - alto (4:47): F#*  G*  G#*  A*  F#*__D*  B  C#__A  F#__


Is there a backing track for Smooth Operator? (6:07)


So that's it for this week. I hope you enjoy learning this iconic sax solo. Don't forget to get your free PDF sheet music for Smooth Operator, which has all the phrases marked in for alto AND tenor sax. Next week I'll be performing one of my own compositions for 5 saxes and percussion called Elated Nation, so see practicing smart and I'll see you there! 


Video Time Stamps

0:00 - intro performance

0:18 - intro and titles

0:49 - about Smooth Operator

1:23 - how to get your free sheet music for smooth operator

2:01 - phrase 1 breakdown

2:20 - how to get your free one hour masterclass

2:44 - phrase 2 breakdown

3:19 - phrase 3 breakdown

3:50 - phrase 4 breakdown

4:22 - phrase 5 breakdown

4:47 - phrase 6 breakdown

5:00 - putting it all together


6:07 - Smooth Operator BACKING TRACK

6:39 - Sign off

7:38 - end music/bloopers


Video Transcript


Hi, I’m pro saxophonist Jamie Anderson and you’re watching Get Your Sax Together. Five weeks ago I taught you how to play the intro melody from Smooth Operator (linked up there) and following that I was inundated with requests asking me to cover Stuart Mathewman’s solo in the middle of the song. Well, your wish is my command, so in today’s free online sax lesson you’ll be learning how to play the sax solo on “Smooth Operator” by Sade.


Smooth Operator is from Sade’s 1984 debut album Diamond Life and features the tenor sax of multi-instrumentalist band member Stuart Mathewman aka Cottonbelly. This solo section isn’t as easy as the melody part you learned a few weeks ago, so if you’re a beginner on sax you may struggle a bit, especially if you play tenor. Remember to let me know in the comments if there’s a classic sax solo or melody you’d like me to cover on the channel, but remember, at the moment I don’t cover vocal melodies that you want to play on sax - just ACTUAL sax lines. Before we learn the first phrase, make sure you go down into the description for this video and click the link to get your free PDF sheet music for the Smooth Operator sax solo, which is lovingly transcribed by yours truly for tenor AND alto sax.

And keep watching to the end of the video - not just because of the usual blooper reel - but cos I’ve included a free backing track for Smooth Operator that YOU can play along to. So, without further ado, here’s the first phrase, broken down in slow motion. This first phrase is a bit buried in the mix, but I think these are the notes. Quick note if you play alto - this first phrase is up the octave from the original, as it goes down to a low A which off the bottom of the instrument.


Just before we move on to the second phrase, let me quickly mention my free Saxophone Success Masterclass. If you wanna hang out with me for an hour and learn how to transform your tone, improvise a great solo or design a structured practice routine, just go to link in the description, or you can visit double-u double-u double-u dot get your sax together dot com, forward slash masterclass. Okay, let’s crack on now, and look at phrase two. Here it is played nice and slowly…


If you listen to the original, or get the free PDF sheet music for Smooth Operator from the description, you’ll notice that Stuart Mathewman scoops up to certain notes. If you wanna learn how to do that properly, check out the video linked on the card above now, which shows you how to do every kind of bend, fall, scoop or glissando you can imagine. Moving on then, here’s the third phrase in slow motion…


You might notice that phrase three, and most of the rest of the solo, uses the minor blues scale. E minor blues scale for tenor and B minor blues scale for alto. I’ve done a whole lesson on the blues explaining those blues scales and much much more. Just click the card linked above now to watch it. Here’s phrase FOUR now…


Phrase five gets quite high for tenor - top F# and G. Last week I did a special, epic length video on the altissimo range. If YOU struggle getting those high altissimo notes out, just go to the video linked on the card above now and all will be revealed. That’s a totally bangin’ video, that one, so add it to your “watch later” list or whatever. Here’s phrase five, the penultimate phrase.


Almost there now, here’s the sixth and final phrase. I think this is my favourite phrase in the whole thing actually. It doesn’t really make that much sense, harmonically speaking, but there’s just something about it that I like.


Okay, let’s put this whole thing together now - remember to get your free PDF from the description and follow along with each phrase as I play it. As usual, I’ve put together a backing track, and after I’ve performed the song you can play along with it on your own. As I always say, it’s ESSENTIAL to go and listen to the original song and mimic the phrasing, timing and tone if you wanna sound convincing. In NLP there’s a phrase “the map is not the territory”, and in music you should remember “the chart is not the music”. Knowing the notes and rhythms is only the START if you wanna sound good. There’s two bars of percussion, then one more bar after THAT before the sax comes in. Here we go…



So that’s it for this Sunday, thank you SO much for watching and supporting this channel and I really hope you enjoyed learning the tenor solo on Smooth Operator. Just before we get to the funky end card music and blooper reel, 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 and get your free one hour lesson with me. You can support me by giving this video a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon to be notified when I upload new content and check out my Insta and Facebook pages. Next Sunday I’m gonna do something a bit different. I’ve dug out some old sax quintet arrangements and I’m gonna perform one or two of them for you. To be totally honest, my brain gets a bit fried making home run videos every week, and also, many of you have said you’d like to hear me perform something on my own for a change, so THAT’S what I’m gonna do! Until then, practice smart, keep having fun, and I’ll see you next Sunday. Bye!


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