First try to laugh
This means laughing for real. Obviously you do it spontaneously when something funny happens, but can you do a convincing laugh as if you are an actor having to react even though you’ve heard the joke many times? As well as trying it yourself, it’s a good idea to listen to other people laughing to really get the feel for it and also other ways of doing it.
Make a note of what is actually happening. You’ll find there are many types from a real belly laugh to a shy chuckle or a sly snigger. The easiest one to simulate on the saxophone is typical “ha-ha-ha-ha” which descends in pitch. It does not necessarily descend in even musical note pitches, though it is often a small interval close to a semitone. So the first thing to think about when simulating this is to get away from perfectly pitching the notes and a good way to do this is to add some note bending, so if you haven’t done already, check out the bending article.
This is actually quite an easy effect, especially if you have already learnt to do a bit of note bending. The most important thing is to articulate a
ku instead of
tu to start the note. It’s then just a question of making each note bend downwards slightly and playing a series of notes that simulate a laugh.
In the example I’ve used a chromatic scale downwards with bends and then followed this by another laugh starting a bit higher. This simulates the way a laugh can become “infectious” and the first laugh triggers the second one, which can have a bit more intensity.
This is what Walter Eby (1922) has to say:
And a solo piece that uses the saxophone laugh: