Musician’s Stories from the Trenches – Bob Norton

Editor’s note:  this is another in a recurring series of stories of musician’s stories.  Some are biographical, and some are more along the lines of “how I did it”.  We hope you enjoy this series.

Bob Norton’s musical story:

Bob Norton Candid My name is Bob “Notes” Norton and have been playing music professionally since the 1960s. I’ve played in just about every venue a musician can, from seedy dives, to singles bars (meet markets),  to topless bars, to show clubs, to cruise ships, to five star hotels, and even to concert stages as the opening act for major headliners while their recordings were #1 on Billboard. I was in a band that was almost famous ourselves, but our manager and the record company couldn’t come to terms on compensation. But that’s another story.

Although I’ve learned to play seven instruments, since Junior High School my main axe has been sax. However since I discovered wind synthesis, I’ve evolved to play more wind synth than sax, but I consider the synth to be an extension of my sax playing. I play in a duo with my wife (we met while we were in different bands) and I bring my tenor sax, flute, guitar, vocals, drum controller, and wind synth rig to work (Yamaha WX5 with two VL70mTurbo synths and one TX81z). We played on cruise ships for 3 years on a 3 week contract, then “jumped ship” gig in Yacht Clubs, Country Clubs, Private Clubs, Corporate Functions, Retirement Communities, Restaurants and small clubs. I also write aftermarket styles for Band-in-a-Box at but that’s even another story.

Norton z_cat_px1sThis is [primarily] a wind synth blog, so I’ll stick to my wind rig. I’ve been playing wind synth since the WX7 was introduced by Yamaha. While I do play a few ‘pure synth’ patches, I usually emulate other instruments like trumpet (muted and straight), trombone, clarinet, harmonica, guitars, saxes, and so on. Yes I said saxes and guitars, even though I bring a sax and guitar on stage. I use the synth to expand what my sax and guitar can do, not to replace them. Just as a piano player may reach for a Rhodes or other electric piano to make different but similar sounds, I reach for the wind synth sax and guitar patches for the same reason.

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