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Altissimo - Almost

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Saxdiva

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I have been working on altissimo for a short time. I have played, with my teacher, the 'easy notes' A and D. I can hit them regularly, but not always first time, and usually perfectly in tune. The tone is improving and getting stronger.

So, feeling chipper, I had a go at the other notes yesterday whilst I was practising. After I could get a reasonable tone out of all of them, I thought I'd better check intonation with a tuner, as I suspected things were too easy.

Most were nearer to the intended note than away from it, a couple a semi-tone away, but I noticed G was almost a tone away.

So, for the ones not in tune, is this because I need to adjust my embouchure, is it just as likely to be that I need to try different fingerings, or is it because of air support from the diaphragm? Or indeed all of the above...

I know G is a tricky note, but I only know because people say so. Can someone tell me why? Intonation, fingering, etc etc

I practice mouthpiece exercises daily and play an octave and intervals (checking tuning on the keyboard) followed by tunes ('She' is a regular and clears the vicinity of cats o_O) I also play overtones quite nicely now - apart from D which is a bit hit and miss. I can use tone imagination for those, but it's trickier for altissimo as I don't have enough keys on the keyboard.

I'm sure tone imagination must help altissimo so does anyone know where I can get sound files with the notes in?

So, I can ask Teach next week why I'm struggling, but in the meantime if any one has suggestions as to what else to work on to improve my intonation on some notes I would be really grateful.

Thank You!
 

Nick Wyver

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Try getting a G4, that's quite easy (conventional G fingering but think higher!)
G4? That's a bit high isn't it?
The easiest way to get a G3 on an alto is to play alt top F then add side Bb to get F# then lift up your C finger and add your F finger (keeping side Bb pressed). With a bit of luck G should pop out.
I must admit I've never regarded high D as a particularly "easy" note on alto. What fingering do you use?
 

jazzdoh

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Well done on your altissimo.
G3 on alto is not easy,if you have horns with high F# then i find B with bis key side Bb and high F# key the easiest, if no F# then B and G left hand and F and D on the right is also good.
Nick i find high front F on its own best for high D.
 

Saxdiva

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Well done on your altissimo.
G3 on alto is not easy,if you have horns with high F# then i find B with bis key side Bb and high F# key the easiest, if no F# then B and G left hand and F and D on the right is also good.
Nick i find high front F on its own best for high D.

Thanks Jazzdoh. Nick, front F on its own is how I play high D too. Along with A, it just popped out. Easy peasy. I can't do the others as easily.
 

Saxdiva

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G4? That's a bit high isn't it?
The easiest way to get a G3 on an alto is to play alt top F then add side Bb to get F# then lift up your C finger and add your F finger (keeping side Bb pressed). With a bit of luck G should pop out.
I must admit I've never regarded high D as a particularly "easy" note on alto. What fingering do you use?

Hi Nick, thanks for the tip. I'll try it tomorrow and let you know.
 

jbtsax

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If you adjust the front F to open the F palm key 1 mm or slightly less, then high G can be easily played by playing front F and then lifting the C key. You may need to add the Bb side key for pitch. This works because the slightly opened F palm key acts more like an octave vent. The idea behind this is to practice the high G using this "crutch" until you get the "taste" of the note, and then return the front F to its original setting. More information on this can be found in Rousseau's "Saxophone High Tones".

When we blow a note in the normal range of the saxophone with a given fingering, the resonant frequency of the "tube" instantly couples with the vibration of the reed causing the reed to vibrate at that frequency and at its multiples (harmonics). This sets up what Benade calls "a regime of oscillation" which stays the same until the fingering is changed and another coupling takes place. Altissimo fingerings work by weakening the resonance frequency of the bore of the saxophone which then allows the resonant frequency inside the mouth to take over the reed's vibration. We play harmonics and altissimo notes by "tuning" the oral cavity to slightly above the frequency we want to produce.

As to why the G is more difficult, here is an explanation from the UNSW website:
This is the first note in the third register, meaning that it plays at the third impedance peak. It is also the first or second note in the altissimo or very high range. The weakness of the third peak (due to the relatively large cone angle of the saxophone) explains why notes in this range are hard to play and require the player to assist the weak impedance peak of the bore with a strong impedance peak of the vocal tract.

Another interesting tidbit from Saxophones and the Vocal Tract is:
"However, the magnitude of the resonances are consistent with a glottis in the nearly closed position, something like the position used for whispering."
One of my teachers had me produce the desired altissimo pitch as an "air whistle" to help shape the mouth to play the desired note.
 

Saxdiva

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Thank you JBT. I noticed when practising today that I could get more of the altissimo notes in tune by experimenting with tongue and throat. Given that G is one of the lower notes, I wanted to understand its difficulty and now it makes sense. I have been using Rascher's Top Tones for overtones. Perhaps I should check out the Rousseau book. I always find if I understand (or at least try) the why, it makes the doing easier.

I have a lesson tomorrow too, which should help.
 

Colin the Bear

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I've never played altissimo on saxophone. If I need to be up there I use the clarinet. Having played mostly alto it seems high enough. Apart from extending the range has altissimo a practical use?
 

jbtsax

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I've never played altissimo on saxophone. If I need to be up there I use the clarinet. Having played mostly alto it seems high enough. Apart from extending the range has altissimo a practical use?
Annoy the neighbors, perhaps? Seriously, practicing overtones and altissimo notes can help with learning to "voice" notes to match color and timbre on long tones. An example is to play 2nd finger C without the octave key and then finger low C and over blow it to the same pitch. You will hear that the low C fingering has a richer more colorful sound. Then go back and forth between the two and try to make the middle finger C sound as much like the low C as you can using your airstream and voicing the note by shaping your mouth and throat. There are other examples, but this is an easy way to understand the process.

By the way, I'm a bit like you in that I have not invested the time playing in that range. I can "hit" many of the notes, but I am not fluent playing in that octave. I just learned to play some of the altissimo notes for classical solos that I was working on at the time.
 

Saxdiva

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For me, two things.

Firstly, just like other things in a toolkit, it gives you scope to do something different in the appropriate solo - and a lot easier than grabbing a soprano for a few notes :)

Really though, for me, it's about learning the technicalities about breath control/oral cavity changes (sorry I always think that phrase sounds awful, but I can't think of another that sounds better) that really help with general playing. The amount of control it needs and so what it gives the player in terms of control and improvement to overall tone mean it is a great practice tool.

I play overtones as part of every day practice - it's really just an extension of that. I can't see it being a regular part of playing, more of a good measurement of my improvement (or not) in control.

My teacher has a sax body with no keys or toneholes which he uses to practice. He had Rupert Noble do it and was probably inspired by Rascher. One day I'll get hold of one, hopefully a reject in a factory before they draw the toneholes....
 

Colin the Bear

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I think it's just because I prefer the bottom end of the instrument. I pick a setup for a fat full bottom end. Things can get a little shrill up top and I have problems with some high notes setting my tinitus off. I may start to investigate what I can do on tenor. Some of the altissimo notes on tenor sound quite sweet. Altissimo on baritone just seems like an oxymoron.
 

Colin the Bear

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That's just showing off lol

Another great player I've never heard of by the way.
 

Jamesmac

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Annoy the neighbors, perhaps? Seriously, practicing overtones and altissimo notes can help with learning to "voice" notes to match color and timbre on long tones. An example is to play 2nd finger C without the octave key and then finger low C and over blow it to the same pitch. You will hear that the low C fingering has a richer more colorful sound. Then go back and forth between the two and try to make the middle finger C sound as much like the low C as you can using your airstream and voicing the note by shaping your mouth and throat. There are other examples, but this is an easy way to understand the process.

By the way, I'm a bit like you in that I have not invested the time playing in that range. I can "hit" many of the notes, but I am not fluent playing in that octave. I just learned to play some of the altissimo notes for classical solos that I was working on at the time.


I don't get it. How practicing altissimo will improve anything other than altissimo .
Playing harmonics on the flute I get, but the flute doesn't have a reed that vibrates.
Whenever I used to occasionally have a reed with Clarinet that was susceptible to overtones, I used to change my reed. I once attended a master class with a youngish Clarinetist , playing modern classical pieces that involved all those techniques, when he played with his normal Clarinet sound, it was nothing special, in fact a bit under par. So playing with those techniques didn't help his sound one bit.

PS. No other concert reed instrument that I know of uses these techniques, and impossible to prove that it is beneficial to a players control of the sound.
 
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jbtsax

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I don't get it. How practicing altissimo will improve anything other than altissimo .
Playing harmonics on the flute I get, but the flute doesn't have a reed that vibrates.
Whenever I used to occasionally have a reed with Clarinet that was susceptible to overtones, I used to change my reed. I once attended a master class with a youngish Clarinetist , playing modern classical pieces that involved all those techniques, when he played with his normal Clarinet sound, it was nothing special, in fact a bit under par. So playing with those techniques didn't help his sound one bit.

PS. No other concert reed instrument that I know of uses these techniques, and impossible to prove that it is beneficial to a players control of the sound.
Notes C# above the staff are in fact altissimo notes that "voicing" inside the mouth help to produce so any clarinetist who can play to the top of the instrument's range learns how to play the altissimo register.

It is common knowledge that practicing scales on the mouthpiece alone helps a player develop a high degree of control over the tone of the instrument. No other proof is required that there is a direct relationship.

Playing a reed instrument at the highest level of performance involves adjusting the pitch and timbre of certain notes in a phrase or passage. If the pitch can be adjusted slightly up or down without tightening or loosening the embouchure then the tone quality does not suffer.

Further explanation can be found in these videos:

Overtones by Chris Hemingway,
Inflections, Tone Bending and Pitch
by Randall Clark
 

Saxdiva

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I am about as far away from a great player as you can get, being a relative beginner. I can tell the difference in control I have (and my teacher has commented so it's not just me). The work on overtones and altissimo has made me much more aware of what to do with tongue and throat to manipulate sound. It has also taught me diaphragm breath control more quickly than I would have learned it otherwise. Playing scales and intervals on the mouthpiece is similar, in that it makes you aware that the player's mouth is contributing enormously to what comes out of the saxophone.

My teacher believes overtones is a necessary part of daily practice because of the benefits. I'm seeing why the more I do.
 

Jamesmac

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Notes C# above the staff are in fact altissimo notes that "voicing" inside the mouth help to produce so any clarinetist who can play to the top of the instrument's range learns how to play the altissimo register.

It is common knowledge that practicing scales on the mouthpiece alone helps a player develop a high degree of control over the tone of the instrument. No other proof is required that there is a direct relationship.

Playing a reed instrument at the highest level of performance involves adjusting the pitch and timbre of certain notes in a phrase or passage. If the pitch can be adjusted slightly up or down without tightening or loosening the embouchure then the tone quality does not suffer.

Further explanation can be found in these videos:

Overtones by Chris Hemingway,
Inflections, Tone Bending and Pitch by Randall Clark

Thanks for the explanation.
I play up to C above top C when in Practice, Bb a semitone above the normal written range. when not. but i dont get to C sharp above the staff and think, ok now im going to play altissimo. thats my point.
PS.and have played with players who cant play quite as high and control it, but still play in tune with a good sound.
 
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