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Altissimo - Kit vs Player

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,066
I know some people say certain mouthpieces make altissimo easier than others, but in the bike world journos will say 'this bike makes wheelies easy'. However, if you can't already wheelie then it doesn't matter what bike you're riding, rendering their comments meaningless (and cliché ;)).

Which is my problem with altissimo. I can play up to G, although I can't jump straight to G from anything lower than D, but G# and higher? Never.

I find the high register of my TJ Classic II to be a bit thin at the best of times, but is it possible that my sax is an instrument that makes the altissimo range much harder to use than another make/model?
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Subscriber
Messages
5,395
I find the high register of my TJ Classic II to be a bit thin at the best of times, but is it possible that my sax is an instrument that makes the altissimo range much harder to use than another make/model?
Why not try some to find out?
 

Saxlicker

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,915
I understand the comparison you are making with bikes. I also think the way a sax responds physically to your fingers will have a very slight effect but as long as you are leak free it should be negligible I'd have thought and much more of it is dependant on your own ability to get them (just like your wheelies).
But it holds true for me that a mouthpiece definitely hinders or helps with certain notes and some are easier than others for sure.

Im a little surprised you are not getting altissimo A it is probably the easiest I found to reach and most useful into the bargain.
Part of my method is always to try to pre-hear what I am going for.
If you take A as the example, get comfortable with the fingering (of which you have choices of course) then play A, octave A (hearing that interval well) then go for Altissimo with that interval buzzing around in your brain.
I bet it doesn't take you long to get that one.
Incidentally, those fingering choices would likely change along with different mouthpieces.

Being able to get to G from D or above is likely to be something to do with the air support and throat/embouchure shape that you adopt once you hit the register starting at the palm keys. So thats another thing you may need to strive for so long as its not such a squeeze where the notes are so thin that you don't like them. I say that last part because you already think your upper register is thin.
 

Rikki

Member
Messages
194
Hi Dave you have my sympathy I am also battling with altissimo! It has taken me some months to get to the stage where I feel comfortable with G3. I spend a fair bit of time practicing overtones and large intervals eg. bottom Bb to F#3 and back. I have a very good mouthpiece which has certainly helped (Morgan Fry Jazz + 8) and my sax is in good nick but I am getting it checked for any small leaks it may have (something I suggest you do ).

But the interesting thing was I recently took 2 weeks off due to hand soreness, when I got back to practice suddenly overtones and G3 were much easier I now seem to be more consistent. I guess what I am trying to say is yes need good equipment in good nick, but it is mostly you. With persistence and the right practice you WILL get it, and if like me you have been so desperate to get your altissimo, may be a break to reset yourself may help you too.

Don't give up Dave and always remember that the effort to control the altissimo range and overtones will ALWAYS make you a better player with a more satisfying tone, which is after all the most important thing we strive for, so enjoy your journey and keep us updated on how go!

All the best
 

fibracell

Senior Member
Messages
602
It can be very frustrating trying to get these notes to speak. I would say that a high baffle makes it a little easier, but you should be able to get them on any mouthpiece.
But for me it was working on overtones on all 4 bell notes, going as high as you can, and doing the mouthpiece exercises. G is harder note to get than A.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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Messages
3,517
when you are talking altissimo - do you mean the G sitting just above the stave, or the next one up (ie on 4 ledger lines above)
a slightly harder reed can help with altissimo notes too.
On my Bari, I had to go up from a 2 1/2 to 3 to get the A above the 4th ledger line to sing, and when it did, it was just there, no hastle!
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,356
I wouldn't worry about your sax, it's all in the technique...
well,...having a mouthpiece with an accurate facing curve helps a lot and higher baffles help - classical mouthpieces are really hard work in the altissimo. This doesn't mean a mouthpiece has to be an expensive hand made piece, a Rico Metallite or a Vandoren Java will work fine. Other brands are available, the one you've already got is probably fine.
A lot of it's down to embouchure - the fingerings alone won't get you all the way. But it is worth googling for all the altissimo fingerings you can find and trying them on the notes you're having trouble with. Some fingerings work better than others depending on what sax you're playing. My Martin is a law unto itself and I had to work out my own fingering method. I applied a similar logic to finding harmonics on a guitar, opening a key at the halfway point will make it jump up an octave... sometimes how far you open a key makes a difference.
Experimenting with embouchure control is the thing that really helps - try shaping your mouth as if you're trying to sing the note - I think this is the logic behind the 'think the note before you play it' axiom that you'll find in Rascher's Top Tones For Saxophone - if you think the note then your mouth unconsciously forms the right shape to sing it. Of course you can't actually sing that high, but getting your mouth to form the 'EEEE' shape helps get the air column into the right frame of mind to start vibrating the way you want it to. I think saxophone textbooks refer to this as 'voicing' and you can apply it to any note.
You will also find that minute adjustments to lip pressure, air pressure, breath support, how much reed you take in your mouth and how you shape your tongue to control the airflow will make a difference - I tend to cup my tongue under the reed and that seems to affect the resonance of the reed in some way.
There's a lot of trial and error and experimenting with what works for you.
this is the information I had to go in when I started trying this stuff 20 years ago , there's lots more to be found these days.
Saxophone Frequently Asked Questions - Altissimo
these mouthpiece exercises help and even if they don't it's still worth reading what he has to say
Saxophone Frequently Asked Questions - Mouthpiece Exercise
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,595
What reed are you playing, and what sax are you playing. From my limited experience some saxes are easier to learn altissimo on than others. Methinks that my big bore horns were more challenging to learn on (SML and Keilwerth) than King, Yamaha and Selmer.

Several years ago I got some altissimo coaching from my friend Gene Hardy which helped immensely in fattening up the sound up high. I find that my Boss 8* is pretty full up high but the PPT Hooligan 11* is just phenomenal even up past D. ( Never finger beyond D, all I do is use embouchure to move between D up to F#. which is as high as I will ever want to go.I know I know, its cheating again BUT)
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,583
I have different altissimos fingerings on my Martin tenors compared to other saxes. I don't play melodies or licks in the altissimo range. I just hit one or two chord tones when I'm playing a solo. And somtimes I press up the tone instead of doing altissimo fingerings. Or a "reed squeal" is on way to go if you want to play beyond the altissimo range. Put your bottom teeth on your reed and blow. For me this method just works on hard reeds. And have new reeds ready! King Curtis is playing "reed squeal" on the song "Memphis Soul Stew".
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
12,669
A harder reed will help with the upper register, and moving it back a little will help with tone.

Altissimo shortens the life of some reed in my experience.

Different cuts work better than others in different areas, so if you're trying something new, your usual cut may be weak in that area.

A reed that's strong where you're weak will help you till you get strong there. You can bully it where it's weak and you're strong.

The ever changing demands of the player keep us searching.
 

sax panther

Member
Subscriber
Messages
441
I'd echo the comments on trying different fingerings - what works well on my TJ Custom Tenor, doesn't seem to work well on my Hanson SA8 alto, and vice versa.

The problem is remembering them all...
 

Ivan

Undecided
Subscriber
Messages
7,151
I've a sax fingering app that has up to thirty suggestions per note

It's super laborious trying to find a fingering that works consistently for me and that's without thinking about the best fingerings that allow smooth transition between altissimo notes

I got A and had to lie down for six months
 

Ivan

Undecided
Subscriber
Messages
7,151
Once you get some notes you have to learn to control them when playing live. I find that part of the 'voicing' technique is not to get tense or snatch at the note in the heat of the moment, because then the note fluffs and the tension increases
 
OP
Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,066
a slightly harder reed can help with altissimo notes too.
A harder reed will help with the upper register, and moving it back a little will help with tone.
A did this about a year ago so that I could confidently hit everything up to F# on my Jumbo Java. However, having gone over to a V16 I've finally changed reed strength down from 3.5 to 3 which has helped right across the sax, bizarrely including in the altissimo range.

I wouldn't worry about your sax, it's all in the technique...
Damn! ;)

Saxophone Frequently Asked Questions - Altissimo
these mouthpiece exercises help and even if they don't it's still worth reading what he has to say
Saxophone Frequently Asked Questions - Mouthpiece Exercise
Cool. Thanks.

What reed are you playing, and what sax are you playing.
I'm now playing a Vandoren V16 8, Java Green 3s and Trevor James Classic II.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,595
Its virtually impossible to do a wheelie on my Vespa, its difficult but doable on my BMW RT 1100 and it takes no effort or thought at all to do one on my KTM 950 SuperMoto.

If it were me, as your reed is not soft and I don't think your sax is big bore, I would think about a different mouthpiece. Tryout time maybe.

That and Overtone exercises and altissimo longtones.
 
OP
Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,066
Its virtually impossible to do a wheelie on my Vespa, its difficult but doable on my BMW RT 1100 and it takes no effort or thought at all to do one on my KTM 950 SuperMoto.
This is where my analogy works. ;)

Of the three, the KTM is the easiest to initially get the front when off the floor, however the BM and Vespa are much easier to control once you get the wheel up.

If it were me, I would think about a different mouthpiece.
I've failed miserably with both a Jumbo and the V16.

I think
Overtone exercises and altissimo longtones.
is the main answer. :)
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
12,669
I'd give it a good go with your present set up. It's worth noting that when we start out we get lots of squeaks and squeals that we learn to control. Maybe less control is needed. Just let it happen.

The only time to change your kit is when you find something that will do more than your current kit or do it with less input. You need to try before you buy. Reputation and recommends can guide you but your physiognomy and requirements are individual to you.

If you do decide to have an afternoon in a shop finding the set up for your altissimo, take plenty of different reeds with you...and don't mention what you're there for to the shop keeper before you start...they may close early [URL=http://s195.photobucket.com/user/Colin_the_bear/media/not_listening.gif.html][/URL]
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,595
As you are in England, check with Pete and see if he has a PPT for trial. I think you will find a difference there.

FWIW the KTM is the easiest to control once up there, one just has to be very careful with the go grip. Awhile back I was getting ahead of some traffic in order to switch lanes in 3rd gear and when I went to switch the response was all wrong, oooops front wheel was just off the ground. It is that effortless.

Just like a good mpce should be for a reasonable player. Why struggle when its not necessary.
 
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