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Altissimo use in real life?

Halfers

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I'm rubbish at Altissimo. Palm keys are as high as I get. Occasionally I try a few and stumble, so I give up. In honesty, I've not really dedicated much time to them because I reckon I've got far more pressing things to get under my fingers first.

I understand there is a connection between practicing low note overtones and Altissimo soundings and of course it takes time and practice to open up the upper range of the instrument. I do a bit of overtone blowing and they are coming on reasonably well, but I'm not getting any corresponding improvement in the high notes. Actually, in honesty I'm in no rush to use Altissimo fingerings, so not really looking for any advice on how to make them pop, as there is plenty of information in TTS and elsewhere. But equally I understand that the ability to peal them off probably has a positive effect on overall tone production throughout the instrument (or maybe not, I haven't found out yet!)

I was just wondering who out there in Cafe land actually uses Altissimo as a regular part of their performances (not practice routine)? Do the Pro's amongst us in Café land use them regularly? What about the strictly Amateurs, Living room legends and Weekend Pub Warriors! Do you use Altissimo to wow your Audience?
 

Saxlicker

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Yes. Regularly.
But as you point out you are in no hurry and nor should you be.
I know you haven't been playing that long for starters.
There will likely come a point when you are either feeling the need to extend your range during improvisation or the stuff you are listening to and hope to emulate means you need to start getting a handle on them. Which of course is a way different than just knowing they are out there and mentioned in one form of saxophone education or another.
In short I think your brain starts to process whats going on in a different way, determination increases and the more comfortable you are with the rest of the horn the quicker you'll make steps.
I know you weren't looking for advice so thats not how I meant that last part, I was just trying to say nature will take its course.
 

randulo

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I feel that same way, I hope this will come eventually because it's important to be able to hit a high note live, the people like that, but if it's not stable and in tune it's not gonna help.
 

randulo

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When you hear the greats hold a note for two bars, it's stable. I can barely do this on the side keys. Some day!
 

Wade Cornell

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Altissimo (for me) is like buying a car that can go 300 Km/ hour. Might make me feel good to be driving it, but when and were can I use it when the speed limit is 100 Km/hour? If I can't concoct a meaningful line in 2 1/2 octaves It's not going to get any better if I have 3 octaves. I just don't use it, which also means I don't have confidence that the note would pop out properly if I did. I certainly like playing high notes...that's why I play sopranino! Altissimo on sopranino? Ha!!!! that's a very bad joke in the making.

On all my saxes I find that I'm after a meaningful melodic line and the best tone I can produce. This means that I'm usually hanging out at the bottom of the range on all the horns I'm playing and occasionally wishing there were "extensions" to play a few notes lower. If you're mostly playing the bottom range of the instrument, then the higher (natural) notes have the same musical impact as playing the mid range of the instrument and then using altissimo for your climaxes.

Your audience doesn't know when a good player is playing altissimo, but they know when a high note is used to emphasize a "climax". It's all relative. If a player is overusing high notes (altissimo or not), then the climax looses it's punch. Altissimo may be warranted if you're in a key where (like wanting the extensions for the lower notes) you just want to reach that G3 or maybe even Bb4. More than that? Why? Audiences (who aren't other sax players) don't know or care about the technical side of playing. They hear music that either communicates something to them or doesn't. I played a gig last night using the sopranino. As I recall I never played a note above Bb3 even though my instrument is keyed to F#3. No need. Play the best you can for your audience. Altissimo (IMHO) is another tool that some may find useful. It shouldn't be a technical ego trip that the player thinks they need in order to "impress".
 
OP
Halfers

Halfers

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I feel that same way, I hope this will come eventually because it's important to be able to hit a high note live, the people like that, but if it's not stable and in tune it's not gonna help.
I see it as a similar thing to hitting those high head notes when singing. As much as it is about Technique, it's about confidence in hitting that note without cracking out! The better the technique, the more confidence, the more confidence..
 
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Halfers

Halfers

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Altissimo (for me) is like buying a car that can go 300 Km/ hour. Might make me feel good to be driving it, but when and were can I use it when the speed limit is 100 Km/hour? If I can't concoct a meaningful line in 2 1/2 octaves It's not going to get any better if I have 3 octaves. I just don't use it, which also means I don't have confidence that the note would pop out properly if I did. I certainly like playing high notes...that's why I play sopranino! Altissimo on sopranino? Ha!!!! that's a very bad joke in the making.

On all my saxes I find that I'm after a meaningful melodic line and the best tone I can produce. This means that I'm usually hanging out at the bottom of the range on all the horns I'm playing and occasionally wishing there were "extensions" to play a few notes lower. If you're mostly playing the bottom range of the instrument, then the higher (natural) notes have the same musical impact as playing the mid range of the instrument and then using altissimo for your climaxes.

Your audience doesn't know when a good player is playing altissimo, but they know when a high note is used to emphasize a "climax". It's all relative. If a player is overusing high notes (altissimo or not), then the climax looses it's punch. Altissimo may be warranted if you're in a key where (like wanting the extensions for the lower notes) you just want to reach that G3 or maybe even Bb4. More than that? Why? Audiences (who aren't other sax players) don't know or care about the technical side of playing. They hear music that either communicates something to them or doesn't. I played a gig last night using the sopranino. As I recall I never played a note above Bb3 even though my instrument is keyed to F#3. No need. Play the best you can for your audience. Altissimo (IMHO) is another tool that some may find useful. It shouldn't be a technical ego trip that the player thinks they need in order to "impress".
I can see your point of view here Wade. I think it all comes down to personal style, and knowing your style is just about as important as anything else. I think as much as anything it comes down to 'taste'. In some styles of music, a nicely placed note out of the 'normal' range of a solo can help to punctuate a phrase. Sometimes it can be used in the same way the Guitarist uses the last few frets on the neck.

I'm sure there's enough knowledge on here to answer the question when Altissimo became a 'thing' for Sax Players? I don't imagine Adolphe had it in mind when he invented the instrument.
 
OP
Halfers

Halfers

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I think it's not very common to find someone who says that they are in tune and stable in the altissimo register.
Even the very best seem to get modest about their ability to produce stable and tuneful notes.
Frankly that leaves me with no hope :w00t:.
I'm pretty sure that I've heard many an Altissimo note 'strangled' by a pro player. Perhaps it's the nature of the beast or perhaps it's a 'stylistic' approach? I don't know, but there's something about the register that is sympathetic to imperfection (if it's not a string of notes that are being strangled)
 

David Dorning

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I'm rubbish at Altissimo. Palm keys are as high as I get. Occasionally I try a few and stumble, so I give up. In honesty, I've not really dedicated much time to them because I reckon I've got far more pressing things to get under my fingers first.

I understand there is a connection between practicing low note overtones and Altissimo soundings and of course it takes time and practice to open up the upper range of the instrument. I do a bit of overtone blowing and they are coming on reasonably well, but I'm not getting any corresponding improvement in the high notes. Actually, in honesty I'm in no rush to use Altissimo fingerings, so not really looking for any advice on how to make them pop, as there is plenty of information in TTS and elsewhere. But equally I understand that the ability to peal them off probably has a positive effect on overall tone production throughout the instrument (or maybe not, I haven't found out yet!)

I was just wondering who out there in Cafe land actually uses Altissimo as a regular part of their performances (not practice routine)? Do the Pro's amongst us in Café land use them regularly? What about the strictly Amateurs, Living room legends and Weekend Pub Warriors! Do you use Altissimo to wow your Audience?
Interesting this thread appeared in the week I finally cracked the high G on my Buescher Aristocrat tenor. Yaaaayyyy!

It’s taken me months of honking to get there. It’s not perfect but suddenly this week I can hit it about 50% of the time, whereas for ages it has been around 5%. I have been trying a few different fingerings and one of them just suddenly started to work (BG F/side C and no octave key). My other saxes have F# keys so I can pop out a high G reasonably easily with them, but the Buescher is a late 30s model so no F# key. Ironically it was tenor where I most needed it, I’m working on some Gordon Goodwin duets which go to high G/G#/A. I’m still some way off mastering them but this week is a significant step forward.

The higher altissimo notes from A to C are not too difficult on the Buescher but I imposed a moratorium on going higher until I had mastered G, which I found so problematic. Now I’ll start extending scales to G and higher and see how it goes. I don’t have all that much music needing high G or above, but for impro it’s good to have the option, and I would love to play some of those Junior Walker riffs so maybe I’m getting closer to that. I’m not planning a major move into altissimo, I’ll just see how things evolve.

I would say for anyone struggling to get there with altissimo you never know when it will suddenly click. I have worked on overtones quite a lot and I think that helped me. At one point I went dangerously close to GAS territory and wondered whether to trade in the Buescher for a modern sax, and I’m really glad now that I didn’t.
 

Pete Effamy

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Altissimo (for me) is like buying a car that can go 300 Km/ hour. Might make me feel good to be driving it, but when and were can I use it when the speed limit is 100 Km/hour? If I can't concoct a meaningful line in 2 1/2 octaves It's not going to get any better if I have 3 octaves. I just don't use it, which also means I don't have confidence that the note would pop out properly if I did. I certainly like playing high notes...that's why I play sopranino! Altissimo on sopranino? Ha!!!! that's a very bad joke in the making.

On all my saxes I find that I'm after a meaningful melodic line and the best tone I can produce. This means that I'm usually hanging out at the bottom of the range on all the horns I'm playing and occasionally wishing there were "extensions" to play a few notes lower. If you're mostly playing the bottom range of the instrument, then the higher (natural) notes have the same musical impact as playing the mid range of the instrument and then using altissimo for your climaxes.

Your audience doesn't know when a good player is playing altissimo, but they know when a high note is used to emphasize a "climax". It's all relative. If a player is overusing high notes (altissimo or not), then the climax looses it's punch. Altissimo may be warranted if you're in a key where (like wanting the extensions for the lower notes) you just want to reach that G3 or maybe even Bb4. More than that? Why? Audiences (who aren't other sax players) don't know or care about the technical side of playing. They hear music that either communicates something to them or doesn't. I played a gig last night using the sopranino. As I recall I never played a note above Bb3 even though my instrument is keyed to F#3. No need. Play the best you can for your audience. Altissimo (IMHO) is another tool that some may find useful. It shouldn't be a technical ego trip that the player thinks they need in order to "impress".
1935. Jacques Ibert: Concertino da Camera. One of the best saxophone works. Uses the extended range. The sax has a small range in its 2 and a half octaves. All instruments develop. The clarinet achieved its orchestral "written range" (G4) by the time of Mozart's Concerto in 1791. It's a well-loved work by concert-goers the world over. Into the next generation of composers, Louis Spohr had raised this beyond the "written range".

The massive clarinet range was well-used by Artie Shaw in its hey-day of the 1940's. Its peak of popularity, not fringe stuff, the most popular stuff. Eddie Daniels still uses it to date as do most players. The "written ranges" of most instruments don't apply any more. Even the ABRSM exams have notes above the written range in many of their pieces for all instruments, including the sax - to which I don't really agree as they are an advanced technique. But it's mainstream now.

My old clarinet prof used to call the altissimo "amplified squeaks". They sort of are, so I do agree with you there, but they are very much part of music and playing. Having said that, a skilled player can make many of the notes quite sweet in sound if they wish, certainly up to F#3 on the clarinet, G4 and above is what it is.

Lead trumpet playing has gone way beyond the written range. Rather than complain of the noise I think most people love the excitement. In the past 40 years the saxophone solo voice has rarely been played without venturing into the altissimo. Like others on this thread, I use them on most gigs. You can't play in the lowest register in all situations, it doesn't work.

Pop music has seen massive use of altissimo. You can't follow a screaming lead guitar solo without giving it some of the same, and the audience love it.

All instruments developed wildly alongside the electric guitar, bass and drums, and PA's etc.

Use of the sopranino is purely novelty though. It's like using an Eb clarinet or a piccolo. You get a sweet sound out of it and don't use the offensive-sounding higher notes, but why not play it on soprano. Kenny G wouldn't have got anywhere with Songbird if he played it on the sopranino.
 

randulo

22 months since I began - 3.5% of my adult life
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Here's my view on altissimo. It's a thing. It's possible and some players master it amazingly well with consistent quality. Others use it as an effect, going for broke, works sometimes, sometimes a big squeak.

It's a part of music, a dynamic. No one should obsess about overtones, subtones or altissimo, but they are a part of the tool kit the instrument can do out of the box, if you can.

Saxophone players hopefully know that whatever can be used in a musical context, should at least be tried. I think there's an analogy with Michael Brecker here. Brecker was a virtuoso, he could play a zillion notes that actually meant something. Did he do it all the time, in most tunes? Not that I know of. He used that super facility when he thought it was called for. It was a part of his greatness.
 
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Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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1,189
Location
Hampshire
Here's my view on altissimo. It's a thing. It's possible and some players master it amazingly well with consistent quality. Others use it as an effect, going for broke, wors sometimes, sometimes a big squeak.

It's a part of music, a dynamic. No one should obsess about overtones, subtones or altissimo, but they are a part of the tool kit the instrument can do out of the box, if you can.

Saxophone players hopefully know that whatever can be used in a musical context, should at least be tried. I think there's an analogy with Michael Brecker here. Brecker was a virtuoso, he could play a zillion notes that actually meant something. Did he do it all the time, in most tunes? Not that I know of. He used that super facility when he thought it was called for. It was a part of his greatness.
Brecker used harmonics in most solos I'd say. Same Sanborn. Marienthal. Whalum, Clemons. Grover Washington. Brandon Fields. Everyone.
 

Pete Effamy

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In the interest of not just guessing, I've checked my two Brecker solo transcription books. 33 solos. All use harmonics. 100%.
 

Saxlicker

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Breakfast room since '06 UK
I'm pretty sure that I've heard many an Altissimo note 'strangled' by a pro player. Perhaps it's the nature of the beast or perhaps it's a 'stylistic' approach? I don't know, but there's something about the register that is sympathetic to imperfection (if it's not a string of notes that are being strangled)
I agree. And an amount of imperfection in some situations can feel stylistic even if it was not intended.
 
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