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Beginner Better tone.

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
400
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
Similar to my scale journey ( http://cafesaxophone.com/showthread.php?11125-Scales-I-m-going-in ) it's time to commit to working on my tone and sound. I recently started recording myself and there is significant room to improve. I'm going to give a part of my daily practice over to long tones and overtones. I'm using Pete's Tone without Tears, a metronome, a tuner and one single mouthpiece (the Phil-tone sapphire).

Is it right to start feeling as if things are getting worse before they start getting better?
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
708
It is not necessarily the case that things are getting worse before they get better. It is quite possible that you develop much better hearing as you go on and a greater awareness of any any other shortcomings in your playing. A good reason for persisting with the effort.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,380
Locality
Skabertawe, South Wales
Following on from the above it is also very common to unconsciously tighten up when starting on something new/more advanced in our playing, so you may also need to consciously loosen up to balance this and even do some warm up exercises before picking up the sax.
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
282
Locality
Helsinki, Finland
http://www.bobrk.com/saxfaq/2.6.html

This is the best single piece of information I've read for developing better control over your tone and tuning. The Jazzlab mouthpiece silencer exercise booklet presents more or less the same ideas and information structured into a couple of separate exercises. (The silencer also forces you to keep the lip pressure the same, because it stops working if you squeeze too hard or loosen up too much.)

The use of different vowels may seem strange at first, but in reality different vowels spoken or sung at the same pitch are just a different mix of overtones of the same fundamental, the mix of overtones being controlled by shaping the resonance frequencies of the mouth and vocal tract. The vowels are a natural way to get the feel of different larynx and tongue positions. From there you can work on to shape your oral cavity in "unnatural" ways, that is, not used normally in speech. In essence it's the same thing that singers use to modify the colour of their voice.

The most important technique you'll learn, I think, is lowering your larynx and tongue in a controlled manner. Gives both your saxophone tone and singing voice so much more depth.

List of vowels and their formants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formant (note that the pronunciation is in IPA format, so the IPA sound "i" is the same you'd use when saying "speech", for example). Perhaps helps you understand the reasoning behind using vowels as a learning aid. Helped me at least.
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
400
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
Thank you all.

Andante, Tom, the immediate problem turned out to be a reed past its best - I put a new one on today and things went much better. I'm doing some basic mouthpiece exercises first which are pretty good at relaxing me. It's impossible to take yourself too seriously when you're quacking away. I know that this is going to be a change for good and it will have to be a permanent part of my practice routine. I'm happy with that though as over the last few years I've improved my reading, my scales, can at least improvise a little without freezing in terror, have got into good listening habits but my tone has made only minimal changes. I don't want to have the same tone in 5 years that I do now.

jrintaha - thank you for the link and the detail. I've printed it off and will have a read tonight.
 

geg1700

New Member
Messages
17
Locality
London
I have a detailed guide on how to improve tone. Unfortunately it is only available to paid members on my website. However if you get in touch then I do offer some free tips too :) Check it out if you want (in my sig)
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
400
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
Thank you for your offer and all the best with your site. I think that Pete's two Taming the Saxophone books will hold me in pretty good stead for quite some time to come and I am seeing improvements already, with the bonus of supporting a worthwhile cause too.
 

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