SYOS

Breaking a bad habit

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Technique is a means to an end, not an end in itself..
Most of the 'rules' seem to come from classical saxophone methods and I don't listen to or play classical saxophone, so why be restricted by their methods? Would you go to a classical guitar teacher to learn to play the blues?
I'll take on board advice from anywhere, but if it doesn't work for me then I'll find another way

Personally I've never worried about any of this stuff about biting or how tight or loose my embouchure is, life's too short., I do what's necessary to get what I want out of the instrument - exactly how much pressure I apply with my lip and exactly where on the reed I apply it is crucial for altissimo and multiphonics.
All parameters are variable and open to experimentation in the cause of self expression, why limit yourself?
For me the embouchure is in a constant state of flux, shaping each note the way I want it. - classical players seem to want every note to sound the same, I want every note to have it's own individual personality, I'm a human being, not a sequencer.

One of my friends studied with Eugene Rousseau and asked him which techniques were considered legitimate. The reply was that "any technique is legitimate if it achieves the desired results" - the latter part of that sentence being crucial in that you have to understand clearly what results you desire.

I am of course a dangerous libertine with no regard for authority, so feel free to ignore any of the above
I've taken it all on board, nothing ignored
 

altissimo

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but I can't add any individuality to the top end
it's probably already there, but you can't see the wood for the trees - a common problem, we're too busy chasing something without stopping to appreciate what we've already got...
we already sound like ourselves, we're just not happy about it because we're too busy listening to other players and wanting what they've got - and they probably were never happy with their sound either
 

jbtsax

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I have been playing on and off for many years, and just come to realise or maybe just accepted, i have a really bad habit of tightening my embouchure when playing in the higher register.

Does anyone have any tips on how to break this habit, or can anyone recommend any exercises that may help.

Many thanks
Russ
I know exactly what you are experiencing. I had the same poor playing habit as a young student learning to play the saxophone. As a saxophone teacher I have found this to be a common problem for players who are self taught or who were not adequately taught the fundamentals of tone production.

For me correcting the habit was a matter of concentration. A few years ago I came up with the attached exercise that I used as part of my daily warm up to reinforce the concept that the embouchure does not tighten for the high notes and loosen for the low notes. Playing in this fashion results in the higher register sounding sharp and pinched, and the lower register sounding flat and flabby.

When playing the attached exercise it is important to play forte throughout. Keep the same open throat, embouchure, and amount of air used on the lowest note constant throughout going up and down. To change takes a while but the benefits are worth it.

There is an old sax teacher trick of having the student blow the instrument while the instructor does the fingering. Since the student doesn't know where the next note will go he/she can't change the embouchure that quickly. Students are often amazed how good the saxophone sounds throughout its range when doing this exercise.
 

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There is an old sax teacher trick of having the student blow the instrument while the instructor does the fingering. Since the student doesn't know where the next note will go he/she can't change the embouchure that quickly. Students are often amazed how good the saxophone sounds throughout its range when doing this exercise.
I like that idea and I will try the exercises,
 

Veggie Dave

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When playing the attached exercise it is important to play forte throughout. Keep the same open throat, embouchure, and amount of air used on the lowest note constant throughout going up and down.
So you change absolutely nothing? No jaw movement, no change in muscle tension, nothing?
 

jbtsax

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So you change absolutely nothing? No jaw movement, no change in muscle tension, nothing?
For this exercise that's correct. The point is to take the volume of air and "openness" required to play low Bb with a big tone up into the higher register to correct the higher notes sounding pinched and sharp. This should not be interpreted to mean that while playing the saxophone some notes are "lipped" to be better in tune, or "voiced" to produce the desired tone. There are also some experienced jazz players who incorporate the jaw moving forward and back as they go in and out of the lowest register. I think that has more to do with style than tone production.
 

Guenne

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Hi,

get "A Complete Approach to Overtones" by Ben Britton and practice the one and two octave scales without octave key.
Practice some minutes in a session forming a double lip embouchure. When you start tightening, it will hurt :)

It's no use telling somebody not to tighten if he/she has good ears and notices the pitch goes flat in the upper register.
You must have the knowledge about what has to change in the middle or upper register, about tongue position, voicing, and changes in support.

Still better, ask a good teacher how can show you "foolproof" exercises about this.

Cheers, Guenne
 
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I have in the past tried playing in the upper octave without the octave key, it was easy up to A, then progressively got harder, i have no idea it it has any merit or not
 

Pete Effamy

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classical players seem to want every note to sound the same, I want every note to have it's own individual personality
Yes this is a very important difference. The main premise of a classical sound is homogeny of registers - all notes sound the same, merely higher or lower. Like a piano. Classical playing doesn't really use tone manipulation much, certainly nothing like the way blues, rock 'n' roll, jazz, rock etc do. The parameters are pretty tightly confined too. The conforming part of classical music is both the easy part and the hard part - you know exactly what to deliver and how (hard if it's really technically difficult, but easy as it doesn't change and it is all set out for you, even the expected delivery). Improvised music is the opposite. Easy possibly on the one hand because you don't have to play really difficult passages, but hard because the music is up to you - no pressure!
I digress though.
To answer your query, here's my two penneth:
If I was certain that an issue like this was a definite fault, then I'd concentrate on delivering a straight, long tone on a lower note and not think about going higher. Put it out of your mind, convince yourself that the next fingering was not going to change your blowing/embouchure at all. Just move your fingers.
Lots of the advice here is valid. One thing I've seen a couple of times though is the tightening of the embouchure to play louder. This is the antithesis of what should happen. Playing louder uses a greater volume of air - this won't go into a smaller aperture if you tighten the reed on the 'piece.
 

Pete Effamy

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There is an old sax teacher trick of having the student blow the instrument while the instructor does the fingering. Since the student doesn't know where the next note will go he/she can't change the embouchure that quickly. Students are often amazed how good the saxophone sounds throughout its range when doing this exercise.
Yes this is a great one. Works great on clarinet as you just turn the barrel and don't have to hug the student. The rest of this post is good too. Read it after my reply lower down.
 
OP
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One thing I've seen a couple of times though is the tightening of the embouchure to play louder. This is the antithesis of what should happen. Playing louder uses a greater volume of air - this won't go into a smaller aperture if you tighten the reed on the 'piece.
I may not have explained that properly, I don't tighten my embouchure to play louder, it tightens to play higher notes
 

randulo

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tightening my embouchure when playing in the higher register.
By high register, you mean from the D+octave or the still higher D with the palm keys? For the middle D, it was suggested to me to open the throat more for the D (and the E above it) if they're sharp. It works, if I think of it.
 
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OP
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Long tones and overtones 15 minutes a day. Focus on relaxed embouchure pitch and tone.
should have listened to your advice when I first joined the Café!
My playing time is very limited, maybe an hour on a Saturday Morning and sometimes 2 hours on a Sunday morning, so I generally just have a good blow. I could practice in the evenings but I have to play at a whisper which I have always found this very frustrating.
Would you think it detrimental if I practised long tones and overtones playing at a whisper on a regular basis?
 
OP
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By high register, you mean from the D+octave or the still higher D with the palm keys? For the middle D, it was suggested to me to open the throat more for the D (and the E above it) if they're sharp. It works, if I think of it.
Its my middle D that is sharp, I have never really got my head round the open throat thing when playing. I sometimes put hand on my throat when I sing and can feel the changes, I don't think I am doing it when I play
 
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