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clarinet to alto sax conversion

arock

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Northern California
Oldtimer with first sax.
I was told that the conversion from Clarinet to Alto Sax was fairly easy but I am finding it less then that.
On Clarinet I find the notes fairly linear from top to bottom with a little fiddling during the change to upper register.
My Alto is giving me a challenge. I found a fingering chart, on line, that almost fits my horn, but I seem to have many extra keys ( sometimes 3 options) for each note and it is not very linear. By that I mean the necessity to use pinky clusters or alternate fingers to progress up and down the scale.
I am not adjusting well to the mouth piece either. It seems very comfortable compared to a Tenor I once tried but it seems I get into the upper register without trying. It is very hard to stay on the lower notes. I guess I need to loosen up a bit. I know I will get use to this, but I wanted to share my experience with other begginers.
Most of you on this forum are advance players so any advice is appreciated also.
Playing a Sax is on my "Buchet list" so I am not going to let this beat me.
Thanks.
edit: Sorry, this should go into the begginer section.
 
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sushidushi

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Welcome to the café.

There are plenty of people here who will be able to give you some excellent advice. I'm probably not one of them, but certainly the embouchure on the sax is looser than on the clarinet. The mouthpiece also goes straight in to the mouth with the sax, rather than pointing down like on the clarinet.

There are certainly quite a few alternate fingerings. Some will be more useful than others, depending on which notes precede amd follow the note. I think it might be helpful to try to think of the alternates as a way to help you at a later stage, rather than something to confuse you at an early stage. The fingering on a sax is fairly similar to the upper register on the clarinet, from what I've seen, but I suppose sometimes when things are very similar, it almost makes it more difficult, as the differences almost take you by surprise.

I'm sure you'll get there soon. Good luck, and welcome again.
 

kevgermany

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I look at my son's clarinette and think I could never get on with it - too many keys, too small/fiddly, register key doesn't give an octave, so it's new fingering for each note to confuse me.... And that tiny high pressure mouthpiece/reed.

You'll need to loosen up on the mouthpiece, relax more and breath into the sax, not blow.

I hate to suggest it so early on, but a narrower resistive mouthpiece that's closer to a clarinet may help. Say a Selmer S80 C* with a Vandoren traditional 2.5 or 3 reed. But this is a starter suggestion and you may be there already.

As for fingering, the best charts are at http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/sax/ But you'll have to get used to the key differences to the clarinet, cos they're all like that..... Sorry. The alternate fingerings for some notes (like Bb) really help in some passages. But the main fingerings are pretty straight forward. And linear. What confuses me is things like G#/Ab where the key is below the G, not between G and A. I guess that's what you're really finding difficult.
 

BigMartin

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As for fingering, the best charts are at http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/sax/
But don't be put off by the hundreds af alternative fingerings! Just use the regular ones for now.

But you'll have to get used to the key differences to the clarinet, cos they're all like that..... Sorry. The alternate fingerings for some notes (like Bb) really help in some passages. But the main fingerings are pretty straight forward. And linear. What confuses me is things like G#/Ab where the key is below the G, not between G and A. I guess that's what you're really finding difficult.
Actually, that one's the same on the clarinet. But the other LH table (pinky) keys work very differently, and on the clarinet you can use either hand for most of the notes, which (IMO) makes things more comfortable.
 

BigMartin

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Hi Arock. I made the same transition a couple of years ago, albeit with a 20-year gap. I started with "A Tune a Day" which was included with the sax. The advice on how to blow the thing was not good and I was struggling for a while, too. Seems to have been written by a clarinet player who was treating the alto as a big clarinet.
Blowing a saxophone is much more different than you might think from blowing a clarinet. Once you accept that, things get easier. The sax needs more air at lower pressure. And the bigger the sax, the more that's the case. For me, that's more comfortable because I tended to get a build up of unused air on the clarinet. You need to be squeezing the mouthpiece all round with your lips and not stretching the bottom lip like you would for the clarinet.

The palm keys (once you get up there) take some getting used to as well. I'm still trying to get the hang of the chromatic sequence from high C# to F (or F#)---seems really illogical. Oh, and you want to be using the tips of your fingers rather than the pads, as you're pressing buttons rather than closing holes. The fingers should be held in a more relaxed curved position (this also helps you avoid pressing the palm keys accidentally, with the resultant squeaks).

Stick with it, though, it feels great when it starts to come together.
 
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Colin the Bear

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I think you're over thinking it. Both instruments are boem so very compatible. The alto plays exactly the same notes as the clarinet in the lower register although they are written differently. I would forget all the different keys and concentrate on the similarities till you get going. In the low register, exactly same fingering for scale of F on clarinet becomes scale of C on alto (concert Eb)

Embouchure is similar but you dont push up as much on the sax. Clarinet plays at the top of the embouchure and the sax plays more in the middle. If that makes sense.

Slipping into the high register when aiming for the low may be one of several things. A leak, too hard a reed, pushing too hard with your embouchure or it could indicate a different mouthpiece.


I find I need a slightly softer reed for clarinet. Vandoren 2 on alto, 1.5 on clarinet.


Imagine the switch the other way. The octave key does what? How many alternative fingerings trill keys etc? You're going the easier way imo. Stick with it. It will come to you.
 

jonf

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The sax needs more air at lower pressure.

That's the key to it. Master that and you're away. I started on clarinet about 35 years ago, and then moved onto sax after playing the clari for five years or so. I went straight from clari to tenor. Don't worry about it, if you can manage the clarinet - AKA the misery stick - you'll be able to cope with the sax. Relax and enjoy.
 

dolbob

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I've found the opposite transition more difficult, from Alto to Clarinet, mainly in keeping the open tone holes covered, the fingering is similar. Is that the Sidney Buchet list?
 

arock

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Northern California
Wow.
You guys are so nice and informative. There is no way I can fail or give up with this support. It is better than AA.:)
All your advice is welcome.
Some of you know I refurbished this horn myself. Pads, springs, and re-lacquer. I may not have done a perfect job. Rulling out pad leaks is difficult. I have run the light through mant times. I have tightened up spring and changed some cork shims to get thing closed and light tight. I also sprayed a mist of water on all the pads and played it for a while, then checked for a nice seating ring on each pad. I thing I might be hitting some palm keys or left hand upper keys by accident. Thanks for that heads up.
I am using a #2 bamboo reed with a .070" gap. The gap has a slight curve to it, being only .050" at the outer tips.
PB250004.jpg
 

arock

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Northern California
Thank you men.
I did find a small leak and fixed it. It was a shim problem.
My embouchure was way too tight for the lower notes. This will take some getting use too. Just more practice.
This Alto Sax seems to have a greater range than my Clarinet. I am surprised at the high notes.
 

BigMartin

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This Alto Sax seems to have a greater range than my Clarinet. I am surprised at the high notes.
That doesn't correspond with my experience. You can get nearly four octaves out of a clarinet without doing anything terribly fancy. The altissmo range on the sax is much harder for me (only just started learning it). Or did you mean the unintentional high notes?
 

arock

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Northern California
You may be correct. That is funny.
My fingering chart seems to be higher than any music I read in concert with the Clarinet. I am not reading music with the Sax yet, just trying to get the notes right for now. The high notes are easier for me at this time.
This is a fun journey. And sharing it with all of you is even better.
Thanks.
 

Colin the Bear

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The sax plays the same notes as the clarinet but they are written on the stave differently. The look higher but they aren't in practice. Clarinet three fingers left hand , middle C , concert Bb. Alto sax three fingers left hand also concert Bb but written G second line of the stave.
 

jrintaha

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The clarinet's written range is from E3 to C6, and quite a lot of the altissimo notes after that are easy to produce, even for a complete beginner such as myself. So that's about 3 octaves.

The sax goes from written Bb3 to F6 or F#6, and most of the altissimo notes are very difficult to produce. And the ones that are relatively easy, at least for me, are C#7 and D7, so there's a bit of a gap in between. :) So that's just 2 and a half octaves and an additional note here and there.

But yeah, the notes go pretty high on the stave as the alto sounds 4.5 tones lower than it's written, whereas the clarinet sounds only 1 tone lower.

I started on the sax and the clarinet at the same time, and I think the fingering on the clarinet is a bit more difficult because of the 12th it overblows instead of an octave. I think jumping between registers is far more inconvenient on the clarinet than the sax, perhaps because the clarinet has only one thumbrest and no sling. Oh, and getting the notes themselves to play in pitch on the clarinet... The one annoying thing on the sax is that it's VERY sensitive to leaks. A clarinet with the pads clearly and visibly leaking will still probably play the lowest notes quite all right. A tiny leak anywhere on the sax and out go the bell notes.

I need a far softer reed on the alto than on the clarinet. I can play rather comfortably with a Rico Plasticover 3 on the clarinet (although the Forestone 3 is far too stiff), but on the alto even a 2.25 reed feels a bit stiff.

The mouthpiece doesn't seem to have a very wide tip opening (0.070" is about 1.78mm, just slightly wider than Yamaha 5C), but I suppose it might of use to try a narrower one if it feels difficult. I use a 4C (1.6mm) on my alto, and it feels just right at this stage.

But hey, have faith, you'll get it in no time.
 

jbtsax

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But don't be put off by the hundreds af alternative fingerings! Just use the regular ones for now.
I know it must seem like there are "hundreds" of alternate fingerings to a beginner on the sax :w00t:, but in reality there are only 8.:clapping:

They are:
- Fork F#
- Bb Bis
- Bb 1-4
- Bb 1-5
- Side C
- Long C# w/ok
- Front high E
- Front high F

There are other "trill fingerings" and fingerings used to adjust pitch, but as far as technique is concerned these 8 are the primary workaround fingerings when confronted with a difficult fingering combination. An excellent resource for serious saxophonist at all levels is The Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal.
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
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651
I know it must seem like there are "hundreds" of alternate fingerings to a beginner on the sax :w00t:, but in reality there are only 8.:clapping:

They are:
- Fork F#
- Bb Bis
- Bb 1-4
- Bb 1-5
- Side C
- Long C# w/ok
- Front high E
- Front high F

There are other "trill fingerings" and fingerings used to adjust pitch, but as far as technique is concerned these 8 are the primary workaround fingerings when confronted with a difficult fingering combination. An excellent resource for serious saxophonist at all levels is The Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal.

I'm going to have to look at those myself, after I print out something telling me what all the different keys are called.
 

Colin the Bear

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I've been alternating playing clarinet and alto to make it more obvious what I actually do. Would I be right in saying the tongue position is different for clarinet and alto. I find I make a bigger sound chamber for the alto by dropping the back of the tongue. It feels more front down and rear up for clarinet to make a smaller cavity.

On Tenor and Baritone It's more like a yawn with the windpipe open down to the diaphragm. Leaning this way with alto but not as much.

Have a play at moving your tongue about and listen to the tone. I always feel like the tone on alto is a little pinched sounding when switching from clarinet. Sop to Bari is worse.
 

arock

Member
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110
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Northern California
I find my jaw is pushed forward on the Alto for low notes. My mouth feels very lose. I think my reed gap is too much. It is a fine balance between reed pressure and air flow. I am okay going down the scale to my lowest note, but I can't start at the low note.
Mid range is fine. Very similar to Clarinet. I am trying to adjust to pushing against my neck strap. The Clarinet thumb support holds my mouthpice in place. This is a new angle for my.
I am making progress everyday. I do feel there might be a mechanical issue rather than just a proceedural problem. Probably both.
I will seek local advice on my mouthpiece and reed orientation.
Thank you all. Big help.
 

Colin the Bear

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Burnley bb9 9dn
It's more about tongue position than jaw position. You can bend a note by moving your tongue. Moving your jaw may be upsetting your embouchure and changing the contact between lip and reed.

Let the sax hang on the sling. Have it short enough so that you look straight ahead when playing. A patch may help getting to grips with the mouthpiece. I tend to lean on the mouthpiece with top teeth. Make sure you're putting enough mouthpiece in your mouth. You need more than clarinet. Experiment with the position.

Every body struggles with low or high notes or both to start with. Don't go for them till everything is warmed up and flowing.

Try starting low notes without tonguing. Control the air from the back of the throat like a cough. Or slide down to them for now. And make sure to tune the mouthpiece. Having the mp in the wrong place will make you push or pull the reed out of its comfort zone.

It all becomes habit after a bit.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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But don't be put off by the hundreds af alternative fingerings! Just use the regular ones for now.


Actually, that one's the same on the clarinet. But the other LH table (pinky) keys work very differently, and on the clarinet you can use either hand for most of the notes, which (IMO) makes things more comfortable.
Some of the fingerings my teacher says (e.g. 'long' Bb or side C etc) are to help make chromatic passages simpler, e.g. A A# B or B Bb A.
 

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