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Deadly Saxophone

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Hi everyone,

I'm new to the saxophone so you'll have to bear with me. I'll have a lot of question and some of them may seem really stupid. But that's what beginners do, they ask really stupid questions. ;}

First off, about the tread title:

I recently purchased a brand new alto sax. I have no experience with a sax at all, but I do have a clarinet, although its far from my primary instrument. My "primary instrument" would be guitar, with violin bringing up a close second.

In any case, I thought I'd like to try a sax so I bought a really inexpensive one. An Etude EAS 100. Yes, I know I might have been better off seeking out a good used sax, but what's done is done. I now own the Etude and I've had it for most of this year. Although, I haven't played it much at all. In fact, I bought it this spring and tried it out a little then and put it away for basically the whole summer. I just now got it back out again.

First off, this thing is a dangerous instrument! A person could put their eye out with this sharp mouthpiece. I accidentally poked myself in the face with it several times already. And it really hurt. I'm learning to really be careful with it. But that's why I call it the "Deadly Sax". I guess it takes some getting use to. It seems to me that they should provide a better way to hold the instrument at the bottom when you aren't playing any keys down there.

Anyway, I'm getting better at holding the instrument. Even though it's a "small" saxophone, it still seems like a BIG horn compared to my clarinet, flute and pocket trumpet. As you can see, I toy around with a lot of different instruments.

Getting back to the sax:

When I first got it I tried playing a few notes on it, some scales, and a few simple melodies. It wasn't too difficult since I already had experience with a clarinet, so I was already familiar with playing a reed.

However, at that time I didn't really play "against" anything. No backing track, no other musicians, nothing. So I had no way of knowing whether it was actually in tune with concert instruments at that time or not. I put it away for the summer, and just got it back out yesterday.

The first problem I noticed is that all the valves were "stuck" shut. It didn't seem like such a big deal. I just had to work them all, and once they popped loose they seemed to be fine. I played the horn and was delighted to discover that it seemed far more playable than I had remembered from the springtime. I was also naturally dodging the sharp reed mouth piece as I had learned my lesson well in the spring to avoid poking my eye out.

Now for the problem:

I was doing so well with it I decided to play a tune with a backing track. So I transposed a clarinet piece into Eb and began to play it with the backing track. That's when I discovered that this thing is grossly off pitch.

Now let me see if I have this right. When I finger a G note on the alto sax it should actually sound a Bb. Is that correct?

Well, this horn is blowing an A note. Not a Bb.

I've also noticed that the register key doesn't seem to be doing much of anything. I can blow a low G (second line on a treble staff), but when I try to blow a high G (just above the staff) the pressing the register key doesn't seem to help.

So I'm thinking there must be something wrong with this valves. I inspected it and cleaned the valves. They appear to be physically working with the keys, but they don't seem to be working in terms of actually making these notes playable.

Also, what's the "A" all about? Why isn't it playing a Bb like it's supposed to?

In relative terms I seem to be able to play the melody. But it doesn't match the backing track. And when I test it against a tuning meter it's blowing an A instead of a Bb.

I'm going to take it into a music store tomorrow and see what they can tell me.

I'm also thinking about potentially putting better valve pads on this (if and only if I can get it to play a Bb when it's supposed to).

Anyway, that's where I'm at. Just thought I'd ring the doorbell here and see what you folks have to offer in the way of comments.

All comments are welcome, and if you want to tell me that this sax is a piece of junk I won't mind. ;}

But that's not going to change the fact that I already own it. :)))

I'm hoping I can salvage it at least to learn on. I don't know whether it was in the proper key in the spring when I first got it or not. I didn't check it back then.

Maybe the people at the music store will be able to help me tomorrow.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,953
Try pushing the mouthpiece on a bit further. This will raise the overall pitch. Your embouchure (lips basically) might be a bit slack too. Normal for a beginner. It would also account for the octave key not appearing to work.

The sax is probably ok. Most cheap Chinese ones are these days.
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Hi SD and welcome to caf sax.
Yes, as Nick says, the course tuning is done at the neck so you may well need to push on a bit. Many beginners also play a bit flat untiil their embouchure develops and it's different to clarinet too. The other thing is that many saxes are not consistent in their tuning throughout the range and you may have picked a note that needs a little more pitching up than some others.

You can clean pads off by dragging a cigarette paper (minus the sticky edge), or if you're bold a £5 note, through them.

Avoiding the swinging mouthpiece can only really be done by either putting the cap on or unclipping from the sling. It's easy to forget though when you're scrabbling about for a piece of music and before you know it you've sliced your cheek or lip.
Good luck.
YC
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
Subscriber
Messages
3,409
Hi SD

Welcome to the cafe I'm sure the guys in here will sort your probs out quite quickly and the more you practice the better it will get best of luck ...john
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi There!

Thanks for using a great title - quite memorable, which is appreciated! Welcome from the Skabertawe Horn Section down by 'ere in Wales:w00t::shocked:;}

In addition to the above point about tuning can I ask what mouthpiece you use - is it the one that came with the instrument or is it a separate purchase - some unnamed mouthpieces are also not always in tune or well made - be useful to know. I'm glad that you are able to answer questions - there are plenty of folks here only too happy to help you get up and running.

I look forward to you various contributions over the coming weeks. The other option if all else fails is just to accept that you have an F Alto sax, needing different transcribing - it may be unique ;}

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Hi and Welcome. The others seem to have covered most of the questions. except the octave key - this should operate a valve on the neck - or a valve at the top of the body. G is the clue - it should switch as you change your fingering from an A to a G. From G# downwards, the body pip should be open, from A upwards the neck pip should be open. Do you get the octave on A and B? If so, it could be another stuck pad - the body octave key, or it could be something bent/out of adjustment..
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
I'm not very technical, so don't listen to me, except when I say things like welcome to the cafe!
 

daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
Messages
3,312
Hi from me.Keep plodding on.The worst part i remember starting off was how many reeds i broke,they do get bashed about alot.It will become 2nd nature and the reed smashing and buying will slow down.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
BTW, Taz, love the new video from the Squirrel Jam..........:w00t::w00t:;} I'll have to bring my trumpet along the next time I come and stay!:cool:

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome, and for the technical advice and commentary. It's nice to see such an active forum here.

I took the sax into the shop today and left it there. They are going to check it over. So I'll let you know when I get it back. They also mentioned the idea of pushing the mouthpiece on further for the pitch change. That may very well have been the problem right there, because I wasn't pushing it on very far at all. I was just sticking it on until it was basically snug. I didn't realize that this could be used to fine tune it. So that very well may be the pitch problem right there.

Someone else also mentioned that this could potentially affect the register change too. So that might be the whole entire problem.

I imagine my embouchure is indeed lousy since I'm really only just starting out with this instrument. I do play Clarinet, but the sax feels entirely different in terms of embouchure so it will take a bit to become accustom to the feel of a sax. I'll know for sure when I get it back from the music store. Although I wish I would have waited for these responses. If all it was is moving the mouthpiece on a bit further I could have done that myself.

I'm on dial-up here. So I can't watch videos. Can anyone point me to some sax recordings on this site that are in mp3 format I can download and listen to? I'd like to hear what some of the members are playing. Nothing is too 'beginner-ish' for me. In fact, I would enjoy hearing some recordings of some raw beginners.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
Sorry mate, all my recordings are videos. My kit isn't up to scratch for Mp3 quality work. Hopefully this year I'll update and improve it (as for updating and improving my sound...........that's gona take some work!)
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,581
Welcome Sweet Dreamer,

If your using clarinet embrochure ie both lips tucked in, this will not help you get a full sound and it will take some time just to train the various face muscles to get a more solid embroshure (for sure) do you know any sax players who can chech out your horn, but now once you get it back, you will know for sure that it's not the horn.

Anyway welcome to the Forum

Cheers
Jimu
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Every time that I receive an email regarding posts on this thread with "Deadly Saxophone" it goes straight to "Spam". Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to suggest that new members use interesting titles........................:w00t:;}

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Every time that I receive an email regarding posts on this thread with "Deadly Saxophone" it goes straight to "Spam". Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to suggest that new members use interesting titles........................:w00t:;}

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
I was just following your advise. :)))
 
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