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Beginner Diametric opposite of natural ability

Duck

Member
Messages
57
Locality
UK
Hey folks,

Not been about for a couple of weeks because, well, my attempts at Sax playing are making me want to cry. I got my Jupiter Tenor back from the repair guy a couple of weeks ago, which was a ridiculous and less than ideal saga in it's own right. I have picked up a Bari Esprit mouthpiece, and some Rico Royal #2 reeds, and so I'm well set to start my Sax journey.

Except that it feels like every time I try to put one foot forward some stinker has tied my shoelaces together. I am really struggling to stabilise my tone, even on what should be the easier notes. Since the service playing the low notes is now possible, and they mostly tend to stay in the octave I want them too, but almost without fail the tone either oscillates dreadfully from the get go, or after a second or two. This is true of most if not all of the notes on the lower octave.

Admittedly I have not been able to practise as much as I would like because the neighbours have been at home over the easter holidays and blasting out uncontrolled wavering not-notes and broken tones is more than I can bring myself to do. I am going to try and practise every morning this week and see if I can make any progress, and I would be grateful for any help - nothing I've seen on youtube or read here or elsewhere seem to cater to someone making as much of a dogs dinner of the absolute basics as I'm doing.

Thanks in advance, please note that the advice to "Try sucking less" has already been attempted, and failed.

Please also note that whoever said that learning to play the Sax is easier than the Clarinet is a liar and a cad.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
16,210
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
This feeling of things not being quite right will be with you always. Whatever level you get to you'll always be several levels from where you want to be. Don't let this spoil your enjoyment of your instrument and your playing of it.

A break from playing/practice will always take time to recover from. It will take a little time and effort to get your chops up to speed. The Bari esprit tenor isn't a great piece. It's very different from the Esprit II for alto which is OK. I didn't like the tenor piece at all.

The lower register on tenor takes a lot of air. Breathe deep and blow hard. It will come.

The saxophone is the most frustrating and rewarding instrument I know. Some days it sings effortlessly and other days nothing will work and it mooos and honks. Such is our lot for choosing it.

Changing from clarinet to tenor saxophone needs a switch in mind set. The clarinet is all tight and technical. The tenor sax is all loose and soulful. some of the fingerings are the same but nothing else.

Maybe you're a tenor owning alto player.
 

Duck

Member
Messages
57
Locality
UK
Thanks @Colin the Bear, I really appreciate your advice and insight. I think the mind set switch is one of the biggest hurdles I'm struggling with, that coupled with a hesitation about playing loudly are crippling my attempts. Hopefully I'll get some time with my neighbours out at work this week and with that psychological barrier lifted I can try and give it some welly.
 

Alc.

Senior Member
Messages
737
Locality
High plains of N/W New Mexico.
Relax. Try a weaker reed. That doesn't mean you're a weaker player. Do whatever it takes and keep playing. Persevere. For me, tenor is the easiest of the saxes to blow. Relax that lower lip and blow easy. If the spit flies so be it. Think and play Ellington.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,464
Locality
Just north of Munich
Just relax and persevere. You'll soon get over it. You're aiming to breath into the tenor from your belly. Not force the air in from your chest. Suggestion of a softer reed may help, what reeds ate you using, and what mouthpiece?
 

Jay

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,333
Locality
Northumberland
Hey folks,

Not been about for a couple of weeks because, well, my attempts at Sax playing are making me want to cry. I got my Jupiter Tenor back from the repair guy a couple of weeks ago, which was a ridiculous and less than ideal saga in it's own right. I have picked up a Bari Esprit mouthpiece, and some Rico Royal #2 reeds, and so I'm well set to start my Sax journey.

Except that it feels like every time I try to put one foot forward some stinker has tied my shoelaces together. I am really struggling to stabilise my tone, even on what should be the easier notes. Since the service playing the low notes is now possible, and they mostly tend to stay in the octave I want them too, but almost without fail the tone either oscillates dreadfully from the get go, or after a second or two. This is true of most if not all of the notes on the lower octave.

Admittedly I have not been able to practise as much as I would like because the neighbours have been at home over the easter holidays and blasting out uncontrolled wavering not-notes and broken tones is more than I can bring myself to do. I am going to try and practise every morning this week and see if I can make any progress, and I would be grateful for any help - nothing I've seen on youtube or read here or elsewhere seem to cater to someone making as much of a dogs dinner of the absolute basics as I'm doing.

Thanks in advance, please note that the advice to "Try sucking less" has already been attempted, and failed.

Please also note that whoever said that learning to play the Sax is easier than the Clarinet is a liar and a cad.
Hi Duck, I'm about 6 months on from where you are, and yep, it's still hard but it is improving. The thing that has made the biggest difference to my tone, is to use my abdominal muscles to 'support my breath'. In case you've had that said to you, and it conveyed as much information as to what to actually do, as it did to me, here is how I think about it.

You imagine that your lungs and gut are the 'bag' on a set of bagpipes. You'll recall that pipers keep the pressure on the bag by squeezing it under their arm. Well that's what you have to do with your abdominal muscles. So you take in a deep breath, by pushing your abdomen out, as well as using your ribs (this makes your diaphragm get involved) and then you tense your abdominal muscles. Not pull them in initially, but 'set' them, as though you were expecting a punch in the stomach. And then, as the breath goes out into your sax, you squeeze your abdomen muscles in gradually, to keep the pressure on the 'airbag'.

Sorry, this sounds a bit silly all written out like this, but I wasn't doing it, it didn't even occur to me to breathe like that. But I once learned to (and I still have to think about it, as well as fingers, embouchure etc etc) it made the most difference to my sound and the steadiness of my notes. My teacher tells me it will become automatic in due course.......and you can practice it away from the sax at least. He makes me practice blowing on a tissue/small piece of paper against the wall and keeping it there as long as possible by keeping the pressure in my breath. Mostly I practice it when I'm driving, or sitting at the computer.
 
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BUMNOTE

Senior Member
Messages
666
Locality
Wolverhampton West Midlands
Think also what you said about not being practicing as much lately may have something to do about it,you have to persevere...also neighbours can be a problem when you want to play hard and loud,there are some threads about this on here somewere,I had that problem,you need to pick your practice times,but don't let them spoil your chosen goal to play your sax:sax:.Bumnote.
 

Colin1

Mine's an espresso
Messages
1,212
Locality
Oakdale, S Wales
He makes me practice blowing on a tissue/small piece of paper against the wall and keeping it there as long as possible by keeping the pressure in my breath. Mostly I practice it when I'm driving...
That's got to look pretty weird to motorists going the other way...
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,464
Locality
Just north of Munich
.....He makes me practice blowing on a tissue/small piece of paper against the wall and keeping it there as long as possible by keeping the pressure in my breath. Mostly I practice it when I'm driving, or sitting at the computer.

Not while driving I hope - sounds dangerous.
 

Duck

Member
Messages
57
Locality
UK
Thanks for all the advice guys, getting a handle on the physical and mental aspects enough to be able to become a beginner looks to be my goal at the moment.

Got an hours practice in this morning without neighbours to worry about, and I also tried using the unbranded (jupiter I guess) mouthpiece that came with the sax. It has a significantly longer tip opening (probably not the correct name for that) than the Bari, and I don't know if it was that or the absence of my neighbours, but the practise went better. I mean it still sounded really bad, with all the squeaks and squawks and mostly flat as a pancake, but it was the kind of bad that an utter beginner is likely to be, as opposed to the broken failure to launch of previous efforts.

I recorded myself this morning (unpleasant) and intend to do so later in the week in the vain hope of seeing some progress.

I will also work on my breath control as I could certainly hear the wavering in there, it just didn't become the burglar alarm I've been achieving up to this point.

On the positive side it's made me feel a lot more relaxed about doing my Clarinet practice, because by comparison that thing is quiet as a mouse fart.
 
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Rob Pealing

sax in a kayak (apprentice sax tamer)
Messages
1,126
Locality
Greenfield, Nova Scotia, Canada
I cannot offer you any techy advise, but I encourage you to stick at it. It seems to me that all apprentice sax tamers go through the same problems and periods when they seem to have regressed. From my experience kayaking and as a kayak coach I know that learning the technical parts of kayaking is similar.
 

Jay

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,333
Locality
Northumberland
That's got to look pretty weird to motorists going the other way...
I don't do it with the piece of paper! :rofl: (I just practice blowing a steady supported stream of air).

What must look odd, is me doing the 'whistle-cheesy grin' exercise for embouchure muscles. Then again, I am mainly driving on empty country roads ;)
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
16,210
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
@Jay So just whistle.

@Duck Don't chop and change mouthpieces at this stage. Pick one and stick with it. A wider tip opening needs a softer reed... usually.
 

jimmylh

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,010
Locality
Warner Robins, Georgia USA
Just keep plugging along. Some days I'm so disgusted with my playing I feel like throwing in the towel. Mainly because I'm never satisfied with my rate of progress or lack of it. But, with practice you will get better.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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3,576
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The Malverns, Worcs
Jay mentioned the diaphragm, which I was going to mention.
I do not believe that I truly learnt to play my alto until I learnt to play my Bari!
On alto and tenor, you can play with your lungs. On Bari you need your diaphragm.
I found that "pre-setting" my diaphragm helps no end - imagine someone is about to punch you in the belly, and you tense your muscles up as a reaction - that's what I do to play. It seems to set the diaphragm ready to play somehow.

I would also suggest that hoping to be able to hear an improvement after 5 days (recording today and at the end of the week) might be a little ambitious. Maybe once a month, or once every 3 months?
 

jafo50

Member
Messages
72
Locality
New York
I didn't read anything in this post about you having a teacher? Do you have a teacher who can help you through this rough patch and make any corrections to your embouchure? Squeaking usually come from biting, incorrect reed placement or a too soft reed all of which can be determined by your teacher.

Jafo50-
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,115
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
If the tone on the low notes is "oscillating" it could be caused by a couple of things. First of all make sure the mouthpiece is far enough onto the cork. Tune your tenor to an A concert---middle B.

Next make sure the back of the tongue is down as if singing "AHH" on the lowest note you can sing. Keeping this feeling in the mouth and throat, finger the low note you want to play and blow with lots of warm air.

The third thing to check is the tightness of the embouchure. Remove the mouthpiece and neck (crook) from the saxophone and play just the "tone producer". Play with your normal embouchure and use lots of air. The pitch should be an E concert---F#2 on the sax. If the pitch is higher than this, open the teeth slightly to lower the pitch. If the pitch is lower, then push in at the corners of the mouth to raise the pitch.

Playing long, full tones on the "tone producer" making this pitch will go a long way to establishing good tone production habits. The saxophone merely amplifies the sound coming from the mouthpiece and neck. If you can get a full and steady sound on the tone producer, then when the saxophone amplifies that sound it will be beautiful.
 

Duck

Member
Messages
57
Locality
UK
Just a quick update, as planned I have played every day this week and unsurprisingly it is helping. Still a long way to go but at least I'm on the right road now.

I had a lesson with my regular Clarinet teacher, who is also a sax player on Wednesday. I explained the issues I'd been having with securing the tone with my other mouthpiece. She leant me a Selmer S80 ( I think) to try, and instantly I was having the same problem again of a hugely oscillating tone. My tutor tried out my sax, and to my relief/frustration, also had the same problem and found that, in particular A and G were particularly unstable. A lot frustrating after just getting the Sax "serviced".

Recommendation was that I get my Sax to somewhere more reliable like Dawkes to be checked over, and to get hold of a Yamaha 5 or 6C. However, I've kind of spent all my money and then some over the last couple of months on instruments and the bog standard mouthpiece that I got with it, whilst it may not be great is at least letting me play, so for now I'm going to persevere with that.

Thanks again for all the advice, I have been practicing my blowing in the car and in the evening when it is too late to break out the saxe I have been working on long tones using just the mouthpiece and neck. I'll get there, what I lack in talent I more than make up in utter stubbornness.
 

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