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Embouchure

SEAsax

SEAsax

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Bumping another thread...I couldn't see starting another with the same name.

Been playing my alto a few weeks and all's been going well so far. I had to travel for business for four days and upon return **** fell apart. For some reason when I play a G it's really high pitched and squeaky. In order to get it right I have to play B, A and then G, but by then it's all gone to crap. This also seems to happen with E and F# for some odd reason.

I know it can't be the horn, but I didn't have this issue before the trip, so I figure it's gotta be something I'm doing, right? Any suggestions out there? I've played around with my embouchure a bit, but this keeps happening.

Thanks.
 
OiGoier

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Hi there.

Assuming the horns ok and the reed was 'warmed up', the issue is probably your embouchure is firing the air in slightly the wrong direction. Imagine a sportsman hitting a ball. There is a sweet spot. If you don't hit near the sweet spot it will go all over the place.

If you are new to the instrument you will be training your muscles to remember where to go (muscle memory). This takes a bit of time. If you go straight to the g then it will exsarbate things as stepping down will be easier.

Without going too deep into it a good mental cue is to 'think low' and it should help to keep your mouth the correct shape.

I have some beginner guides on my website which might help. www.jayrileymusic.com although there is a wealth of info on cafe sax and pete Thomas' other site.

Good luck dude and enjoy the journey!

Jay
 
SEAsax

SEAsax

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Thanks for the reply, Jay! Just downloaded the PDFs you had there :).

I'm working tirelessly on embouchure. I was fine for the first two weeks, and now...ugh. It sounds exactly like the octave key gets stuck open when I play anything G and below. Really upsetting. I'm sure it'll work itself out sooner or later.
 
Colin the Bear

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Some days my saxophone won't play how I want it to for sometimes up to two hours and I've been playing a long time.
It's important when you're starting out to do little and often to build the muscles of your embouchure and to drill them into an automatic response. Any breaks will set you back to square one but with a mental expectation of picking up where you left off at square three

When you've not played a horn for a while, as well as soaking the reed and making sure it's in the right position twiddle all the keys on the instrument, especially the side and palm keys including F# if you have one. These sometimes dry funny and look shut but are slightly open. Check the octave mechanism is switching between body and neck for G to A.

The most important thing is to persevere and not be disheartened. We all struggle with this perverse instrument. It can be ethereal or earthy one minute and a duck call the next.
 
Dave McLaughlin

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I've been troubled for a while by a rapidly tiring lower lip, especially on higher notes. I've just been doing some of the exercises from TTS Vol 1, but with a more relaxed embouchure. It feels quite unnatural, but I think it may be less tiring. Must persevere with it!
 
J

Justin Chune

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Have you tried changing the reed?

Jim.
 
Dave McLaughlin

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Have you tried changing the reed?

Jim.

I've tried a few reeds from the same box (and one was definitely harder work than others), but I haven't tried nominally softer ones.
 
kevgermany

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Thanks for the reply, Jay! Just downloaded the PDFs you had there :).

I'm working tirelessly on embouchure. I was fine for the first two weeks, and now...ugh. It sounds exactly like the octave key gets stuck open when I play anything G and below. Really upsetting. I'm sure it'll work itself out sooner or later.

Could be the octave mechanism - you may have disturbed or bent something. Especially suspicious that it's G and below - this is the switch over from neck to body octave pip.

With the sax properly assembled and without the octave key, both neck and body pip should be held closed by springs. Above G the neck octave pip only should open when you press the octave key. From G down, only the body octave pip shold open. It's OK for both to be open momentarily as you go from, say, A to G. So take a close look at the body pip and see if it's opening when it shouldn't. If you can't press on it while you're playing (and you probably can't) try putting a rubber band or some masking tape over it to hold it closed and try again. Also have a close look at the springs on the octave mechanism and G key. One may have popped off it's post.

Could also be that you're inadvertently touching/pressing one of the LH palm keys. That's one of my favourite ways to mess myself around.
 
Colin the Bear

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PS. It can always be the horn. You play it, put it in the case, get it out an hour later and somethings not right.
 
jbtsax

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Been playing my alto a few weeks and all's been going well so far. I had to travel for business for four days and upon return **** fell apart. For some reason when I play a G it's really high pitched and squeaky. In order to get it right I have to play B, A and then G, but by then it's all gone to crap. This also seems to happen with E and F# for some odd reason.
An easy way to tell if it is you or the saxophone is to play just the "tone producer"---the mouthpiece and neck (crook) apart from the saxophone. The pitch it should produce is Ab Concert which is the same as second octave F on the alto sax. If you can both play this note as a long tone and tongue fast notes without squeaking, then your embouchure is as it should be.

I know it can't be the horn, but I didn't have this issue before the trip, so I figure it's gotta be something I'm doing, right? Any suggestions out there? I've played around with my embouchure a bit, but this keeps happening.
Actually what you describe can be the instrument itself. Here is the octave mechanism test:

Finger G and hit the octave key hard several times while watching the neck octave key. It should not bounce or move. Then press the octave key extra hard and watch the neck octave key. Again it should not rise, even a little bit. If either of these things happen it means the octave mechanism is out of adjustment.

Note: On some saxophones turning the neck slightly one direction or the other can cause the neck octave adjustment to change. Be sure the neck is in the same spot each time you assemble the saxophone and play.
 
SEAsax

SEAsax

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Turns out it seems to be the reed. Had my lesson last night and my teacher had me pull out all my reeds. Out of the 6 or so I have he marked two for me to use, a third which I liked but is now chipped is at the bottom of the rotation, and the rest in cold storage.

He told me that he'll buy a box of 10 and use maybe one of them. I had no idea. I figured a new reed was a new reed.

At any rate, using a good reed as opposed to a bent one makes all the difference. Now, I still have to work on my embouchure, but I'm not trying to swim with lead weights tied around my ankles.

Thanks for the replies! I guess it's time to bump an old reed thread to start educating myself :)
 
SEAsax

SEAsax

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Still gonna have my guy check the octave mechanism just to be sure, but it's been overhauled and my teacher gave it a thumbs up.
 
SEAsax

SEAsax

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That's a bit fussy. Must be rich too.

No, definitely not rich. He's a teacher at the HCMC Conservatory, so my take was that he needs his reeds to be as flawless as possible. He gives the ones he doesn't use to his students for free for practice.
 
ArtyLady

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I've just pulled about 10 unplayable stuffy dead Java Reds out the drawer, taken an emery board to them willy nilly :eek: (haven't a clue what I'm doing!) and they are now wonderful!! :D
 
kernewegor

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I've just pulled about 10 unplayable stuffy dead Java Reds out the drawer, taken an emery board to them willy nilly :eek: (haven't a clue what I'm doing!) and they are now wonderful!! :D
Exactly.

If they don't play well there is little to be lost in using some 400 grit wet and dry sandpaper or an emery board on them. I never chuck new reeds, but a few moments with sandpaper and they play at least well or even beautifully... there was a thread on this somewhere...

We can't all afford to buy a box of ten and chuck nine of them...
 
kevgermany

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Don't get too fussy about reeds. Try and learn to play most in a box. If some really stand out, keep them for special occasions. You'll also find that reeds change as you play them. Lots of tutorials on reed tweaking. You may also like to look up the ATG system.
 
kernewegor

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There is anecdotal evidence that some mouthpieces are fussy with reeds and some very accommodating.

While lots of practice and playing regularly, as Colin has said, will enable you to play reeds with which you would otherwise have difficulties, even pros and experienced players can have problems if their mouthpiece is particular about the reeds it is used with.

They may put up with that problem because it has other virtues, especially if it gives the tone they want. And, of course, some mouthpieces suit some saxes better than others... if your sax is better with a tricky mouthpiece...

There are lots of variations and combinations, human and instrumental. As you build your embouchure you will probably want to try other mouthpieces and you may find the one which is great for you in all respects, including playing a boxful of your favourite reeds straight from the box without problem. Possibly.

In the meantime sort your reeds when you buy them and give those that don't play 'out of the box' the benefit of the doubt for two or three minutes every day until it is clear that you can't get them to 'blow in'.

For these, learn how to use wet and dry sandpaper - used wet - and the two obvious fingers and a flat surface. Gadgets aren't necessary and are something more to break or lose, quite apart from the cost. Sandpaper costs half nothing, a single sheet can last you years, and takes up no room in your sax case.

If it takes two minutes to make a reject playable you are saving yourself the equivalent of maybe £90 an hour... often it takes half a minute or less once you learn how to do it. Do the sums...
 
Pixie

Pixie

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Just another look at "Embouchure"...
When I first stated playing in the late 60's ... It was bottom lip right over teeth .. i played that way till I stoped in the late 70's
I have stared playing again (for the last 18 months or so) mainly playing on alto I find now that my Embouchure is stronger I find i can move that bottom lip out a bit and I get a better tone over the whole of the instrument al though it needs to controled with plenty of practice.
I find this a great shot of Dexter Gordon with his Embouchure ...Dexter Gordon What's New?
I'm finding I get better sounds using an embouchure like this.
 

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