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F# With No F# Key - Alto

Veggie Dave

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My alto has no F# key. Up to now this hasn't been a problem as I haven't played it that much and simply not needed to go that high. However, as more people keep asking me to play with their bands, plus it looks like I'm going to be the only sax player in the R&B band I'm putting together (at least for the time being) I really need to be able to hit this note.

Except I can't.

Using the high F and C keys gives me a pitch perfect high F (unlike the palm keys for F which are somewhat flat) but I can't get F# to sound using any of the fingerings I can find. Even Nick's fingerings don't seem to work.

Can anyone with a vintage alto and no F# key let me know how you hit this note, please?
 

Nick Wyver

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Front F + C + side Bb is the standard fingering. Works on every sax I've played.
 

Veggie Dave

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Have you looked here:
.

I have but I'm failing miserably.

Front F + C + side Bb is the standard fingering. Works on every sax I've played.

This is the way I play it on the tenor. On the alto, though, I can't even scoop into it from F. I was starting to think altos were different but if this is the way it's normally done then it must be me. But I'm damned if I can work out what's going wrong, especially given how strong the F is. F# should be a doddle.

I can see the neighbours hating me in the next few days. ;)
 

Veggie Dave

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I'm sure I tried that but I'll give it another go tomorrow. It could've been that I didn't add a little extra air when I opened the G#.
 

Nick Wyver

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TBH I suspect you're not helping yourself with your choice of sax and mouthpiece.
 

Veggie Dave

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Thanks. I tried all those. I do get a solid note with F + C and Bb, but it's not F#.
 

Greg Strange

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Thanks. I tried all those. I do get a solid note with F + C and Bb, but it's not F#.

Try adding low C# as well - Pete Yellin recommends this fingering for high F# on alto in his book "Improvising Rock Sax".

Greg S.
 

GJ77

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X
O
X
-
X
O
O

X (Eb key)


This works perfectly on my SBA.
 

Zugzwang

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How is your F# as an overtone? Maybe your sax demands a non standard fingering - my former go-to F# was
x(=key above)XO OOO plus side Bb, ahead of ‘standard’ fingering.
(this time around I’m not troubling my pretty head with altissimo, except via overtones until I have my intonation nailed :))
 

altissimo

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I don't have much choice. ;)

I thought Meyers were quite well regarded and rather common on altos, though?
there's a bit of a contradiction between the common belief that you should play a Meyer on alto and an Otto Link on tenor and the equally common belief that quality control on both these brands isn't very good and you need to try a few to find a decent one..
Once you start playing in the altissimo register, the accuracy of the facing curve becomes more of an issue.
However Sigurd Rascher was playing altissimo in the 1930's on the kind of classical mouthpiece that I'd find impossible, so it can be done.

the lower end of the altissimo register can often be more problematic, fingerings are only part of it, half of it's to do with embouchure and that part of it isn't discussed so much
practice overtones - playing overtones off low F# may be a bit tricky so work your way up from low Bb...
experiment with embouchure - shape your mouth as if you were trying to sing the note, maybe a bit more lip pressure...

some good advice here -
View: https://youtu.be/fwkP4Sa7kSI
 

Colin the Bear

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There's always going against accepted wisdom and applying teeth to the reed. It's the only way I can get high altissimo on clarinet.
 

brianr

 
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fingerings are only part of it, half of it's to do with embouchure and that part of it isn't discussed so much
practice overtones - playing overtones off low F# may be a bit tricky so work your way up from low Bb...

I agree with these comments.

if there is a “secret” to altissimo, it isnt loads of alternative fingerings.

its “overtones”

You dont even need to get into the very high stuff. Just being secure on the first 3 or 4 will have big benefits and will open up the top of the sax to you.

so, fingering a low Bb ........sound, without using the octave key, the next Bb above, then the F above that, then the next Bb above.Fingering only bottom Bb. Just that would be a great start.
Go between the sound of this overtone, with the equivilant normal fingered note. Compare the two.
The overtone will probably/hopefully feel “fatter”. Try to fatten the normal fingered one, to match

Once those 3 are secure, get the D above, then the next F.

For me, the area to concentrate on is not the embouchure. Its the throat /larynx area.

This is not a “quick” fix. , but with patience, will be of much benefit to sound/control.
 

Ivan

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The alternative overtone approach, which is paying dividends with me c/o a (highly recommended) lesson with @aldevis is to finger upper octave Bb and maintain that note whilst you switch fingering to lowest Bb (Same with B and C and C#)

It takes away the natural urge to bite/increase pressure on the reed to acheive the higher overtones

It also allows you to develop alternative fingerings to colour notes when playing
 

Veggie Dave

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The reason why I haven't posted anything about all these great ideas is that the last couple of weeks have been mental and I haven't had more than 10 minutes to address this particular problem (when I managed to play two notes at the same time - what appeared to be C# with F# underneath it) but everything should be back to normal tomorrow.
 

Jazzaferri

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If you are still looking try front F and stack F and Bb side. Works on my SML's my King and my Keilwerths.

Tenors alto's havnt tried sop or bari
 

Veggie Dave

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Sadly I'm starting to think Nick's right and this particular sax is not prone to being helpful in this area. I think this is the first thing I've tried to do on a sax and actually failed to achieve.
 

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