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G# Key (and low C# Key) - Two Questions

rhysonsax

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I've been playing saxophone for 40+ years and I have a couple of really basic questions - I guess we all keep learning !

1. When you are playing in sharp keys that include G# (A major, E major and beyond) - do you hold done the G# key all the time or just when playing G#s ? I typically have kept the G# down, but just recently I have noticed (on alto at least) how much that raises the pitch on the A1 and particularly A2 - which play around 15 cents sharp for me. I guess the G# tone hole is immediately below the first open tone hole for A, so it makes sense that it could affect the pitch.

2. When playing baritone there are a few tunes where I have to move straight between low A and low C#. One way to do that is to finger low C# and then just add the low A thumb key which closes the pads for low A, Bb, B and the C# too. However on my Selmer Serie III, although all of the pads close and seem to seal (judged with a leak light with the instrument upright), the note doesn't sound properly. It does sound properly for low C to A, low B to A and low Bb to A. Maybe there is just too much flex in the mechanism or it is asking too much of the low A to accurately take down all of those other pads simultaneously. But I am pretty sure it used to work on my previous low A baritone. How do you baritone players usually finger this ? Would saxophone technicians expect this fingering to work reliably ?

Thanks in advance

Rhys
 
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Veggie Dave

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I can't answer question 2, but as for number 1; no, I only finger it when needed.

I remember reading on here when I first started playing how some people would keep the G# down to make life easier/passages quicker but it never worked or felt right for me. Back when I tried to play like this I actually found it got in the way, but back then everything got in the way. ;)
 

lydian

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1. No, only when needed.

2. Leak light tells the tale. If mechanisms on both G# and C# are adjusted properly you should be able to finger C# and add low A without issues. However, I usually don't do it because it takes a lot of force to close all the bell keys with the low A key alone. I slide my pinky down to low Bb in most cases when playing low A in order to get the most leverage.
 

rhysonsax

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I remembered watching a video of Joe Temperley covering this in one of his Jazz Academy videos for Jazz at Lincoln Center and I found it here:

View: https://youtu.be/g2SlBQh9OwE?t=224


What a gorgeous baritone sound he had and here he was playing his old Selmer rather than his old Conn 12M.

Rhys
 
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Clivey

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I loved Joe's attitude and gorgeous sounds. He was the only guy purporting the value of and use of vibrato for years whilst all the big hitters had it pegged as cheesy.
Guess who was right though?
I really hope all his masterclasses remain in the YouTube public domain.
 

turf3

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I've been playing saxophone for 40+ years and I have a couple of really basic questions - I guess we all keep learning !

1. When you are playing in sharp keys that include G# (A major, E major and beyond) - do you hold done the G# key all the time or just when playing G#s ? I typically have kept the G# down, but just recently I have noticed (on alto at least) how much that raises the pitch on the A1 and particularly A2 - which play around 15 cents sharp for me. I guess the G# tone hole is immediately below the first open tone hole for A, so it makes sense that it could affect the pitch.

2. When playing baritone there are a few tunes where I have to move straight between low A and low C#. One way to do that is to finger low C# and then just add the low A thumb key which closes the pads for low A, Bb, B and the C# too. However on my Selmer Serie III, although all of the pads close and seem to seal (judged with a leak light with the instrument upright), the note doesn't sound properly. It does sound properly for low C to A, low B to A and low Bb to A. Maybe there is just too much flex in the mechanism or it is asking too much of the low A to accurately take down all of those other pads simultaneously. But I am pretty sure it used to work on my previous low A baritone. How do you baritone players usually finger this ? Would saxophone technicians expect this fingering to work reliably ?

Thanks in advance

Rhys
1) No, I don't hold down G# constantly even in patterns where I could, because I also play flute and that won't work on flute.

2) I wouldn't depend on the low A thumb key to close the low A, low Bb, low B pads AND force the C# closed against the spring that opens it. Not with those long long rods and especially not with the typical floppy Selmer mechanism. Why wouldn't you just let up on the C# touch when you push down on the thumb key? At least that gives you one less key to force closed.
 

LostCircuits

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1: It depends on the song and the particular phrase whether I keep the G# key held down or not. Some of my older horns don't have G# articulation, so in that case I have to release it, the same goes for my Roland AE-10. But there are phrases (especially listening to Dave Koz's stuff) that are too fast (for me) to hold and release the G# key and in that case a bit of pitch change pretty much goes unnoticed anyway.

Long story short, It's good form to release G# when it is not needed but sometimes I am happy about the articulation because otherwise I'd break a few fingers.

2: I can't comment
 

Colin the Bear

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For G# I do both depending on the piece.

C# to A let go the C#. A to C# let go A.

Some finger patterns need the fingers to be close to the keys in preparation for playing notes.

Playing into a mirror will let you see if you're lifting or moving too much.
 

Jeanette

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Had a discussion last week with my tutor re G# in at tune I was working on, upshot was ok to leave it down for notes below on the staff but not those above. :)

Jx
 

turf3

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Considering the way the little finger and ring finger tendons are linked, it's easier to stop pushing on the G# key when you go to A and above anyway.
 

rhysonsax

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Considering the way the little finger and ring finger tendons are linked, it's easier to stop pushing on the G# key when you go to A and above anyway.

I think I'm just used to doing it.

Now I will try to get unused to doing it, or at least be more selective on when I leave down the G#.

Rhys
 

Colin the Bear

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First we learn to do it. Then we learn not to do it. Then we stop worrying and just play the thing. ;)
 

Stephen Howard

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1. No, only when needed.

2. Leak light tells the tale. If mechanisms on both G# and C# are adjusted properly you should be able to finger C# and add low A without issues. However, I usually don't do it because it takes a lot of force to close all the bell keys with the low A key alone. I slide my pinky down to low Bb in most cases when playing low A in order to get the most leverage.
Easiest way to get around that is to...buy a Yamaha bari. Finest low A mech ever invented. Positively switch-like.
If I were ruler of the universe, every bari would be fitted with it.
 

SaxBySW

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I keep G# down for fast runs, but only on F,E,D. Otherwise would just press when needed in the piece. Holding down doesn't change the pitch of the lower notes on my horn.
 

rhysonsax

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Easiest way to get around that is to...buy a Yamaha bari. Finest low A mech ever invented. Positively switch-like.
If I were ruler of the universe, every bari would be fitted with it.

Would one of those Yamaha baritones happily play low A cleanly when fingering low C# + low A thumb key ?

Rhys
 

lydian

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No matter how awesome the mechanism, you’d still be closing the 4 largest pads quite far away with only the force of your thumb. The laws of physics say no.
 

rhysonsax

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No matter how awesome the mechanism, you’d still be closing the 4 largest pads quite far away with only the force of your thumb. The laws of physics say no.

Well, it would certainly be more difficult but that's not the same as "no". When I do it, the pads close but something is obviously not quite right.

Rhys
 

Stephen Howard

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Would one of those Yamaha baritones happily play low A cleanly when fingering low C# + low A thumb key ?

Rhys
On the whole, yes. The low B/C# link has always been a pile of poo on any horn - and the larger they get, the more poo it is.
The Yamaha has an advantage in that the low A lever has separate arms for the Bb/B and the A.
To get the very best out of it I'd always recommend having the bell key toneholes precision levelled.
 

Stephen Howard

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Well, it would certainly be more difficult but that's not the same as "no". When I do it, the pads close but something is obviously not quite right.

Rhys
I always tell clients that I set a horn up twice; once 'by the book'...and then again, having thrown the book away.
You always have to dial in compromises to take account of key flex and pad compression. Sometimes it's as easy as playing a note and turning a screw - but more often than not it's a lot of going to and fro between a pair (or more) of keys to get the best result across the board.
 

Ivan

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Easiest way to get around that is to...buy a Yamaha bari. Finest low A mech ever invented. Positively switch-like.
If I were ruler of the universe, every bari would be fitted with it.
Ah

I was going to answer 2. with a "yes finger C# then simply close everything with the A key" , 'cos it works on my bari

But I think the Bauhaus A mech is modelled on the Yamaha
 

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