All fees from subs and sales are given to special needs music education charities
Tutorials

Higher notes

lumberjack

New Member
Messages
5
Location
Canada
Hi there, I'm Phil and I'm new to saxophones. :) I just started practicing on my Jean Paul alto sax a week ago. I have no problems making the low notes (and to my beginner ears, they don't sound too horrible, I even think they sound pretty good :p), but any notes involving the octave key is a nightmare.

When I press it, either the note stays the same but with an added sound of air, or I make a very thin and ugly note an octave higher (mostly by biting the mouthpiece), but most of the time, it's as if I hadn't pressed it, the note stays the same.

And yet, when I blow in the mouthpiece alone, I make a pretty stable A 880.

Both of the octave key work and the holes are clean. I've been trying so many different things with my embouchure, my breathing, my reed...etc, but nothing seem to get me closer, so I was wondering, is this just part of the learning process?

Is it really that hard to make any notes with the octave key (for a beginner that is).

Could there be something wrong with my sax?

Thanks in advance! :)
 

Saxlicker

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,881
Location
Breakfast room since '06 UK
Possibly.
For beginners though it may be just be a matter of control.
However the most obvious thing to check with the sax would be to watch the octave key as you finger A & G.
Don't play the sax just have it assembled and where you can see what you are doing with your fingers on the keys.

So, look at the pad on the top of the neck, is it sat on the pip (tone hole)? lift it and let it go a few times if its not seating it needs adjusting.
Assuming all is OK at this point finger an A without operating the octave key lever.
Now watching the pad on the top of the neck push the octave key lever in, it should rise off the pip (tone hole) then release the lever and it should close.
Operate the octave key lever a few times to see if it is consistent and free of any mechanical delay or interference.

If that is OK
Do it one more time and this time hold in the octave key lever.........
Now holding in the A fingering add the 3rd fingeras if to play a G with the octave key lever still held down. The pad should close fully on to the pip again.
Similar to before look for consistency, no delay or interference as you keep the octave key lever in and alternate between A & G fingerings.
All OK?
Finally the way to verify that is closing fully is by watching it once the pad has closed onto the pip by fingering the G position then letting go of the octave lever.if the pad drops onto the pip a little more the mechanism needs adjusting.
Operating the octave key lever on/off while fingering G watching to see if the pad moves on/off the pip will also reveal if the mechanism needs adustment.
If it stayed in the closed position when octave G is fingered all is OK with this too.
Of course there could be something else wrong but this is the most common issue with higher notes that use the octave key.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,277
Location
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
A week is really not enough time for embouchure muscles to develop. It would help to know what mouthpiece and strength of reed you are using. A simple test found in "The Art of Saxophone Playing" is to play a low A with a full tone and with the free hand momentarily open the neck octave key and let it close. If the note jumps to high A and stays there for a time, the embouchure is too tight. If the note goes to a high A but it has a flat and flabby sound, the embouchure is too weak. If it jumps to a good sounding high A and then drops back down, the embouchure is the correct tightness.

The problem described could be due to a problem with the embouchure, the air stream, or the mouthpiece and reed or a combination of more than one of these. Blowing faster air often helps the higher register to speak. A "trick" I used with my beginning clarinet students to tighten the muscles of the embouchure was to have them pretend the mouthpiece is a sour lemon.
 
OP
L

lumberjack

New Member
Messages
5
Location
Canada
Thank you Saxlicker for the response, my saxophone passed your test. :)

Jbtsax, I tried what you said with the A note. 90% of the time when pressing the octave key, nothing happens, except the added sound of the air leaking from the neck octave hole on top of the low A. When I do reach the high A, I think it has more to do with me anticipating it and biting down. The sound is not pretty and when I let got of the octave key, high A continues.

I use the mouthpiece that came with my Jean Paul sax (it doesn't say what brand it is) and the reeds I use are Rico 2.5 (the orange box). I ordered a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece, I'll see if that makes a difference.

Right now I have lots of free time on my hands, so this saxophone thing has turned into a full blown obsession. :w00t: It's crazy how many things I have tried, but I won't give up! The low notes sound good to my ears, so that's a positive.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,020
Location
New Mexico, US
I think a 2.5 may be a bit hard a reed to start on...buy a couple of 2.0's. It could well be the stock mouthpiece has problems, so the Yama may work better.

Also (and do not discount this just because the sax is new)....either have a tech/repairperson check the horn for leaks ...or have a more experienced sax player try the horn and see if they have problems with it as well. If there's an issue with a leaky horn, you are only doing yourself damage by trying to get it to speak.
 
OP
L

lumberjack

New Member
Messages
5
Location
Canada
JayeNM, 2.0 reeds are on their way! The thing is, I pretty much live in the forest, far from any big cities, so it's a bit hard for me to find knowledgeable saxophonist or technician in person.

I've been searching on the internet, and in general, it seems beginners don't make a big deal about making notes higher with the octave key. It's almost as if the lowest notes are harder to blow, but I personally don't have trouble with them, so I don't know. :confused2:
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,020
Location
New Mexico, US
OK, well....hmmmmmm...you see, that might be a problem if nobody can look at the horn and assess whether it leaks. Not to be a worry-wart, it's just that a beginner on a horn which is not sealing nicely everywhere can develop bad habits quickly, as one begins to adjust their blowing/embouchure to the conditions of the instrument.

Again, maybe it is, as other respondents suggested, more a matter of just a new player trying to figure out proper blowing and embouchure... but it's usually recommended to make sure it isn't a hardware issue to start.
I guess see if the reeds and mouthpiece help any....

Best of luck.
 
OP
L

lumberjack

New Member
Messages
5
Location
Canada
Alright thank you, I'll keep working at it for a couple of weeks. If I don't see any improvement, I'll try to send it to a technician so that it gets checked.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,277
Location
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
A few more tips:
  • Make sure you are putting your top teeth on the mouthpiece.
  • To know where to place the teeth, read and follow the information in the pdf file below: "Teaching the Saxophone Embouchure.
  • Tear a sheet of printer paper in half, hold it up against a mirror and blow an air stream holding it up as long as possible.
  • Blow with that feeling when you play the saxophone.
  • Play the mouthpiece + neck in such a way as to produce the note Ab concert---play repeatedly as a long tone.
 

Attachments

OP
L

lumberjack

New Member
Messages
5
Location
Canada
A few more tips:
  • Make sure you are putting your top teeth on the mouthpiece.
  • To know where to place the teeth, read and follow the information in the pdf file below: "Teaching the Saxophone Embouchure.
  • Tear a sheet of printer paper in half, hold it up against a mirror and blow an air stream holding it up as long as possible.
  • Blow with that feeling when you play the saxophone.
  • Play the mouthpiece + neck in such a way as to produce the note Ab concert---play repeatedly as a long tone.
Thanks! Very nice tutorial, I'll be putting this into practice tomorrow. :)

Admitone, I did this already with a little flashlight and I didn't see any light coming thru the closed key. Although I did see there is a tiny hole on top of the bow. I didn't think much of it since it's extremely small (the point of a small needle), but could that be a problem?
 
Saxholder Pro
Help!

Sign up to the Mailing List

Latest posts

Top Bottom