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How I finally got the altissimo notes

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
Now, I've been doing overtone exercises around half the times I practice ever since I started on the sax two months or so ago. I haven't really been expecting to actually hit any notes beyond the high F#, spending maybe 10-15 minutes every practice session to try if I could hit one this time. I've been able to play all the regular high notes without trouble for a month or so, but just haven't gotten my head around how to actually overblow any of the higher notes. Getting the 1st, 2nd and sometimes even the 3rd harmonic from the low C or Bb hasn't seemed to get me anywhere.

Then I read Pete's altissimo lesson once again, jotted down a few of the fingering suggestions, and noticed how different the "no high F# key" F# feels compared to the F# produced with the help of the F# key. I tried moving from E to F to F# smoothly (so I could "hear" the next note in my head before blowing it), since the F fingering in Pete's chart (f -o-|---) was slightly more difficult than the "regular" F, and the (f -o-|o-- + side Bb) F# was even more difficult. It felt different in the throat somehow. After doing that for I while I decided I would get the G next. Well, I didn't, but got the D above instead. Then I went back to F# and could blow the C# above that in addition to the F#.

For me, no other tips or tricks I've read have helped as radically as playing the F and F# with the front F key fingerings, then working up from that. The difference between blowing the regular fingerings and front F fingerings seemed to be just the trick into getting myself to realize what "throating" the high notes means and how it actually feels.

I guess this post is a big thank-you to Pete, and if anyone else is struggling where I am, do try out those notes and see if it helps you as well!

Cheers,
Jori
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
Well done.

have you being practicing harmonics too?
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Well done.

have you being practicing harmonics too?
Well said...:thumb:
In a way we play harmonics all the times...getting the altissimo is just a question of filtering/selecting the right harmonic.
Probably the very first notes we ever played on our saxes are altissimo!! (mine were...ugly and loud too). :w00t:
 

JTHANK

Member
Messages
33
In my case, I could not get any altissimo notes at all for quite a long time, which was very frustrating and had made me felt that all the overtone exercises were not as useful.

Then one day I was experimenting with my mpc's and switched back to one that I didn't like previously. However, with that old mpc I started getting the altissimo notes.

That mpc isn't special at all. It is just a Yamaha 4C with the tip opened up a little. It is not a magical piece. However, I kept practicing with this mpc for a while and had "opened" up my altissimo notes. Then I switched again to back to the other MPC (Meyer 6M) and was still able to hit these notes.

I looked back and figured that the 4C had "forced" me to relax my throat and embouchure to the point that facilitates the altissimo notes. Once I got used to that throat position, I could carry it to another MPC. However, if I kept practicing only on my Meyer 6M MPC, it is very likely that I am still unable to hit these notes at this moment.

By the way, a month ago I spent a day reviewing the different MPC + reed set ups I can possibly have. I have settled on Steve Broadus S3 + Vandoren #4 reed. This MPC has a very narrow tip opening. Contrary to what I believed before (working my way up to a wider opening MPC to get better tone and making the altissimo notes easier to play), this set up actually gives me the best control among the others and the altissimo notes are still coming out nicely.

What I am trying to say is that although there is no short cut or magical tricks to hitting these altissimo notes, any assumption made or advices taken (in my case, "wider is better") could hinder learning.
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
In my case, I could not get any altissimo notes at all for quite a long time, which was very frustrating and had made me felt that all the overtone exercises were not as useful.


Then one day I was experimenting with my mpc's and switched back to one that I didn't like previously. However, with that old mpc I started getting the altissimo notes.

That mpc isn't special at all. It is just a Yamaha 4C with the tip opened up a little. It is not a magical piece. However, I kept practicing with this mpc for a while and had "opened" up my altissimo notes. Then I switched again to back to the other MPC (Meyer 6M) and was still able to hit these notes.
Actually, I had just changed my mouthpiece from the stock one to Vandoren T27 prior to hitting the altissimo notes. I'd just been to the music store to try out quite a few different mouthpieces (ranging from the regular Yamaha 4C to some very expensive ones), and I picked the one which I found the most comfortable to play. Selmer *80C was pretty high on the list as well, but it felt much harder to control.

I've been using the same Legere Standard #2.5 all the time, have tried different reeds, but have not felt any urge to switch. We've got two small kids in the house, so the opportunity to play the sax may come and go away in an instant, so I need a reed that is always instantly ready.

I don't know if my MPC should be one that's easy for higher notes, as I purposefully avoided researching the matter prior to going out to try out different MPC's, as knowing what something should sound / feel like might unconsciously influence my choice. I just essentially picked the one that gave me the best control of my instrument, as I don't want to trade versatility for anything at such an early stage of learning.

Cheers,
Jori
 
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