Tutorials

Beginner Involuntary high octave notes

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Hi All,

I'm brand new to posting on this forum although I have been looking at the many useful threads while I have been learning my Sax. I thought I would need to ask a question at some point so here it is and I hope you can help!

I've been learning for just over 1 month now on my Trevor James Alto Sax (Classic horn, Black Nickel plated). I'm also learning to read music from scratch so its a slow learning curve for me, although I have been practising most days for at least 1 hour a day. I am using the standard mouth piece that came with the sax and I have been using a Vandorean 1.5 and a rico royal 2 reed (to see which is best).

The problem I am having is that when I play the lower notes D, E, F (mainly) it easily jumps to the higher octave note, especially at the start of practice. When I have been playing for about 15mins or so I find that I can keep the low notes at the correct octave more easily but my teacher says that I should be able to (or the Sax should) get these notes straight away. My teacher also played my sax and he also had problems keeping it at the correct octave and said there could be something wrong with my sax. I'm not convinced that there is something wrong with the sax because as I said above, when I've played a little and warmed up, the lower notes are much easier to hold.

It is worth noting that I have more problems keeping the notes in the correct octave with a stronger reed (Rico Royal 2) and when my teacher had a go it also had this reed in it, so could this be the problem?

Another thing to note is that I have to blow a little harder to keep the correct octave and if I have to blow more lightly then it starts to jump up the octave again.

I'm sorry if I have not explained this very well so please feel free to ask me any questions to clarify.

I hope you can help!
Jason
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,620
Location
Rugby UK
I believe you may have two problems, one with your embouchure and your air control, and possibly a very minor leak with one of the pads. One of the other members will no doubt be more specific with the leak.
Firstly your embouchure. At this point in your learning, your embouchure is still developing. If you have been changing reeds then will not have had time to get used to one or the other. You should, in my opinion, stick to one type of reed for a little while, try to support your airflow with your diaphragm, you can feel when you get this right because you push the air out of your lungs with you stomach muscles. To try to get the feel of this, try lying on your back on the floor with a book on your stomach. Now try to make it rise and fall with you breathing.
Secondly, the slight leak. I think you may have a slight leek as when your sax is cold the pads are dry. You say that both you and your teacher have trouble with the sax, yet when its warm its not too bad. I could be wrong (and I often am!) but I think the leak is sealing better when the sax is warm and the pads are moist. I could be wrong but no doubt Griff or one of the other more experienced players/tech's will help you out.
 

Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,938
Location
The Athens of The North
Welcome Jason. You explained everything just fine. Standard Vandoren reeds run half a strength harder than Rico so that the reeds you are using are much the same. Try a Rico Royal !.5 and see how you get on. The accurate fitting of the reed is a critical factor and not easy to begin with. Take your time to get a perfect alignment along the side rails and the tip. Get your teacher to check your sax with his mouthpiece.

It takes longer than a month to form an embouchure and it could just be that is your problem.

Jim.
 

AlanU

Member
Messages
624
Location
Enfield, North London
Hello Jason, I'm surprised your teacher is not able to diagnose the problem for you!

As Taz suggests it's probably a combination of embouchure and inappropriate reed. But that should not equally apply to your teacher. So a problem with the instrument seems possible.

Has your teacher not got another saxophone for you to try?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,982
Location
Just north of Munich
Good suggestions above.

Could also be a leaking octave key pad. My sax is under heavy guard at the moment (in the same room as the MIL, who's sleeping), so I can't check the fine details, but....

The octave key opens two different valves (pips) - one's on the neck, the other towards the top of the body. Pressing the octave key opens one or the other, but not both together. Both should be closed in the lower register. The switch from one to the other is about G, maybe G#, can't remember exactly. Check which one's open when you play D/E/F + octave key. Eyeball it to see if the pad is sealing properly. Try getting someone to push gently on it while you play D/E/F and see if it helps. If it does, then send it back for adjustment.
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Thanks for the quick replies everyone!

I am just about to head off for my next lesson so haven't got much time to reply this minute, so I will take these notes with me to my teacher and see what he thinks and try a couple of the things mentioned and let you know how I get on.

Thanks again
Jason
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Hi all, I just got back from my lesson which had to be put back because there was a mix up with the times! anyway, I have tried the following to try and pinpoint the problem.

Before I went to my lesson I tried a Rico 1.5 which I got with the sax along with the Vandoren 1.5, its not a Rico Royal so its not the greatest, however, it seemed a little better for me and with less blowing it didn't seem to jump up an octave. During my lesson though it did seem to jump up fairly often with some harder blowing, my teacher also had another go and he still says something isn't quite right. I also struggled getting a good tone with this reed.

I have tried squeezing the octave and other pads to see if that helps but it makes no difference at all, so hopefully this eliminates the questions about a leak, although its not fully eliminated if I can't get it sorted.

I agree that my embouchure is no where near developed enough, so I imagine that this is also one of my problems, its just the fact that my teacher is having problems with it as well that is making me look for blame on the sax itself.

My teacher did say that it could be the mpc, so next week he is going to bring along his alto mpc to try (he normally only brings his tenor sax) and see if that makes any difference, if it does then I will invest in a new one as I don't want this odd problem to hinder my learning.

My next lesson is on new years day so I will let you know after that how it goes with a different mpc.

Many thanks again for your help.
Jason
 

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Hi all, I just got back from my lesson which had to be put back because there was a mix up with the times! anyway, I have tried the following to try and pinpoint the problem.

Before I went to my lesson I tried a Rico 1.5 which I got with the sax along with the Vandoren 1.5, its not a Rico Royal so its not the greatest, however, it seemed a little better for me and with less blowing it didn't seem to jump up an octave. During my lesson though it did seem to jump up fairly often with some harder blowing, my teacher also had another go and he still says something isn't quite right. I also struggled getting a good tone with this reed.

I have tried squeezing the octave and other pads to see if that helps but it makes no difference at all, so hopefully this eliminates the questions about a leak, although its not fully eliminated if I can't get it sorted.

I agree that my embouchure is no where near developed enough, so I imagine that this is also one of my problems, its just the fact that my teacher is having problems with it as well that is making me look for blame on the sax itself.

My teacher did say that it could be the mpc, so next week he is going to bring along his alto mpc to try (he normally only brings his tenor sax) and see if that makes any difference, if it does then I will invest in a new one as I don't want this odd problem to hinder my learning.

My next lesson is on new years day so I will let you know after that how it goes with a different mpc.

Many thanks again for your help.
Jason
Where are you? I have a TJ Alto too and you could try mine to compare if local. I had fun at first too although I love the thing now, I blamed the TJ cloth ligature and bought a cheapo (3.50) metal one for instant improvement. I also noticed that if you don't get the neck quite right it can hold the octave key open slightly..

Bits I found when I first started, if it helps..

Martin
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Where are you? I have a TJ Alto too and you could try mine to compare if local. I had fun at first too although I love the thing now, I blamed the TJ cloth ligature and bought a cheapo (3.50) metal one for instant improvement. I also noticed that if you don't get the neck quite right it can hold the octave key open slightly..

Bits I found when I first started, if it helps..

Martin
Hi Martin,

Thanks for the offer, I live in Swadlincote which is next to Burton on Trent, so I'm not too far from you, maybe you are free sometime this coming week? How long have you been playing?

I was wondering about the cloth ligature, maybe I should change that like you have and see what happens, I do find that the cloth ligature comes a little loose after playing which can't be ideal.

I do check that the neck octave pad is ok after putting the neck on because as you say, it is possible to put it on at a bit of an angle which may cause the pad to lift, however, I don't seem to having a problem here.

I've just had another practice for about an hour and it definitely plays much better after I've warmed up.

Jason
 

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Not far away at all.. I'm not working again unil the 4th so its certainly possible if you feel like it.
That cloth ligature gave me hell in the early days, but I was never truly certain of the cause. Been playing about 4 years now so I'm still a novice myself.
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Hi Martin,

I've just been told by the other half that we have errands to do this week so I'm not so free after all! So for now I'll wait until my next lesson where my teacher said I can try his mpc and if that doesn't make any difference then I might pop over and see you to compare and see if it is a problem with my Sax.

Happy new year all.
 

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
No problem at all, the offer stands if you would like to compare or to try other mouthpiece / ligature combinations. I tried a couple of mouthpieces before settling for the old favourite "yamaha 4C" and i tried different ligatures too. (a couple here to try LOL). Once I found the combination that suited me I stopped getting problems, maybe that's just me learning to play too to some extent. There is a whole market place built on ligatures, mouthpieces and various bits of experience and advice, the answer is to find what suits you, you are welcome to pop over if you feel like it. I'm now thinking about getting a Yamaha 5C, Its in my head that I've outgrown the 4C.... In my head, :))) that's MY biggest hurdle..

Happy new year too.
 

robtheplod

New Member
Messages
15
Hi - Just a quick note to say I have exactly the same issue!!
I've yet to have a lesson, but I can't play b or c without first going down the notes above!
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Ok, I had another lesson today and my Sax teacher had his Alto with him so he could try his mpc on mine, the mpc was a metal Selmer.

He didn't let me try it but he had a good blast on my sax with it and it eliminated the high octave problem completely, it also sounded a lot better! So now he's recommended me to get a new mpc and that I should try a few to see which one I like. I said about getting a cheap one that is better than the one I have but he said I might aswell get one that is a lot better and grow into it, although not a metal one or a very expensive one.

I'm hoping to pop to sax.co.uk in London this week so I will try a few out and see how it goes.

I was doing some duet work today for the first time with my teacher and it was great fun! although it was very annoying when I kept getting this high octave problem :( so the sooner I get it sorted the better.
 

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
The favourite all-rounder for beginners seems to be the Yamaha 4C, it certainly worked well for me so I would suggest you think hard about this one. You'll get one for under £20 on ebay but get yourself a metal ligature too. (look at item 250554491962) Again you can do that for under £4.

Personally I like ebay and buy a lot there, I've also got a couple of mouthpieces on there for sale this week too, one you already have and the other isn't a beginners mouthpiece though, ((IMHO) item 230418532236)

I'm pleased you got that sorted out. :welldone
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Thanks for those links Martin. My teacher also mentioned Yamaha saying they were quite good so maybe I'll end up with one of those, as long as it stops the problem I'm having then I will be happy for now.

The cloth ligature I have is a BG with a rubber piece at the bottom, is this the one you got with our sax? Seeing as the ligatures are so cheap then I can't see it hurting trying one or two of these as well.

Thanks for the support!
 

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Just a thought, I can lend you the Yam 4C for a week if you want to try it, I've got myself a 5C I use now.

Yes the one I got was the BG too, I have a couple of metal ones now. non of them dear but even now I cant get on with the BG..
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Thanks for the offer Martin, I may well take you up on that if I can't get to sax.co.uk this week. I've got a meeting in Dorking this week which is only an hour away from the shop so I'm hoping to get to the shop before my meeting.

If I don't make it I'll let you know and I'll pop over and try it, that would be great. Thanks again for your help :)
 

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Thanks for the offer Martin, I may well take you up on that if I can't get to sax.co.uk this week. I've got a meeting in Dorking this week which is only an hour away from the shop so I'm hoping to get to the shop before my meeting.

If I don't make it I'll let you know and I'll pop over and try it, that would be great. Thanks again for your help :)

No problem Jason, only too happy to help if possible.
 
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