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Tone Low B, Bb vibration

JamesOxford

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Took a while to settle on a setup for my Tenor, lockdown hasn't helped. I ended up with a D'addarrio Select Jazz mpc to replace the Rouseau it came with and settled on Vandoren Reds after trying several and now am getting a somewhat clear tone. I have eliminated the nightmarish squeaks and can play to high F# okayish. (btw I think reeds were only a small part of the puzzle for squeaks; mostly it was down to me being too tense and trying to force notes out, when I made a conscious effort to relax everything started getting better.)

However when I play low B, Bb the sound shudders. According to a tuner it is (mostly) in tune, but it seems a somewhat raspy tone. Not sure how to describe it. I don't think it's right though.
I expect it's to do with my embouchure/breathing or something, any ideas/advice? Should I be doing something with my mouth, jaw for lower notes? I find it difficult to play long tones down there too, but expect that is because I don't have the stamina yet.
 
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Wade Cornell

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What your describing may be what's often called "motor-boating". It's often caused by some springs not keeping certain pads closed securely (the ones that are normally closed all the time like low C#, Eb, side Bb, etc. The sound wave in the horn can pop these open and closed just slightly giving that effect. This can be helped or made worse by some mouthpieces and how loudly you're playing. A simple fix (that actually doesn't fix it at all) is to put a bit of cloth in the bottom of the horn (bow). That breaks up the sound wave somewhat. Experiment with that a bit, but the real fix is having the springs adjusted to the right pressure so as to not open.

Some of the tech guys can probably explain this much better and may have other ideas as well.
 
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JamesOxford

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Thanks a lot Wade. I was expecting it was something to do with me rather than the horn, so didn't look at the pads, which I will do now. I will also try the cloth in the bow as you suggest, see if that makes a difference.
 
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Stephen Howard

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A good place to start with your diagnosis is the regulation of the G# key.
Play a low D, softly - hold the note then hit the G# key. Listen/feel for a change in the note. Try again with a low C.
If you detect a change...a slight softening of the note, it means the little adjuster that sits over the G# cup key (where the pad is) is out of adjustment.
As this key is actuated when you play low B/Bb, it will make those notes harder to play if the regulation is out of whack.
 
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JamesOxford

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A good place to start with your diagnosis is the regulation of the G# key.
Play a low D, softly - hold the note then hit the G# key. Listen/feel for a change in the note. Try again with a low C.
If you detect a change...a slight softening of the note, it means the little adjuster that sits over the G# cup key (where the pad is) is out of adjustment.
As this key is actuated when you play low B/Bb, it will make those notes harder to play if the regulation is out of whack.
Thank you for taking the time for the detailed reply @Stephen Howard. I'll try that on my next practice.
 
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Colin the Bear

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Motor boating can also be caused by mouthpiece position.
Two tones are "fighting" each other. The one you want to play and the one the saxophone wants to play.
Even though the tuner says you're in tune higher up, your embouchure may be having too much input.
If there are no obvious leaks, check Bis too, try pushing in a little and playing lower on your embouchure in the mid range.
 
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jbtsax

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A raspy tone that "shudders"? Does it sound like this or something else?

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JamesOxford

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Motor boating can also be caused by mouthpiece position.
Two tones are "fighting" each other. The one you want to play and the one the saxophone wants to play.
Even though the tuner says you're in tune higher up, your embouchure may be having too much input.
If there are no obvious leaks, check Bis too, try pushing in a little and playing lower on your embouchure in the mid range.
That's great thanks, I will do. Unfortunately at work now but dying to get back and follow up everyone's suggestions.
 
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JamesOxford

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A raspy tone that "shudders"? Does it sound like this or something else?

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No, it's not quite as obviousy modulating as that. It's just kind of a vibration like it's not smooth. I'm inexperienced and won't be surprised if it is me rather than the horn. If you all heard it you may laugh and say "Well that's what a low Bb is supposed to sound like!" I did struggle with squeaks before and was worried about the horn, but found that the culprit was human error. Let's just say the more I've practiced the more the horns faults have self-repaired.
I'll try the various things outlined here and report back.

Meanwhile, I don't have a regular tech, can anyone recommend someone in or near to Oxfordshire?
As I've just bought the horn not too long ago and my business is struggling out of lockdown I'd rather not need to spend on it now; but do people have their saxophones typically serviced once a year etc. what is normal?
 
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jbtsax

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An exercise I use with my students to develop control in the low register is to start on G and quickly slur down to low C and hold it as long as possible as a long tone. It is important to play with a big sound using lots of air and to increase the air as you go lower since the "tube gets wider as it gets longer". A steady tone requires a steady air stream and a steady embouchure, both of which are achieved by playing long tones. Unless you are working on a "subtone" it is important not to loosen the embouchure as you go lower or to tighten the embouchure as you go higher.

Once the low C is well under control, repeat the exercise going a half step lower to low B, then when that note is good down to low Bb.
 
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Colin the Bear

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Breathe in and hold it. While still holding, breathe in more and hold it. While holding breathe in again and then begin to play. Always play from there. Lungs are bigger than you think. ;)
 
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Stephen Howard

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As I've just bought the horn not too long ago and my business is struggling out of lockdown I'd rather not need to spend on it now; but do people have their saxophones typically serviced once a year etc. what is normal?

Once a year is the ideal. Over that period of time things will deteriorate very slightly - so you'll maybe lose around 5% of the horn's playability. You probably won't even notice that (at least until it's fixed..and then it might surprise you). Leave it another year and you're maybe pushing 10%. Still not enough to stop the horn, but you'll be compensating more.
Thereafter the losses increase slowly.

The biggest risk is that mechanical problems can develop - and this is usually down to lack of lubrication. Once wear sets in it tends to propagate - so keeping on top of it is a good way to preserve the accuracy of the action.
 
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JamesOxford

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Thank you Stephen, great advice.
How does one go about lubrication? Is there an article somewhere on that?
 
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JamesOxford

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Perfect, that's so useful.
Any further plans on trying to get the Haynes manual re-released perhaps with another publisher?

I would have loved one with the Haynes badge for nostalgia.
 
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JamesOxford

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That would be great.
Even though you are writing on technical matters, there's a real humanity in your writing style.
For example in oiling, the subtitle:
The Technique - how to do it and not make a mess.
Which is exactly what is going through our minds of course: 'How can I do this - and not make a mess?'
Your experience of hand-holding a lot of passionate amateurs through processes shines through. If you self publish I am sure it will become a standard text for the saxophone.
Thanks again.
 
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