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Low notes and how to do it

jeremyjuicewah

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I am still at it and here are two things have pushed me well along this week. Still on Sick and Tired as we play it quick and low. I do not think anything will make you a complete master of those low notes unless you have put in the hours, and followed the advice that has been forthcoming from the more experienced and knowledgeable players on this site. I have put in literally dozens and dozens of hours on those pinky notes down there. Then, in the week, I remembered the corks down the bell trick. It didnt really do anything for me ages ago when I first tried it, but I had not put the basic work in. Now I have and there was a very noticeable difference in the reliability of the low B and Bb when playing them quickly. Also, my Legere Studio arrived today. With this reed I can play the quick low riffs and even do a swift double tap on the low B. Absolutely not possible before. I am astonished at how smooth and easy this reed is. I bought a 2.25. It makes the low notes quite easy but its a little weedy higher up, but I need to manage the tone there. However, I am going to order the next hardest one just to see how it plays.
The other thing that is very definate, not wishfull thinking and no question whatsoever, it has stopped the horror squeaking that I have had with my PPT. The PPT makes just the sound I want, but it has been so hard for me to control. The only way I could manage it in the past was to use a stronger reed than usual, up to V12 3.5 which leaves me unable to play much below low D.

So all in all a good week, lots of hard work and concentration gone in as I had realised that I had started playing around with the sax instead of practicing. So a week of long notes, hard work, fantastic and uplifting results. If you get a chance to try a Legere, give it a go.

Oh, and I set fire to my foot last Monday. Fantacka!
Mike
 

stuartcotois

New Member
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6
The difficulty of playing low notes has exercised me for years. I started sax on alto (54 years ago) and couldn't play below bottom D on that instrument. Likewise on a subsequent tenor, and another alto. Then I had a spell playing a Selmer Mark VI baritone (not mine). No problem getting down to Bb. I was playing in a concert band, where the bari is often doing bass duties, so the low notes are a must. Then my Walstein tenor, low notes possible. but rather foghorn-like. Last week bought a Bauhaus alto: can play down to Bb without any problem at all (except lack of familiarity with fingering). So maybe it's just down to the quality of the instrument ? (All the time I thought it was me.)
 

jeremyjuicewah

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Oh, its definately been me. Getting on pretty well now, sub toning away like the busker I heard in Valencia who never seemed to go above low D and whispered away sweet as anything. He is the one who started me on this.
Mike
 

Colin the Bear

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It's also down to the right reed in the right position and condition, the mouthpiece in the right position on the crook and good regulation of the saxophone.
 

Jazzaferri

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Any instrument with even the slightest leak, can be difficult. A few years ago, I went down a rabbit hole thinking I needed to practice low tones even mare than I was putting in as it seemed like I had to consciously work to get my sound down low.

My enlightenment came when I took my horn in to have the neck reswaged as it was getting a bit loose and lo and behold, my wonderful tech said, there is a tiny leak on the C# bell key and after a little tweak my sound down low returned to being effortless.
 

jeremyjuicewah

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Very conscious of all that can hinder in this area, but when the low notes have never been there, you have to have a look at yourself too. It has taken me ages. For the possilbility of leaky keys, an led on a bit of wire will show it up but to eliminate the possiblity of a teeny weeny leak a little extra pressure could make sure of it. Not original thinking, I read it somewhere and if things are not going right in practice, thats what I try first.
 

Colin the Bear

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Squeezing harder won't help with some leaks. G# and C#, side and palm keys etc. Low notes on a good set up shouldn't be a problem.
 

jeremyjuicewah

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Squeezing harder won't help with some leaks. G# and C#, side and palm keys etc. Low notes on a good set up shouldn't be a problem

It shouldnt. But it has been for me, set up or not set up. I have all the saxes checked fairly regularly, and believe me, it still takes a lot of learning and practice. Have a new post now, High notes and how to get them. Have a look and all comments welcome.
 

jeremyjuicewah

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My enlightenment came when I took my horn in to have the neck reswaged as it was getting a bit loose and lo and behold, my wonderful tech said, there is a tiny leak on the C# bell key and after a little tweak my sound down low returned to being effortless.

Squeezing harder won't help with some leaks. G# and C#, side and palm keys etc. Low notes on a good set up shouldn't be a problem.

Cancelled appt this morning so have stolen an extra half hour to spend on my long notes, low and high. Favourite by far of these is low notes. I can now sub tone pretty well in this area, can almost always play a soft and pleasing note without a four hour intro while the breath creeps up on the tone hole, and can blast all these pinky notes at moments notice. I spend a lot of time on this now because it pleases me and the improvement is a fullfilling thing. But the one that will still catch me out is the low B. Bb easy peasy, C and sharp, piece of micturant. But the low B is a blinking thing. When I pick up the tenor stone cold it only motorboats and gargles. Later its unreliable. At the end of a session its mostly ok, just lurking to catch me out though.Is the metal warming or am I hitting my stride? I had this tenor checked over at the beginning of Aug. Checked the deep end with a lead light last night. This morning I fixed the B hole shut with a clamp. I am just not sure if this made any difference. I will have to get another tenor or two out tonight and try again. But is this a devil note? If so why ? Why not Bb? Why not someone elses B or Bb? Why mine?

I usually blame myself first and the horn second, and I am aware of leaks and how they make life hard, but this note is a pig and half. I can get it, get it first time. Then not get it. Just this one. Whats that all about then.

I keep on, I am getting better all the time. Its only a few years ago now that I used to take my tenor out with me and stop up a mountain and try these low notes and get so frustrated at the frippin awful noise I was making that I thought the snakes and goats were laughing at me. Prolly were. At least I dont have to do that anymore.

All the best
Mike
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
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I find the same on the tenor, Bb, C, C#, are there, B always wants coaxing or sneaking up on.
 

Vlad

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A trick I discovered as a kid was to play with the tongue kind of resting on the reed in a kind of muffling manner, this I fancied gave me a cool Ben Webster tone and usefully allows one to get the low notes on even a wrecked old leaky saxophone, like they all were in my world..probably not technically kosher but, hey..
 

jeremyjuicewah

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I find the same on the tenor, Bb, C, C#, are there, B always wants coaxing or sneaking up on.

A trick I discovered as a kid was to play with the tongue kind of resting on the reed in a kind of muffling manner, this I fancied gave me a cool Ben Webster tone and usefully allows one to get the low notes on even a wrecked old leaky saxophone, like they all were in my world..probably not technically kosher but, hey.

Well I agree with Targa, Vlads solution is weird, buy maybe worth a try

I tried three tenors this evening. I found them all guilty and hung all three when they started in on that Jingle Bells bull****. No, no really, thank you I am here all week. All three were the same on the low B, same on the other better behaved notes. The mighty Weltklang, the ponderous Corton, the edgy Noblet, all the same. Tried out some other mouthpieces too. All worse result than the PPT I use normally.

So its practice again. Its ok, its quite fun.

Bye all.
 

saxyjt

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I hear you load and clear, unlike my low notes! :w00t:

I was so ashamed at our Jazz workshop the other day. The mouthpiece/reed I picked for the occasion probably didn't help as we started to play Nat Adderley's Work Song and I couldn't hit the low D in any consistent way. :oops:
But it was mostly me.

I kept trying the last few days and although I can see some improvements at times, I'm very far from where I'd like to be. Then again, lack of practice of those notes and long tones. I now have Pete's book and trying to apply myself to long notes, but it takes time.
 

jeremyjuicewah

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Tonight I tried the PPT with a few different reeds. I have a check up change of setup now and then cos I dont really have a proven set up at the mo. So I tried three or four different reeds. Before I have always found a weaker reed better at the bottom end, but after a couple of months with a Legere Sig. 2.25 and sometimes a 2.75 I found that the stronger reeds gave better results. I will stick with what I am using for now, but the difference that mpc and reeds make is so great that I think its worth checking every now and then that what you are using is still the best for you.

Then again, lack of practice of those notes and long tones. I now have Pete's book and trying to apply myself to long notes, but it takes time
For me, the long notes have become an enjoyable part of my practice whereas they were a chore. I like to subtone the low notes, pop them out, sustain a nice strong note and navigate my way around the pinky cluster quickly and accurately. Neglected this part of the sax so badly when I was a newbie, very stupid of me. Catch up is years long.

Nemmind. I get better pretty well every day now. Probably what keeps me going.
Cheers
Mike
 

saxyjt

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I've been struggling more that I should have with low notes and I found out it was, partly at least, due to leaks. I couldn't see them as my leak lights were broken. One I purchased a few years ago from Musicmedic, but didn't last very long and the other I made myself a few moths ago, but it was an experiment and not a very successful one. It did work but didn't last either. I made it with a string of led lights that I managed to squeeze into a clear plastic tube that was flexible but the flexibility didn't get along very well with the led band that broke in places, so back to the drawing board!

The second iteration using the same led lights is now taped at regular intervals to a rigid stick and it is actually just what I really need. Trying to be clever didn't prove that useful... And now I can really spot the loonies in my horns and there were a few that caused several issues.

Leak lights are really, really good to have. I'll probably make another one just to be sure I always have one ready. I'll probably make a mini leak light (about 2 inches long), that can be dropped anywhere, including in a bari through the bell, with a long enough cable to travel up and down the tube.

I can already picture myself doing some interesting dances holding my bari upside down (or should it be downside up) and closing the keys to try and spot the leaks... o_O

But here I go again, being distracted from playing the horn and doing some silly DIY things instead! :oops:
 

jeremyjuicewah

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I made a good lead light a few years ago. A string of leds with a bolt tied to the end and I just drop them down the bell. It works pretty well. Sadly, I am sound on the leak front, no one to blame buy myself.
 

saxyjt

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I think I'm going to be lazy and just buy this. Also in Spain, for you mike, here. ;)

Looks ideal to me attached to a piece of string and down the tube.
 

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