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Make sure to use the octave key with overtones!

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hello there....
i donot believe that...overtones were never meant to be easy...thats the practice....
but i could be swayed....,as i try to learn,but i still not a believer.....
cheers,philip
 
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153
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Philadelphia, PA
I'd just like to add that just half a hear ago this was my exact sentiment, that overtones should be played without the octave key. But after experimenting with the octave key and hearing and feeling immediate improvement, and then seeing how my playing is more consistent over the long run, I've completely changed my mind. I've had a couple of high level sax players try it out, and they found the same thing. I also have a student that regularly practices overtones, and since I had them begin to use the octave key, there sound and control has become more consistent. Anyways, thats all to say, it's definitely worth a try.
 

jbtsax

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As a student of saxophone acoustics, I would like to know why overtones played with the help of the octave key give the sensation of having less resistance and make them easier to play. Studies by Gary Scavone and Joe Wolf have shown that shaping the oral cavity to the resonance frequency slightly above the desired overtone or harmonic allows the player to "override" the resonance of the instrument and sound the desired frequency. In their vernacular the resonant chamber "upstream" takes over from the resonant chamber "downstream" and determines the frequency of the reed's vibration.

The role of the octave vent is to weaken the fundamental in such a way as to allow the first overtone to "take over" what Benade calls the "regime of oscillation" which includes the sounding frequency and all of its harmonics. Perhaps by weakening the fundamental it facilitates bringing out each of the higher partials since there is less competition for control of the soundwave.
 

kevgermany

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I guess in learning overtones the idea is to get control without the octave key. But if adding it improves the tone, why not? Good tip imho.
 
Messages
167
Locality
australia
I'd just like to add that just half a hear ago this was my exact sentiment, that overtones should be played without the octave key. But after experimenting with the octave key and hearing and feeling immediate improvement, and then seeing how my playing is more consistent over the long run, I've completely changed my mind. I've had a couple of high level sax players try it out, and they found the same thing. I also have a student that regularly practices overtones, and since I had them begin to use the octave key, there sound and control has become more consistent. Anyways, thats all to say, it's definitely worth a try.
thanks...i definitely will ...
thanks,philip
 

altissimo

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I just tried it and didn't notice any difference, but resistance and back pressure aren't much of an issue for me nor do my dubious methods fall within what's commonly considered "acceptable"
 
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153
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Philadelphia, PA
I just tried it and didn't notice any difference, but resistance and back pressure aren't much of an issue for me nor do my dubious methods fall within what's commonly considered "acceptable"

If you're not very aware of the amount of back pressure (EDIT: as it has been pointed out, back pressure isn't the correct term, but instead resistance is a more appropriate term), then you very well could miss out on that benefit. Have you noticed overtone practice's general effect of promoting better sound (even in a single practice session)?
 
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jbtsax

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Unlike a brass instrument, the saxophone is a wide conical tube with holes in the side. The concept of having what brass players call "back pressure" in a saxophone is unclear to me. When one blows a stream of air into a trumpet leadpipe one feels the air being held back or "resistance". This is its "back pressure" and is related to the taper and diameter of the bore. Blowing into the neck of a saxophone, with or without any pads closed produces no resistance at all by comparison.

On a saxophone, the "resistance" the player blows against is created by the slit between the mouthpiece and the tip of the reed as the reed "beats" against the mouthpiece opening and closing the pathway for the air. This resistance is determined by the geometry of the mouthpiece and the strength and cut of the reed as well as the player's embouchure. There is no "back pressure" inside the instrument that is holding the player's air back, it is meeting resistance at the entrance of the instrument.

There is however an effect in the saxophone that is called the "response" of the instrument. On a saxophone that is poorly designed and the harmonics are slightly out of tune, the coupling between the vibrations of the reed and the natural resonances inside the body of the instrument are not as efficient, producing an instrument that feels "stuffy" to the player. A "stuffy" instrument requires more energy input from the player to produce a sound than a "responsive" instrument to produce the identical sound.

We all have experienced that D is a "stuffy" note compared to the short tube notes on the saxophone and requires more air and breath support (pressurized air) to match the timbre of surrounding notes. This "stuffy" quality is not the result of the body tube pushing back against the air blown into the instrument as on a trumpet. Instead it is caused by the fact that D uses a longer tube that goes around a "U" bend in the body, and the fact that D is a poorly vented note. It is a poorly vented note because the tonehole that vents the D, the low C, is followed by a closed tonehole the low C#.

I think that this is more than just semantics because it involves the basic concepts and principals of how instruments work.
 

lennieh

I know nothing...
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44
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Epsom
That's interesting about the stuffy D, I found it most off-putting when I first started playing, It was only when I found my teacher and he let me know it wasn't just me, that I found out it was a feature of the instrument.

So what I wonder, in all innocence, has anyone ever made a serious attempt to re-design the instrument so that the D sounds as open as the C#?
 
Messages
153
Locality
Philadelphia, PA
Unlike a brass instrument, the saxophone is a wide conical tube with holes in the side. The concept of having what brass players call "back pressure" in a saxophone is unclear to me. When one blows a stream of air into a trumpet leadpipe one feels the air being held back or "resistance". This is its "back pressure" and is related to the taper and diameter of the bore. Blowing into the neck of a saxophone, with or without any pads closed produces no resistance at all by comparison.

On a saxophone, the "resistance" the player blows against is created by the slit between the mouthpiece and the tip of the reed as the reed "beats" against the mouthpiece opening and closing the pathway for the air. This resistance is determined by the geometry of the mouthpiece and the strength and cut of the reed as well as the player's embouchure. There is no "back pressure" inside the instrument that is holding the player's air back, it is meeting resistance at the entrance of the instrument.

There is however an effect in the saxophone that is called the "response" of the instrument. On a saxophone that is poorly designed and the harmonics are slightly out of tune, the coupling between the vibrations of the reed and the natural resonances inside the body of the instrument are not as efficient, producing an instrument that feels "stuffy" to the player. A "stuffy" instrument requires more energy input from the player to produce a sound than a "responsive" instrument to produce the identical sound.

We all have experienced that D is a "stuffy" note compared to the short tube notes on the saxophone and requires more air and breath support (pressurized air) to match the timbre of surrounding notes. This "stuffy" quality is not the result of the body tube pushing back against the air blown into the instrument as on a trumpet. Instead it is caused by the fact that D uses a longer tube that goes around a "U" bend in the body, and the fact that D is a poorly vented note. It is a poorly vented note because the tonehole that vents the D, the low C, is followed by a closed tonehole the low C#.

I think that this is more than just semantics because it involves the basic concepts and principals of how instruments work.

Those are all good points. I would agree that the resistance I'm talking about is generally created by the embouchure. Air speed and direction are the fundamentals to a responsive sound. What we are doing with overtones is improving our vocal tract focus or in other words, our voicing, which allows our embouchure to relax in some aspects. Proper voicing and breathing provide a fast air stream which relieves some need for embouchure pressure. I'm sure having your oral cavity tuned appropriately also benefits your playing. All of this works together to improve the response of the reed, which leads to all the benefits we have been talking about.
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,872
Unlike a brass instrument, the saxophone is a wide conical tube with holes in the side. The concept of having what brass players call "back pressure" in a saxophone is unclear to me. When one blows a stream of air into a trumpet leadpipe one feels the air being held back or "resistance". This is its "back pressure" and is related to the taper and diameter of the bore. Blowing into the neck of a saxophone, with or without any pads closed produces no resistance at all by comparison.

On a saxophone, the "resistance" the player blows against is created by the slit between the mouthpiece and the tip of the reed as the reed "beats" against the mouthpiece opening and closing the pathway for the air. This resistance is determined by the geometry of the mouthpiece and the strength and cut of the reed as well as the player's embouchure. There is no "back pressure" inside the instrument that is holding the player's air back, it is meeting resistance at the entrance of the instrument.

There is however an effect in the saxophone that is called the "response" of the instrument. On a saxophone that is poorly designed and the harmonics are slightly out of tune, the coupling between the vibrations of the reed and the natural resonances inside the body of the instrument are not as efficient, producing an instrument that feels "stuffy" to the player. A "stuffy" instrument requires more energy input from the player to produce a sound than a "responsive" instrument to produce the identical sound.

We all have experienced that D is a "stuffy" note compared to the short tube notes on the saxophone and requires more air and breath support (pressurized air) to match the timbre of surrounding notes. This "stuffy" quality is not the result of the body tube pushing back against the air blown into the instrument as on a trumpet. Instead it is caused by the fact that D uses a longer tube that goes around a "U" bend in the body, and the fact that D is a poorly vented note. It is a poorly vented note because the tonehole that vents the D, the low C, is followed by a closed tonehole the low C#.

I think that this is more than just semantics because it involves the basic concepts and principals of how instruments work.

Very interesting JBT. Does that mean a shorter curve in the mouthpiece will give more resistance or back pressure ?
Thanks
 

altissimo

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3,349
Locality
leicester
If you're not very aware of the amount of back pressure, then you very well could miss out on that benefit. Have you noticed overtone practice's general effect of promoting better sound (even in a single practice session)?
I'm using a soft synthetic reed on a Lawton 8*BB on a Martin Indiana - I hardly feel any back pressure, so detecting minute changes in it would be difficult..
Has overtone practice promoted a better sound? Difficult to isolate that one factor from all the other things I've done that may have improved my tone over the years. I've practiced overtones and multiphonics in order to expand my sonic vocabulary, so I wasn't doing it for a better sound, although it did my embouchure a lot of good.
I've not noticed my sound improving over the course of a single practice session, beyond the first minute or two of warming up. Change has been more gradual. Listening back to old recordings, I'd say that my tone's got a bit fatter, mainly due to opening my throat more and using more air support as well as learning to shape my oral cavity to help the resonance of the notes, which is something I would've done irrespective of any overtone practice
 
Messages
153
Locality
Philadelphia, PA
In some ways I am talking about a kind of warm up of technique. In my experience overtones (and multiphonics to some degree) help you get to a higher level than your typical warm up, and those are the exact benefits I'm asking if you've noticed over the course of one practice session.
 

jbtsax

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That's interesting about the stuffy D, I found it most off-putting when I first started playing, It was only when I found my teacher and he let me know it wasn't just me, that I found out it was a feature of the instrument.

So what I wonder, in all innocence, has anyone ever made a serious attempt to re-design the instrument so that the D sounds as open as the C#?
It would be impossible to make the D and the open C# sound alike since the C# is the last note of the first register using a short tube, and the D is the first note of the second register using a much longer tube. In some classical pieces it is helpful to play the "long C#" with the octave key in order to match the timbre of the D in a slow lyrical phrase. There was an effort by Holton to design a sax with the low C# key always open unless a low C, B, or Bb were played. Fortunately, it never caught on since it was a very poor design. I have one called the Rudy Wiedoeft model that is in line for a restoration when I have the time.
 

Jamesmac

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Messages
1,872
That's interesting about the stuffy D, I found it most off-putting when I first started playing, It was only when I found my teacher and he let me know it wasn't just me, that I found out it was a feature of the instrument.

So what I wonder, in all innocence, has anyone ever made a serious attempt to re-design the instrument so that the D sounds as open as the C#?

I don't think you should be concerned too much re. The C#/D on the Sax. In fact it's a good guide as to how your progress is coming along. It is a characteristic of the instrument and the better you control it the less you will be worried about it. Like string players who need to at times play an open string next to a stopped fingering. No acoustic instrument is perfect, it's up to the player to utilise what may seem like a design fault and use it to his advantage.
That's why arrangers or composers choose the key for a particular instrument carefully.
I don't agree with the practice of using the octave key with the low C# fingering, even, and in particular Classical Music. It's a Sax and it should sound like a sax in any music. When you feel you need to use that fingering, think about extending your practice times.
 

jbtsax

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The low C# fingering with the octave key to play C#2 on the saxophone is a legitimate alternate fingering for that note. It can be used to raise the pitch of the open C# which is generally flat in certain harmonic situations, or to better match the timbre of the much darker sounding D in certain phrases. It is no different than using the next to top side key with A on clarinet for a better sounding Bb, or putting fingers down on the A to add to the note's resonance and help the pitch, or opening the Eb key on certain notes to change the timbre. All of those "alternate" fingerings sound like a clarinet, don't they?
 

Jamesmac

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1,872
The low C# fingering with the octave key to play C#2 on the saxophone is a legitimate alternate fingering for that note. It can be used to raise the pitch of the open C# which is generally flat in certain harmonic situations, or to better match the timbre of the much darker sounding D in certain phrases. It is no different than using the next to top side key with A on clarinet for a better sounding Bb, or putting fingers down on the A to add to the note's resonance and help the pitch, or opening the Eb key on certain notes to change the timbre. All of those "alternate" fingerings sound like a clarinet, don't they?

Totally disagree if the C# is flat it's not the instruments fault. mea culpa mea culpa.
There is a C# to D turn in the Slow movt of the Marchello Oboe Concerto. Transcribed for Sop. Very easy to substitute the alternate fingering. But if you are in practice, the open C# is much more expressive. As far as Clarinet is concerned. If you want to sound like a synth. By all means use all the alternate fingerings,
 

jbtsax

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I think you just like to argue. :) My master's degree is in music education with emphasis on saxophone pedagogy and performance so I do know a thing or two about the instrument. It is a waste of my time to debate what I know to be facts, so with that I will excuse myself from this discussion/argument.
 

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