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Middle D is not having any of it!


Hi guys, all advice welcome

I've been back playing alto again after a hiatus of several years.

I've been using a friends old Elkhart Series 2 to get going again but I've been struggling. It has a few faults and after taking it to my local store to get it checked out by someone who knows what they're doing it only took 30 seconds for him to see it was in a bit of a state.

Anyway to ensure it wasn't me he said to try out a couple of altos for reference to see how I got on. The difference was night and day, i mean I can't play for toffee but the horns were crystal clear and so free blowing, every note was easy to play up and down the register. I tried a Yamaha YTS 280, Trevor James Horn Classic 2 and the Buffet 400, all played great.

Anyway long story short, I've been planning on buying a tenor as this is what I used to play and I am missing it somewhat but I didn't want to go into debt so decided to buy a used Trevor James Horn classic 2 alto from the shop to tide me over in the meantime while I save for a nice tenor, which I picked up today.

I played the horn yesterday in store with no issues, the guy in the store played it properly too and all was well. I got home today and set it up for a blow and for some reason every time I play middle D and sometimes the low D i just get a screech unless I really work hard that is, even then the sound is dull and forced. Every other note from middle E up and middle D flat down blows really freely with a nice tone (for me anyway) but the D feels like hard work and when I do get the note it sounds forced and laboured.

I can get the note sometimes working up or down to it but almost not at all if I try and play the D directly.

I've tried playing the old horns D to test my embrouchure, and it is working fine, I've tried 2 mouthpieces and 6 different reeds, every time the same result, screeching.

Is it possible that it's a fault somehow that has developed since yesterday or could it be my embrouchure, I've never had this problem before so I'm confused. Plus I don't want to go back to the shop again if I don't need to, I've been there every day this week sorting out my old sax and buying my new one, I'm turning into a nightmare customer.

p.s. the guys in the shop are great and extremely knowledgeable and I'm sure that, if it does turn out to be a little fault, they didn't know about it or willingly sell me something faulty.

Thanks in advance for the help and advice guys
Are the notes below bottom D ok?
Is there something stuck in the bore?
If there's nothing hiding inside. Open and close all the pads that are normally closed. Eb, F trill, side and palm keys including High F# if it has one. Check the body octave and neck octave are switching A2 G2. Check G# and C# are working.

It may have rattled in the case and something has moved.
Checked as best as I can, no apparent blockages, used a pull through a couple of times, opened and closed every pad. Neck and body octaves are switching as they should. G# and C# working perfectly. Played a couple of D's after all that and they are still hit and miss.

So confused, it makes it harder when you aren't a capable player as you can't tell if it's yourself or a fault with the horn.
Funnily enough, I had a similar problem a couple of days ago (with low D and E). I took my sax along to my local repair store and there were no obvious leaks. Then the lady tested a key combination which isn't in the normal range and discovered that the 'A key(s)' didn't give the right response when playing low D/E. She tweaked the sax and within 2 minutes it was playing fine again (at no charge). My tip: have you sax checked out by someone whose been trained to diagnose problems.
Finger the note G and hit the thumb octave key repeatedly while watching the neck octave key. It should not move or bounce at all. Now press the thumb octave key really hard and see if the neck octave key raises just a bit. If either of those happen, your problem is with the octave key adjustment.
I've been having a play about, i just tried fingering the D and its still happening but I also tried the middle C with the octave key and this too is proving hard to play, although every other key appears to be fine.

I'm going to contact the shop when they open
But what do you mean by middle C with octave key?

If this is lh 3 fingers down, plus rh 4 fingers down, plus octave key, that isn't a stable note on most saxes and should be played as lh middle finger only, no octave key. I.e. Not a fault.
Please let us know what the problem turns out to be, I feel that Ive just missed the end to a good film...
kevgermany, it is LH 3 fingers down and RH 4 fingers down, i don't use this fingering for C, i was just trying different fingerings to see if the fault was happening elsewhere, thanks for the tip though.

I've contacted the shop and they were very good, they just said pop in and they'll take a look, something could have moved.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Thanks for all the advice guys
I've been practicing on and off all day, it doesn't seem to be happening as much now. Is it possible that the D on the old horn was so badly out of whack that I completely changed my embrouchure to accomodate that note? And now I'm on a properly set up horn muscle memory is causing the issue!

I mean, it still feels stifled and every now and then it just goes completely out but massive improvement since this morning.

Or am I just over compensating to mask the issue
You'll find out when you take it in, but problem with that D alone is usually the sax. G# not sealing properly, or something close. Or, like Jbtsax said, the octave adjustment.
Saxophone is very easy to play. If it's hard , something is wrong.
Yeah, D2 shouldn't be hard to play. Now I could see the very top or bottom of the horn. When I started out I would pop a D2 from D1 without the octave key from a too tight embrouchure or over blowing.
Thanks guys, I'm still gonna take it in, I've never once had an issue like this so can't help thinking it's the sax.

I'm still getting my embrouchure back, which, since I was using a very beat up old horn, has maybe caused a few issues with my embrouchure, i do still suffer from the odd bit of tight embrouchure and on occasion overflowing but this issue is different. Saying that, i played the 3 new altos the other day for a good 10 minutes each and the horn i bought for 5 minutes or so the other day too and never had the issue once. It literally started as soon as I got it out at home.

It's a good idea to try another horn, they have another one of this model out on display which would make a great comparison.

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