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Beginner muffled notes

Hellybelly

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UK
I've been playing tenor sax (after a 20 year break) for about 6 months, and I'm struggling at the moment with D2 - G2 sounding kind of muffled, when compared to both lower and higher registers. I also find it really hard to slur from a lower note up to D2 without either being unable to get a sound at all, or getting squeaks instead of the actual note. I have to take a tiny breath first to hit it, which defeats the purpose of a slur! Recently, I've also had problems with G2 sounding a bit "warbly", although not all the time.

I don't know if this has always been the case, and it's just more obvious now I'm playing more challenging pieces and thinking about my tone and articulation more (rather that just being happy to hit the note and get the timing right) or something new.

Is it likely to be an embouchure thing? Something going on with my saxophone? Too hard/soft a reed?

I'm not having lessons at the moment, and it's difficult to figure out what I'm doing wrong. Any tips/ideas?
 

sdt99

Member
Messages
184
What Martin said - more generally has the sax been checked for leaks ? (Especially if it's the same sax from 20 yrs ago that sat in its case). Well worth making sure nothing is awry with the instrument before looking for problems elsewhere.
 

jbtsax

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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Look at the top of the sax where the small post extends past the body to move the ring from the neck octave. There should be about 1/16" clearance between the post and the ring.

Finger G A G A back and forth with the octave key pressed. You should see the neck octave pad and the body octave pad open and close interchangeably.

Finger G and hit the thumb key several times very hard and watch the neck octave pad. It should not raise or bounce when you do this.

If any of these tests fail, you should get your sax into a tech for adjustments.
 
OP
Hellybelly

Hellybelly

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36
Locality
UK
Thanks for the replies. Very helpful.

It's not been checked for leaks, and has just sat in its case for 20+ years.

Look at the top of the sax where the small post extends past the body to move the ring from the neck octave. There should be about 1/16" clearance between the post and the ring.

Finger G A G A back and forth with the octave key pressed. You should see the neck octave pad and the body octave pad open and close interchangeably.

Finger G and hit the thumb key several times very hard and watch the neck octave pad. It should not raise or bounce when you do this.

If any of these tests fail, you should get your sax into a tech for adjustments.
I've just done these tests (thanks for the very clear explanation), and it seems to pass. Is it worth getting it checked over anyway, or should I now think about what I might be doing to cause the problem?
 

Stephen Howard

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Get it checked over. There aren't many things you can stuff in a cupboard and expect to be working when you pull them out after a couple of decades...and you can't even be sure the thing was working properly when it was stashed.

Woodwind instruments are notorious 'sulkers'. They wear out when you use them, and they go out of whack when you don't. It's all down to the combination of man-made (the metals) and organic (the pads and corks) components. The metal is largely immutable, the organic stuff moves around like...well, like a thing that moves around a lot.
If, prior to stashing the horn, the horn had a complete repad by a repairer who set the pads with the utmost care and delicacy, you'd probably be OK...but how likely is that?

A general service will sort out all the niggles - and then you'll know that any squeaks and squawks are down to you...and not the horn.
 

Jazzaferri

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Victoria BC Canada
And the metal even moves around a tiny bit as the temperature changes....no wonder they are so fussy
 
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Hellybelly

Hellybelly

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Locality
UK
I'll get it checked then. I hadn't really thought about all the variables that go into making sure it's working properly. There are a couple of local places I could take it. I've just started playing in a wind band, so I'll ask my fellow sax players where they'd recommend.
 

jbtsax

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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Something you could do in the mean time is to work on your "input pitch". With just the mouthpiece and neck (crook) play long tones at your loudest level. Adjust your embouchure and oral cavity so that the note is E concert (F#2 on the tenor). Try to make the "tone producer" sound as big and beautiful as you can. After practicing this repeatedly, then put the sax together and play F#2 with the same feel with the air, embouchure pressure, and oral cavity. This will help to stabilize the tone production and help when transitioning from one note to another.
 
OP
Hellybelly

Hellybelly

Member
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36
Locality
UK
Thanks, I'll give that a go too.

I've just bought vol 1 of Taming The Saxophone, with the aim of improving my tone. All tips gratefully received!
 
OP
Hellybelly

Hellybelly

Member
Messages
36
Locality
UK
Patience, and plenty of time spent working on those long tones!

Plus, when I get a chance, I will get my sax checked over for leaks etc.
 
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