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Nerves getting the better of me?

smm5

New Member
Messages
2
I am a flute player really but have played tenor sax (self taught) for several years now. It seemed that I had a great tone and felt that I was doing really well but then I started squeaking on the high notes and it seemed as though air was escaping around the mouthpiece when I blew. Then, in the middle of my amateur orchestra's 'concert' (we play in old people's homes) my saxophone simply stopped making noise. I was blowing but no sound came out. I disappeared in to a back room and desperately tried various things but I could not get sound even with just the mouthpiece so I determined it was the strength of reed I was using (changing to a new reed of the same strength didn't help).

I have since changed to a harder reed and it has been playing fine in orchestra rehearsals but now I am practicing for another concert and find that sometimes the sound disappears again or it seems really hard to blow like there is some kind of blockage (there isn't). I am really not an expert on reed instruments and wonder if someone could tell me if this is likely to be nerves affecting my embouchure? How do I stop this happening again? I think that the more I worry about it happening the worse the instrument sounds. Help!:(
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Ouch. Hope that never happens to me.

Does the same happen with the flute?

Maybe you're tightening up and too tense on the reed. But I bet the others will have better ideas.

I take it the instrument plays OK now.
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
In my own experience when the sax becomes harder to play there is a leak, so I'd definitely have that checked first. The level of problem will vary depending on your skill level, reed choice, mouthpiece etc. When I've had problems in the past where suddenly my usual standard drops it has been a leak of some kind. If the upper notes are not coming out then it can be a duff reed, or the mouthpiece has too narrow a tip, you should try one with a bigger opening. What saxophone/mouthpiece/reed make and strength are you using? Certainly tensing up will only make matters worse. I'm no expert but based on my own experience I'd say it's a leak or a bad combination of sax/mouthpiece/reed.
 

SaxyMalcolm

Member
Messages
77
I am a flute player really but have played tenor sax (self taught) for several years now. It seemed that I had a great tone and felt that I was doing really well but then I started squeaking on the high notes and it seemed as though air was escaping around the mouthpiece when I blew. Then, in the middle of my amateur orchestra's 'concert' (we play in old people's homes) my saxophone simply stopped making noise. I was blowing but no sound came out. I disappeared in to a back room and desperately tried various things but I could not get sound even with just the mouthpiece so I determined it was the strength of reed I was using (changing to a new reed of the same strength didn't help).

I have since changed to a harder reed and it has been playing fine in orchestra rehearsals but now I am practicing for another concert and find that sometimes the sound disappears again or it seems really hard to blow like there is some kind of blockage (there isn't). I am really not an expert on reed instruments and wonder if someone could tell me if this is likely to be nerves affecting my embouchure? How do I stop this happening again? I think that the more I worry about it happening the worse the instrument sounds. Help!:(

Sounds to me that you may be choking the reed because you are becoming anxious and nervous. If you have a bottom lip over teeth embouchure and you start biting because you are tensing up it can be a problem as you can stop the reed vibrating, you need to relax as much as possible (I know easier said than done) Try and find a good sax tutor who should be able to sort you out.

Malcolm
 

Dominic

New Member
Messages
21
Smm5, This also happened to me. I have a Selmer c star s 80., I have discovered that the tip opening is too closed for me with a 3 or 2.5 reed. It was also very difficult for me to blow low c . It seems crazy that you can't blow a note,but that is what happened to me. I now am using my Otto link 5 star with a number 2 reed and my horn has been very responsive. So maybe a larger tip opening would help.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
smm5,

I live in Sheltered Housing and so qualify as a wrinkly as decrepit as your average audience.

1) They probably did not notice, only being aware occasionally and will clap anybody who comes to entertain.

2) Imagine the catheters and other ornate plumbing under their nether garments. If anyone should be nervous, it is the audience.

3) Go back and get them dancing in the aisles. Most would prefer to go out with a massive heart attack whilst enjoying themselves rather than linger on in gentility.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,046
In cases like this I feel it's vital to have the kit checked out.
You have to know that the horn is 100% - and the mouthpiece is of a certain quality.

What this does is put the responsibility for any squeaks and squawks firmly in your lap.
It might sound harsh, but this is incredibly helpful.
If it's the horn or the mouthpiece that's at fault then you're getting yourself worked up over something that isn't really your fault - but if you know the horn is working it will allow you to focus on what's really the problem.

It's said that a poor craftsman blames his tools - but in my experience a good craftsman does it far more often...and then does something about it.

Regards,
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
In cases like this I feel it's vital to have the kit checked out.
You have to know that the horn is 100% - and the mouthpiece is of a certain quality.

What this does is put the responsibility for any squeaks and squawks firmly in your lap.
It might sound harsh, but this is incredibly helpful.
If it's the horn or the mouthpiece that's at fault then you're getting yourself worked up over something that isn't really your fault - but if you know the horn is working it will allow you to focus on what's really the problem.

It's said that a poor craftsman blames his tools - but in my experience a good craftsman does it far more often...and then does something about it.

Regards,

Couldn't agree more, I was struggling for a couple of weeks at one point, Steve took a look and played the sax - it sang beautifully but he noticed a small leak, fixed it and I was back on form! The level of the player determines the results when there is a leak.
 

les3716

Member
Messages
181
Hi smm5, You say that in rehearsal you are playing fine - This would lead me to suspect that you are tightening up on the mouthpiece and stopping the reed vibrating - if that is the case, a good tutor will be able to help you correct this.
Les.
 

smm5

New Member
Messages
2
Thanks to everyone who has replied. All your comments are very useful. I am fairly sure that it is not a leak as it doesn't happen when I am practicing at home but I will definitely get this checked out if it continues to happen. I think it is likely that I am 'choking the reed' when I tense up. I think I have quite a tight embouchure as I also play flute and clarinet and changing to a 3 reed has improved my tone.

It is helpful to know that this does happen to others and I will work on relaxing my technique and calming my nerves.
 

Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,034
When you are playing keep asking yourself "am I relaxed? are my hands and arms relaxed? are my shoulders down and relaxed? I used to play for a band director who told us that some players get so tense they could use their shoulders as ear muffs. I don't think that playing the tenor with a tight embouchure is helping you either. Performance nerves were the bane of my life at one time as well.

Jim.
 

Greywolf

Member
Messages
59
Just a thought, but how much of the mouthpiece do you have in your mouth? Over the years I've discovered that basically I didn't have enough of the mouthpiece in my mouth and putting more in sorted out a few problems. If you only have a small amount of the m/pice in your mouth, then nerves/tension etc may make you tighten up to the point where you're not making any sound BUT you won't necessarily recognize what is happening. Try experimenting with this as well as other suggestions.
 
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