PPT mouthpieces

Beginner Not able to get the high E and F, F#


I have a Jean Baptist Alto JB185.

I use a Legere #2 reed and a Yamaha 4c mouthpiece on the alto.

I started in Feburary of this year (2011), about nine months ago.

I can play from the low Bb to the high Db, I just can't seem to get the proper sound, or for that matter any horn like sound, for the high E, F and F#.

It took awhile to get the low C, C#, B and Bb to sound good. I had no problems with all the other notes.

My questions are;

If it is a horn problem, what should I look for? The closest Tech is about an hour and a half away, so I'm not anxious to go there.

If it is an embrochure problem, any ideas on how to improve the embrochure?

Is it just a matter of not sufficient experience yet, will it come with more time?

Would a different strength reed help or a different mp help or both?


George F
I'm no expert, but would make the following observations - is there another sax player locally who could play your sax to check that these notes are sounding OK?

I had problems initially with these and started by playing slurred up from the E with the thumb octave key, that way your embouchure is already tight enogh to hit the top notes (I am assuming you mean those notes that use the palm keys).

It could just be a case of experience, and assuming the sax is OK, a matter of practice, practice, practice!
Agree with the above, and you know nine months ain't that long, i think it took me way longer than that to be able to get up there happily.

For now concentrate on your long tones and producing a sound YOU want to hear, and the rest will come....somewhat unexpextadly...in my case i remember trying and trying and trying to get an altisimo G for a song i was working on at the time...to the point of despair, then guess what? i tried one day and got the G + every other altisimo note as well!!
Thanks for all the answers.

Yes, it is the third Palm key and the F# key.

I tried slurring into the E and sometimes get a weak E sound. Have not been able to get the F or F# by slurring.

And yes, I was having trouble with the low C, C#, B, and Bb, then one day I started to practice and they were all there sounding pretty good and have stayed with me.

I'll try to get someone to try my Sax. Not too many around here that play any instruments.

My wife plays second violin in the Hernando County Symphony Orchestra, here in Florida, but none of them live close by. The're currently playing there Christmas season sessions. I'll ask one of the Sax players on there next practice session after the playing season is over.

Hopefully, I'll start a practice session one day soon and the sounds will suddenly come from the horn.

Thanks again,

George F
In my teaching I have found the following formula for good tone production helpful.


The Yamaha 4C is a good beginning student mouthpiece. If you have played 11 months you are ready to move up to a 2 1/2 reed which will help the high tones. Soft reeds make the lower notes easier to play. Stiff reeds make the highest notes easier to play with a good sound. The trick is to find that balance in between in a reed that responds well down low, and still has a good sound up on the higher tones.

To check the embouchure, first make sure the mouthpiece goes straight into the mouth and then play the mouthpiece and neck apart from the saxophone. The pitch on the alto sax mouthpiece and neck should be an Ab concert. If it is lower than that the embouchure needs to be tighter. If it is higher than that, the embouchure should be relaxed a bit. This excellent article by Bruce Pearson describes where to put the top teeth on the mouthpiece which is also an important part of the embouchure.

The best way to conceptualize the proper air stream to play the higher notes on the saxophone is to think of an "air whistle". One of my teachers called it "playing on the airstream". Very simply the air you blow makes the pitch note before it reaches the sax mouthpiece. The way to practice this is to hear or sing the pitch of the note you are trying to play, then blow that pitch on your airstream. It is like any airy sounding whistle. Then you play that note using that same airstream.

Generally speaking, just like whistling, as the notes go higher the air goes faster and faster. I tell my students to think fast cold air for the higher tones, and slower warm air for the lower tones. Remember the embouchure does not change significantly from the low register to the high, but the airstream and shape of the throat do.
I have played for 12 years, and when i havent played for a while and my mouth gets weaker, the high notes and low notes become harder to play. Try moving up at a moderate pace chromatically to the high f#. Your mouth needs to get used to the pressure changes when playing higher notes. I couldnt get those notes out consistently for about 2 years. I have really thick lips so it takes a lot of mouth tension to blow high.
Thanks all,

I started to practice on a Soprano for a half hour before practicing on the Alto for an hour.

This seems to have strengthened the embrochure for the Alto. I am now getting high E to sound. Still no high F or F#. The low Bb,C, and C# are coming much easier too.

I just bought a cheap E. K. Elkhart Trumpet $26.00 US from a Pawn shop via Ebay. Waiting to receive it. Just a curoisity, I had to satisfy.

Blimey! All of them? :shocked:
OK, time to eat a bit more humble pie, when i said all of them what i meant was from altisimo G up to altisimo F (or F# on a good day) what i need now is to be able to play a full octave higher, i know it can be done as i've listened to Earl Bostic do it but cant find any charts/finger patterns to do it, can anyone help? thanks.
For what it's worth, I never managed to get anything other than a warbling sound out of my low C until I bought a decent mouthpiece. My two old MP's, standard and Yam 4C, wouldn't do the job but my Otto Link and Jodi Jazz work fine.

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