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Playing cleanly dropping from high to low notes

photoman

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I'm practising "The Shadow of Your Smile" in C major. Given that I'm only 3 months into playing anything on the sax I'm fairly pleased with my efforts and it almost sounds like a tune!

I've noticed that when I play from a high note to a low note in some tunes, I don't play the low note as cleanly as I might do if, say, coming up to it from below or even only two or three tones above.

In this tune, there is a middle E at the end of four quavers (sha-dow-of-your) that goes to a low F# dotted minim (smile). I'm finding that there is almost a crotchet gap before I can get the F# out, and then it's not as "clean" as the phrase before it (in the sense that it it might be louder or somehow "rougher").

I am generally getting better control over my breath so that I'm playing much quieter overall, and sustaining the quieter notes longer. But, I'm just wondering if there is a technique to playing notes cleanly when dropping 5 or 6 tones or is it just about more breath control?

Thanks, as always, for any tips.
 
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Colin the Bear

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Try playing the interval on its own till you've got it. You need to know in advance where you're going to land with big jumps. There's a subtle difference in toungue and throat position. If you can't get it yet try coming down the arpeggio of the chord or running at it in semitones

Practice scales arpeggios and octave, fifth and fourth jumps.
 

jbtsax

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Play the low "target" note as a long tone. Adjust the air, throat, tongue position, and embouchure to get a big, full, resonant sound. Then mentally and physically continue to play that low note while fingering the upper note in the passage. Next quickly and smoothly change the fingers to match the low note that you are playing mentally. It should drop back down quickly and smoothly. Another way to describe this is to play the upper note with the "taste" of the low note in your embouchure.
 

photoman

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Thank you Colin and JBT for the words of wisdom.

I did actually start practising only the interval, but I'll also take on Colin's suggestions for playing arpeggio's and semi-tones, (which may perhaps also help with improvising, or am off track here?)

Having had a psychology teaching background, before becoming a photographer, JBT's suggestions also really appeal to me and I can see that a lot of the skills here are mental as well as practical.

Thanks Guys! :thumb:
 

Colin the Bear

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It's only mental as far as muscle memory goes. With practice the fingers and mouth know where to go without the conscious interference of the thinking part of the process. Imagining the note helps to bring the whole thing together.

Try playing it a little stocatto. Stop blowing and tongue the lower note.
 

muzza

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Another exercise, I was shown to help when jumping octaves, was to practise playing a note and slurring up an octave then down to original note. i.e. low D->middle D->low D. You will probably find initially the note does not drop quickly, staying middle d, even after octave key released. You need as jbtsax said you need to keep the low d in mind and stay relaxed.
 

photoman

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Another exercise, I was shown to help when jumping octaves, was to practise playing a note and slurring up an octave then down to original note. i.e. low D->middle D->low D. You will probably find initially the note does not drop quickly, staying middle d, even after octave key released. You need as jbtsax said you need to keep the low d in mind and stay relaxed.

Nice one...thank you!
 

Jane M L

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I'm new like you - only 6 months in. I find that playing the overtones without the octave key really helps to get the octave jumps sounding fluent - as with low D to middle D to middle B. And make up various excercises on these lines- it really helps build confidence and finger agilities . Also I find that visualising the note in the mouth, ie before it is sounded thru the mouthpiece, is pretty well imperative.For instance, I visualise the beginning of a yawn, back in the throat, when playong those big low notes.
 

photoman

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I've just had a solid 45 minutes practice trying out the various ideas in the thread and they are all helping, thank you.

The real puzzler with is that JBT's method of playing the "target" note (F#) as a long tone and then moving the fingers to play the upper note and then down again I still get a slight pause or tiny squeak as I play the F#.

But I've also tried this from middle E to low E, low Eb, Low D and even low C and they have all been clean, several times over and feel much easier to blow than the F#. I wondered if it might by the sax (BW bronze alto AI) but I tried it on the TS-Y too and I get the same clean change on most intervals other than the E to F#.

As Toyah would say: "It's a mystery".
 

jbtsax

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Since you seem to have been obsessing over this for a while, sometimes it helps to put it away for a while and pick it up again when you are fresh. Blowing into the lower note might help as well. You might try playing the upper note as a harmonic without the octave key to see what happens. A sluggish octave mechanism is also a possibility, but it would show up on the other notes as well. A squeak would indicate that perhaps you are making some kind of embouchure change as you go from one register to the next.
 

photoman

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Since you seem to have been obsessing over this for a while, sometimes it helps to put it away for a while and pick it up again when you are fresh. Blowing into the lower note might help as well. You might try playing the upper note as a harmonic without the octave key to see what happens. A sluggish octave mechanism is also a possibility, but it would show up on the other notes as well. A squeak would indicate that perhaps you are making some kind of embouchure change as you go from one register to the next.

As someone who taught psychology and psychiatry for many years at universities, I may have a different take on the notion of "obsessing" than you do - and I tend to see this more as something I noticed, which I'd like to fix, if it needs fixing. :)

I tried the upper notes without the octave key as you mentioned and it's a smooth transition, but I'm not playing F# in that way, as I can only play up to high D at the moment. And, as mentioned, I get a fairly clean Low D, Eb and C from the top E.

I had wondered about a leak or a key issue - but I didn't want to mention it too soon as I felt it was my technique.

I haven't tried it so far today, as I'm just back from the dentist and I have the worst embouchure known to Sax-kind.

Thanks again for all the great suggestions.

Stephen
 
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jbtsax

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You are clearly the expert on "obsessions". My use of the word was in the context of trying too hard to achieve a specific outcome and creating tension whereas being more relaxed is the key to success.

To eliminate the possibility of a "sluggish" octave mechanism contributing to the problem, remove the crook* finger G with the octave key and waggle the post that extends from the sax. It should float effortlessly up and down. If there is friction it usually indicates a bend in the mechanism.

* neck for you Americans
 
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photoman

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County Limerick Ireland
To eliminate the possibility of a "sluggish" octave mechanism contributing to the problem, remove the crook* finger G with the octave key and waggle the post that extends from the sax. It should float effortlessly up and down. If there is friction it usually indicates a bend in the mechanism.

* neck for you Americans

Thanks again for the suggestion.

I'd probably say neck too. I'm a Brit living in Ireland, and neck works for me. But I'm also a beginner and it seems to suit what I have in terms of trying to play the sax at all. ("Neck" in Britain/Ireland can mean...""cheek" or "inpudence" - or even "audacity" but not the recorder, as I'm still trying to use it!).

I can't see any obvious slugginess, it comes back down again but not super quick.

I tried again just now after a long day's work (obsessed, moi? No, sir!) and it's definitely getting easier. I'll keep going. I have the neck.
 

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