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Playing High E - F - F#


New Member
I'm self-taught (country living) so I can't take lessons. I have a Yamaha YAS 23 Alto sax, and find the only way to hit the front high E, F, F# is to move my lower lip far forward. It doesn't seem a natural position. Do you have any tips? I use Richo 2.5 natural reeds.


Full of frets in North Shropshire
One of the teachers will explain it better, but as you go higher, the tongue position needs to change and it gets higher and further forward. Embouchure shouldn't really change

Deleted member 5000

These high notes are hard.

You dont say how long you have played, but they take time.

If you are patient, and do the right stuff in your practice, it will happen.

There shouldn't really be a huge movement in your lip formation. You say "move my lower lip far forward". that doesnt sound good and I think you should probably try to lose that. It may be a short term solution, but it is not good long term.

to be honest, i would not get too worried about your tongue position at this stage. that kind of stuff is a more advanced thing and best not get too confused and hung up on for the moment.

Of probable more importance is the air stream/column. Its very important that you have a concept of pushing the air through the sax. In many ways the air column is even more important in the higher ranges of the sax than anywhere else.
I like to think of the air stream moving faster in this upper range than down below.
Have a mental image of seeing the air coming out of the end of the bell. !!!!!!!!
ie you arent just blowing into the mouthpiece. You are blowing all the way through the sax.

Mental image is a big thing in regard to tone. You have to input in to your brain the right stuff.

How do you do that......... LONG NOTES. .......... Im afraid

So, pick a note that you are comfortable with and that you dont feel there are any lip contortions going on with.
for example a high D.

Play that note as a long note. Hold for 20 seconds or so. experience what is going on with regard to your breathe control, and your embouchure.
and most importantly, listen to the sound being produced. What can you do to better your tone
Do that a few times. then play the note again, but after say 5 secs, move, without tonguing , and with no break in your air stream,up to an E flat. Hold it. Experience any differences. Do this over and over

When, and only when, you can go straight to a high Eb, try the same procedure again, but trying for the high E

Etc etc

Be very patient. If it takes you a week to get a strong high E, that is fine. It isnt a race. Its a procedure. Be patient. Eventually, you are aiming for high F to high F sharp. That can take a while!!

One step at a time. IN SEMI TONES at each stage

Im not suggesting this is all of your practice time. Say 5 minutes at the start of each practice session will reap rewards.

If possible, try to avoid going for these high notes in your other practice, until the old bad habits have gone. This may take a while.

So, its long notes, going up by a semi tone at a time until secure, patience, air support, no funny stuff going on with lips.

Good luck.


If you're playing a 23, then I don't think you have the benefit of a high F# key? That makes the note transition a bit harder, but as has been pointed out, the airflow is the important bit. Blow low Bb with a nice loose embouchure and try to envisage blowing warm air. Now blow high Bb without changing embouchure-try not to tighten up. Do this for a few minutes each day, and work your way up-be patient!


Cafe Moderator
Patience is the key and something I took away froma workshop with Rob Buckland:

Try and think of your different voices, he described them as abdomen, chest and head. Abdomen being low like a man's voice (say ahhh deeply) chest is a more normal ahhh and head a high voice (eee). It's hard to write it as he said. Low down the sound comes from you abdomen as you say it lighter you can hear it different in your chest. Also by the time you are at eee your abdomen is really supporting the air. Hope fully this gets the tongue in the right position without really having to think about it.

As said above it is the airflow that counts

I still have to concentrate to get these notes but that's because I don't practice them often enough :)

It is so satisfying when they pop out though



Well-Known Member
The front F is the gateway to the other two. I suggest you play high C forte with a big, full tone and then give a sudden burst of fast air as you add the front F key. When the high F sounds, hold it as a long tone. When you can get front F comfortably every time, play the F and add the 3rd finger to go to high E. Again hold that as a long tone. When that note is solid, try going from high C directly to high E. Also when high F is solid, try adding the Bb side key to make it go to high F#.


ex Landrover Nut
But.. You'll find that once you get these notes, your tongue has moved, as tenorviol said.


New Member
Thank you all for your help!

I just noticed something. When I press the F palm key the valve opens wide. But... when I press the key just above the B key (the one to play front E and front F), it only opens a small amount. Enough to let air through, but way small than the first case. Is this normal?
Last edited:

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Thank you all for your help!

I just noticed something. When I press the F palm key the valve opens wide. But... when I press the key just above the B key (the one to play front E and front F), it only opens a small amount. Enough to let air through, but way small than the first case. Any ideas?
That means it is functioning absolutely correctly.

For the front F, it is a vent that acts a bit like an octave pip, it just allows the F to sound when an A is fingered. If you look at the keys you'll see it is nothing else than a conventional A fingering with that key higher up opening a bit. If it opens too much, that is cause of the high F not being as nice as it might be.

I've never understood how F is an overtone of A, but there you go. maybe it's just a very sharp fifth.


Well-Known Member
The very small opening of the F palm key when the front F is used is only useful when playing altissimo high G. For front F it must be quite open or else front F is stuffy and front E won't sound at all.
Saxholder Pro

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