Playing only in subtone


Liverpool, England
Hi all,

First this is my first proper post (my other is in doorbell, and as of yet hasn't been moderated yet).

I have question about sub-tone. I listened to a few sound clips of the differences between full and sub tone on tamingthesaxaphone, and I think I may just play in the lower register in sub, with full tone for extra colour when I want it.

I do remember when I was learning the lower reg that I hated the honky sound it made, and I'm thinking that I managed to teach myself to play in sub only.

I don't know if it's possible, and if it's a good thing to do.

Any ideas from anyone?
I love a bit of subtone myself, even more on the tenor than the alto, it's so satisfying and lets you right 'inside' the horn. I don't know how it is for other people, but I found it fairly easy to get....
Do you play tenor?

I've had a number of students who do this. Pain in the bum to try to get them to do it properly.
Do you play tenor?

I've had a number of students who do this. Pain in the bum to try to get them to do it properly.

Nope, I play alto. I naturally play in subtone. Like I said, it's not like I can't play in full tone, but I use that as you would vibrato or note bending.
listen to Stan Getz. Then ask if there's anything wrong.
The subtone is rarely if ever used in classical style playing. It allows a player to play the lowest notes on the sax very softly with less effort or skill than playing them very softly with a full tone. I believe that subtone should be a choice to produce a certain timbre, and not be used as a crutch to play low notes softly.
I've listened to a lot Stan Getz and it certainly isn't as breathy as that. Perhaps I'm not playing in sub, and that's my playing style. Or perhaps I'm doing halfway between.

Anyhow, thanks everyone. I think I may try to practice a bit more with a clear lower reg sound.
jbtsax makes a really valid point. Learn to play the low notes quiietly without subtoning. This'll give you mor control. Then play the pieces the way you want to. It's really about getting control of the sax, and in the process getting it to sound the way you want it to all the time.
Or Ben Webster....

I love Ben Webster's breathy subtone, but he can also get a bit tough-sounding at times, can't he? didn't I read somewhere that part of his breathy tone came from (and even preferring to play on) a leaky horn?
jbtsax many thanks for pointing that out. I cannot subtone worth a wotsit in the lower end, but I have learned, with one or two regressoins to play full tone softly, so maybe my epic struggle with the fog horn bit of the tenor was worth it. By the by, one of the biggest things I was doing wrong with the low notes was avoiding them. The more you play them, the better you get. When you are going for a soft low b and you realise that you not pushing enough air through to whisper a single word, then you have to make changes and eventually you get there. I bothered everyone on here for ages over this, thanks all, I have got there. (most of the time)
I' not usually one to talk about equipment as It's 95% player when it comes to tone. However sub-tone is easier with a more open mouthpiece (larger tip) and (for me) fibracell reeds.

Similar threads

Top Bottom