Tutorials

Beginner Problems with middle D

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Hi All,

I've been playing about 6 months now and seem to getting on ok I think, however, there is one problem that I just can't seem to solve which is that my middle D (without tonguing) comes out as an upper A. If I tongue it the note comes out fine but some of the pieces I have been doing lately requires me to slur from either mid C or B up to the D.

I've asked my teacher about this and he has heard me do it a few times but says it's just practice that I need, which to a certain extent I agree, but no matter how hard I try I just can't stop doing it which is very annoying and ruins the piece I am playing! He has had a go on my sax and can't make it happen at all which seems to rule out the sax itself, but I just don't know what I can try next.

I noticed in Chris98's diary that someone mentions this same problem and that they had to press all keys down at exactly the same time to solve this problem but I'm pretty sure I am doing this and it does not help. It is worth noting that the problem doesn't always happen but that seems to be when I'm playing much quieter and I'm not blowing so hard, I've tried playing louder without putting as much air in but that doesn't seem to work either.

If anyone has any thoughts or ideas I could try I would appreciate it! I was hoping to get it sorted within the next couple of weeks before I go to the Saxday but I guess I might be being too hopeful!

Many thanks in advance.
 

AlistairD

Member
Messages
158
From reading forums and my personal experience, this is a common problem so don't fret. With me, it's to do with a lazy ring finger on my left hand which can sometimes come down slightly later than the other fingers. This happens for me when going from a relatively open fingering e.g. C, B. Bb etc. slurring into D. Ocassionally for me happens coming down into the D as well (but less often.)

What I tried was focusing on bringing the ring finger down slightly ahead of the other fingers on the left hand whilst slurring into D from say C. This sounds slightly strange but I found at least gave me a D and not an overtone of D. I find that practicing this "early ring finger" for a while each day cures the problem for a while. It still creeps back from time to time.

Hope this helps. You should also be aware that the D (and the G) with the Octave Key are the least stable notes on the Tenor so breath support etc. are also important.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I'm afraid its just practicing those long tones, building a stronger embouchure and improving breath support, all of which take time and 6 months is no time at all.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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Minster On Sea
Check that the upper octave key (the one on the crook) is not opening when you play the D. If it only twitches a fraction then you'll get the problem you describe. Otherwise, wot they ^^^^^ said.
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Thanks for the replies.

Alistair, I am on an Alto (sorry forgot to say) but I guess the D is common on that too so I will try your suggestion and see if it makes a difference. I don't get problems with other notes anymore really, the last note I had problems with was the upper G# but I found curling my lower lip over slightly more solved it.

halfdiminished, yes I'm pretty sure your right and I do practice the long tones as much as I can but I was hoping for a reply that would fix my problem in an instant! if the above works then great otherwise I'll have to keep going for a few years!

I have noticed some improvement in myself over the last 2-3 months which I'm pleased about and I've also pretty much nailed all of the major scales and some minor harmonic scales which I'm happy about because now I can spend a little less time going over them on each practice session and learn other things, although my teacher has given me a whole load of new patterns to learn using the scales which is going to keep me busy again!
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Check that the upper octave key (the one on the crook) is not opening when you play the D. If it only twitches a fraction then you'll get the problem you describe. Otherwise, wot they ^^^^^ said.
Ok, I have looked at the keys as close as I could to make sure they are working correctly but I guess it wouldn't hurt putting some tape on the key on the crook to make doubly sure, thanks for the tip!
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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The Malverns, Worcs
I had some problems when slurring up from B above middle C to the D with the octave key. As has been said before, it was suggested that there might be a momentary movement of the octave key on the crook instead of the one on the body.
But what we eventually worked out was that as I put all my fingers down for the D, I was catching a palm key with my left hand, which was causing the un-planned notes to sound.
So I have developed a much more rounded hand, rather than a flat hand.
This seems to have resolved it completely.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
I guess by middle D you mean 3 fingers down on each hand + octave key.

As the others have said, it's a weak note and you need to practice and give it lots of support.

But.... An alternate fingering by ADDING the D left palm key to the keys above gives a much better note. However this has more effect on my tenor than it does on the alto.

Although you say it's not the sax, check the normally closed Eb key and the the G key both seal properly. You may find the G needs to be pushed harder than you're doing it. A leak light helps a lot when you check this.
 
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griff136

Well-Known Member
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1,047
Location
I live in Exmouth Devon.
Jason - As other have said it could be you but it could also be your sax or a combination of both - I would get your teacher to have a blow on it to see if it happens when he/she does it. and you can have a blow on theirs to see if it happens which would confirm whether its operator error or not.

Then a quick trip to your repairer to have a leak light put down it to check if there are any leaks, and a check of the octave mechanism.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

ps whilst 6 months may be a short time in the big scheme of things for playing the sax - I would suggest it depends on how often and for how long you practice e.g. if you have practiced an hour every day then I would suggest that your embouchure is well on the way to giving enough support.
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Griff,

My teacher has had a blow on my Sax and can't make the problem happen at all, he has been playing nearly 20 years though and struggles repeating any of the problems a beginner normally gets, but I guess this could sort of rule out the sax. I haven't had a go on his sax but I might ask him at my next lesson if I can have a try.

I haven't had chance to try any of the above suggestions yet as I've been busy with work but I hope to try them tonight, I'm also waiting for those 2 books that Ian suggested.

I've been practising every week for the last 6 months but some weeks I get more practice in than others. On a good week I get 5 out of 7 practice days at approx 1-2 hours per day, on a bad week I get about 2 out of 7 days to practice, on average though I guess I'm getting 3-4 days per week at 1.5hrs each.
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Ok, I've tried a couple of the things mentioned above and come up with these results.

I have put an elastic band around the crook octave arm so that this can not come up accidentally, this did not solve the problem.

I have tried using the alternative fingering but I'm finding this awkward at the moment and I cannot use these keys smoothly to test whether it actually solves the problem, I do find it does sound better though.

I have received one of the books "The Art of Saxophone Playing" so I am going to have a read through this over the next week or so, I had a quick browse through it and it looks pretty good. Just waiting for the other book.

I have not tried another sax yet as my teacher in the process of releasing an album with his band so I've had to skip a lesson, hopefully will get one over the weekend though.

I am also going to try the other things mentioned above tonight hopefully so will let you know if they work! if not I'll leave it another 6 months and see what's happening by then :)
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
From reading forums and my personal experience, this is a common problem so don't fret. With me, it's to do with a lazy ring finger on my left hand which can sometimes come down slightly later than the other fingers. This happens for me when going from a relatively open fingering e.g. C, B. Bb etc. slurring into D. Ocassionally for me happens coming down into the D as well (but less often.)

What I tried was focusing on bringing the ring finger down slightly ahead of the other fingers on the left hand whilst slurring into D from say C. This sounds slightly strange but I found at least gave me a D and not an overtone of D. I find that practicing this "early ring finger" for a while each day cures the problem for a while. It still creeps back from time to time.

Hope this helps. You should also be aware that the D (and the G) with the Octave Key are the least stable notes on the Tenor so breath support etc. are also important.
Ok I tried this method earlier but forgot you said "ring finger" and practised pressing my left little pinky finger first before the rest of my fingers instead, funnily enough this seems to work!

I noticed that this key doesn't affect the octave key like the others so I'm wondering it its to do with that, whether it is or not though I will keep practising this method and see how it goes, although if it does solve the problem it might take me a while to get used to! And I'm guessing that because I'm having to do this that it could be something to do with the sax still, so I might get it looked at in August while I'm on a business trip to Barcelona.
 

AlistairD

Member
Messages
158
Ok I tried this method earlier but forgot you said "ring finger" and practised pressing my left little pinky finger first before the rest of my fingers instead, funnily enough this seems to work!

I noticed that this key doesn't affect the octave key like the others so I'm wondering it its to do with that, whether it is or not though I will keep practising this method and see how it goes, although if it does solve the problem it might take me a while to get used to! And I'm guessing that because I'm having to do this that it could be something to do with the sax still, so I might get it looked at in August while I'm on a business trip to Barcelona.
Hi,

I think you are correct about the octave key. If you are late on your ring finger on your left hand, then the octave vent on the neck can jump for a split second when you move to D.

Practicing the ring finger slightly early seemed to do the trick for me...

Good luck and keep practicing.
 

Rogerb

Member
Messages
766
Location
Costa Blanca, Spain
Just one more thought....I had this problem with my Hanson SA-5, when I was at about your stage.....when Alastair hanson looked at the sax he found that the neck octave pad was lifting just a bit more than the 5mm he said was ideal for that instrument, and altering it helped a lot. Have a look at that ....Griff or Stephen would be able to say whether that 5mm is true for most makes of alto.

But that D was always the 'stuffiest' note on that sax.....my 'pro quality' BW alto and tenor are both much 'cleaner' ....although that could be my slightly better embouchure!
The problem I am having with my newly acquired BW tenor is with the 'middle G' .....very difficult not to 'crack' it, although my teacher makes this sax sound gorgeous!! So it IS me (and the inherent design problems of D2 & G2 with saxophones in general).
 
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JasonC

JasonC

Member
Messages
218
Location
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Hi Roger, I put an elastic band around the neck octave bar to stop it from opening at all but it did not help, thanks for the tip though.

After a little more practising I can pretty much say that pressing my little finger down before the other keys (for middle D) seems to stop my problem, however, I'm struggling doing this consistently as I'm used to pressing all keys down together at the same time. I'm guessing that this problem could probably be solved with a little adjusting here and there so I am probably going to drop it in for a service somewhere while I'm in Spain in a months time. Can anyone recommend a good place to get it serviced? I live in Derbyshire but I could post it out if needed.

Many thanks for al your help.
 
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