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Squawky G

JonTheReeds

Member
Messages
38
I am finding it difficult to play the G above the stave on the alto

It's fine when played legato with other notes before and after but when I try to tongue it I find it very difficult to play cleanly. I don't have this problem with other notes and they all sound cleanly when I tongue them

It sounds like the reed is flapping around and makes a very disagreeable buzzing/squawking sound

I don't have this problem with other notes, and I can control it by biting - but I know from playing the clarinet that this isn't a good solution

So, is there a problem with the sax, is this note a notoriously bad note (I'm used to working with dificult notes on the clarinet, but thought the sax had clean notes all the way) or is there something else, either technique-wise or maybe need to change reeds?
 

jbtsax

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I would try removing the mouthpiece and neck. First play some long tones on that "small saxophone" and adjust your embouchure so that it sounds Ab Concert. Then practice tonguing starting slowly at first and then increasing the speed. With your free hand feel under your jaw and chin. There should be no movement there when you tongue. If you feel movement it generally indicates that you are moving too much of the tongue too far inside the mouth. Concentrate on moving just the tip of the tongue the shortest distance possible.

When you can tongue on the mouthpiece and neck with a well controlled sound, put the instrument together and try the same exercise on the note G with the same feeling. If the G is still "squirrely" post again and I will help you to check the octave mechanism.
 

Kharion

New Member
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How long have you been playing? When was the last time your instrument was in for a tune up?
 

JonTheReeds

Member
Messages
38
Thanks for getting back

I have been playing for about 2 months now, with a background in clarinet. I bought the instrument second hand and had the shop look it over, but not entirely happy with the job as they didn’t fix everything that I wanted (but the shop is quite far away and it’s not easy to drop off and pick up the sax). My clarinet is well overdue for a refit and I can’t afford to get the sax done as well at the moment

I’ve tried playing with the “small saxophone” and surprised that Ab concert came out immediately. Tonguing isn’t a problem with semiquavers at crochet=100 and there is minimal sound when I tongue with no jaw movement (a legacy from the clarinet I guess)

The G (and to a much lesser extent the F) in the upper register is still a bit of a handful to stop it squawking – it’s like the reed is flapping around and the air through the mouthpiece is disrupted, although my diaphragm is pumping out a constant, focused volume of air. I'd normally think it was my embouchure but I don't have any problems with other notes (except for low D which needs a bit of help to get it to voice properly - could this be a clue or this a difficult note on the sax?) If I bite down it stops the note squawking but I'm wary of getting into this habit as this doesn't help with tone in the clarinet and guess it's not advised with the sax?

I am starting up lessons in a month’s time so can ask the teacher then, but was hoping to sort it out before

Any advice would be much appreciated. If it's just my dodgy technique then at least I know where I need to focus when I start lessons
 

Justin Chune

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I had exactly the same experience when I took up the sax from clarinet. You will get used to those notes, so don't tinker with the sax.

Jim.
 

jbtsax

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In some cases when those who play the clarinet switch to saxophone they consciously or unconsciously try to recreate the increased resistance they are used to on the clarinet. Typically this involves constricting the throat or keeping the back of the tongue too high. When tonguing think "TAH" keeping the back of the tongue low in the mouth. Sing "AH" on the lowest note you can hit, and then say tah tah tah tah tah keeping the back of the tongue down and moving just the end of the tongue.

Try humming the pitch of the G. Then blow that pitch on your airstream---like an airy whistle. Then play that note on the sax using the same airstream and shape of the mouth and throat.

The octave mechanism check I mentioned above is easy. Press the thumb key hard and watch the neck octave key. It should not raise at all. Then hit the thumb key hard several tiles watching the neck octave key. It should not move or bounce. If it does either of these follow these directions:

1. Remove the neck and place your thumb between the ring and the neck tenon.
2. With the other hand gently and carefully pull down on the neck octave key to bend it down slightly.
3. Then repeat the test with the neck on the saxophone.

If you have gone too far the neck octave will not open when you go from G to A with the thumb key pressed. If that is the case do the following.

1. Remove the neck and place a popsicle stick or tongue depressor between the neck pad and its pip.
2. Gently and carefully push the ring back toward the neck tenon to bend it slightly.
3. Put the neck back on the sax and repeat the tests above.

You may have to go back and forth a few times to get it perfect.
 
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JonTheReeds

Member
Messages
38
Thanks for everyone's help

I have been working with 'singing' the note and this seems to work well. I guess that's what people mean when they say you need to 'voice' the note, but making the direct connection between singing and the sax has made the difference. When I sing I automatically change the shape of my mouth to make the note, and doing the same on the sax has made a huge improvement
 
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