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Tone Starting Notes

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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2,421
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Hampshire
I'd appreciate a bit of advice and feedback on an issue (one of many, but let's stick to one at a time) I'm getting sometimes. Particularly when starting a note with a little more volume, the start of the note distorts. Generally I naturally drag the note back to a smoother tone. It almost sounds a little growly, but I'm not growling.

To give you some examples, this is from my most recent recording for BOTM. I hear the issue at the following points (to save you having to listen to the whole thing!!)

44 Seconds
1:14
1:23
2.07

Any advice would be appreciated!

https://soundcloud.com/user-380338591%2Fif-you-dont-know-me View: https://soundcloud.com/user-380338591/if-you-dont-know-me
 

Pete Thomas

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St. Mary's
I'm wondering if I'm actually hearing some distortion in the recording?

I don't really hear anything you seem to be describing but in general I think it would be worth ptactising articulation, ie to get a positive tongue release to start the note and being able to make if very subtle as well as accented if appropriate.
 
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Agreed with Pete and I think the recording is doing a disservice to the playing. I would suggest you need to get closer to the mic or get a better mic. And, as Pete says, make sure you are not overdriving the mic/software to distortion.
 

Halfers

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Hampshire
I'm wondering if I'm actually hearing some dostortion in the recording?

I don't really hear anything you seem to be describing but in general I think it would be worth ptactising articulation, ie to get a positive tongue release to start the note and being able to make if very subtle as well as accented if appropriate.

Funnily enough, I did think that when I posted. There is definitely some distortion on that recording as it was a quick and dirty affair. But below that there is something that is being caused by me.

I will work on tongueing. I'm also wondering when I start to push a little more volume, I'm perhaps pushing a little from my throat, instead of from my diaphragm.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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Hampshire
Agreed with Pete and I think the recording is doing a disservice to the playing. I would suggest you need to get closer to the mic or get a better mic. And, as Pete says, make sure you are not overdriving the mic/software to distortion.

As per my response to Pete. Yes, I defintely need to spend a bit more time on recording. I tend to plug in and just play to the mic and get things done as quickly as possible, mainly because of time constraints.

But I can hear myself make the same noise when I'm just playing. It might be a case of me picking it up, focussing on it and making more of a deal of it than perhaps I should.
 

Halfers

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If we could hear it clearly we (meaning Pete!) could make a better diagnosis :)

Off to get an audio interface so I can plug a proper mic into my laptop. Then my faults will be fully exposed!!

I'm taking it as a compliment if Pete considers the recording a bigger issue than my playing (yes I'm stretching reality by reading his response that way, but I'm sticking to it!!)
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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2,421
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Hampshire
I dug out a 3 Strength Java to see if it might have any effect on reducing this issue (if only to my ears :p )

I've played 2.5's for a couple of years (Green and Red Java), so not really made any changes to strength. Last time I tried a 3 it felt like I was using a Plank!

Firstly, it didn't feel like a significant jump in resistance. Bottom notes fine. Palm keys coming out a little stronger too. It also seems a lot harder to replicate my distortion issue. Now, I'm wary that this might not have resolved it and there might be a psychological element to just changing something. But it's interesting to know I can play a 3. Will have a play around to see if it's a long term benefit to my playing. But I'll hold back on a conclusion.

Also, Pete made me buy an audio interface :rolleyes:
 

jbtsax

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My suggestion would be to identify those notes on which you aren't happy with the sound at the beginning and practice holding those notes as long tones at different dynamic levels. One trick I learned to give notes more "focus" is to blow the note on your airstream before it gets to the saxophone. You hum the pitch, then blow the pitch on your airstream like an airy sounding whistle. Then play the note with the same shape inside the oral cavity and airstream.

Once you are happy with the tone and sound of the notes as long tones, then practice starting the note using different articulations: Du, Tu, Tah etc. It is important that the jaw or chin doesn't move when articulating the notes as this will change the embouchure and effect the sound. When this happens it usually means you are using too much of the tongue moving too far inside the mouth. Use just the tip of the tongue moving the shortest distance possible for most styles of tonguing. Practicing in front of a mirror can help.
 

Halfers

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Hampshire
My suggestion would be to identify those notes on which you aren't happy with the sound at the beginning and practice holding those notes as long tones at different dynamic levels.

I'd not thought about it being specific notes. Mmmm, I'll go back and work out if there is a connection!

I'm a bit worried I might look a bit like this if I practice my tonging in front of the mirror :tongue-out:
 

Keep Blowing

Senior Member
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1,710
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Bottesford England
I'd appreciate a bit of advice and feedback on an issue (one of many, but let's stick to one at a time) I'm getting sometimes. Particularly when starting a note with a little more volume, the start of the note distorts. Generally I naturally drag the note back to a smoother tone. It almost sounds a little growly, but I'm not growling.

To give you some examples, this is from my most recent recording for BOTM. I hear the issue at the following points (to save you having to listen to the whole thing!!)

44 Seconds
1:14
1:23
2.07

Any advice would be appreciated!

https://soundcloud.com/user-380338591%2Fif-you-dont-know-me View: https://soundcloud.com/user-380338591/if-you-dont-know-me
Try your Kanee and see how that sounds,. To me and I don't know much, it sounds like a big bellow of air at the places you mentioned, as opposed to a controlled flow of air.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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Hampshire
Try your Kanee and see how that sounds,. To me and I don't know much, it sounds like a big bellow of air at the places you mentioned, as opposed to a controlled flow of air.

I think it's definitely a lack of control with a bit more air, which is throwing out a few things, including my tonging. I might even be doing something with my throat. Will have a further play tomorrow.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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15,991
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Burnley bb9 9dn
Better recording gear and technique may reveal more problems than it solves.

It sounds to my ear as if your struggling to produce a steady tone. Pitch is wandering and there seems to be a lack of flexibility in the tone.

This could be lack of practice, especially long tones or your set up is too demanding for your embouchure at this point.

Saxophone to my ear sounds best when it sounds effortless. It takes a great deal of effort to sound effortless.

Experimenting with reeds may help but practice is the way. Make long tones part of your daily regime. Each note, one at a time, from the whole range of the horn, played with one long breath with changing dynamics and experimenting with throat and oral cavity changes to explore the whole spectrum of sounds that are possible.

When you master what's possible you can pick what's appropriate musicaly.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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2,421
Locality
Hampshire
Better recording gear and technique may reveal more problems than it solves.

It sounds to my ear as if your struggling to produce a steady tone. Pitch is wandering and there seems to be a lack of flexibility in the tone.

This could be lack of practice, especially long tones or your set up is too demanding for your embouchure at this point.

Saxophone to my ear sounds best when it sounds effortless. It takes a great deal of effort to sound effortless.

Experimenting with reeds may help but practice is the way. Make long tones part of your daily regime. Each note, one at a time, from the whole range of the horn, played with one long breath with changing dynamics and experimenting with throat and oral cavity changes to explore the whole spectrum of sounds that are possible.

When you master what's possible you can pick what's appropriate musicaly.

Definitely lack of practice is a big part, but that's not a new thing!

Thanks for the comments, all taken on board. I've been using the same mouthpiece and reeds for a good 18 Months. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that the combo is still not too demanding for me. I thought I'd try a 3, just to see whether it would have any impact, and also out of interest. I'm not one to really play around with setup.

Effortless is an interesting one because, I'm sure, like most people, there is a certain amount of tension introduced into playing as soon as that microphone and recording gear is switched on. It ups the tension level by several factors. I'm certainly not completely free of tension when I'm just practicing normally, but the thought of playing a piece all the way through, without getting completely lost or bumming all the notes etc...

I doubt the audio interface will have too much effect on my poor recording skills, but I do find the Blue Yeti mic to be really sensitive to volume, and distortion sets in really quickly, even with the Mic Gain turned right down and the DAW volume reduced heavily. I've got a couple of Dynamic Mics I've used for vocals, so hoping those, plus an audio interface plugged in the laptop will allow a little more headroom.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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Hampshire
So, following feedback from my post, as mentioned above, the first thing I did was take Pete's comment on board that it might be the purchase of a bit of kit that might solve all my Worldly worries (come on, I'm not the first.. :) )

For previous recordings, I'd been using a Blue Yeti USB mic, plugged into my laptop, using Reaper for Recording. Although I thought it would probably be a reasonable choice (and having bought it a while back for recording some spoken stuff, it was also handy), I always found Gain control was a real problem, even with the inbuilt gain control right down on the Yeti, I was having to push the digital fader down on the DAW channel, to keep the volume low. Pete suggest that my particular issue with some notes sounding very distorted might have been down to the recording, rather than me. I wasn't sure because I could hear this issue when I was playing normally in the front room..

However...

....having done a bit of digging and a bit of Youtube review watching, I plumped on the Komplete Audio 1 Interface and thought I'd make use of a couple of vocal mics, I have in the gig bag to see if that might make a difference.


It turned up on Saturday. It's a nice looking piece of kit. Definitely not gig worthy, as it's quite lightweight, but I have no intention of taking it out on the road.

So, a simple ASIO Driver download later and I plugged it into the laptop and plugged my battered old SM58 into it. And here's the result of my first recording. To say it's £80 worth spending is an understatement. I'm really chuffed on what a great difference it's made (to my ears, anyway). Need to do a bit more work on my recording skills, but this is a quick and dirty.

https://soundcloud.com/user-380338591%2Fif-you-dont-know-me-x-2 View: https://soundcloud.com/user-380338591/if-you-dont-know-me-x-2
 
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Halfers

Finger Flapper
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2,421
Locality
Hampshire
I'll also add that I can still hear my issue with starting notes, however I think Yeti was blowing it out of proportion with it's high gain and subsequent distortion. It sounds much mellower and less problematic with this setup. Just less of a problem to work on that I thought.
 

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