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Beginner Struggling to sound certain notes

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When I'm playing F major, my high D, E and F notes sound horrible. I don't know why my sax sounds like that. Please help! Is it something I'm doing, or is it the sax itself...?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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When I'm playing F major, my high D, E and F notes sound horrible. I don't know why my sax sounds like that. Please help! Is it something I'm doing, or is it the sax itself...?

By high do you mean the palm key notes you mentioned in another thread?

If so, you're doing well to be getting them. Try long tones (blow each note astarting pp, getting louder to ff, then back to pp and do it slowly) and work on improving the sound by changing throat/toungue, blowing. It comes with practice. Harder reeds can help, but don't overdo it - cos you'll lose the lower notes.
 

ArtyLady

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1,030
I'm guessing you mean from low F up to the next F if you playing F Major and you've been playing a few weeks?
 

jbtsax

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The pearl white keys. :) Apart from those I don't know! Sorry. Only four lessons in. :O

If you are just starting on the saxophone, I would suggest that you not worry about the palm key notes right now. Focus on developing a full, well controlled sound in the mid-range of the instrument. Then as your embouchure muscles develop, you can incrementally add the higher notes one at a time. When you reach that level remember that the upper notes work best with a fast airstream consisting of "pressurized air"---sometimes called breath support.

To check your embouchure to see if it is too loose or too tight, remove the mouthpiece and neck (crook) and play that apart from the saxophone. The optimum pitch of this "tone producer" is Ab Concert for the alto sax. Remember nothing works better than practicing long tones for building muscle tone in the embouchure for control, endurance, and breathing.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Agree with JBT, and it sounds as if that's what you're doing.

Fact is that when people first start on sax, it sounds terrible.

Ask your teacher if what you're hearing is normal, or if there's a problem. But if he/she says it's normal, all beginners sound like that just work at it, listen to the way you sound and try and improve, but don't expect overnight results. Getting a digital recorder (e.g. Zoom H2) and making a recording of how you're playing every few months is a good way of assessing progress and seeing how far you've come.
 

TomMapfumo

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5,219
There are a few possibilities.

1. Sax tuning will depend on how far the mouthpiece is pushed in on the cork. Generally lower notes can be flatter sounding and notes above the octave key tend to sound sharper. It normally reqires some trial and error before the optimum position is found for the mouthpiece so that the sound is as good as you can get it.

2. When you regularly practice long notes you strengthen your embouchure muscles and improve your sound. It also means that your embouchure can make small adjustments in order that any note will sound more in tune that it had been - not a very conscious process but where your ear and embouchure get more sensitive to each other.

3. It is common for folks to unconsciously tighten their embouchure as they play higher notes, and partly beginners do this in order to create a stronger embouchure (until one naturally develops). This can make naturally sharp sounding notes sound even sharper.

4. The change from C to D on the octave can be a tricky one, with C tending to flat and D tending to sharp. A good thing to try is to play the notes D E F with as loose an embouchure as possible to see if that makes a difference.

5. Breath control is also something you will be gradually developing. Sometimes we can tighten our embouchure to produce a better air flow, which can affect sound quality (like squeezing the end of a hose to produce a faster jet of water.

These are all adjustments which we gradually make, quite uncosciously most of the time. It can be disconcerting when we have only just begun this process and become all too aware of what we are producing.

Regarding reeds, this is another potential can of worms. Generally most beginners start off with a softer reed (1.5 or 2 strength) and may just play a slightly harder reed later on - I play 2.5 on Alto (with mouthpieces of 0.076" or so). Many players soak their reeds before fixing on the mouthpiece as it does increase flexibilty and can improve sound (I soak them for about a minute in a mixture of water and alcohol). Too hard a reed can be hard to play, so its good to find reeds that feel easy enough to play without strain, otherwise we may be straining to play and producing a strained sound.

Any more would be speculation on my part. Good advice above - especially the usefulness of playing notes for several seconds at a time, and trying to achieve a consistent tone.

Keep up the good work - you'll get there!
Tom
 

TomMapfumo

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5,219
It may be an idea to try a Rico Royal 2 as your mouthpiece has quite a small tip opening and it would be useful to see whether a slightly harder reed makes any difference. No one really knows what is the ideal combination of mouthpiece tip and reed strength is for any particular player.

I started on alto with a Selmer Session E mpc (tip 0.078") and 2.5 reeds. The Yamaha 4C is a much smaller 0.063" so 1.5 may be a little too soft - who knows?!
 

ArtyLady

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1,030
I'd stick with the 1.5 and the Yam 4c, I start my beginners off with that, I think it's a good place to start while you settle into it - and important that you don't over work your embouchure at this stage. :thumb:
 

TomMapfumo

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5,219
I wouldn't.................................................................................;}

It does also depend on whether the same reed is used every single time, without a break, in which case it may wear out quite quickly. reeds are best rotated, and good to have a few on the go (I usually have 4 which I rotate so no reed gets played more than once every 4 days

I am very wary of starting ALL beginners on the same set-up as it is not actually possible to know in advance what is suitable for each beginner. Many trumpet teachers start their beginners on a Bach 7C (16.2mm) mouthpiece. Trouble is I found it far too small and found the Bach 1.5C (17.00mm) much better to start on. I now play a 17.5mm inner diameter mpc - much better.

The reed may not be an issue but I would always caution against making blanket assumptions...........

Kind regards
Tom
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,030
I wouldn't.................................................................................;}

It does also depend on whether the same reed is used every single time, without a break, in which case it may wear out quite quickly. reeds are best rotated, and good to have a few on the go (I usually have 4 which I rotate so no reed gets played more than once every 4 days

I am very wary of starting ALL beginners on the same set-up as it is not actually possible to know in advance what is suitable for each beginner. Many trumpet teachers start their beginners on a Bach 7C (16.2mm) mouthpiece. Trouble is I found it far too small and found the Bach 1.5C (17.00mm) much better to start on. I now play a 17.5mm inner diameter mpc - much better.

The reed may not be an issue but I would always caution against making blanket assumptions...........

Kind regards
Tom

I would argue that when someone is starting out you have no real way of assessing what they need until they have learned a certain amount and are producing a half decent sound for then to make that assessment - surely it's better that they have something that is tried and trusted by many teachers to build a foundation on?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,947
Just remember that miss-saxophone has a teacher, and rather than issuing too much advice remotely, the teacher would be best placed to recommend when a change of reed is needed. Even worse if our advice is conflicting.
 
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