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Tone Tips to regaining alto embouchure

Mangosaxy

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Hello all!

So, I have been playing alto for about 7 years now, but this past year I've had to switch mainly to bari sax for my school's band. I found that this leave has affected my embochure now that I am back to playing alto and that my old tendencies have come back.

I find myself being sharp in my upper register, and tuning upper octave G is difficult, even if the lower octave is in tune. Additionally, I feel like I dont have much control with my lower lip in terms of adjusting pitch either. Any specific practicing tips or excercises I can do to correct my embochure from bari back to an alto one?

Things to consider: I have switched to a 3 1/2 reed after coming back from playing bari sax. I previously played on a size 3. Not sure if this plays a part in my tuning issue. Also, before I left to play bari, I was playing using a double lip embochure for alto. While playing bari, I did single lip. After coming back, I am also using a single lip on my alto, however I feel like I dont have as much control on the lower lip with this embochure on alto as opposed to double. So maybe this factors in?

Thanks for responses in advance!
 
Reed strength can definitely affect your tuning if you are not accustomed to it. Try softer reeds, stick to your one lip embouchure. Long tones starting with very soft sound ( I like to concentrate on the moment just before the sound appears) and increase the volume then go back again. Do that throughout the range of the instrument. Keep your fingers relaxed. It is a great meditation on sound and helps strengthen your embouchure. For me at least it works great.
 
Double lip embouchure is uncommon on saxophone. In my experience, it requires much greater muscular strength and control. I use and teach the traditional "Teal Wheel" single lip embouchure described in "The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal in which the top teeth rest on top of the mouthpiece and support the weight of the head.

In this more "traditional" embouchure the muscles around the mouth surround the mouthpiece like a "rubber band" and push from all sides---especially the corners of the mouth. I teach this embouchure by stretching the muscles in the sides of the mouth by saying "EE", and at the same time pushing the corners in by saying "OO". This sets up a tug-o-war with both sets of muscles in which the "OO's" win, but the ""EE's" don't stop pulling.

A common problem on saxophone is tightening the embouchure to play the high register and loosening to play the low register. This contributes to intonation issues and tone quality problems as well. In standard pedagogy the saxophone uses essentially the same embouchure pressure from low Bb to high F. This can be practiced by playing octaves and arpeggios concentrating on keeping the embouchure tension the same. Using faster air as you go higher can help.

The ideal embouchure pressure for classical (concert band) playing can be found two ways: 1) playing no higher than A=880 on the mouthpiece alone, and Ab concert (written F2) on the mouthpiece plus the neck. Playing long tones is an effective way to build embouchure strength. Other ways without the instrument are to smile-whistle-smile-whistle 50 times and then rest and to hold a small soda straw in the center of the lips for as long as possible. Knowing what mouthpiece you play can help to prescribe what strength of reed works best.
 
Embouchure is one of the many points about saxophone playing that is often argued about from different points of view. It's easier to feel the embouchure tuning difference when you play a low D and then use the octave key on it while trying to obtain the same exact embouchure, than to do the same on the higher D (3?). I was told my embouchure was too tight. In that lesson, the way to test the embouchure tension was to relax it slowly until the sound (not the pitch, which obviously will lower) degraded. You can hear that easily. This has not produced great results for me yet and I don't know why. I believe I have a psychological problem that makes me tense up, and so tend to play sharp. I'm still looking at a tuner from time to time practicing. The last time I played with others, I think I was in tune, though and it felt pretty good.
 
A common problem on saxophone is tightening the embouchure to play the high register and loosening to play the low register. This contributes to intonation issues and tone quality problems as well. I
Indeed a very common issue
The ideal embouchure pressure for classical (concert band) playing can be found two ways: 1) playing no higher than A=880 on the mouthpiece alone, and Ab concert (written F2) on the mouthpiece plus the neck.
yes, this will work if it is a mouthpiece that pitch is suitable for.
It's easier to feel the embouchure tuning difference when you play a low D and then use the octave key on it while trying to obtain the same exact embouchure,
Good exercise, but I would not start with D, the middle D (D2) is a notoriously dodgy not for tuning (often sharp). But practising octaves is good, both normal and overtone octaves. In fact its great to alternate an overtone with the normal fingered note - in theory they should be in tune although as we all know the saxophone is not acoustically perfect (if it was the tip of the cone which makes the conical bore would not be truncated to allow a mouthpiece)

I'd start with low notes, Bb, B and C.

So play a low Bb, then while fingering that note try to blow the octave overtone. (Bb2) Then switch to normal fingered Bb2 (bis key or side Bb) and check whether it is in tune. If not, then try different mouthpiece positions. There's quite a lot to all this saxophone playing business
 
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@Pete Thomas I mentioned that because I'm obsessed by that note! Yes, best to try lower and up to E, too. But I have no trouble doing the "test", it's while playing that for some psychological reason, I tend to tighten after the break. Always have. Maybe a carryover from my bad clarinet experience of 1955 or so, when I broke it in half because of the squeaks. Also, I wasn't referring to the overtone method, just comparing notes that are an octave apart, but with a tuner.
 
Double lip embouchure is uncommon on saxophone. In my experience, it requires much greater muscular strength and control. I use and teach the traditional "Teal Wheel" single lip embouchure described in "The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal in which the top teeth rest on top of the mouthpiece and support the weight of the head.

In this more "traditional" embouchure the muscles around the mouth surround the mouthpiece like a "rubber band" and push from all sides---especially the corners of the mouth. I teach this embouchure by stretching the muscles in the sides of the mouth by saying "EE", and at the same time pushing the corners in by saying "OO". This sets up a tug-o-war with both sets of muscles in which the "OO's" win, but the ""EE's" don't stop pulling.

A common problem on saxophone is tightening the embouchure to play the high register and loosening to play the low register. This contributes to intonation issues and tone quality problems as well. In standard pedagogy the saxophone uses essentially the same embouchure pressure from low Bb to high F. This can be practiced by playing octaves and arpeggios concentrating on keeping the embouchure tension the same. Using faster air as you go higher can help.

The ideal embouchure pressure for classical (concert band) playing can be found two ways: 1) playing no higher than A=880 on the mouthpiece alone, and Ab concert (written F2) on the mouthpiece plus the neck. Playing long tones is an effective way to build embouchure strength. Other ways without the instrument are to smile-whistle-smile-whistle 50 times and then rest and to hold a small soda straw in the center of the lips for as long as possible. Knowing what mouthpiece you play can help to prescribe what strength of reed works best.

Right now, I'm using the mouthpiece that came with my Jupiter Jas 767 alto (I think that's the right model number).
 
jbt is right, double lip is uncommon but should not be a hindrance, some really great players have used it (my own very favourite player Lee Allen for a start) I think Brandford Marsalis also.
 
A common problem on saxophone is tightening the embouchure to play the high register and loosening to play the low register.
I've also read a good bit warning against dropping the jaw to go low. On the other hand, while Joe Allard does not drop the jaw, he clearly moves the mouthpiece in and out to change volume (4:15) as well as pitch (12:00) : Joe Allard

Paul Desmond appears to do that (17:00) for note changes, in for high, out for low: Paul Desmond

Just wondering if anyone agrees this is a good idea?
 
I've also read a good bit warning against dropping the jaw to go low. On the other hand, while Joe Allard does not drop the jaw, he clearly moves the mouthpiece in and out to change volume (4:15) as well as pitch (12:00) : Joe Allard

Paul Desmond appears to do that (17:00) for note changes, in for high, out for low: Paul Desmond

Just wondering if anyone agrees this is a good idea?
That is a jaw movement back and forth not up and down - thus affecting tone colour.
 
I've also read a good bit warning against dropping the jaw to go low. On the other hand, while Joe Allard does not drop the jaw, he clearly moves the mouthpiece in and out to change volume (4:15) as well as pitch (12:00) : Joe Allard

Paul Desmond appears to do that (17:00) for note changes, in for high, out for low: Paul Desmond

Just wondering if anyone agrees this is a good idea?
I think it is important not to confuse what is standard classical saxophone pedagogy with what jazz players do to create stylistic inflections and effects such as "subtone". There are different tonal and stylistic concepts involved. Allard did teach a different approach to embouchure and tone production than Teal, Rousseau, Sinta, Hemke etc. but Allard's students for the most part were gifted professionals who had already developed advanced tone production skills and control prior to becoming his students.

There are those who would disagree, but I strongly believe that players who are just starting out are better served by working on tone production skills following the more "traditional" (Teal) method. This provides a solid foundation of tonal control and fundamentals throughout the normal range of the instrument. Once this level is achieved is the appropriate time to pursue other concepts and styles.

The internet provides a wonderful learning tool, but can sometimes be an "information overload" and confuse those who are just starting out of the saxophone.
 
for some psychological reason, I tend to tighten after the break.
Randy, for stuff like this you have to uncouple your brain and keep thinking that you’re playing in a register where you don’t bite - middle of the stave. Play back and forth between say, E and F and then ascend a scale to C or palm D. Don’t think of the pitch, concentrate on airstream. Practice with decent air at mf to f.
 
Randy, for stuff like this you have to uncouple your brain and keep thinking that you’re playing in a register where you don’t bite - middle of the stave. Play back and forth between say, E and F and then ascend a scale to C or palm D. Don’t think of the pitch, concentrate on airstream. Practice with decent air at mf to f.
Don't cha know, I've been working on that for the past week or so. And you what is an excellent exercise on alto?
The melody of "Get Here"! My upper C and D have improved a lot. Now to the next step, the next D and up!
 
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Incidentally, several people who teach have said, "Relax", meaning inexperienced saxophonist embouchure is often too tight. I was told to push the mouthpiece in a little more (which raises the pitch), and that helped, too. Such advice is not for everyone, some are already sufficiently relaxed.
 
Ok, we're gonna have to agree to disagree here. I think the video shows it too - a forward and back movement. It isn't up and down as that directly affects pitch - think of the technique of vibrato. You'd have an embouchure technique that was basically the same as jaw vibrato but in a haphazard way. He's moving forward and back - back is mainly for sub-tone - not having hard low notes (like Sanborn often uses, for example).
 

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