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trouble playing high notes


Formerly saxgirl22
hi all, I have been playing sax for over 10 years and I gig and play every week in bands etc. I'm having some recent trouble though, which has never happened before and it's upsetting me somewhat! The trouble is that all of a sudden i'm getting a duff tone on my top d on the tenor and it keeps breaking up the note. I don't think this is trouble with my sax at all as it's been in for minor repair and is playing beautifully. There is resistance on the upper register but again I think this is me. I seem to be suddenly struggling with the Lawton 6*b mp that I have used for the last two years with no problem! I don't know what's wrong with me and it's getting me down! Can anyone help or advise if they too have shared a similar experience as I'm deeply dissapointed in my playing! Just to help out a bit, I have a bridge (dental) with 4 lower front teeth on. I don't know if after all this time I have subconsciously adjusted my jaw when playing?!
Look forward to some replies :(

Nick Wyver

Sounds a bit odd. Just D? Not D# or higher? Sounds like the sort of come and go problem a beginner would have, but not after ten years of playing and regular gigging.

Have you tried a different mouthpiece or reed? Has anyone else played it? If you've got a handy sax shop, technician or teacher have a go on a different sax. Try to eliminate all the variables one by one.


Well-Known Member
Are you putting enough air through? I sometimes 'fall out' of the higher notes if I get tired and in the past it has become a habit. I put mine right with lots of long tones supported from the diaphragm....hope that helps?:)


Well-Known Member
This is an interesting case since any leaks above the D palm key tonehole would affect most of the notes in the lower octave as well.

A few questions:

1) Is the dental bridge new?
2) Are there any other changes that have happened recently---practicing more or less, different reeds, etc.
3) What exactly do you mean by a "duff" tone? Is it "stuffy"? Does it squeak or squawk?

With situations like this I like to isolate the "tone producer". See what pitch is produced when you play the mouthpiece and neck. Generally it is close to an E Concert. Also blow the mouthpiece alone. Typically the tenor should be about Concert G. Some jazz players will play a step or step and a half below this pitch which works because they push the mouthpiece in to compensate. Playing on a mouthpiece or mouthpiece plus neck pitch that is higher than the one's mentioned is usually not recommended since it has a tendency to produce tone and intonation problems.


Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
It sounds like an instrument issue.
I would check a couple of things first:
Is the venting of the palm key correct?
Is the upper speaker hole clean?
Is the crook clean?


New Member
saxgirl, Please forgive me if I say something obvious - you've been playing longer than I have. I used to have trouble making the higher notes speak. My sax teacher had me begin at a mid-range note, then quickly travel up the scale until I was in the upper register. It was easier to transition from lower notes to higher notes than to begin with the higher notes. Once I was able to produce a good tone using this technique, I would stay on those notes, playing long tones. My embouchure "learned" what it needed to do. Again, sorry if this isn't what you're looking for.


Formerly saxgirl22
hi all, sorry a late response from me. Thank you for all of the replies and advice. I have been back at band for a few weeks now and my tone is improving on those duff notes! I think maybe it is that I had a break of about 6 weeks over xmas with lack of playing and had to get my sound and everything else that goes with it improved again. My dental bridge isn't new, I've also had that for 10 years and it's a pain in the bum but doesn't really affect all the playing too much but may be a factor.
I got a new alto last weekend, a trevor james rev ii silver plate alto - it's lovely and i'm getting used to my new instrument slowly and think I will have many years of happy playing with an affordable silver plated sax! :)
Saxholder Pro

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