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I've been thinking about something, and I wonder if the more experienced players could opine as whether there's anything to it.

Newton tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of the sax, this means that the pressure changes in the horn ought to produce some sort of correlated pressure change inside the player, specifically inside her lungs and air passages. When the pressure drops at the reed, the reed closes, pressure should spike in the player since she's still pushing to propel air but nothing is getting out. When the reed opens, pressure in the horn goes up, pressure in the player should momentarily drop.

So, if you think of yourself as this big resonator for your horn, and try to open up your air passage to allow that activity to occur with the least restriction, will you get a better sound?

My initial experiments with it say, Yes. However, this 'open up your air passages' idea is largely psychological, tricking your involuntary muscles into cooperating. (This is, as I understand it, what opera singers wrestle with all the time, trying to outpsych themselves and getting paranoid about anything in their environment that might upset them and make their instrument not cooperate, which can make them such difficult people to live with...) So it's easy to conceive that the perception of different sound might also be psychological.

Your thoughts?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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When the pressure drops at the reed, the reed closes,
No it doesn't. The reed closes if you apply pressure to close it.

But, if you are blowing then the reed will open and close (unless you apply so much pressure it stays closed).

However it's very good to open up your air passages, but the main reason (for me) is so that you use your tongue to close the reed and stop the sound, as opposed to your throat.

This makes sense if if you believe that a very big (possibly the biggest) part of what forms the sound is articulation.
 

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No it doesn't. The reed closes if you apply pressure to close it.

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Thanks for the insight.

I have a question: if the reed closes when you apply pressure to it, when does it open? And why does it open and close in a frequency controlled by the (changable) length of the air column?
 

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The acoustics of all this are quite complex. At softer dynamics the reed never fully seals at the tip, but it does indeed "beat", or fully close from around mf on. The reed is reopened by an wave reflection (with inverted phase) from the end of the air column--basically meaning at the first open tonehole. Since the speed of sound is constant, the frequency of the reed and therefore the frequency of the sounding note are thus determined by the length of the air column, which is controlled by the keys covering the holes.

The player's oral cavity does act as a manner of upstream resonator, which normally has only a small effect on the sound, but it certain circumstances, especially when tube resonances are weak, it can have significant effect on reed behavior. This is particularly true with altissimos, which can only be prodded if the player configures the oral tract to align in resonance to the desired note.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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There is a good explanation of how the oral cavity and tongue position are used to good effect in saxophone playing in this video from the Cannonball Musical Instruments website done by SOTW member who goes by Randal Cannonball.
That only made partial sense to me. I bend notes a lot and usually I do it by relaxing my lip, as I prefer the sound. I can vary my oral cavity, no problem to play tunes on the mouthpiece alone as he says. I can also play pretty good overtones, but I find that oral cavity bending only works high up on the horn, and even then is not as good as relaxing the embouchure.

It's true that in order to get a good bend by relaxing the embouchure you do have to do a lot of work on the diaphragm to stop all the air rushing out or closing the throat, but in the end it's worth it to get a better sound.

As an example see the Tucker clip on this page:

http://www.petethomas.co.uk/saxophone-videos.html

There is no oral cavity involved in those pitch bends, if it sounds "dopey" as Randall suggests, then in my defense I will say at least it was not too dopey for Francis Ford Coppola who was in the studio at the time and asked me to play like that.

Having said that I don't wish to poopoo Randall's playing: it sounds fine and if it works for him then he should use it, though in places the examples he said sounded bad seemed to be better than the examples he said were good. Ultimately all I would say is to not be close minded and assume there is only one way for everyone, or that other peoples' methods are dopey.
 

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I find it interesting that anyone would disagree that dropping the pitch by loosening the embouchure produces a flat and flabby tone. It would seem to me that this is a fundamental of tone production, just like playing with the embouchure too tight produces a thin and pinched sound. The concept Randal is espousing is that a scoop or a fall should be a change in pitch only, and not a change in tone quality as well. The same principle applies when a trumpet player chooses to correct the sharp 1st and 3rd valve combination low D by pushing the third valve slide out rather than by lipping the note which moves the tone "off center" and negatively affects the tone quality.

Perhaps the relaxed embouchure scoops and falls produce the quality of sounds we are more familiar with. I know that is true in my case, but I am looking forward to mastering the way Randall demonstrated it in the video. The point I wished to make by posting the link to that video was that changes in the oral cavity "upstream" from the mouthpiece can have a pronounced effect upon the pitch and tone quality of the saxophone---even below the altissimo range.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I find it interesting that anyone would disagree that dropping the pitch by loosening the embouchure produces a flat and flabby tone.
It all depends on how you do it. As I said, it requires good diaphragm support, otherwise it may well sound flat and flabby.

The point I wished to make by posting the link to that video was that changes in the oral cavity "upstream" from the mouthpiece can have a pronounced effect upon the pitch and tone quality of the saxophone---even below the altissimo range.
I thought the point of the video was that this change of oral cavity was supposed to not alter the tone quality.

However I believe they they certainly can alter pitch and tone, but for me not very much below the altissimo range and as far as pitch is concerned not as effective as the alternative method of relaxing your jaw.
 

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However I believe they they certainly can alter pitch and tone, but for me not very much below the altissimo range and as far as pitch is concerned not as effective as the alternative method of relaxing your jaw.
I also find this to be the case. It's difficult to change the oral cavity without making minute pressure changes to the reed from the muscles and jaw. And it doesn't take much pressure change to vary the pitch (especially the higher the note). I've never been completely convinced that oral cavity alone is responsible for this.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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One other thing in this regard is that sometimes I will use oral cavity tongue position to change the pitch as an effect in its own right, ie not for a note bending or pitch altering effect in normal playing, but as a special effect which has a sort of weirdness by itself which I quite like as novelty (like doing seagull impressions), but not as part of the normal pitch bending process.
 

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It all depends on how you do it. As I said, it requires good diaphragm support, otherwise it may well sound flat and flabby.
I would argue Pete, that once the jaw moves downward to "relax" the pressure of the lower lip against the reed that there is also a corresponding change in the volume and shape of the oral cavity. That would mean that there is really no such thing as bending a note using the embouchure entirely by itself. I listened to the beautiful examples of pitch bending in the link you provided, and will bet a box of reeds that you are doing more with the oral cavity than you realize. :bluewink:
I thought the point of the video was that this change of oral cavity was supposed to not alter the tone quality.
I apologize that my remark was not clear. I should have used the words "tone color" rather than "tone quality".

However I believe they they certainly can alter pitch and tone, but for me not very much below the altissimo range and as far as pitch is concerned not as effective as the alternative method of relaxing your jaw.
A perfect example of how effective using the oral cavity to "bend" the pitch can be is the clarinet solo in the opening of Rhapsody in Blue. Try doing that with just your lips. I use the same techniques at the beginning of Yakkety Sax (the British know it as the Benny Hill theme).
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One other thing in this regard is that sometimes I will use oral cavity tongue position to change the pitch as an effect in its own right, ie not for a note bending or pitch altering effect in normal playing, but as a special effect which has a sort of weirdness by itself which I quite like as novelty (like doing seagull impressions), but not as part of the normal pitch bending process.
Cool!
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I would argue Pete, that once the jaw moves downward to "relax" the pressure of the lower lip against the reed that there is also a corresponding change in the volume and shape of the oral cavity.
Yes, of course there is is. But this isn't the point we are discussing as raised by Randall on the video. He was discussing altering the pitch and bending by oral cavity alone without relaxing the jaw, and cited relaxation of the jaw to do the job as wrong. Of course relaxation of jaw will inevitabaly also include reshaping of the oral cavity.
 

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How is achieving a desired effect ever wrong?

Folks interested in this subject should mosey on over to the thread in Tech/Science>Acoustics about effect of the oral tract. Good links there, including an mp4 by Gary Scavone.
 

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How is achieving a desired effect ever wrong?
Whilst you are backing up my point (so theoretically I should agree with you wholeheartedly) I could be devil's advocate and point out that some people would consider that this is possible.

As an example, most of us might consider it wrong to place the teeth on the reed, although it can achieve the desired effect of getting an altissimo note.

Perhaps I should therefore give Randall the benefit of the doubt and presume he knows that bending a note by relaxing the jaw is wrong to the extent that it can cause problems, although I must admit if this is true I haven't yet come across them.
 

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1. Playing lower on the pitch by relaxing the embouchure produces a poor tone whether it is sustained or momentary as in a scoop or a fall.
2. Playing lower on the pitch by changing the oral cavity and keeping the embouchure "firm" does not hurt the tone quality.

To see if the above statements are true, play a G scale with your normal embouchure, then play the same scale 1/2 step lower by loosening the embouchure and compare the sounds. Putting all the breath support in the world behind a "flabby tone" does nothing but make a louder "flabby tone" in my playing and teaching experience.

Jazz players especially are encouraged to push the mouthpiece in farther, and to play lower on the mouthpiece pitch to produce a sound that is has more body and intensity. Playing lower on the mouthpiece pitch by just loosening the embouchure does not produce nearly as good a sound as keeping the embouchure the firmness required to control the reed and lowering the pitch center with the oral cavity. That I believe is the point that Randal was making in that video.
 

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1. Playing lower on the pitch by relaxing the embouchure produces a poor tone whether it is sustained or momentary as in a scoop or a fall.
2. Playing lower on the pitch by changing the oral cavity and keeping the embouchure "firm" does not hurt the tone quality.
This may well be true for you. And Randall. He is a good player, and I'm sure you are (though I haven't heard you), but it's not true for everyone, as I mentioned above. I'm happy to concede that you and Randall are better players than me and know more about the saxophone, all I'm saying is what I know works for me and various students I've taught. I'm not going to insist on any rules or dogma because I believe it's helpful to force what works for you on other people. Suggest it politely, yes, but I never insist on it or assume it's the ultimate universal answer.

Jazz players especially are encouraged to push the mouthpiece in farther, and to play lower on the mouthpiece pitch
I believe all players (not just jazz players) should be encouraged to play in a way that works best for them, their setup and their style of music. Everyone is different, so trying to come up with a rule that fits everyone does not work. That's my experience anyway.
 

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Folks interested in this subject should mosey on over to the thread in Tech/Science>Acoustics about effect of the oral tract. Good links there, including an mp4 by Gary Scavone.
Thanks for calling attention to that thread. I just posted a comment on it regarding pressure changes to the reed with respect to Mr. Scavone's research.

Just for the record, in the video above (by Mr. Randal Clark) we can see his jaw move at around the 7:00 mark where he prefaces that part of the demonstration by saying that his lower lip is "not adjusting" and is staying "pretty firm". He then goes on to make a more exaggerated example by moving the jaw even more. But his jaw did move in both cases which has to affect the pitch. Personally, I've found that while watching in the mirror I can move my jaw imperceptibly (visually) and consequently change the pitch .
 
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