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· Distinguished SOTW Member
3,259 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
These articles show how the vocal tract impedances need to change for Altissimo and why the vocal tract impedances need to change.

This article shows the overtones and the overtone number that the common Atissimo fingerings are based on ie fundamental, first overtone, second overtone etc.

General Sax theory

· Distinguished SOTW Member
3,259 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yes, it's sort of ignored.

Teachers should be using this stuff IMO.

Allard and Teal didn't know this stuff in the detail that is now available.
They knew some of it, but not all of it that is around now.

Here is another link

The gear (reed, mouthpiece, sax) has to be capable of delivering the overtones in sufficient strength for the player to latch onto and the player has to be able to alter their oral impedance (throat, tongue, airspeed) in a controlled sort of way to latch onto these overtones.

Most working gear combinations do deliver the overtones in sufficient strength but the overtone strength can vary for any particular gear setup and it can also vary in particular ranges like the low G Altissimo note on the Tenor for instance that many have trouble with.

Players impedance adjustment capabilities are all over the place with beginners having hardly any at all and constructive practice is the way to advance and constructive practice involves knowing *** to aim for which the acoustic science lays it all out and explains what to aim for and also the problems to expect.

Most beginners have no clue what to aim for, which is understandable and also have no understanding of what overtones really are which is understandable as well but a teacher that knows some basic Acoustic theory should be able to explain to just about any beginner what it is that they really need to aim for and why it is so before even attempting to play a Altissimo range overtone and not just have the student banging away on overtone practice and often missing the mark because they have no idea *** they are really aiming for.

I've actually read some people who have been banging away on low note overtones for years and still can't play much of an Altissimo note.

I think in these cases that the person has no idea of what they are actually aiming for in the first place.

They seem to have no idea that an overtone is just an overtone and there are no differences between low note overtones and Altissimo overtones, they are all just overtones requiring a particular oral impedance voicing for a particular overtone.

All a overtone is, is that it's a higher part of a lower note and all a player is trying to do is to lose some of the lower parts so that the higher parts are left remaining resulting in the pitch going up.

Overtones can be played on any note of the sax but some will be stronger and easier to play than others.

For example, the low G Altissimo note on the Tenor is a weaker overtone than other overtones on a lot of gear and this can be seen by just using some frequency analysis or impedance analysis like at the NSW sax site.

The way for the player to deal with this weaker low G Altissimo overtone is by changing their oral impedance so it latches on to the overtone even though the overtone might be a bit weak and also changing certain aspects of the gear (reed mouthpiece) can result in a stronger overtone depending on how the reed and mouthpiece and sax match.

The player has an impedance that can be varied by oral gymnastics and the gear has an impedance that can be different for each note and overtone and up in the Altissimo region is where the players and gear impedances need to interface with each other for a player to be able to latch onto and produce a Altissimo note.

The overtones have certain impedance peaks where the maximum strength of the overtone will occur and the player has to alter their impedance in varying ways to interface with the maximum overtone peak in a way that produces the note.

The player has to really be able to alter their oral impedance for the particular note they are trying to play because each Altissimo range overtone might have different strengths and impedances, hence the old standby of hearing the note first in your head which really means that the player is positioning and setting their oral impedance in a certain way in preparation to play the Altissimo range overtone.

I'm just simplifying things here btw as it's really more complicated than what I'm posting.

· Registered
4,342 Posts
Thanks for the links interesting stuff. My experience generally agrees with what you've posted above. I worked on overtones on and off for years but couldn't play anything in the altissimo range. Finally I got frustrated enough that I just started trying to get whatever altissimo notes I could squeak out (for me it started with D4 which seems to be the altissimo note tenor produces naturally since I can get that note to come out no matter what keys my fingers are on). I figured I was either going to make some reasonable progress or quit because I didn't have enough hours left in my life to continue at the pace I was moving and accomplish anything. Otherwise my experience has been;

* Start with low note overtones but don't wait until you've perfected or totally mastered them to have a go at actual altissimo notes.
* Collect as many fingering possibilities as you can- some just speak better on certain horns than others.
* Work on altissimo every time you practice but just for 10 or 15 minutes- it keeps you from getting too frustrated and everyone else in your immediate area from going crazy
* It takes time but working on overtones/ altissimo does great things for your tone over the whole range of the horn
* Being able to "hear" and produce altissimo notes on your own while practicing is still a long way from being able to use them effectively in performance

"I'm just simplifying things here btw as it's really more complicated than what I'm posting." - To me it's one of those things like swimming or riding a bike, very complicated to explain in terms of the physics, sensations, and necessary muscle movements but once you've had a little success (that sort of ahh-haa moment) it becomes much more intuitive as to what you need to do, though it may not necessarily be easy to do it.
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