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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,

I have a problem, I read this thread once about someone that could play well into altissimo but could never get the overtone series really going for him.

I haven't been playing nearly as long but I have the same problem.

I can play quite effectively in the altissimo range (with the throat, not by biting) and have substantial control over the pitch, I can tongue, bend, mess around up there quite well. However, when playing overtones I get to the 5th harmonic (a D, D# or E lets say) and can go no farther. I spend hours and hours trying to pop er up, but to no avail.

Is there something I'm not getting?
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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I used to have pretty much the same issue. Stopped playing altissimo almost altogether, and really hit the overtones. I too thought I was not biting to get the altissimo before, but now I know I am not and it feels much different. Now I can match tones (not quite 100% on all the pitches yet) all the way up to E4 on a good day using low note/ overtones and altissimo fingerings.

If you truly aren't biting, maybe you can try this: Play the note you want to play, lets use A3 for example, plus it is a really easy altissimo note to hit on any horn. Play the A3 using your best altissimo fingering. Then, without changing anything except fingering, maintain the A3 while you move your fingers to play B1. You may find that using the octave key with the B1 fingering will help

My first sax teacher told me that practicing overtones is like weight lifting: Some days you can go for a personal best, and some days you can really get your *** handed to you...You have to play through it all to get any stronger.

On a side note: Things also changed for me when I changed mouthpieces. Not saying that it was the mouthpiece or set-up alone, especially since now it doesn't matter much what mouthpiece I play, but some seem harder than others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you, after reading I've just done the same and hit up the overtones hard!! I'll just have to keep at em!
 

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If the goal is to play altissimo, and you can do it confidently and competently... then why the heck waste time with overtones? Because certain folks say you need them? Though altissimo is used quite often these days, I don't think I've ever seen or heard an overtone concert. Use what works for you, and don't be worried about someone else's fundamentals.
 

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If the goal is to play altissimo, and you can do it confidently and competently... then why the heck waste time with overtones? Because certain folks say you need them? Though altissimo is used quite often these days, I don't think I've ever seen or heard an overtone concert. Use what works for you, and don't be worried about someone else's fundamentals.
I was assuming from the wording of the original post that he/ she wants to get into the overtone series a little more comfortably. I was merely offering my (limited) experience on the topic by saying what helped me when I was in a similar position.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was assuming from the wording of the original post that he/ she wants to get into the overtone series a little more comfortably. I was merely offering my (limited) experience on the topic by saying what helped me when I was in a similar position.
I truly believe the overtone series to be an excellent way of developing tone as I know that my tone has benefited greatly by the practice of them. I also love the way that Brecker and Art Pepper uses them as an excellent tonal varient.

The goal is definitely to become more competent in playing the overtones. Altissimo is secondary, it was just interesting that I can play in the altissimo range quite comfortably but have a nice roadblock as far as overtones. I want to be able to improve that capacity.
 

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Playing regular notes is also a great way to improve your tone. But if alitissimo isn't your goal with learning overtones, then there you go... keep working on them then.
 

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Grumps, You should listen to Brecker. He was a master. If you saw him in person, you would walk away, saying _ How can one person be that good-- But he was. Also the nicest person you can would ever meet.
 

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Grumps, You should listen to Brecker. He was a master. If you saw him in person, you would walk away, saying _ How can one person be that good-- But he was. Also the nicest person you can would ever meet.
I wish I could have listened to him live.
 

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If the goal is to play altissimo, and you can do it confidently and competently... then why the heck waste time with overtones? Because certain folks say you need them? Though altissimo is used quite often these days, I don't think I've ever seen or heard an overtone concert. Use what works for you, and don't be worried about someone else's fundamentals.
Well, that would have been what I said, but Grumps beat me to it.
 

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Overtones are one of the measures of your ability to focus your vocal tract. The ability to focus your vocal tract helps determine your range, color of your sound, and your ability to get around on the horn. Not that it's the sole determining factor, but the vocal tract is your first method of control over your air stream and subsequently your saxophone playing. Ever hear someone play a note that sounds flat as can be, but is actually in tune? That flat/dead sound can be a result of an extremely unfocused vocal tract, and a focused vocal tract is more likely to produce a more vibrant/alive sounding tone. Long tones are another way of practicing focusing your vocal tract, but overtones require more focus overall. Great jazz and classical saxophonists and teachers have been toting this knowledge for years and years. I recently read a scientific study on saxophonists and their vocal tracts and how it all works. The study, which took measurements of the inside of player's mouths and vocal tracts, concluded that pro saxophonists who have the ability to play altissimo all focus their vocal tract on some level and most beginners don't focus their vocal tracts. Of course a good embouchure helps too!

Back to the original question - I've played altissimo for many years, and I played and got around in the altissimo register before I could ever play overtones up there. When I finally learned to play overtones in the upper register my altissimo improved drastically. I could do things better and with a better sound than I could do before and it all felt easier. Basically, its a slow transition from embouchure driven altissimo to vocal tract driven altissimo. And the you let your airstream do the work (instead of your embouchure) the easier it gets and the more you can do.

I was transcribing and able to execute altissimo lines from Chris Potter before I learned to really control my upper overtones. It all just sounded better and felt better once I got the overtones going. So you feel like your not biting and you can do a whole bunch of stuff? Well, you probably do have good control and can do a whole bunch of stuff, but you're probably still biting!
 

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I listened to Canadian sax man Doug Pullen a few years back. He performed one song entirely on overtones (harmonic series type stuff...). It wasn't a whole concert of it, but it sure was an interesting couple of minutes. The entire song was done with the same fingering. I also have problems with any real melodic freedome in the altissimo register. I can "scream" a number of choice notes fairly consistently but the damn "G3" is a low confidence note for me still. This summer I plan to attack it with a vengence....
 

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G3 is a tough note.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Overtones are one of the measures of your ability to focus your vocal tract. The ability to focus your vocal tract helps determine your range, color of your sound, and your ability to get around on the horn. Not that it's the sole determining factor, but the vocal tract is your first method of control over your air stream and subsequently your saxophone playing. Ever hear someone play a note that sounds flat as can be, but is actually in tune? That flat/dead sound can be a result of an extremely unfocused vocal tract, and a focused vocal tract is more likely to produce a more vibrant/alive sounding tone. Long tones are another way of practicing focusing your vocal tract, but overtones require more focus overall. Great jazz and classical saxophonists and teachers have been toting this knowledge for years and years. I recently read a scientific study on saxophonists and their vocal tracts and how it all works. The study, which took measurements of the inside of player's mouths and vocal tracts, concluded that pro saxophonists who have the ability to play altissimo all focus their vocal tract on some level and most beginners don't focus their vocal tracts. Of course a good embouchure helps too!

Back to the original question - I've played altissimo for many years, and I played and got around in the altissimo register before I could ever play overtones up there. When I finally learned to play overtones in the upper register my altissimo improved drastically. I could do things better and with a better sound than I could do before and it all felt easier. Basically, its a slow transition from embouchure driven altissimo to vocal tract driven altissimo. And the you let your airstream do the work (instead of your embouchure) the easier it gets and the more you can do.

I was transcribing and able to execute altissimo lines from Chris Potter before I learned to really control my upper overtones. It all just sounded better and felt better once I got the overtones going. So you feel like your not biting and you can do a whole bunch of stuff? Well, you probably do have good control and can do a whole bunch of stuff, but you're probably still biting!
I know what you mean about the flat sound. I've only really heard beginning players sound like that though, and I think its a good thing for a beginner as a relaxed embouchure must be had for that, and from there practice will bring about the tone.

After reading some more and really really concentrating, I've discovered that I am actually biting harder. The isolation of that actually led to some overtonal expansion and I'm improving everyday!

I'm not play any of Potter's altissimo licks just yet but I'm working on it!
 

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It wasn't a whole concert of it, but it sure was an interesting couple of minutes.
And such stuff is pretty much noise to me. Kinda like showing off, but with nothing much to say. As for Brecker, when he played as someone else's sideman I could listen to him; but not anything he did on his own. It's just a matter of taste perhaps, but there are other ways to work on vocalizations, pitch and altissimo that don't involve the overtone series. If it works for you, that's fine and dandy. But I still feel rather strongly that if it's frustrating you, your time might be better spent on more practical applications.
 

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Overtones are one of the measures of your ability to focus your vocal tract. The ability to focus your vocal tract helps determine your range, color of your sound, and your ability to get around on the horn. Not that it's the sole determining factor, but the vocal tract is your first method of control over your air stream and subsequently your saxophone playing. Ever hear someone play a note that sounds flat as can be, but is actually in tune? That flat/dead sound can be a result of an extremely unfocused vocal tract, and a focused vocal tract is more likely to produce a more vibrant/alive sounding tone. Long tones are another way of practicing focusing your vocal tract, but overtones require more focus overall. Great jazz and classical saxophonists and teachers have been toting this knowledge for years and years. I recently read a scientific study on saxophonists and their vocal tracts and how it all works. The study, which took measurements of the inside of player's mouths and vocal tracts, concluded that pro saxophonists who have the ability to play altissimo all focus their vocal tract on some level and most beginners don't focus their vocal tracts. Of course a good embouchure helps too!

Back to the original question - I've played altissimo for many years, and I played and got around in the altissimo register before I could ever play overtones up there. When I finally learned to play overtones in the upper register my altissimo improved drastically. I could do things better and with a better sound than I could do before and it all felt easier. Basically, its a slow transition from embouchure driven altissimo to vocal tract driven altissimo. And the you let your airstream do the work (instead of your embouchure) the easier it gets and the more you can do.

I was transcribing and able to execute altissimo lines from Chris Potter before I learned to really control my upper overtones. It all just sounded better and felt better once I got the overtones going. So you feel like your not biting and you can do a whole bunch of stuff? Well, you probably do have good control and can do a whole bunch of stuff, but you're probably still biting!
This was my experience as well for the most part. That wasn't me doing the overtone stuff in the youtube link. It was my friend. I can do it though. What he is doing right there is you start on a low note like C1 then you play G1 then C2 with C1 fingering then g2 then to C3 and you throw in several fingerings for C3.
 

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And such stuff is pretty much noise to me. Kinda like showing off, but with nothing much to say. .
To each their own I say. I know Doug and he is a monster legit player. I found the harmonic series thing to be interesting. Hey, before trumpets had valves, that is pretty much all they did as well. Perhaps there is a bugle player on SOTW who would also beg to differ on the noise and showing off angle. Doug really did make some cool music this way and I didn't feel he was showboating for a moment with the exception of performing at a consistently very high skill level. I think we expect this from top shelf performers. Still, knowing what the saxophone and Doug are capable of, I would have been very disappointed to hear an entire program like this. I do acknowlege that you have included "to me" in your post and don't mean to express your personal views as a blanket truth for all. I do agree with your later statements in this post but can't say I felt Doug's performance was relegated to noise or pure showmanship because of this particular piece. Perhaps he had something to say but not necessarily to everyone. I can't think having this facility (I dont) would be a skill that would hurt my sax playing. Still, if altissimo is the goal, I do agree there are often more effective ways to get there. The overtone series is, in my opinion, a great way to work on intonation but not necessarily the fast track to altissimo. The air stream control needed is, in my opinion, a shared element for overtones and altissimo. Now if I could just get than damn G3 to speak nicely to me...
 
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