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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've only been playing for a week, but I'm having trouble getting a consistent high tone out of my octave key, and some times it just straight up doesn't work. In order to get it to work I have to bite a bit on the reed, which I don't think I should have to do. By biting on the reed and tightening my embouchure, I'm able to hit the high note even without the octave key pressed, so I'm even further confused by that.

I've been searching for some content on the topic, but I'm failing in my searches. I'm just flooded with how the key works, but I'm not finding content about how your embouchure has to change, or if at all.

Appreciate any advice, or links to content explaining.

I uploaded a video of me playing so you can see what I am doing. I think I said E, but it was actually a D, and I was raising my eyebrows to exaggerate my movement, I don't actually do that when I play normally.

 

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It is possible to play any note without the 'octave key' but of course its a good thing to have, particularly when just learning. Get out of the habit of 'biting' because this is going to cause trouble with intonation down the road.
I can see that your octave system is working. Just work on the octaves and try a new reed. If you tongue each note except where the music directs a different approach, you will find that the octaves get easier - its also a case of 'willing' the note higher.
 

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Make sure there's no leaks, do you have a light to stick down there?
 

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I think you should put the octave key off for a while and focus on getting a good tone on the low end. You still have a lot of work to do there. You are using a lot of air (way too much actually), which is usually good, but it's completely uncontrolled. You basically have zero embouchure at this point. It would be best to get a few in person lessons at this early stage to get off on the right foot. It's very difficult to convey exactly what you need to do in words. It needs to be demonstrated and refined in person with a qualified teacher. The good news is once you have control of the low end, the octave key notes WILL happen automatically as you'd expect. Right now you're blowing right past the overtones that would normally come to the front when the octave key is pressed, so all you get is the fundamental frequency.
 

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Lydian’s analysis is correct. You are just blasting the sound as hard as you can. This won’t get you very far :). Although, not bad for playing a week or two!

I suggest going to the Better Sax YouTube channel, and looking at Jay Metcalf’a videos on embouchure and breath support. Or better yet, find a good teacher. If you live in an urban area, go to some clubs and find a local player whose sound you like and take some lessons. Or go to a college or music school and find an advanced student or maybe even a professor. You need some guidance in general tone production.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I really appreciate the feedback everyone. I think you’re right that I’m just blowing right past it. I feel like I’m using way too much breath all the time so I’ll watch some videos and do some breath control exercises.

I am in search of a local teacher for some in person lessons, but until then I just have this elementary level book and it just has you work through the scale to learn the fingerings and when I hit the higher notes requiring the octave key (DEFG) is where my breath problems are really showing.

Thanks again everyone!
 

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strange , even if you are blowing powerfully you shouldn’t have really a problem to change from a low E to E2.

just try to use your air pressure rather than blowing with more power ( you will see how this is an important way to do things while playing saxophone).


as other have said, changing octave is not necessarily achieved, only, by pressing the octave key, that only helps by creating an interference , you can do iy also simply by changing the shape of your oral cavity and throat , in reality player do this also when using the octave key, they just don’t notice that they do.




this may help (or not)

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
as other have said, changing octave is not necessarily achieved, only, by pressing the octave key, that only helps by creating an interference
You replied right as I'm practicing this morning. The video you shared exactly explains my troubles, and helped a lot.

I also found a post (I can't find it now to reference) that states the octave key isn't some magic key, it simply reduces back pressure to make the higher sound easier to produce, but you'll still have to change your embouchure to achieve it.

I'm also working on my breath this morning and I was blowing WAY too hard yesterday, putting so much pressure that I guess the air is blowing right past the octave port. I'm working on my breath today and I'm already finding much more consistency by relaxing and not pushing so much air out.

I did also check for leaks, none there, and I get a good suction test from my mouthpiece and reed, so the issue is 100% my form.
 

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The formula for a good quality tone: Tone = Air + Embouchure + Set-up

The embouchure should not change from one register or octave to the next. Set-up means the mouthpiece and reed. In the video, the reed sounds a bit soft. With a Yamaha 4C, for a beginning player a Rico 2 1/2 or equivalent is a good strength.

An exercise I use with my students starting on saxophone is to sound an Ab on a keyboard or tuner, hum or sing the pitch, blow that pitch on the airstream like an airy sounding whistle, and then play that pitch on the mouthpiece + neck with a big full tone. When it is possible to match that pitch with a big clear steady tone held as a long tone several times, the saxophone is assembled and using the same air stream, embouchure, and shape inside the oral cavity play a F2 on the saxophone with a big tone and hold it as a long tone several times.

When that note can be played with a well controlled sound, start on that note and repeat that volume and tone quality on an E. When E sounds good, go to a D using a bit more air as you add fingers. Continue down the F scale to F1 holding each note as a long tone. If at any time the tone begins to suffer, go back to the air whistle and neck and start over.
 

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Well, I really don't see the octave pip opening in the video, but maybe it's just my old eyes. Like others have said, if you have a leak it can affect a lot of things, so you should have your horn checked by a tech. And last but not least, since you are a beginner you should find a good teacher/sax player and take some lessons. They could also check your horn for it's functionality. Don't start off playing an instrument that doesn't work properly, it will only lead to frustration.
 

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You’re getting good advice and it sounds like you’re getting yourself sorted out. Nice work! Not sure where you live but if you’re having trouble finding someone to take some lessons with, look up the colleges (4-year and CC) near you that might have a program. Most list their faculty by instrument and most lesson teachers are adjunct these days…which means local, part-time, and typically taking on students. Have fun out there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The body pip is opening (and not the neck pip) since playing below the G key. The neck pip won't open by design. If you look very closely, you can see the body pip opening on the video, but it's super hard to see, and I can assure you it is opening during play.

I've been working on my embouchure and breath control and so far I am getting much better performance out of my octave key and it is performing now as I expected. Again, I appreciate everyone's help in this thread.
 
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