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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone,

I'm having a problem with play bari sax.

I'm in Middle School, and I've been playing tenor sax for about 6 years.

I've been interested in playing bari sax, but when I tried to play my friend's bari, I couldn't reach the low C without twisting the bari sideways and bending down.

This akward position drastically affects my playing.

I've always had very small hands, so...that's always been a drawback...

Any suggestions?
 

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You might need to adjust the angle of the neck to the left or right so that your hands assume a more natural position on the keys. Some baritones also have difficult keywork to handle even for adult players. It's also possible that you just need to do some more growing!

What make/model of baritone are you trying to play?
 

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Yes, what make/model are you playing?

Does the school have any other baris you can try?

I've found the more modern horns are better suited to smaller hands than some of the vintage horns. I'm not sure what your options are though..
 

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Discussion Starter #4
MPL said:
You might need to adjust the angle of the neck to the left or right so that your hands assume a more natural position on the keys. Some baritones also have difficult keywork to handle even for adult players. It's also possible that you just need to do some more growing!

What make/model of baritone are you trying to play?
That might be it, I'll try that.

But I believe it's just an old Selmer USA Bari.

It does seem pretty difficult to play due to its size. My friend who plays it in the band is almost 6 foot so maybe that's why my band director chose him.



And to hgrail, I don't believe my school has any more baris. Many of the band's instruments need replacing, although many of them are still playable, just in fair condition.

The bari does look a bit old, but not vintage.
 

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Anything bearing the moniker "Selmer USA" is a relatively new horn. The main concern with "old horns" is with older Conns and Bueschers, instruments not likely to be found in school systems any longer.

Push comes to shove, some people do not meet the physical requirements to play a given instrument. And, this cuts both ways, not just against little people.

Examples include:

• People with large hands trying to play Eb clarinet (I know this only too well, as I am "ham handed")

• People with small hands trying to play bassoon (although some student horns do not have quite the "reach" requirements of the professional instruments)

• Girls and guys with thin fingers trying to play soprano clarinet - young girls have a lot of problem with "squeaking" until their finger tips get large enough to seal the tone holes. Leblanc student horns take note of this and have smaller tone holes.

• Those with short arms trying to play a standard (i.e., non-"trigger") trombone - it's a long way out to seventh position...

• Finally, there's the progressive example of stringed instruments. They get around "reach and finger spread" problems by using 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 sized instruments, and through differing techniques (in the case of the string bass). But, it is possible to be too small to be able to play the 'cello well.

The size issue is why you don't see baritone saxes, bass clarinets and string basses at the primary level. From the early secondary level on, they are used, but almost always they are provided with "size selected" players.

A youngster would have potential trouble in two or three areas. One is the left hand little finger. Leverage here can be an issue if you are having to fully extend your little finger to reach the keywork.

A second is with the low keys for the right hand little finger. It is quite a reach down there, although those of us who already play the things have grown used to it.

The third would be with the finger spread for the right hand. Some horns have these fingers spaced a bit more widely than others.

And, to add to the misery, the length of the horn can be an issue for some folks who are short. The height of the chair is one factor to consider, but the shorter the person, the lower the suspension point is going to be to the floor. Put a five foot two, eyes of blue, young lady on a typical band room chair and the bow of the horn may well be interacting with the floor. The solution here is the use a higher chair, or a phone book or the equivalent to raise the level at which one is seated.

And, through it all, you have to realize that it could be worse. Some schools still have bass saxophones kicking around the band room...
 

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Ergonomically speaking, the old Selmer USA baris aren't exactly brilliant for people with small hands, same with old Conns.

I know an alto player that couldn't reach low C on her dad's X-bar as the C key was too far south for her to manage (she plays a Yamaha 32 alto) - I thought he meant she couldn't get the low C through lack of puff (or more to do with it leaking like a sieve), not because she couldn't reach the keys!
 

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I agree with SOTSDO... in fact, one of the reasons I got to play sax was my size. I was in the string orchestra in middle school and wanted to play sax (I found my grandpa's true-tone alto in grandma's closet and thought it was very cool, but didn't know how to play it). So, I set up a meeting with the band director (after much begging to the strings director for permission), told him my situation, and he took a look at all 6-ft-at-age-thirteen of me, and pointed to the bari sax collecting dust in the corner... "If you'll learn to play that, you're in!". Well, from then on I was referred to as "the big one on the end" when he was introducing the sax section at concerts. The double entendre was just fine with me, as long as I got to play sax!

Funny enough, I'm still the same size 25 years later... maybe I should pull out some of my 80's clothes... red leather tie, rugby pants, adidas bag, deck shoes... look out!
 

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My bari is currently collecting dust while I'm out of action - not helped with the fact I've only just come back from hospital to have my shoulder popped back in after I re-dislocated it 2 hours ago when I stretched during a yawn.

Unless you want to be my bari roadie - I could do with one of those to lug around and set up my bari for me, and drive as well as I can't use the gearstick.
 

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SactoPete said:
Funny enough, I'm still the same size 25 years later... maybe I should pull out some of my 80's clothes... red leather tie, rugby pants, adidas bag, deck shoes... look out!
Please, for our sake and the sake of your family..... DON'T!
 

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I was VERY small when I started playing bari. I remember the first time in 7th grade when I tried, I thought it was physically impossible due to my size and it was VERY frustrating. I grew into it... very awkward at first, but I think perhaps PLAYING bari will make you grow... and get some muscle... lol. I remember I had the most difficulty playing the older baris with longer necks... once I got onto a newer model with a shorter neck it got easier. Aside from that... try out some different neckstrap/harnesses that will adjust properly so you don't have to reach quiiiite as far. Hmm, that's all I can suggest. you'll grow.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hey everyone, thatnks for the help.

I seemed to have found a comfortable way to play bari easier.

By, adjusting the neck of the bari between 45-90 degrees to the right, slanting the bari upward and to the right in a seemingly awkward angle, that isn't awkward at all.

It makes the bari lean against my right leg, and kind of tilts in at an upward angle, so it makes it easier to reach that low C key.

It may seem that I could've just adjusted the neckstrap to raise the bari closer so I could reach, but that just made the mouthpiece hard to reach, so no low notes would have been able to be played.

It stants the bottom of the bari up and to the right, not raising the upper body, making the lower keys easier to reach.


Now all I have to do is do push ups with my pinky to be able to open that C# key. :D
 

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Cool... just tell everyone that you are paying tribute to Lester Young....

 

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Chris Peryagh said:
Ergonomically speaking, the old Selmer USA baris aren't exactly brilliant for people with small hands, same with old Conns.

I know an alto player that couldn't reach low C on her dad's X-bar as the C key was too far south for her to manage (she plays a Yamaha 32 alto) - I thought he meant she couldn't get the low C through lack of puff (or more to do with it leaking like a sieve), not because she couldn't reach the keys!
I agree...

I had an old Selmer Bundy Baritone with low keys mechanic on the left side, awful to play, don't know how to explain, but you couldn't lean it against your leg.

And I'm tall.

Now I use a Vito made in France by Leblanc, you play it like a modern alto.

Also I think "SOTSDO" is right about everything he said, sometimes, you can't reach a kind of instrument. I can't play the piccolo flute, I think it's too small for my hands.
 

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blondemusicgurl said:
... try out some different neckstrap/harnesses that will adjust properly so you don't have to reach quiiiite as far
I agree with this sentiment...a little more advice:
get all set up to play and seated (or standing) in the position you will play. Adjust the strap and neck so that the mouthpiece naturally ends up about 2-3 inches directly in front of your mouth with your head in 'reading music' position. This may take some experimentation with different straps and harnesses. Then rotate the mouthpiece so that the tip is parallel to your mouth. Now gentle pressure with your thumb should put the horn ready for play...there should be negligible pressure on the top of your thumb, just push like you are trying to dent the body tube. This should allow your hand position to be more relaxed and flexible and makes the tough reaches easier to access.
 

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leogigeck said:
I had an old Selmer Bundy Baritone with low keys mechanic on the left side, awful to play, don't know how to explain, but you couldn't lean it against your leg.
The Conn X-bar was like that - there was no keywork guard on the left, so if it was rested against your leg the bell keys would close as the mechanism was held down.

As for piccolos Leogigeck, I find my Yamaha (81) can be a problem as the right hand keys are so tightly spaced (and reaching for the lower trill key with RH 3 is a pain as I keep hitting the RH 3 fingerplate instead), but have you tried a Philip Hammig piccolo? The fingerplates are spaced out much further as are the trill keys (they're further south), and the Eb touch is lower as well, so there's a lot more room in the right hand keywork compared to Yamahas and some other makes that haven't spaced out the fingerplate extensions - no reason why they can't as they're only soft soldered on Yamahas, and they can easily re-jig the trill and Eb touchpieces (and the Eb key pillars can be set closer) as there's plenty of room.
 

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Chris Peryagh said:
The Conn X-bar was like that - there was no keywork guard on the left, so if it was rested against your leg the bell keys would close as the mechanism was held down.

As for piccolos Leogigeck, I find my Yamaha (81) can be a problem as the right hand keys are so tightly spaced (and reaching for the lower trill key with RH 3 is a pain as I keep hitting the RH 3 fingerplate instead), but have you tried a Philip Hammig piccolo? The fingerplates are spaced out much further as are the trill keys (they're further south), and the Eb touch is lower as well, so there's a lot more room in the right hand keywork compared to Yamahas and some other makes that haven't spaced out the fingerplate extensions - no reason why they can't as they're only soft soldered on Yamahas, and they can easily re-jig the trill and Eb touchpieces (and the Eb key pillars can be set closer) as there's plenty of room.
My Bari was exactly like you said.

About piccolos, I tried some horns but it was hard enough to make me give up. Maybe I’ll be in NY on December and I’ll try some of those horns.
 

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Another problem that I forgot to articulate is when you are playing baritone in a "show band" situation (one where you are standing and you are required to do "moves" as part of your performance - this usually but does not always go along with R & B music), the neck strap has to be set up completely different from when you are seated.

When I play baritone in my group, for the sitting stuff I use an over the shoulder strap that I acquired from The Saxophone Shop in Evanston IL (They still had them as recently as four years ago.) When I have to play standing up (solo work or ensemble work with "moves" (see below)), I use a Hyman style ribbon strap that is quickly and easily adjusted (for both alto and baritone).

I've tried harness style straps in the past, but they are too restrictive for me to deal with horn changes and "moves" and the like. I deal with the weight issues by keeping the horn up on my lap for any rest longer than two bars (it's easy to slide it up and back with the over the shoulder strap. If I don't make it a point to slide it up into the rest position as much as possible, the back pain can grow to alarming proportions over the space of a four or five hour gig. (This is a particular problem on New year's Eve jobs.)

In the past, when I was considerably younger and a lot more flash in musical performance stuffy, I did the solo stuff with two different horns. One was an older (Mark VI era) Selmer horn, with what seemed like the world's oldest neck, while the other was with a Yanagisawa horn with a nice short little stub of a neck.

With the Yanagisawa horn, there were no problems. I could hold the baritone to the front (awkward if you don't have the arm strength but otherwise doable) and move with the best of them. With the Selmer, I was constantly taking a divot out of the trombone player standing next to me, this due to the protruding bow of the horn as I pivoted to the left. (The every other bar impacts also didn't do my mouth any good in the bargain...)

I currently own a Yamaha YBS-62, which seems to be a compromise between the Selmer and Yanigisawa lengths. I know that, if the Yamaha neck was any longer, I'd not be able to do the sax moves on the one tune that my group plays (Jump, Jive and Wail!) that employs them. (This is the "honking" section at the start of each chorus of "Jump, jive and wail, you're gonna...".) One more thing to consider about your choice of horn.

I once saw a baritone player on Austin City Limits (I think) who did a tune called Punkin, Punkin with a long neck baritone. Lots of up front honking on the baritone, and for the life of me I could not see how he could hold it out straight in front of him for that long.

Push comes to shove, my purchase criteria for baritones has for many years included the "short neck" variety as a must have. That Martin Magna horn seen currently on eBay would be of interest, but since it doesn't have a neck, I'd be buying a pig in a poke, so to speak...
 
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