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This quarter for orchestra, the conductor handed the woodwinds parts to a Choro by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Somebody must have told the conductor that I played saxophone, so she gave me the alto part.

Problem is, I've never played classical alto. Truth be told, I've never really played alto. I think I can learn it well enough to get by for this one piece, but I'm not even positive where to begin.

Does anyone have any tips for a college-level classical clarinetist and jazz/soul tenor/bari saxophonist who needs to learn to play classical alto fast?

And don't tell me to give up. I'm going to learn to do this, even if I have to practice all night every night until the concert.
 

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Do you have to buy your own horn, or do they have one you can use?

Honestly, all I could tell you is to get a C*, some bluebox 3 or 3.5 (or more if you have superchops), and practice longtones and overtones until you can control it.
 

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Martinman said:
Honestly, all I could tell you is to get a C*, some bluebox 3 or 3.5 (or more if you have superchops), and practice longtones and overtones until you can control it.
As First Aid, ditto. I agree. Probably #3 reeds will do it.

Also, find a recording of a classical saxophonist you respond to and listen like crazy to his/her tone and have than intently in your mind when you practice the long tones. Also, as a (long) tone exercise, play long, slow melodies with this ideal tone quality in your mind. There will be those who will disagree with the following, but if time is of the essence I wouldn't get caught up in all the physiological technicalities of playing (ie voicing, etc), but just do what I suggested. I am a strong believer that the body will follow the mind - the mind just has to be in the right place with the right focus.

Also, watch your articulations and tonguing. I would play scales and arpeggios in various mixed articulations but mostly with the tongue. Make sure your attacks (I never liked that word) are focused and dead on and not explosive.

When you go in to play with the orchestra for the first time, keep in mind that your sound might really carry over the orchestra, so start quieter than you think you might need to play. Which brings us to the next point - don't neglect to practice softly with a pure tone.

Sounds like a good opportunity. Enjoy!
 

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gary said:
Also, find a recording of a classical saxophonist you respond to and listen like crazy to his/her tone and have than intently in your mind when you practice the long tones. Also, as a (long) tone exercise, play long, slow melodies with this ideal tone quality in your mind. There will be those who will disagree with the following, but if time is of the essence I wouldn't get caught up in all the physiological technicalities of playing (ie voicing, etc), but just do what I suggested. I am a strong believer that the body will follow the mind - the mind just has to be in the right place with the right focus.

What you might want to do is get a recording of this person playing something slow and get the music to the song (or transcribe it) and then play it along with them like you would for jazz. The first part of the third movement of Heiden's Sonata is one my old teacher had me do.
 

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play on a Vandoren AL3 Optimum mouthpiece, those things pretty much force you to sound classical or else you'll sound like poo (well it did for me anyway).

Listen for a classical saxophone sound and try to sound like it
 

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C*, AL3, NC4, S90, LT, Caravan, any good mouthpiece will do.

There's great advice on this thread, and you would do well to follow it.

Listening is extremely important.

Angel
 

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All great advice, especially Gary's.
The most vital thing is to get a good tonal concept in your head of a classical alto tone.
 

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I agree with Gary that if you start with the right concept that the sound will follow. Playing on a mouthpiece and reed suitable for a classical alto sound will not in itself make you sound like a classical player, but will help to facilitate that sound if you have the correct concept to begin with.

My only other suggestion in addition to those excellent ones already given would be to obtain a professional recording of the Villa Lobos piece you are working on to hear and then imitate the tone and style of saxophone part in the context of the piece.

John
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you everybody for your help. I will have to keep these things in mind.

I had not planned on taking saxophone lessons this quarter due to my already obscene time/credit commitments, but I think now it would be stupid not to.

I will go sign out one of the school's altos today and scope out the mouthpiece/reed situation. After I do that, I'll probably go down to the music shop in town to buy my own mouthpiece and reeds.

Fortunately, this is not an orchestral piece. It's a chamber work for winds (and a few strings, I think, but I'm not sure). It's to make up for the fact that two of the pieces the orchestra is doing don't use most or any of the winds (Handel's Jephtha and a Piazzolla violin solo). At least this way, I'll only be learning alto in front of 6 or 7 people instead of 60!
 

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dirty said:
Thank you everybody for your help. I will have to keep these things in mind.

I had not planned on taking saxophone lessons this quarter due to my already obscene time/credit commitments, but I think now it would be stupid not to.

I will go sign out one of the school's altos today and scope out the mouthpiece/reed situation. After I do that, I'll probably go down to the music shop in town to buy my own mouthpiece and reeds.

Fortunately, this is not an orchestral piece. It's a chamber work for winds (and a few strings, I think, but I'm not sure). It's to make up for the fact that two of the pieces the orchestra is doing don't use most or any of the winds (Handel's Jephtha and a Piazzolla violin solo). At least this way, I'll only be learning alto in front of 6 or 7 people instead of 60!

For Villa Lobos think cruising down the Amazon, when suddenly you're attacked by Pirhanas.
 

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dirty said:
I will go sign out one of the school's altos today and scope out the mouthpiece/reed situation. After I do that, I'll probably go down to the music shop in town to buy my own mouthpiece and reeds.
Nine times out of ten your local music shop wont have a classical mouthpiece for a reasonable price. If they're selling a Selmer S80 C* for over 100$ don't do it

Buy it through prowinds or WWBW they have reasonable prices for mouthpieces, and if you're REALLY serious buy multiple mouthpieces on trial and pick the one you like and return the ones you don't.

You probably already know this but the mouthpiece/reed combination is one of the most important aspect of your sound, so be smart, and selective
 

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BlueLight said:
Buy it through prowinds or WWBW they have reasonable prices for mouthpieces, and if you're REALLY serious buy multiple mouthpieces on trial and pick the one you like and return the ones you don't.

This is what I would do if I didn't live right down the street from prowinds.

Dirty, if you want I could pick out a mouthpiece for you. You could also talk to SteveP and see if he could pick out a few good ones and have them shipped to you since he works there.
 

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Have fun learning alto. Number one thing to remember when working is to making tuning your number one priority. I'm sure that you're a more than capable clarinetist and that you know how to tune/voice/etc. Your saxophone playing friends will love you when you play the excerpt with dead-on pitch!!! :)
 

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When DO you want spit in your tone?
 

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Dr G said:
When DO you want spit in your tone?
When you're Phil Barone on a berg?
 

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A lot of people I know who play classical on something other than a saxophone, but only jazz on saxophone, will inevitably play the saxophone with jazz inflections. Remember that you already know what classical expression sounds like since you play it on clarinet. Anything that is unacceptable on classical clarinet is also unacceptable on classical saxophone. No jazz subtoning...no "thuh, thuh" articulations for staccato...no swelling every long note (this includes slowly adding vibrato...vibrato starts at the beginning of notes)...and you have to pay special attention to the consistency of tone quality from note to note. Open C#'s near D's are not as problematic in jazz/soul/etc., but they are in classical. Apply your standards for clarinet to the saxophone.
 

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hakukani said:
When you're Phil Barone on a berg?
ZING!

But seriously, thank you all again for these tips and keep them coming!

Every time I've picked up an alto, my fingers have felt extremely comfortable on the horn, so I'm definitely most concerned about intonation (since I've never played alto for more than a few minutes) and tone (since I've never played classical music on a sax AND because I've never played alto for more than a few minutes).

Unfortunately, I've hit a snag: The conductor thought the school had an alto I could use, but they don't. Apparently, the school mostly keeps common instruments that students tend not to have (Baris, sopranos, bass, A and alto clarinets, etc.). I've contacted my band director, who works in the education department of the Monterey Jazz Festival and he says he might be able to find me a horn, but that I should keep on looking just in case. My sax teacher is looking too, but he works with Monterey Jazz as well, so he might just be looking in the same places. I have a friend who I could ask who I'm pretty sure would lend me his alto (he's switched to tenor more or less exclusively), but I would really rather not lay that on him, because I know how reluctant I would be to lend any of my instruments out, even to my closest friends.

Short of renting - I'd rather not play a beginner horn at a college level of performance (but will if I have to) - where might I get my hands on an alto?

I still want to hear tips regarding style, technique, phrasing and whatever else you crazy legit guys do to sound so good!
 
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