As a general rule, you do not want to cut off phrases with the tongue. Exceptions would be when the composer specifically asks for it. Staccato notes, however, usually ARE cutoff with the tongue unless it is the last staccato note in a series or if there is space after it. This is just traditional woodwind style of playing.
I was brow-beaten by every teacher I've ever had in classical saxophone that one should never cut off a note with the tongue. Sometimes it felt like I was Santa Clause with the "Ho ho ho" thing during a particularly nasty string of stacatto notes, but hey...it got the grade and position that I wanted.
If there is space after the long note, you end with the air. It is the only way to get a good, taper to your notes. Even if you are crescendoing to a huge climax, still end with the air. Ending with the tongue always sounds clipped off. When using an air release, especially at the end of a crescendo, it gives a note the sensation of resonating.
Speaking of the "ho ho ho" style of staccato playing, which is basically what I was told in the beginning by teachers who didn't know, that is never correct. When playing staccato passages, your airstream is constant and your tongue is acting as a release valve. It comes off the reed for the note to speak, and then back on the reed at the end of the note and until the beginning of the next note.
I was always taught to end the note/phrase with the air, either tapering off at the end, or inhaling.
difficult to describe the techniques in words, easier to demonstrate, but I don't have the technology ( I can't rebuild him, I can' make him bigger, stronger, faster than he was before - six million dollar man reference for those of you not old enough to remember)
it is the classical style to taper the ends of phrases. i think this is done to somewhat mimic instruments that have a resonating body...specifically strings and piano. i do love a good tapered woodwind release, which can be done quite effectively on the saxophone.
the tongue stopping the reed type of release has its place, however. really, you should be able to do both. although, creating a good tapered release is MUCH more difficult. you must concentrate on keeping the tone the same, not going sharp and fading out evenly. once you master this, it will add a very mature sound to your phrasing. it's one of those things that separates great players from students.
so practice it till it's second nature, then you can decide what kind of release you want to use per phrase.
In "The Art of Saxophone Playing" Larry Teal describes the use of the two methods of stopping the tone this way:
"The air release is preferable when the tone is followed by a rest or if the sound needs a tapering off near the end. When there is insufficient time to employ the air release between notes, such as in legato-staccato or rapid tonguing, the tongue must be used to stop the tone, since the same stroke of the tongue which stops one tone must start the next."
The easiest way to teach or understand the air release is that it is just like singing a note and ending it by stopping the air in the throat.
In jazz articulation it is another ballgame. Often long quarter or half notes played with an accent are articulated "Dot" or "Daaaht" especially if they coincide with accented notes in the brass. Dexter Gordon on tenor ends most of his notes with the tongue and it sounds great in his style of playing. I have never heard of a classical player who does this. There may be contemporary pieces that call for this effect.
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