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Discussion Starter #1
Hello!

I've been doing this mouthpiece only A=880Hz exercise for some time, almost left my sax for awhile. I can get close enough to the standard as far as my ear allows me.
I now blow through my new Vandoren V5 A27 mouthpiece (as described in another my recent thread which is apparently abandoned now).
I tried #1.5 Vandoren reeds with this mp and it's very difficult to get A=880 with those reeds: the intonation I can get is 1 step below of what is required. Occasionally I can get A=880 somehow but it usually quickly drops 1 step below with a flop.
#3 Vandoren reeds work allright and I can get A=880 Hz with these reeds quite easily (I also tried #2 and they are like #1.5 in response).
This is a preamble.

My main question is: How much pressure should be applied to the reed from the lower lip to get A=880? Well, I understand you may say that if you get A=880 Hz the amount of pressure applied is normal.

Then I would rather like to ask you: When blowing the mouthpiece (playing sax) do you really have to APPLY PRESSURE from your lower lip to the reed? Should it feel like squeezing the mp or just surrounding it with the lip muscles?(I understand what 'biting' is and try to avoid it by all means)

I am asking this because I have to apply lots of pressure to obtain that A=880. When I blow the mp in this condition to make it sound at all and above that to make it sound like A=880Hz I have to literally make such an effort that I feel I may blow out. My neck muscles are tensed and my throat starts aching after 10 minutes of this exercise.
(By the way to get close to A=880 with #1.5 reeds I need to apply even more pressure to the reed and find some 'correct' position of my embouchure to hear that brief A=880 before it drops 1 step below. #3 reeds don't require such precision and are much easier to control).

I am a normally build adult man and I experience such difficulties that I don't understand at all how 10 years old children can play saxophone. When I think about this it seems to me it's impossible for them to play the sax.

I am absolutely sure I cannot do all this completely wrong. What is the trick?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I am sorry colleagues for flooding this forum with a number of my new threads. I just noticed that two gentlemen answered to a similar question (at least it's relevant to this one) in my earlier thread. I thought that thread was abandoned and started this one.
I also understand all my question may sound silly to you but I am actually crying for help this way as I currently have no opportunity to contact my instructor.
 

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Jolle said:
For your embouchure : you should tighten up the corners of your lips and pull these corners up a bit like a grimas, but pull your chin down. This prevents biting. The muscles you need for that are the ones on your cheeks, right under your eyes. Watch a trained clarinetist, you see immediately which muscles he uses most.
As I posted in the other thread ;)

Hope it's a bit clear to you. It took me a while to get the difference between biting and putting pressure. Biting is what you do by pressing with your lower jaw. putting pressure is what you do by lifting up the corners of your mouth when keeping your lower jaw down.

And indeed, with a #1.5 deviation is a lot bigger, since you blow your reed "open" when you don't put enough pressure, or close it up when you apply too much pressure or start biting. #3 is indeed more easy to stay pitched.

Time to work on that clown-face :clown:

One other thing : if your throat starts aching, you do something wrong. Try to blow relaxed. Always think about your breath support. One way to see it: you have to tense up your stomach muscles as if you're going to get a punch. This way you put more pressure on your lungs, so the air has more speed. That's not the same as blowing hard, that's just a lot more volume. With the same pressure, more volume means less speed.

good luck
 

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A couple of ideas and suggestions.

-Stick with a #2 1/2 or #3 reed.

-Make sure you are putting the correct amount of mouthpiece in the mouth. See this link if you are not sure. http://www.brucepearsonmusic.com/article/SaxEmbouchure.htm

-Don't try to play the A=880 on the mouthpiece soft and pretty. Play loud!

-Try to do most of the work with the airstream so the embouchure doesn't have to work as hard. Blow the A=880 on your airstream as a fast "air pitch" and then blow your mouthpiece with the same fast airstream.

-If the mouthpiece pitch is too hard for you right now, an easier way to get the right embouchure tightness is to play Ab concert on the mouthpiece and neck. Again---play loud. Also do the "air pitch" first to get the air going fast enough to do most of the work.

Good luck. Hope some of this helps.

John
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hello!

I continue to practice the mp only exercise.

Could you tell me please how long should one be able to sustain the A=880Hz on the mp for?

I am worried that I can sustain the note for 4 or 5 seconds at most. This also worries me because when I went to a sax tech last week he asked me to check the sax after adjustment and I palyed a few notes. He told me that he was suprised that I was able to produce only three notes 2 seconds long each in succession. I showed him how I breath at his request and he told me the way I used my breath support was correct but he still could not understand where all of my air went. The tech is an experienced sax player.

I read on this forum that people can sustain a note for 12 seconds and even longer. I just cannot imagine what they do to to achieve that.

I know that I use correct breathing technique - 'breathing from my toes as they say' and I have no such problems as raising my shoulders when taking air in. I take enough of air to resemble a pregnant whoman. What is that I can be doing wrong when producing the sound?

Jolle and jbtsax: Thanks for your advice. I think some of your tips helped me with my ebouchure.
 

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hi. Do you have a teacher? If not, I think you may need one or you might get put off at this early stage! If you can't find/can't afford a teacher: the m/p only exercize is a good one but if you're at the stage of struggling to sustain a sound then I think you might find it more rewarding to try putting the mouthpiece on the neck and then blowing/breathing through (as jbtsax said). Make sure the reed is wet (and it should be a soft reed too 1, 1.5) and that you're not biting down on the top of the mouthpiece with your teeth. In my opinion, spot on intonation through the entire range of the sax should not be your number one priority at this very early stage. All the best
 

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Discussion Starter #7
RootyTootoot said:
hi. Do you have a teacher?...I think you might find it more rewarding to try putting the mouthpiece on the neck and then blowing/breathing through.
I have a teacher but he is away now till the end of August.
What do you mean by blowing/breathing through the mouthpiece with the neck attached? Is that just taking in/letting out the air without actual sound? Anyway what should be my goal in doing this exercise?
 

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WinnSie said:
I have a teacher but he is away now till the end of August.
What do you mean by blowing/breathing through the mouthpiece with the neck attached? Is that just taking in/letting out the air without actual sound? Anyway what should be my goal in doing this exercise?
That wasn't exactly what I had in mind but in fact it would be a good start. Breathe evenly in and out through the m/p and neck. Then start to apply pressure on the reed very gradually with the bottom lip + keep the sides sealed as Jolle said. The bottom lip should be pressing up rather than the top teeth pressing down. Don't let the bottom lip collapse onto your (bottom)teeth. The top teeth should just be resting on top of the m/p rather than pressing down hard. Another factor is the placement of the bottom lip relative to the reed and mouthpiece. Experiment with your bottom lip placement to see where you get the best sound. General rule: if it hurts or something feels blocked you're doing something wrong. The sound should flow easily. Try to relax and take things steady. Don't practise for extended periods and get frustrated. All the best.
 

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are you playing alto sax? if you are playing tenor then you should blow a concert g with mouthpiece alone.you must take deep breaths with your stomach. your stomach should stick out when you take a deep breath not your chest. there should be air pressure from your abdomen constantly and the mouth should be a release valve controlling volume and airspeed.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
It's rather lenghty message but I will appreciate your attempt to read it to the end if you really want to help me and perhaps to a bunch of other hopless beginners who struggle with this concept.

Can someone explain me the physical background of the breath (air) support in application to longer sax notes and softer sound?
Please read my understanding (which may be wrong but not totally, I'm sure) of this phenomenon and make your comments please.

First of all, I've read numerous articles on this and other Internet sites explaining what breath support is and how to apply it. I know about tensing the abdominal muscles like preparing for a punch on exhalation, I understand how to find those muscles that need to work - by bending forward and coughing.

I've been doing abdominal mucles' work-outs since my teenage years. I can hold them taut with no questions. I can do abdominal breathing also well, I can take a lot air this way. I understand the difference between chest breathing and abdominal breathing.

I don't understand the following.

You all pro's keep saying that to produce longer and softer notes on the saxophone one needs to apply breath support to control with the diaphragm the air volume and the airspeed at the mouthpiece opening. I think this all ***sounds*** totally wrong! Something else should be considered to make the explanation of what is really going on correct and comprehensible.

Suppose I take a deep breath into my lungs by means of my abdominal muscles that will pull down the diaphragm thus allowing the lungs to take the air in. I can breathe like that with no question.

Ok, the air is in. I look like a pregnant whoman, like a balloon or whatever valid comparison was ever made to describe proper 'low breathing' for wind instruments. I want to reiterate that I understand this type of bteathing and can do it very well.

Ok, againg the air is in. The only way out for the air to make a sound on the saxophone (mine is alto) is through a mouthpiece.
The mouthpiece has a fixed aperture that depends on its tip opening. When on exhalation cycle the air pressure is applied from the tip of the mouthpiece the reed starts to vibrate.

There is some lower limit of the air pressure that should be applied to the reed to start its vibration. Below that limit there will be no reed vibration possible and the only sound that will be produced on exallation with this low pressure will be hissing sound from the air flowing through the small opening. This is no different from pursing ones lips and blowing through this small lip opening, only with the sax the hissing sound will be amplified.

What is VOLUME in respect to the sax sound production? There is a certain amount of air contained in our lungs after the inhallation cycle is complete. When we start to exhale the air through the MP to produce the saxophone sound (this is what we actually do to play the sax; blow through the MP; apply pressure from the tip of the MP; whatever you call it the air will escape through the MP opening producing the sound provided there is enough pressure above the lower limit to start the reed vibration).

The higher the pressure we apply at the MP opening the higher the speed of the air through the MP will be. This is all pure physics. The higher the air speed will be the faster that fixed amount of air (in other words VOLUME of air in our lungs) will be emptied.

Ok, the air is in. I now want to play a loooooong note with a sooooooooooooft sound. I make my abdominal muscles taut to have my breath support working correctly and begin to exhale the air with this setup. But in this state the air consumption (may be not the right term here but I'm sure you understand what I mean) should be very small because what I am actually doing is holding back the air. It means more air is retained in the lungs for a longer period. When the physical law described above is applied to this situation it turns out that with a fixed aperture of the MP tip opening and less air consumption for sound production the pressure applied at the MP opening should be lower and thus the speed of the air travelling through this fixed aperture will be lower as well. The volume of air going through this fixed aperture will be lower as well.

I can tell you more: the volume of air escaping through the mp will be directly proportional to the air speed going through the mp opening and the air speed will be directly proportional to the pressure applied at the MP opening provided the mp opening remains the same. And if I find the one and the only one correct ammount of pressure that needs to be applied to the reed (by using A=880Hz mp technique) with that pressure the mp opening will be constant.

What then do you mean by saying that to produce softer and longer notes on wind instruments (sax is no exception) one needs to increase the air speed and decrease the volume of air. These things are related in the way that as I described above so that when the air speed is increased the volume of air is increased as well and vice versa.

When I hold back the air with my abdominal muscles on exhalation the pressure at the mp opening is so small that no sax sound is produced because the lower limit of the pressure needed to start reed vibration cannot be surpassed. When I apply more pressure I have to 'blow' harder from the diaphragm (you may say that 'blow' is incorrect term but we all eventually blow either from the chest or from the diaphragm in real life; you cannot blow from the chest unless you apply pressure to it). When I blow harder from the diaphragm the pressure at the mp opening increases and more volume of air goes through the MP. As a result I get that 'steam-boat chimney like' sound according to my wife's comments. She is right. I sound exactly like that.

'Can you play softly?' - she asks me. 'Well', I say, 'theoretically I can - I need to use my breath support and hold back the air with my abdominal muscles, let me show you...'. 'Hssssssssssssssss'...
 

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There is a lot of different theories on this. In my opinion a significant amount of pressure is required to make a really fat tone. The reed loves to vibrate on top of a nice thick lip muscle. But to me biting is applying pressure only from the jaw. This isn't the correct way to apply pressure to the reed. You must use the muscles in your lips to surround the mouthpiece. as you add pressure from top to bottom you have to equally apply pressure from the corners of your mouth. You must apply pressure from the sides or you won't play in tune, especially on an open mouthpiece.
 

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Winnsie, two thoughts :
- it sounds as if you have some kind of a medical problem, if you say your breath support is correct and you have not enough air to produce longer notes. I noticed already that I can play a lot longer notes when my whole condition is better : less smoking, more exercise.

- what I do for playing long, soft notes, is keeping the pressure on my diaphragm, but releasing the air slower. It is important to keep the same pressure on the diaphragm, since that pressure produces the speed. But you can put pressure on it without releasing air, or with releasing air more slowly. This is the volume of the air you push through the horn. I hope it's more clear now.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Jolle, Thanks for your answers. At least you are trying to help.
I think I just need to work on this. Perhaps there is a huge gap between one who just starts to play the sax and the one who managed to get it under control.
The best explanation (and I think the most honest one) that I 've found about fast air/less volume or whatever combinations may be made of these two variables was stating that all this is just a "subjective feeling" but not really fast or slow air or more or less volume. It's more about personal sensations.
In my long message above I tried to elaborate on connection between fast air/more volume and slow air/less volume through the constant opening.
BTW, I don't smoke.

What I don't really understand is whatever air pressure I apply to the sax there is a certain amount of air pressure needed to start the reed vibration. Having read many posts I get an impression that people need to apply really tiny amounts of air pressure to start the reed vibtration. When I apply such an ammount of air the reed won't speak. When I apply more pressure I get that rough noisy sound and I can sustain a note with that sound 6 seconds at most.
 

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WinnSie said:
What I don't really understand is whatever air pressure I apply to the sax there is a certain amount of air pressure needed to start the reed vibration. Having read many posts I get an impression that people need to apply really tiny amounts of air pressure to start the reed vibtration. When I apply such an ammount of air the reed won't speak. When I apply more pressure I get that rough noisy sound and I can sustain a note with that sound 6 seconds at most.
I explained it in another thread already :

I have the idea that the concept of putting pressure is not understood completely right always. It's not so much your stomach muscles you need, but your diaphragm. That's the muscle that tenses up to prevent that your lungs collapse if you get a blow in your stomach. I experience it as pushing "up" with that muscle. But in the meantime I constrict the amount of air that is released. It's not by closing down my throat, I can't really describe it.

Another thing you might try to play with, is the angle you blow over your reed. Optimally, the air should go straight over the reed, not in an angle. This is done by the position of your mouthpiece, but also the direction your blow within your mouth. You can change the direction of the airstream without moving your mouth. I can't really describe it, but if you try to be conscious about this, you might figure out what I'm talking about.

Tackling the saxophone takes a while, as everybody here can tell you. Don't give up, give thought to what others say here as well, and try out what works. It pays off, I can assure you ;)
 

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Winnsie, please don't take offense, but my diagnosis of your problem is "analysis paralysis". :) I could give a detailed answer to each of your points, but I feel that it would only add to the confusion. My suggestions are to do the following exercises and DON'T THINK...JUST DO IT.

1. Take a deep breath and hold a 3rd line B as long as you can mf keeping the air pressure (breath support) constant throughout the tone.

2. Take another deep breath and hold the same note as long as you can f again keeping the air pressure constant till you run out of air.

Now the more challenging one...

3. Take the same deep breath and hold the same note as long as you can at p keeping the air pressure going till the end of the tone.

For now keep changes in the "air speed" out of your equation and focus on breath support (pressurized air) and the volume of air.

Playing softly with control takes time and practice. Try playing long tones at a level you can play with control and gradually get softer and softer (diminuendo) by reducing the volume of the air but keeping the pressure constant. Do this until you can hold a tone that is barely audible---very little air but still under pressure.

Changing the speed of the air is more a function of controlling the pitch and the timbre (tone color and intensity) of the sound. You can add that to the mix when you are fully in control of the volume and pressure of the air.

SOTW has some great information available to players who are new to the instrument, but because it is not always presented in a logical sequence it can sometimes be confusing.

John
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks JBTSAX. I'll keep trying. I am too impatient.
Probably it's similar to playing guitar: you think no way you can ever twist your fingers to play that chord but one day you do.
 

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WinnSie said:
Thanks JBTSAX. I'll keep trying. I am too impatient.
Probably it's similar to playing guitar: you think no way you can ever twist your fingers to play that chord but one day you do.
And it's probably harder when you "think" about it.:)
 

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WinnSie said:
I continue to practice the mp only exercise.
Why? There are too many variables in regard to mouthpiece placement on the cork alone to believe that you have to play a certain pitch from your mouthpiece into the neck. Quit focusing on the pitch going in, and instead focus on the pitch coming out. I know I'm not the only one that feels this exercise is a complete waste of time. In fact, I think you'd be better served wrapping your hands around the end of the mouthpiece and trying to blow a tune with that alone; changing pitch with hand positions and lip pressure. Yeah, that's it. Different pitches coming from your piece. You'll work your ears and your lips with that one; plus it's fun.

As far as bloating the belly... you certainly don't want to do that. Just tense up like you're about to take a punch in the gut. That's air support.

Now please... go out and have some fun with this. That's the point.
 

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Grumps said:
Why? There are too many variables in regard to mouthpiece placement on the cork alone to believe that you have to play a certain pitch from your mouthpiece into the neck. Quit focusing on the pitch going in, and instead focus on the pitch coming out. I know I'm not the only one that feels this exercise is a complete waste of time.
Sorry to disagree Grumps, but input pitch has everything to do with the tone and intonation of the saxophone. As an experienced player, you have found the embouchure tightness and mouthpiece placement that you are comfortable with and what works for you. With a beginning player this is not the case. They have no reference whatsoever for how tight the mouth should be around the mouthpiece or how the bottom lip should feel against the reed.

When I was given this mouthpiece pitch information while taking some lessons from a student of Eugene Rousseau it not only improved my sax playing but it took my sax teaching (mostly young players) to a different level immediately. The process is incredibly simple but extremely effective. These are the steps for the alto sax.

-Have the student sing Ab concert on a "la" (establishes the pitch in the mind)
-Have the student make that pitch on a fast airstream (sets up a fast supported airstream)
-Have the student (with the proper embouchure) blow that airstream and play the mouthpiece and neck to produce an Ab concert (sets the correct tightness of the embouchure)
-Have the student finger and play high F (Ab concert) on the sax keeping the pitch, air, and embouchure the same as on the neck.

Rather than a waste of time, this process is based upon sound pedagogical principles, can have a young player producing a beautiful tone in under 30 minutes. The mouthpiece and neck combination is easier for a beginner to blow on at first, but the teacher then moves to the A=880 pitch on the mouthpiece as soon as the student can control the sound. At that point I agree that learning to adjust the pitch on the mouthpiece and playing tunes is a great listening and flexibility exercise, but you can't start there with most players!

Grumps said:
Now please... go out and have some fun with this. That's the point.
Agree 100%. It is always MORE fun to play and practice when you like the way you sound. :) There's much more than my 2 cents.

John
 

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And there are plenty of other worthy exercises to arrive at a decent sound. Funny how each proponent claims their's is the one true path. I find being flexible in the pitch I blow into the piece can open a world of possibilities. I find stifling this to be abhorent. Then again, I'm not so quick to teach my secrets; and I'd be too mean a teacher anyhow...
 
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