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Discussion Starter #1
I'd really appreciate some advice on what kind of systematic practice
could be useful to gain control over low notes. I feel very disappointed of not being able to play correctly even very simple melodies that involve low notes (I play tenor), especially when there is some variation in articulation and/or dynamics. I'd like to feel confident on the notes I want to play (as if I were playing piano... you hit the key and the note must come out). I'd spend all the necessary time on that until gaining that control, if I just knew what's the right way to develop this...

Thanks a lot in advance!
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2012
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Hi there,

Definitely start with a well regulated saxophone. Make sure the horn is setup correctly with no leaks, even the slightest leak will cause resistance and can make the lower notes very difficult.

I recently had a freind test play a student tenor my tech had just setup. He is relatively new to saxophone and struggled with the low notes (low D and below). After he was done I slapped my mouthpiece on to test it out and it played perfectly for me. I'm not sure what he was doing, but he may have been overblowing as this horn was very well setup and required very little air to play it. Also make sure your embouchure is loose enough to hit them but not enough to loose control. I'm definitely not the expert in this department and I'm sure others will chime in, but consider playing longtones in those low notes to gain some control.

Best of luck!
 

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I'll let some of the more learned posters advise you on technique.
In my early experiences, problems with the low notes actually came from a poorly sealing horn. If you have not already done this, have a technician check you horn for leaks.
 

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Well, you left yourself open to this one. Keep a tight *******! Actually, new sax players tend to change their embouchure when playing low, or high, for that matter. Try thinking high notes when playing low and low notes when playing high notes.
 

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Assuming a well adjusted instrument and suitable set-up, there's no substitute for practice, practice, practice on the long tones, until it finally falls into place for you. A good teacher can help but there's no magic.
 

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I have had success with students having this problem by having them approach the problem low note(s) by first slurring down a scale to the low note lacking control. Say for example, you are having a problem playing low C piano. You would start forte or mezzo forte slurring down to low C from a low G. When control is gained at one dynamic level, then you go to one level softer and repeat the exercise. Once the low C can be slurred down to successfully at piano, then slur down to and hold the note as a very long tone at this level. When this is mastered, keeping the same air and embouchure, practice slurring down to the note and tonguing the note repeatedly with staccatto, marcato, and legato styles. When this is mastered go to the last exercise which is making an entrance on that note at the desired dynamic level. If the embouchure, oral cavity, shape of the tongue, and air velocity have been adjusted to do the previous exercises with success, the last exercise should not be too difficult. If it is, simply go back a step or two and rework one of the previous exercises until more control is achieved.

Some things that are helpful to remember when playing the low tones on the saxophone are: select a reed that is not too resistant (hard), play with an open throat (first part of a yawn feeling), blow warm air, when articulating keep the back of the tongue down out of the way of the airstream (think AHH), do not relax the embouchure (unless a subtone is desired), make sure the sax has no leaks whatsoever. Good luck. I hope some of this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks a lot to all of you for the advice.
To begin with, I've decided to change mouthpieces
and reed strengths (I was playing a Vandoren T45
with Traditional Vandoren reeds # 3, now I'm trying
a Selmer S80 E with Trad. Vandoren reeds # 2.5).
A smaller tip opening and a softer reed are helping
to lessen the problem. The sax seems to be ok (btw,
it's a Yamaha TS-62 that I bought brand new 1,5 yrs ago).
I will work on soft long tones and
try to keep practicing low notes on a daily basis for a
while...
Thanks again!
 
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