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Discussion Starter #1
I have a Yamaha YA280 alto which came with a 4c mouthpiece. I started learning three months ago and have moved from a 1-1/2 to a 2 reed. I find it impossible to play the highest two notes f and f#. What might the cause be?
Ian
 

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The fact that you are playing only for 3 months? That says a lot in itself.

It takes time to learn to play, high and low notes are the most difficult as a beginner. Try also not to choke the reed by taking too little in and playing too much on the tip alone.
 

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I can play the lowest Bb to high E without any problem. I have tried changing my mouthpiece entry distance and I do try to avoid putting bottom lip pressure on the reed. I would have thought that with enough trying I would have made at least a few f and f# sounds but so far nothing. Tried a different reed brand and I always moisten the reed before playing. Reed tip is about 0.5mm from mouthpiece tip. Perhaps a different mouthpiece will help.
 

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I don’t hink that there is anything wrong with your mouthpiece.

Don’t start feeding, this early, the gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) , with pointless (at this stage of your development) reaching for wallet to buy the chops that you have to acquire anyway. Everybody needs to learn to walk and then maybe to run, there are very accomplished playes whom play the Yamaha mouthpieces even after years of playing.

There is the remote possibility that something is leaking... (have the horn checked and try other horns to see if you have better results on someone else’s sax) but I would simply think that you need to try and try again. The reed may be too hard (although if you get a good low Bb sound it shouldn’t) try maybe a softer reed and please, relax the embouchure.

Beginners have, often if not always, a tight embouchure. Take some lessons. It is very difficult, at a distance to coach anyone.
 

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No offense, but THREE months? I know people that have been playing for 30 YEARS that sometimes have problems with high F and F#. As the old saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day".
On the bright side, if you can confidently and comfortably play from low Bb to high E already, that's pretty amazing. Bottom line, it takes time.......sometimes, LOTS of time.
 

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It may be an embocure problem. Don't tense up. (bite) Maybe push in your MPC some more and learn to play without "squeezing" too much. As others have stated - You're just getting started. Best of luck. It's almost certainly not your MPC.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Sorry I should have said that I have been taking lessons from an accomplished jazz saxophonist. He has just told me that these notes will come and he has me trying them at every new lesson. I suppose I am just trying to get second opinions here for which I am very grateful.
 

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Sorry I should have said that I have been taking lessons from an accomplished jazz saxophonist. He has just told me that these notes will come and he has me trying them at every new lesson. I suppose I am just trying to get second opinions here for which I am very grateful.
I would stick with advice from your teacher. It can get confusing when asking people over the internet when it comes down to embouchure issues. We can guess, but without being with you in the same room like your teacher it is just a guess - and there can be various conflicting answers.

Your teacher will know about anything that can be improved regarding instrument condition, mouthpiece type, reed, embouchure, breath support
 

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LATE EDIT: ok, I see you have an instructor already. Great. Just be patient.

My instructor would always tell me "faster air" for the few notes I couldn't get. Also, air should come from the diaphragm. At this early stage in your development, the first year, a good instructor is well worth the money spent.

It took me a little while to get high F on the palm keys, much longer to get the front high F. Once you get it, it'll come easier with practice.

It's easier than a beginner trying to get a D chord on guitar.
 

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Rather than a softer reed, you may want to try a harder reed. Sometimes when we try to play higher notes our emboucher tightens up closing off the reed completely at the tip. A harder reed would help with that problem.
 

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Rather than a softer reed, you may want to try a harder reed. Sometimes when we try to play higher notes our emboucher tightens up closing off the reed completely at the tip. A harder reed would help with that problem.
You may well be right. But could well bring more problems with lower notes so I beg to differ.

This is what I mean about internet advice...
 

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You may well be right. But could well bring more problems with lower notes so I beg to differ.

This is what I mean about internet advice...
Concur. Yes, a harder/stiffer reed will keep the player from literally pinching and "shutting down" the reed up top, but will also make the mid to lower range of the horn more difficult, which in this case the player definitely doesn't need that issue thrown in! My personal advice would be to focus on two things: 1. Airstream. Don't back off when you go into the palm keys. It's a natural thing to WANT to do, but don't. 2. Let that airstream work for you and be your friend instead of the enemy. Meaning, IF the airstream is strong, you'll be less likely to start pinching like hell up top (which in my opinion is the major factor you're having a problem with F and F#).
Again, as I said before. You've only been playing for 3 months and you can already go up to a high E? That's seriously good. The F and F# will come. Be patient!
 

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To be honest, I wouldn't even be bothering with high F and F# right now. What's the point? After only 3 months, there are a zillion other things you could/should be doing rather than being focused on those 2 notes. Can you play a 2-octave chromatic scale using 16th notes at 60-80 BPM? If not, that'd be the kind of exercise I would be getting you to focus on right now i.e. finger dexterity/coordination, embouchure and airstream development etc.

As for your difficulties with high F/F#, can you reply and let us know if your attempts are resulting in high-pitched squeals/squeaks or in a lower-pitched "urrggghhh" tube-like sound? Those are the two most common results if you're unable to correctly produce those notes and they have quite different causes and solutions.
 

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A #2 reed is very soft. you might try moving up to 2-1/2. But then you may find trouble with the low notes with a stiffer reed. Welcome to the world of saxophone playing.
 

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I found on my Yamaha alto that I couldn’t reliably get the high F sharp with my Selmer mouthpiece and it was somewhat flat when it did sound. The high F sharp came out no problem at all with my Meyer mouthpiece and in tune. But I overall preferred the sound and response of the Selmer mouthpiece over the rest of the horn. So I stuck with the Selmer mouthpiece and kept working on it.

Realizing that the note tended flat with the Selmer mouthpiece, I took a piece of sandpaper and sanded down the foot cork that controls the opening height of the high F sharp key to allow it to open farther. It didn’t take much sanding, but the higher key opening height improved both the tuning and response of the high F sharp.

So you might want to check if those keys are opening enough for your mouthpiece/reed setup. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Maddcow,

To answer your question the high notes choke the reed even although I place my mouth further in. I'm going to persevere with a 2-1/2 which I gave up as I never had enough air even in the mid range.
 

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These are tips I have used with my students:

- pretend your mouthpiece is a sour lemon when you shape your embouchure around it, and raise your eyebrows
- blow the pitch of the note you are trying to play on a fast, cold airstream like an airy sounding whistle
- play the note(s) on the saxophone with the same feeling as the above suggestions

When playing the palm key high F it often helps to approach the note chromatically. When trying to sound the note using the front F fingering, play a high C and then give the air stream a "burst" of speed and pressure as you press the front F key. Play the notes as loud as you can at first. Trying to make them sound good too soon works against you. First get the note to sound by "blasting it out", and when you can play it consistently, then work to control and refine the sound.
 
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