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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Group, thanks for letting me join.

A little background and then my question: I've played keys for 15 years, with formal classical instruction for the first 7 or so years. I dabbled with sax and trombone in jr. High, a couple of semesters each in band, but no private instruction. I currently also play (badly) guitar and a little bass.

So I decided to take up the sax. Bought a $75 no-name (literally, there's no name on it) alto in remarkably good working condition. I'm going to be going it alone, I realize that might not be ideal but I don't have any big lofty goals; if I never play the sax very well, so be it.

I just don't want to end up with carpal tunnel syndrome or a paralyzed face or something aweful like that. So I was wondering if the members would be so kind as to point out a few bad habits that a self-taught person would want to be especially vigilant about avoiding?

Thanks so much,

Mike H. - Indianapolis, IN

Edit: By the way, if you are interested I'm using the plastic mpc that came with the horn, the previous owner was a band kid and it apparently worked fine for him. #2.5 reeds. I can work my way thru a couple of major scales and know all the notes (although not all the fingerings). The highest and lowest 3 or 4 semitones on the instrument are a struggle to get out... I can play up/down to them but not start there. Not important now anyways. As far as practicing, I'm getting in about 40 minutes 3-4 times per week, spending the first 5-10 minutes on long tones with mpc only, then with the horn, then some scales etc - focusing on tone more than getting notes right since that will come with time.
 

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Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
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I don't think there's much chance of any physical, even bad playing habits aren't as bad as many people believe and often can be got over with. I was self taught from the age of 18 for two years and managed to get into music college. My main bad habit was putting my lower teeth on the reed to get the very high notes, don't do that. There's a lot of beginners stuff on my site, especially about starting off and embouchure, which is where the worst bad habits might creep in.

Another thing people do is to waste energy lifting their fingers off the keys or too high off the keys. As a keyboard play though I imagine you would be aware of this, and obviously it's not like a piano, where you would hit the keys harder to get louder.

The long notes practice is great, too many people ignore them.

See here
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't think there's much chance of any physical, even bad playing habits aren't as bad as many people believe and often can be got over with. QUOTE]

Thanks Pete, for your response.

I suppose it's probably difficult to injure yourself too badly playing the sax, but I have heard horror stories, and given that I use a computer all day, and play piano and organ regularly, I figure I'm at a high risk already. (not to mention I'd be pretty sad if I had to stop using my fingers for a month)

Thanks, and I'll check out your website.
 

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Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
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I don't think there's much chance of any physical, even bad playing habits aren't as bad as many people believe and often can be got over with.
Actually bad physical injury is if you let go the horn and it swings round on the hook and the sharp beak hits you in the gob. Ouch!!!

BTW when you edit quotes from post, try to keep the quote tags intact, or the quotes get messed up.
 

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Actually bad physical injury is if you let go the horn and it swings round on the hook and the sharp beak hits you in the gob. Ouch!
Spoken like a true 10M player! :)
 

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Mike -- where are you in Indy? I live in the Irvington area, and work downtown. I'm no pro or teacher, but I've been playing for quite a few years now. If you need a few pointers, need to see an embouchure, someone to check out your gear, etc, feel free to hit me a pm and we'll see if we can't find a time and place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Surely there are some bad habits I need to be cautious about. I've found the following by looking around here, have I left anything out?

- Don't bite with the teeth
- Don't move the jaw to hit high or low notes
- Don't close the throat
- Don't lift fingers too much when not pressing down on keys
- Keep the wrists straight and relaxed, not bent and stiff
 

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- Don't bite with the teeth
- Don't move the jaw to hit high or low notes
- Don't close the throat
- Don't lift fingers too much when not pressing down on keys
- Keep the wrists straight and relaxed, not bent and stiff
tbh most of those can be summed up by one word...relax.

As an absolute beginner I remember being VERY tense and as I learnt to relax things go a lot easier. I still consider myself a beginner, but the ability to get rid of the stiffness was the first major improvement I noticed in my playing.
 

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Embouchure
-Take the mouthpiece straight into the mouth
-Don't puff the cheeks
-Put the top teeth in the same spot on the mp every time, a patch helps
-Push in with the corners of the mouth rather than "bite" from the top and bottom
-Feel like your jaw is pulling down and away from the reed as your lip is pushing up
-Rest when the embouchure is tired
-Check the m.p. + neck pitch (Ab Concert) every time you play to adjust embouchure pressure

Breathing and posture
-Take a full breath every time you play even for a singe note
-Bring the sax to you, don't you go to the sax
-Keep the shoulders relaxed like a tablecloth hangs on a table
-Sit with the back straight and both feet on the floor
-Keep the throat open and relaxed (like the first part of a yawn)
-Push the bottom of the sax forward to keep the head level

Tonguing
-Do not move the jaw when tonguing
-Touch the tip of the reed when tonguing
-Use just the end of the tongue
-Move the tongue the shortest distance possible
-Keep the airstream moving through tongued passages

Miscellaneous
-Keep the fingers close to the keys
-Don't jerk the fingers off the keys
-Swab the sax every time you play
-Rotate your reeds
-Get a cool hat and grow a goatee to look like a sax player while you are waiting to sound like one
-Have fun

Note: These are fundamentals that are given as suggestions to a player just starting out on the saxophone to help develop good playing habits and to provide a good foundation for further musical development. Of course experienced jazz players oftentimes do things much differently in order to play their style of the music and to create their individual sounds. None of the ideas presented here should be interpreted to mean that there is only one correct way of playing the saxophone.

John
 

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the best investment you could make is a mouthpiece. A yamaha 4C or a Selmer C* are great to start on. Many times a good mouthpiece can make a bigger difference than a horn. Most important equipment goes in this order: Mouthpiece, reeds, horn, neck. (assuming horn doesn't have any leaks).

Voicing is the best thing to work on. Start with low notes (I start beginners with G down to low C).

Play low C as round and full as you can for about 2 beats - then bump it up the octave with the back of your throat. Think saying the word 'key'. Hold it until you think you can only play for another beat or two, then bump the note back down to the low note. Doing this from the C to the G each day will make a HUGE difference, and give you a good tone/etc. It is hard to do (but not impossible) with a bad physical habits.

I can't think of anything physical that will cause problems unless you do them for 10-30 years every day.

Good luck!
 

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Check the horn for leaks, too...or rather, have someone check it for leaks.

(Pssst...keep in mind, whenever you walk into a sax tech's shop, they are gonna insist that something needs to be done to the horn...because that's their living).

But leaks are major, you don't wanna be fighting the instrument.
 

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[/QUOTE]Actually bad physical injury is if you let go the horn and it swings round on the hook and the sharp beak hits you in the gob. Ouch!!![/QUOTE]

This happened to me, but it was because my sax professor was trying to help me visualize the air moving through the horn. He was tracing the horn line with his finger pretty fast, and hit the bottom of the bell while his finger was going up. The horn swung and the mouthpiece came up and hit me straight in the mouth. There was a little blood, and a very sorry instructor. He told me I could go get some water which I did. Went back into his office, and off we went, continuing the lesson. And yep, it does hurt a little.

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Guess I made the same mistake with the quote tags. I'm electronically challenged.
 

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Now that you've got more things that you can do or will do, just do this:

Make everything you play/practice on your instrument MUSICAL!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks everybody. This is a very helpful and friendly group!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Embouchure
-Push in with the corners of the mouth rather than "bite" from the top and bottom
This is a MASSIVE tip. Immediately got rid of that nasty hissy spit sound and gave me much more 'tone'...hurts my cheeks though :)
Me too. I can't play for more than about 5-10 minutes at a time. I know it's time to take a breake when I start to curl my lower lip way under to get sound out.
 
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