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Hi, :D
I'm a clarinet player and have recently taken up Tenor sax and am struggling to produce the lower notes. I think its because my embouchure is too tight? as the high notes are fine.

Anyway, What I am asking is, does anyone have any tips to help me grasp the lower notes.

Many Thanks,
Tommy :)
 

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The fundamental differences between the clarinet and saxophone embouchures are as follows:

Clarinet
The mouthpiece is down at about a 45 degree angle
The embouchure requires a flat chin and firm bottom lip
The airstream is fast and cold
There is less mouthpiece in the mouth

Saxophone
The mouthpiece comes straight into the mouth
The embouchure allows a rounder chin and a softer bottom lip
The airstream is warm
There is more mouthpiece in the mouth

The basic starting clarinet embouchure is made with the "EE" muscles stretching out, and the "OO" muscles pushing in. They work against each other like a tug-o-war that ends in a tie. The result is a lower lip stretched tight and thin and a flat pointed chin. There is just barely enough lip over the bottom teeth to cover them.

The basic starting saxophone embouchure is formed exactly the same way, except the "OO" muscles dominate in the tug-o-war though the "EE" muscles keep pulling out. The result is a softer bottom lip which contacts a bit more of the reed and a more relaxed chin that still feels as if it is pulling down away from the reed. There is a bit more of the lower lip over the bottom teeth than on clarinet. Think of the lip as a "cushion" for the reed to sit upon.

The placement of the top teeth can be found by inserting a business card between the reed and the mouthpiece up to where it stops and making a pencil mark on each side of the mouthpiece at the edge of the card. By connecting these two marks across the top of the mouthpiece it shows the best starting point for the top teeth. A mouthpiece patch with a groove made by your thumbnail works well to help put the teeth in the same location each time you play.

A common problem when players switch from the more resistant clarinet to the more free blowing saxophone, is that being used to the resistance they will try to recreate that same feeling on the sax. Oftentimes they will restrict the air by tightening the throat or by biting too hard on the reed. A solution to this problem is to open the throat by saying "HOP" when you inhale to take a breath and by blowing warm air directed at your thumb on the LH thumb pad when you blow.

To check to see if the embouchure is the correct tightness for the tenor sax, once you have the mouthpiece at the correct angle and inserted into the mouth the correct distance, do the following:

- With the mouthpiece on the cork where you normally play, play just the neck and mouthpiece alone at f
- Check the pitch with a tuner---the ideal pitch should be an E Concert (F#2 on the sax)
- Adjust the embouchure to play this pitch
- Put the neck back on the sax and play F#2 as a long tone with the same embouchure pressure
- Keep checking the mouthpiece + neck pitch from time to time since it will creep up on you
- When your embouchure is more settled, check the pitch of the mouthpiece alone which should not be higher than G Concert
 

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In addition to jbtsax's great advice, I'd suggest having a tech drop a leak light into the horn if you continue to have trouble. An upper stack leak can make those low notes a real bear on the tenor.
 

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Practice. Listen, feel, evaluate, and adjust. Find out what works for you. Keep practicing with an open mind and a critical ear. You'll figure it out. Just don't give up. There are no magic words, no easy paths, and no shortcuts. Make it happen, Cap'n.
 

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Sax low notes will always feel "extreme" to you. On clarinet, the lowest note on the horn is relatively easy to play and sounds musical, on sax it's just extreme (compared to clarinet).
I'm not sure I agree 100% with some of the details with jb's post, but he right on in regards to the notion that you need to know that the tone production principles are very different on the two horns.
 

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I switched from clarinet to tenor sax my freshman year in high school. Back then I felt I had to blast the low notes out to get them to sound. After a while (including time for me to develop as a player), I took my sax (a different one than I started on) to the shop for some new pads and re-regulation. I was amazed at what a difference that made with the low notes. Suddenly I could play them under control and softly. (I even got to like playing low notes softly.) So I would recommend working on some of the advice already given to develop your sax embouchere, but if that doesn't deliver results take it to the shop and have them look at it. You can learn some very bad habits trying to adjust to a horn that's not working right.

If you start taking sax lessons, your teacher will be able to guide you more accurately.

keep us posted on your progress.
 

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So I would recommend working on some of the advice already given to develop your sax embouchere, but if that doesn't deliver results take it to the shop and have them look at it. You can learn some very bad habits trying to adjust to a horn that's not working right.
I'd amend this just slightly to say: Take the sax to the shop immediately so you know you have a properly-working instrument. Especially considering the last sentence in the quote above, which is very true.
 

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Thanks for the amendment. After I posted that I was wondering if I had it in the wrong order. I wouldn't be surprised if the shop would quickly check it for leaks at no charge.
 
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