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Discussion Starter #1
Hello All;

I am a new tennor sax player who is having trouble hitting low C. I can reach the note if I walk down from D but I am having trouble putting the horn in my mouth and play starting from C.

What I usually hear is some sort of foul sound which I can then bring into C by slight changes in my embouchure. When I say "foul" I don't mean that it sounds sharp or flat, just plain old "bad". But even when I get the tone in place if I were to try to maintain embouchure stop blowing and try once again to play C, I still start of with the same foul sound which I again have to make some adjustments to get the clear tone.

My instuctor advised that sometimes if you finger the C, but pop the D key just as you toungue the note it may help. I'm still working it. Does any one have any tips or advice or is it just down to practice, practice practice.

Thanks!
 

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I usually pop the f key, but the d key would do the same, I imagine.

Try not tonguing, just make sure you don't close your throat (like in kah), just start that low C with a gentle 'hah'.
 

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Practice "walking" down to the C. Hold it for as long as you reasonably can (not till you turn blue in the face.) Then play the low C. Again, hold it.
Rinse, repeat.

Make sure you've got lots of air behind it. (Don't worry about playing too loud, you can work on playing it quietly after it pops out comfortably.)

Two things you may need to do are:
1)Step down your reed strength a little. (What's your reed and mouthpiece setup?)
2) Have your horn checked for leaks by a good technician. (The problem doesn't always lie in the player.)
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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hakukani said:
Try not tonguing, just make sure you don't close your throat (like in kah), just start that low C with a gentle 'hah'.
Surely that could imply a closing of the throat.

My best description of throat closing is to think of a cough. I think I know what you mean by 'hah', but I think without a physical demonstration it might just give the wrong impression, ie 'hah' to some people might be like a cough. Especially if they've watched that sketch on "Little Britain". heh, heh heh.
 

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First thing you might want to do is have the horn checked out.

If you have any leaks, they will really become apparent at low C and lower.

Have a tech check the horn with a light and adjust it if necessary.

Then work on hitting that low C using the techniques listed in the other posts.
 

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Pete Thomas said:
Surely that could imply a closing of the throat.

My best description of throat closing is to think of a cough. I think I know what you mean by 'hah', but I think without a physical demonstration it might just give the wrong impression, ie 'hah' to some people might be like a cough. Especially if they've watched that sketch on "Little Britain". heh, heh heh.
I don't watch TV, except for dvds, so don't get the referent.

I can see how someone could misinterpret what I said. I find it difficult to close my throat when saying 'hah'. Maybe I should've said 'hoe', except if Martysax read it he'd interpret it differently;)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi All;

Thanks for the feedback. When I bought the horn back in Feb the dealer told me it was just overhauled so I wasn't expecting any leaks. However the place where I take lessons is currently overhauling a 1970's era Buescher Aristocrat which I may trade up to when it comes in. If I don't, I'll send my current horn in for a second opinion check out. In fact first I'll let my instructor have a go at it an see if it plays well for him.

I tossed the original mouthpiece and ligature that came with the sax and have recently started using a Yamaha 5C mouthpiece with a Rovner dark ligature and Vandoreen 2-1/2 reeds. What a big difference that made in and of itself. Using the original mouthpiece and ligature I was never able to get any note requiring the octave key. I am wondering if i should try number 2 reeds?
 

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Feb. was a while back now. Since then the pads may have settled in or the amount of playing may have put the horn out of adjustment. An adjustment after 4 months is not uncommon. It's pretty common to need a tune-up a few months after an overhaul.

I don't know you and have never seen you pick up the horn out of the case, but I've seen far too many players (professionals and friends of mine included.) who pick up their horns in ways which put pressure on key rods.
You may have a bent rod somewhere that's causing a leak.

I wouldn't plan on giving up on your horn before someone's stuck a leaklight in it.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hi Littlemanbighorn

Somewhere I ready that a sax should be picked up and handled by the bell to avoid bending the rods. Is that correct? Thanks for the insite on the 4 month tune up. I would have never thought that necessary. Do you take your horns in for a checkup on a periodic basis or only when they seem to be acting strange?
 

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The bell is good. (It's debatable with baritone.)

In an ideal world where I had the money, I would take all my horns in every 4 months for a checkup and I would have spares for all of them. Alas, I'm a poor musician with a student loan, a debt consolidation loan and 3 horns to keep reeds on, so they generally go in when they need it. Eventually you learn to play through minor leaks.
Eventually when you wonder why you seem to be getting worse instead of better and drop a whole reed strength, you take your horn in and your tech wonders how you possibly played it.
 

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Sometimes it is the angle or the shape of the tongue when tonguing the low C that makes the note difficult to speak. Try playing G down to low C tonguing eight staccato 16th notes on each tone at forte. If any of the notes don't speak clearly when you do that exercise---take the note that didn't come out, hold it 4 counts, then tongue 4 quarter notes and hold it 4 counts again all on one breath. When you can do that then go down to the next lower tone and repeat.

Usually, but not always, the back of the tongue is too high when a tongued low note doesn't respond. Work to keep the tongue flat and move just the front end of the tongue when tonguing in the low register of the sax.

Formula for a responsive low register on the sax: a reed that is not too stiff + a sufficient air stream (with proper breath support) + an open and relaxed throat + the back of the tongue down + a saxophone without any leaks + an embouchure that is not too tight.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
OK for anyone who may have stumbled across this thread because you have been working through the same problem. I've been working with this for 7 months (OK I don't always get a lot of practice time each week so progress is slow) but I think I finally got it down.

It seems like I was not putting enough pressure with my upper teeth. Two days ago I was able to hit low C and low B right on the head by just pressing the horn a little tighter against my upper teeth by applying a little more pressure upward from the thumb rest. When I say a little I really mean a little, not any excessive force. Please note this pressure is NOT applied through the lower jaw, if fact the lower jaw has to be dropped a little. I found that if I just press up against the thumb rest so that a feel a little more pressure on my upper teeth, the notes sang right out. Not only was I able to start off at C (without walking down) by B as well. B flat is still a work in progress.

Tried again last night with the same success. So this seems to have been my problem. For anyone having problems starting off on low C or lower, first follow all of the advice listed in the replies above, and then also try pressing up slightlly against the thumbrest.
 

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hakukani said:
I don't watch TV, except for dvds, so don't get the referent.

I can see how someone could misinterpret what I said. I find it difficult to close my throat when saying 'hah'. Maybe I should've said 'hoe', except if Martysax read it he'd interpret it differently;)
Lets try that again.


This time with feeling.
 

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Bluesblaster said:
It seems like I was not putting enough pressure with my upper teeth. Two days ago I was able to hit low C and low B right on the head by just pressing the horn a little tighter against my upper teeth by applying a little more pressure upward from the thumb rest.
That's a very strange explenation. You're not supposed to bite in your mouthpiece, your upper teeth should rest on the mouthpiece without pressure.

I think (without being able to see you) that in fact you're not blowing straight into your mouthpiece, but a little from above. Try tilting your head a little backwards instead of putting more pressure with your upper teeth, and see if C comes easier. Tilting backwards is maybe a wrong explenation. you can tilt the sax a bit forward too. Point is you shouldn't blow on top of your reed, but "over" your reed.

Key for the low notes is the right angle and enough breath support.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Hi Jolle;

Thanks for getting back. I was hoping that someone would reply because I agree this sounds like an unconventional approach. I have not seen anything on SOTW that that alludes to this, nor did anyone provide any advice of this above. Which leads me to believe that something else is going on which is fixing the problem but being new I have no idea what it is. All I know is that right now it seems to be working.

I am not biting the mouthpiece. I am only providing a very slight upward pressure with the thumb rest. Like I said it's really subtle not any sort of excessive force. In light of your response I'll have to pay attention and see if in fact that is what's happening. (Pressing upward with the sax causing my head to tilt back and blow straighter into the mouthpiece). If that solve it I'll post that here so folks can get the real scope on what's going on.

Thanks again for getting back.
 

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Maybe the way you're pushing the mouthpiece up against the upper teeth without applying pressure from the lower teeth is actually causing the pressure from the lower teeth to be lessened, and maybe that's what's helping.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Quite possibly

Hopefully I'll get some time with my sax tonight to see. At any rate the next time I pick up my sax I am going to concetrate on blowing straight into the mouthpiece and not from above. I will also concentrate on reducing lower jaw pressure to see if I get the same positive results. More to follow.
Thanks for getting back
 
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