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Discussion Starter #1
I'm interested in knowing how all of you hit the altissimo. I use different fingerings and have no problem shooting out F3 - D4. But do many people use the pinky keys to hit the harmonics (the C, B and Bb keys on the left hand)? I use these for "fake" notes on mid: C, B, Bb, F, and G.

Is there a benefit to using them for altissimo? And another thing, what are the corresponding notes in the sets. For instance, what should I be achieving in the Bb, B and C sets. I can hit an A3 with any of them. Am I supposed to hit an A3 with both the Bb and C keys, because I know I did. I checked it with a piano and my other "usual" fingering.

I hope I make sense. Just one of those things I need to work on, if it's very useful.
 

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You're speaking of overtones. Although in a recent post I revealed the controversial fact that I don't practice them on a regular basis, I can shed a little light.

The benefit to practicing the overtone series is to give you more tonal control. Simply speaking, if you can play the overtone series clearly from one pitch (Bb, B, C, C#, D etc) you have improved your throat actions and ability to manipulate the sax's harmonics. It can make playing altissimo easier and have a postive effect on your overall sound.

While some players use them for altissimo notes exclusively, it is not too common, probably because of the cumbersome nature of the keys and the initial difficulty of finding the correct "shelf." They are used for special effect in a lot of modern jazz -- listen to almost any Michael Brecker solo, for instance.

Here is the series written out on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music)

From low Bb, you should then get Bb an octave up, then F up a fifth, then the next Bb, then D, then F, then Ab (though this one is weak) and so on. Practicing this takes time and patience from you and others who may be in the house ;-)
 

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When it comes to altissimo, experimenting is the only way to know whether you need the pinky keys. They're certain notes that sound more focused and in tune when using the low C, C#, B, Bb keys, also the low Eb or G# keys as well. In the end it's best to go fingerings that you can use chromatically. There are simply fingerings that make it impossible to transition smoothly and for me it's best to avoid getting hooked on those, it's better to flesh out a note that is kind of weak with a lot long tones.

Using harmonics to play altissimo like the above poster mentioned would bog you down during faster play, also some of the notes of the overtone series can be very out of tune and take some real effort to swing into tune.

Fingering charts: http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/sax/
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ok, that makes sense. I was wondering just how "fluent" one should be on the harmonics. And I know that Michael Brecker can pretty much play anything he wants to ;) Watching him makes me think I'm a beginner all over again. And that's true sometimes too!

Off I go to practice the notes. Having just got a pro sax, I realize it was almost hopeless to practice with my ol' Conn.
 

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When I was first figuring out how to play overtones I at times (usually only for one particular note) flapped a vent to get overtone. You should eventually be able to not use anything like that for overtones eventually. Once you really get the feel of overtones then they become a lot easier to play.
 
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