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I heard Lew Tebackin say the most important part of the note is the end.

I have heard a lot things to think about when starting a note but I've never heard about techniques or concepts for ending a note.

Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.
 

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Sanborn made a living out of the abrupt tongue on reed ending of a note or phrase. Most people do lots of long tones soft to loud to soft to practice keeping in tune and ending in a musical air stopping way.
 

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It depends entirely upon the style and the tempo. Oftentimes jazz articulations stop the sound using the tongue: dot, daught! etc. An excellent book on how to play jazz articulations is The Articulate Jazz Musician. In classical playing the tone is generally stopped by the air as in singing---tah instead of tah-ut. except for playing staccato or marcato where the tongue stops the tone as it starts the next one. Occasionally a staccato note that comes before a rest will be stopped by the tongue "tut", but again it depends upon the tempo and style of the piece.
 

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As others have pointed out there are different ways to do it. Many jazz saxophonists will end a note with a few pulsations of vibrato. Not every note of course, but notes that are held and emphasized. Dexter Gordon is a good example.

Your music collection will reveal how your favorite players do it. Ballads are always good for hearing nuances of interpretation.
 

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It depends entirely upon the style and the tempo. Oftentimes jazz articulations stop the sound using the tongue: dot, daught! etc. An excellent book on how to play jazz articulations is The Articulate Jazz Musician. In classical playing the tone is generally stopped by the air as in singing---tah instead of tah-ut. except for playing staccato or marcato where the tongue stops the tone as it starts the next one.
Not with staccato. The tongue stops the note, then there is a gap, then the next note is started. The action of the tongue stopping a note and starting the next simultaneously would happen with tonged legato, but not staccato.

Staccato = tut...tut...tut...tut...

as opposed to tututututututu
 

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I think this is a really interesting issue.
Some time ago, after recording myself I realised my longer "end notes" (end of phrase with rest or such) sounded like a windup toy running down - just petering out. Really dreary and horrible.
Listening some, there's the slight vibrato, the slight rise, etc. But it's true, in many discussions on articulation, this isn't much discussed.
One thing, seems to me, is ensuring there's enough air left to finish nicely.
 

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"Sincerely yours", "hugs and kisses", or "BFF". Something formal would be like "best regards". Put your name behind any one of these and you should be good to go.

The important part is to practice until you can do it in your sleep.
 

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As others have pointed out there are different ways to do it. Many jazz saxophonists will end a note with a few pulsations of vibrato. Not every note of course, but notes that are held and emphasized. Dexter Gordon is a good example.

Your music collection will reveal how your favorite players do it. Ballads are always good for hearing nuances of interpretation.
Dexter Gordon or Cannonball are great examples of articulation diversity. Their ballads are like lessons.
 

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There are many different ways to end notes just as there are many different ways to begin notes. Just a quick list:

Long note dying off but without diminuendo, no tongue stop
Long (or shorter) note dying off with diminuendo
Long note dying off but assisted by a heavy terminal vibrato (think Dexter Gordon or Coleman Hawkins)
Short note ending by air flow (if the duration of the note is quite short, this is one version of staccato)
Short note ended with a soft tongue (if the duration of the note is quite short, this is another version of staccato)
Short note ended with a hard tongue (if short, a third version of staccato - if short but not as short, this is the jazz "hat")
"Legato tonguing" ends and begins the next note simultaneously; legato tonguing can be accomplished with a wide variety of tonguing hardnesses from the barest contact to pretty hard
Fall off which dies away
Fall off to a lower note that you stand on
Doit up
Longer note held right up to the very next beat, with a swell near the end, with or without a terminal vibrato
Sfz Hit, drop off to near nothing, swell with a hard tongue cutoff (I suppose this is a subset of some of what I've listed above)
Tongue stop of a long note to give room for the tongue and airstream "hit" for a stinger note

And I'm sure anyone who spends some time thinking will be able to add to this list. Each of these articulation styles requires coordination of air stream, embouchure, tongue all together to achieve the effect desired.

Sit on the baritone sax chair of a big band for a couple decades to really hear how these articulations matter; the large size and low register of big band bari parts mean you have to be extra explicit in all your articulation. If you don't have a couple decades (who does?) spend some time closely listening to the baritone parts in well known big bands on recordings where the bari is clearly heard. Similarly the suggestion to listen to ballad playing is excellent - go for recordings from the 50s and earlier especially, when sax players had distinctive styles and the recordings tended to have fewer effects added. Don't forget the great players on other instruments especially those trumpet players with a more "bel canto" style as Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, etc. Because you can generally hear EVERY thing the trumpet plays, you can really get a sense of how they phrase and handle their articulations. A few dozen hours just listening to Louis alone and then trying to emulate, is practically the equivalent of a master's degree in jazz articulation and phrasing.
 

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I second (or third) the pointer to Dexter... and in addition that he's also a great example of how important the end of a phrase is too... i.e. that it ends with some kind of melodic and rhythmic shape. We want to avoid the impression that improvised phrases end when one runs out of ideas! Listen to him on 'Doin' Aright', for example.
 

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You know, this is really a basic question. It's so basic that some of us have probably not thought of it for years. I've been playing for half a century and don't even think/consider this. Nice, actually, to revisit the basics. Thanks.
 

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You know, this is really a basic question. It's so basic that some of us have probably not thought of it for years. I've been playing for half a century and don't even think/consider this. Nice, actually, to revisit the basics. Thanks.
I agree, it's kind of taken for granted you just stop the note with your tongue, however as turf3 pointed out there are other methods.

I always taught 2 basic ways:

  1. In section playing use the conventional "default" tongue on reed. Especially if it's important the section sounds tight, you all need to stop the note with a neat end all at the same time
  2. When soloing you have more leeway, and using no tongue, ie stopping the note by stopping your breath is good because you can have varying degrees of a sort of fade or tail off for different expression. This would sound sloppy in a section unless you all rehearsed exactly the amount of tail off. Of course sometimes sloppy is desirable.

The second method needs good breath control as it should be done by merely holding the air with lung/diaphragm support, not closed throat. The tail off is useful for different genres, I've heard classical players using a slight fade, and of course in jazz it's quite an effect to let the note subside slightly before the breath, so the vibrato carries on with just the breath - typical Ben Webster.
 

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As everyone has pointed out, there is more than one way to end a note, and a lot depends on context. One thing I would add is something I've had to work on in the past. As a general rule, you want to hold the note out for its full value, especially at the end of a phrase. IOW, if you are ending on a half note, be sure to hold it for the full 2 beats. Or a quarter note for 1 full beat, etc. There is a tendency to cut some notes off early. Again, Dexter Gordon is a good example of how to hold notes out to get the most out of them.

Beyond that, I've noticed more issues from relative beginners in how they start a note; usually with a sloppy or mushy attack. That's also a basic, and very important issue.
 

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As everyone has pointed out, there is more than one way to end a note, and a lot depends on context. One thing I would add is something I've had to work on in the past. As a general rule, you want to hold the note out for its full value, especially at the end of a phrase. .
This is so crucial. So many people don't get that if you see a minim (=1/2 note) you actually stop it on beat three not beat two. So you count: 1..2...off( on 3). Yes it's two beats, but you end it on the start of beat three. Seems simple, but so many people miss that full count.
 

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Not with staccato. The tongue stops the note, then there is a gap, then the next note is started. The action of the tongue stopping a note and starting the next simultaneously would happen with tonged legato, but not staccato.

Staccato = tut...tut...tut...tut...

as opposed to tututututututu
Interesting. The way I was taught and the way it is presented by Larry Teal in The Art of Saxophone Playing is this:

"The "too"syllable is the most used for the normal to the crisp staccato and for rapidity. The "too-too-too-too", as it gains speed becomes "tootootootoo" so that the release of one tone becomes the attack of the next.
In other words staccato is not necessarily toot...toot...toot...toot or tut...tut...tut...tut unless the style is "staccatissimo". At slower tempi it can be played too...too...too...too or tu...tu...tu...tu to achieve a less percussive sound and still maintain the separation between the notes.

In my study of the saxophone while playing "legato" the note or the tone does not stop either by use of the tongue or the air stream. Rather than stop the tone (or note) the "doo" or "loo" syllable whichever is used simply makes an inflection in the sound as shown in my illustration below. It is the continuity of sound or "connectedness" of the notes that gives the characteristic sound of legato or "connected" articulation. There are times of course where the notes are started with a "doo" or "du" syllable and they are separated from the next note, but in those instances the note is stopped by the air not the tongue to create the space between them. An example of this would be doo...doo...doo...doo.

 

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Yes, this is quite an informative thread! Many good points made so far.

I second (or third) the pointer to Dexter... and in addition that he's also a great example of how important the end of a phrase is too... i.e. that it ends with some kind of melodic and rhythmic shape. We want to avoid the impression that improvised phrases end when one runs out of ideas! Listen to him on 'Doin' Aright', for example.
Thanks for sharing this nugget of insight. I'd never really thought about that before, but I'm afraid that's exactly what I do, i.e. play until my train of thought fizzles out, then take a breath and start again. You've given me something to work on.
 

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I agree, it's kind of taken for granted you just stop the note with your tongue,
Pete, actually I have done just the opposite, just stopped the air rather than using the tongue.
 

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Pete, actually I have done just the opposite, just stopped the air rather than using the tongue.
You know what? I do also. It's one of those things you don't think about. If I'm reading and in a section I'll use my tongue as it's cleaner. If I'm soloing I often won't.
 
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