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Discussion Starter #1
I'm lead alto for my highschool big band, and one of our songs is an "ECM" type Pat Metheny ballad featuring myself (called True North). On some of the parts specifically the more powerful lyrical parts of the melody, getting a buzzy almost harsh sound on them would be nice. Sort of like the type where it feels like the sax is getting intense power through it? A good example is probably David Sanborn, although his is of course because of his tone and mouth. On some of his high notes (I should mention the note i need to "buzz" is an A above the staff, so no split tones or multiphonics for this unfortunately.) it almost feels like he pushes his sax over the limit and the note "breaks" and it sounds super cooool. This seems to be more of a modern feature now. Is there anyway to replicate this? I tried to brighten it up by moving my bottom lip farther towards the heart of the reed but it just made it waayy too bright. I hope this was enough information for what I'm asking for!

For reference, I play a custom Novella piece by Phil-Tone.

Thanks!
Josh
 

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Read thru these two SOTW discussions and see what tips might help. There were some good thoughts and techniques that might help in some way. Growling might not be exactly what your looking to do but some of those tips can still help get that aggressive sound.
Growling
Growling 2
 

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On some of his high notes (I should mention the note i need to "buzz" is an A above the staff, so no split tones or multiphonics for this unfortunately.) it almost feels like he pushes his sax over the limit and the note "breaks" and it sounds super cooool.
And why not use a split tone or multiphonic? When you say Sanborn's note 'breaks', what you are describing is exactly that--a multiphonic (split tone). But as Jazzoetry says, a growl would also do the trick.
 

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Well, I don't have specific movements of the embouchure, or specific things to do in voicing, to recommend, but what I would do is hie thee to the woodshed. A big part of doing tonal development exercises (long tones, intervals, etc.) is to experiment with getting different tonal qualities out of the instrument. Honestly I can't tell you what specifically I am doing with my anatomy when I change tonal textures, because I just think of it as "now get a light airy "Lee Konitz" kind of sound" and then "now get a bright squally Bird kind of sound" and then "now get a fat Lou Donaldson kind of sound" and those are what come out (with due respect to my limitations, of course). This is where you want to be, to have internalized whatever you are doing with your anatomy. If you develop a range of tonal qualities by yourself, you will have them ready at hand, whereas if you try to memorize what someone else says to do in manipulating your anatomy, that seems to be the long way round.
 

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Blow hard, move your bottom lip toward the heart of the reed and play a wet reed. You need a fairly developed embouchure to split tones and make them sound good.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
And why not use a split tone or multiphonic? When you say Sanborn's note 'breaks', what you are describing is exactly that--a multiphonic (split tone). But as Jazzoetry says, a growl would also do the trick.
Blow hard, move your bottom lip toward the heart of the reed and play a wet reed. You need a fairly developed embouchure to split tones and make them sound good.
Well the note I'm trying to "crack" (overplay, buzz? Still trying to figure out a good adjective for it) is an A above the staff, and to my knowledge you can only split certain tones that have overtones under them with the same fingering right? I don't think that low of an "A" has an overtone sounding it. I make regular use (probably to the point of cheap crowd thrill) of split tone altissimo G's and F#'s and such, but I don't know if multiphonics can be used on lower notes? If so please elaborate as I'd love to know!!!
Josh

EDIT: I have (by accident) split a G above the staff, just the normal 123 octave key one, but I'm not sure how I did it, and it was a slow alternating split tone, so it was less of an effect as it was a mistake...
 

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This is a great question Insipid. For me, it seems like these kinds of inflections come from an emotional place- it's good to look at technically what you're doing, but I think it also has a lot to do with feeling the music and some of these sounds seem to just "happen".
 

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I too have had the same question as to how the "smooth jazz" artists achieve the "buzzy" (for lack of a better word) sound. Being from an older generation, I would not want to play with that sound, but I am curious nonetheless. I assume it can be achieved with a high baffle mouthpiece played with a softer reed and perhaps playing lower on the mouthpiece pitch, but I may be wrong. Hopefully someone who actually plays in that style can fill in the details.
 

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I know exactly what you are talking about based on your description of the tone you are going for. I get that effect easily by pushing the air much faster and making adjustments to the lip pressure. However, it is only possible to get that effect on any and every note throughout the range of the saxophone with the right mouthpiece and reed combination. To make a long story short, if the tip opening of your mouthpiece is too small, you won't be able to get that effect unless you are playing, as you said notes that easily split, such as altissimo G. If you are using a larger tip opening, many players (myself included) find it necessary to use a softer reed. For example, I am playing a Theo Wanne Kali #8 alto mouthpiece, with a tip opening of .086. I recommend consulting the facing chart by Jody Jazz and looking for a mouthpiece in the green range (typical tip openings used by most jazz/rock/pop musicians according to Jody Jazz, which in my experience this chart is fairly accurate. A tip opening around .080 is a safe bet to get those notes to have that extra buzz but small enough of a tip opening that it shouldn't be too difficult to play in tune and play without squeaking. For a relatively inexpensive option (these mouthpieces can be ridiculously expensive), I recommend a Meyer 6M or if you think you can handle it, a 7M. If your tip opening is too large, it can be difficult to control the tone and play in tune without squeaking in all registers. I like a Vandoren Java 2.5 with mouthpieces in the .080 tip opening range, but you have to experiment with different reeds and find what works best for you. Here is a link to the Jody Jazz facing chart I mentioned: https://jodyjazz.com/facing-page/alto-sax-mouthpiece-facing-chart/ BTW when you get that effect when playing a high G, it usually means your lip pressure is in between the lip pressure you would use to produce a low G and a high G and your saxophone can't decide whether to sound a low G or a high G, so it is trying to sound both at the same time. Practice switching between low and high G without using the octave key just by changing your lip pressure and air speed, and then work on finding a lip pressure and air speed that is somewhere in between and you can learn to make that sound whenever you want to with a little practice.
 

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I also think the horn itself plays a small role. When I overblow the palm keys on my sax the notes love to break and growl.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I know exactly what you are talking about based on your description of the tone you are going for. I get that effect easily by pushing the air much faster and making adjustments to the lip pressure. However, it is only possible to get that effect on any and every note throughout the range of the saxophone with the right mouthpiece and reed combination. To make a long story short, if the tip opening of your mouthpiece is too small, you won't be able to get that effect unless you are playing, as you said notes that easily split, such as altissimo G. If you are using a larger tip opening, many players (myself included) find it necessary to use a softer reed. For example, I am playing a Theo Wanne Kali #8 alto mouthpiece, with a tip opening of .086. I recommend consulting the facing chart by Jody Jazz and looking for a mouthpiece in the green range (typical tip openings used by most jazz/rock/pop musicians according to Jody Jazz, which in my experience this chart is fairly accurate. A tip opening around .080 is a safe bet to get those notes to have that extra buzz but small enough of a tip opening that it shouldn't be too difficult to play in tune and play without squeaking. For a relatively inexpensive option (these mouthpieces can be ridiculously expensive), I recommend a Meyer 6M or if you think you can handle it, a 7M. If your tip opening is too large, it can be difficult to control the tone and play in tune without squeaking in all registers. I like a Vandoren Java 2.5 with mouthpieces in the .080 tip opening range, but you have to experiment with different reeds and find what works best for you. Here is a link to the Jody Jazz facing chart I mentioned: https://jodyjazz.com/facing-page/alto-sax-mouthpiece-facing-chart/ BTW when you get that effect when playing a high G, it usually means your lip pressure is in between the lip pressure you would use to produce a low G and a high G and your saxophone can't decide whether to sound a low G or a high G, so it is trying to sound both at the same time. Practice switching between low and high G without using the octave key just by changing your lip pressure and air speed, and then work on finding a lip pressure and air speed that is somewhere in between and you can learn to make that sound whenever you want to with a little practice.
Thanks for the tips! I play on a soloist copy with a baffle added, and its a .081 opening. I'll try to experiment with other reeds and just speed up the air input. I can get the sound brighter when I blow harder, but it doesn't do that buzzy stuff. I think it might also be something to do with metal mouthpieces?
 

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In that case, you are already playing the best possible mouthpiece for the sound you are describing. There are only 2 things I can think of that might help. Yes experimenting with different reeds until you find the right reed for that mouthpiece is a must. But I think you would also benefit from practicing over blowing in order to produce overtones. That helps with the air speed control. I am guessing somebody has posted good instructional videos on how to do this on YouTube by now.
 

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It wont help in terms of growling and such but if you want a lot of buzz try a fibracell. It will give you overall more edge and buzz....it wont help you growl...but if you want edge and buzz that should do it... I dont like them for that reason...but like others say, most of it (overtones, growling etc...)is technique.
 

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Don’t know exactly what type of buzz you’re seeking but a couple thoughts...
I’ve noticed that David Sanborn’s embouchure appears to create turbulence and perhaps buzz by blowing across the reed more than a “normal” embouchure.
Also, adjusting the position of your ligature to be more to the rear of your mouthpiece may help with a certain type of buzz. This is hallmark of Dexter Gordon’s sound but may not have as much impact on alto as there’s less room to pull the lig back.
Personally I wouldn’t spend all that much energy on a relatively small point...what you do is more important than what you don’t.
 

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You can split any note if you work at it. But as others have said , do you want to spend all the attention to a small effect. I can split an A easier on my larger tip north way than my smaller tip showboat. So tip size does help me. as a prep to doing that you might do the octave drops that David Liebman describes in his book. so you get that "in between" two tones sound. good luck, it does take lots of practice. I get lazy and just add the growl to an alt note rather than go for the polyphonic sound K
 
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