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Having trouble being consistent on palm key notes, my teacher told me he sees me closing off my chin when I go for them. I could not feel this at all, and had no idea what he must be seeing. I tried at my lesson to not close off, but no difference. During the next week though, I tried hard to think openness in the chin area, and after many tries, when I was going for a high note,...oh wow! It actually worked. Sometimes we maybe can't feel the sensation of what's happening when we have an ingrained habit, and our subconscious has to work on it theoretically for awhile with the better info from a teacher before we can fix it. Anyway, my high notes are now 90% more reliable, more resonant and able to be controlled by a bend or dynamic contrast. In the course of a week-and-a-half! (well, I've also been at the horn for 8 years, 2 years with a teacher). Hurray for teachers! Without them, we could stay stuck a long, long time. Mine keeps systematically solving problems for me and anyone who listens to me.

#feelinggrateful
 

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HI Cat,

Can you explain a little about what you mean about closing off your chin. I started off in life as a clarinet player where it's natural to bite the mouthpiece a little when you go to altissimo and I was told by my teacher to try to point my chin. Is that what you are referring to? I ask because my palm key notes tend to be thin and sometimes flat.
 

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HI Cat,

Can you explain a little about what you mean about closing off your chin.
When I analyze it in front of a mirror, I think the closing off may really be letting my larynx rise instead of keeping the throat open and larynx naturally hanging low. But it feels like I'm relaxing my chin, especially the area where my chin connects to my neck. It may be related to relaxing the lower part of the tongue, but I can both relax this part and also cone with the higher part of the tongue at my back teeth. A way to think that makes it happen easily is to imagine that my air stream from the gut is flowing directly through the squishy part of my chin underneath the jaw, actually flowing down. I think your teacher might be talking about something else, like bunching up your chin muscles at the spot where Duddley Do-Right has a cleft in his. But it couldn't hurt to give this a try and see if it helps. I'm not an expert saxophonist, but I am a voice teacher, and I know that different students feel things differently, so we keep trying different word pictures to help them discover the right combination. I hope it helps or leads you to some other neat discovery.
 

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But it feels like I'm relaxing my chin, especially the area where my chin connects to my neck.
I was kind of puzzled by what 'closing off your chin' means, but based on that sentence above (and also the photo Nef posted), it sounds like you were tilting your head down, while tucking your chin in toward your chest. This can be a very subtle movement and it tends to restrict the airflow.

Try this. Hold you head high with your chin pointing out and start a long tone. Then, while holding that tone, dip your head downward, pulling your chin back toward your neck. Then lift your head back up. Do this back and forth while holding a note and see how it changes the sound. I think it will be very obvious how pinched and deadened the sound becomes with your head angled down vs how open and full the sound is with head held up. You can exaggerate it to get the full effect, but even a fairly minor movement either way can make a big difference. This is not only true for those high notes but for the full range.

I don't know it that's what your teacher was referring to, but I suspect it's related.
 

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It seems to be about closing off your throat. You cannot close off your chin.

You can position your chin so that you throat is (or seems to be) closed off, and I suspect this is what is meant here.
 

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Biting in general is no good. You want that reed to vibrate the way it's meant to.
True, but I'm pretty sure this isn't mainly about biting. It seems to be more about partially closing off the throat (as Pete mentioned) by pulling the chin in with the head tilted forward, which tends to restrict the air flow. That will have a damping effect on all the notes, but especially the high ones.

Hard to say for certain of course, without being in the room to observe the player directly.
 

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When I analyze it in front of a mirror, I think the closing off may really be letting my larynx rise instead of keeping the throat open and larynx naturally hanging low. But it feels like I'm relaxing my chin, especially the area where my chin connects to my neck. It may be related to relaxing the lower part of the tongue, but I can both relax this part and also cone with the higher part of the tongue at my back teeth. A way to think that makes it happen easily is to imagine that my air stream from the gut is flowing directly through the squishy part of my chin underneath the jaw, actually flowing down. I think your teacher might be talking about something else, like bunching up your chin muscles at the spot where Duddley Do-Right has a cleft in his. But it couldn't hurt to give this a try and see if it helps. I'm not an expert saxophonist, but I am a voice teacher, and I know that different students feel things differently, so we keep trying different word pictures to help them discover the right combination. I hope it helps or leads you to some other neat discovery.
I think I get it. Lowering the Adam's apple, or opening the larynx, warm air, pretending you're saying ahhhh or ohhhh. (correct for sax) That's not the same as the clarinet teacher many eons ago telling me to point the chin rather than bunch it up. That was more about clarinet. Sax embouchure is MUCH more relaxed, to me it feels like I'm hardly using the teeth at all. In fact, the vibration is too much for me on my upper teeth so I use one of those thick cushy mouthpiece patches.
 

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I'm not an expert saxophonist, but I am a voice teacher.
In his original and follow-up posts, CatDuet may have expressed himself idiosyncratically, and perhaps it is not easy to match his theory with common terminology. However, it figures with the convoluted ways teacher-less saxophonists hover toward their niche of artistic fulfillment. I have experienced similar problems and here's my two cents.

High notes are achieved better by restricting the vibrating volume, that goes for the horn (neck only or almost), as well as for the mouth (make it small). It takes time and many a blind alley before one figures out that the throat must be kept open at any cost, even when the oral cavity is at its smallest, which is to help the high notes. I guess, people who start with teachers, rather than hiring them late down the road, are spared that experience and may not understand it.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Is this closing off your chin?

View attachment 227854
I checked last night by videoing myself with my cell phone. There is no difference in the bite of facial muscles that can be perceived from the outside. The main thing happening is that my larynx, when the notes come out nicely and open-sounding is low and relaxed. People have said to me "forever" the line about warm air, but the comment about the chin is what helped me get the feeling of how to keep the throat open. I saw in the video that my larynx tends to flop up and down quite a bit. it seems when I can keep it just low and open, I'm more stable. I didn't seem to be doing what is shown in the photo during my videoing session. But perhaps I did some such movement in my lesson, hence the chin comment from my teacher. Thinking that openness for the chin (which I translate as below the jaw in my behavior) somehow gave me the right cue to find the openness. Funny. Serendipity has a lot do to with being a good teacher or good student.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
In his original and follow-up posts, CatDuet may have expressed himself idiosyncratically, and perhaps it is not easy to match his theory with common terminology. However, it figures with the convoluted ways teacher-less saxophonists hover toward their niche of artistic fulfillment. I have experienced similar problems and here's my two cents.

High notes are achieved better by restricting the vibrating volume, that goes for the horn (neck only or almost), as well as for the mouth (make it small). It takes time and many a blind alley before one figures out that the throat must be kept open at any cost, even when the oral cavity is at its smallest, which is to help the high notes. I guess, people who start with teachers, rather than hiring them late down the road, are spared that experience and may not understand it.
Your post seems "right on" to me. It's true that I learned on my own for 7 years before getting a sax teacher. The trouble is, people with experience on different instruments can sound pretty good in general, so my teacher may not realize what's going on inside my head if I'm just compensating pretty well for mistaken technique I've taught myself. It takes awhile to sort through all the weirdness. I like your description of the throat and oral cavity. It helps make sense of why different teachers' preferred techniques sound so far off from each other. They may be describing different ends of the problem. Oh, and by the way, I'm a she, not a he. No worries, lots of people make that mistake. Our new neighbor, for instance, assumed it was my husband who played sax. I'm a granny wailer
 

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Hey CatDuet, did you try the experiment I suggested? Holding a long tone while raising and lowering your head (tilting the chin outward & inward) and listening to the resulting tonal difference? It's very simple and revealing.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hey CatDuet, did you try the experiment I suggested? Holding a long tone while raising and lowering your head (tilting the chin outward & inward) and listening to the resulting tonal difference? It's very simple and revealing.
I didn't see it til today. Busy schedule today, little gig tonight, then a rehearsal, but I'll try it when I get a chance. I appreciate the input! :)
 

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Look at pictures of David Sanborn playing. Head up, chin out. When I was playing mostly alto as a young person, I wanted to sound like David Sanborn, so I got the same mouthpiece he used. Nope. Head position. Cocked my head back and I instantly sounded more 'Sanborn-esque' (regardless of the mouthpiece)...well, except for the playing.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hey CatDuet, did you try the experiment I suggested? Holding a long tone while raising and lowering your head (tilting the chin outward & inward) and listening to the resulting tonal difference? It's very simple and revealing.
Yes! I tried it! The differences are dramatic. It's a different issue than the larynx issue, but capitalizing on them both should bring me a nice boost in my technique. Just shows, I should keep reading this forum. It's a worthwhile way to spend time.
 

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Is this closing off your chin?

View attachment 227854
Amazing that you should put this pic up.
Upon reading the OP, I immediately thought of a workshop YT video with Liebman in which he really emphasized that one should never do what he's doing in that photo!
 

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Nothing wrong with closing the throat a bit. Can help you keep a high tongue position, which is desirable with certain embouchures. High tongue with open throat can lead to a lot of excess tension and eventually make playing painful or force air through the nasal cavity. Obviously you don't want to close the throat enough to introduce further tension. Moderation in all things.
 
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