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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been attempting to work through the overtone series for about three years now, but I just can't seem to figure it out. I have Rascher's "Top Tones for the Saxophone," I've had several different instructors explain it to me, I've read tons of posts on this website for ideas of what to try, I've sat for hours at a time just experimenting with tongue and soft palate position and whatnot, but I've been stuck in the exact same spot for three years, causing me to quit several times in frustration. I can get up to Bb3 from Bb1 and B3 from B1, but i can only occasionally get out C3 and I have never been able to get C#3. For the life of me I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong...So I've decided to just finally ask: is it just not possible for some people to be able to do overtones/altissimo?
 

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First of all, welcome to SOTW. I wouldn't worry about the C and the C#. It's of more value to get solid on Bb or B through the 6th to 9th harmonic, IMO.

Have you tried the regular fingering, and suddenly adding the 'long' overtone fingering?

For example, if you play bis Bb2, and then add all the fingers to finger Bb1, but still get Bb2. When you can do this comfortably, play F2, and add the fingers for Bb1, but try to keep the F2.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the welcome!

I would say that my Bb and B are more solid than C and C#, but not by much lol. I have messed around a little with adding the long overtone fingerings but I never really incorporated it as a serious daily exercise, I'll definitely practice more using that. Thanks for the advice!
 

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Well, don't bite. What you have to do instead is blow differently than you would normally. First try to get an altissimo F#3, and if you have the high F# key... quit using it. Instead use: octave, front F (that's the left hand top pearl), right hand 1 (or the lower F key) and side Bb. Squeeze the airflow a bit by raising the back of your tongue towards the roof of your mouth as you blow. If that gives you problems, then try an easier note like A3. To get A3 use: octave, left hand 2 (A) & 3 (G) and right hand 1 (F), 2 (E) and 3 (D). Remember to squeeze the airflow as I mentioned above, and even try working up to the note playing an arpeggio (A2-C#3-E#-A#). Also try to imagine the note before you attempt to hit it. See how that works for you.
 

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It may or may not work for you, but have you gotten really PO'd and just blew REALLY hard?
If it doesn't help get those pesky notes out at least it eases the frustration a little. :)
 

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I've been attempting to work through the overtone series for about three years now, but I just can't seem to figure it out. I have Rascher's "Top Tones for the Saxophone," I've had several different instructors explain it to me, I've read tons of posts on this website for ideas of what to try, I've sat for hours at a time just experimenting with tongue and soft palate position and whatnot, but I've been stuck in the exact same spot for three years, causing me to quit several times in frustration. I can get up to Bb3 from Bb1 and B3 from B1, but i can only occasionally get out C3 and I have never been able to get C#3. For the life of me I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong...So I've decided to just finally ask: is it just not possible for some people to be able to do overtones/altissimo?
What is your eventual goal?

Is it just to play low note overtones as far up as some others can go?

Is it to play some Altissimo?

It's up to individual player to decide but do you want to dedicate large amounts of practice time to a few low note overtones that you might hardly use when performing?

As others have stated, no one really needs to be able to play low note overtones at all to be able to play some Altissimo overtones and vice versa no one really needs to be able to play Altissimo overtones to be able to play low note overtones.

If someone thinks that because they can play low note overtones up to a certain high overtone that they have then got Altissimo nailed, then they are being led up the wrong path.

Chromatic Altissimo, Altissimo melodies, Altissimo Trills, Altissimo Blues licks, screaming Altissimo, Altissimo Arpeggios etc etc are all not covered by just practicing low note overtones.

Both the low note overtones and Altissimo overtones are useful, in fact all of the sax notes overtones are useful in some way.
Every sax note has overtones.

The main thing I see the low note overtones mostly used for are for some alternative regular and Altissimo notes and as a base for some multiphonics.

Most Altissimo is not really played by using the low note overtones as there are other ways to play Altissimo notes mostly by playing the upper stack overtones which are voiced using the usual upper stack based Altissimo note fingerings.

In both the low note overtones and Altissimo upper stack overtones, voicing the particular overtone that is the target is required.

Playing in the Altissimo range using low note overtones can be done but it's more common to use the upper stack notes overtones that are voiced using the usual Altissimo fingerings, but voicing the overtone is what it's mostly about.

Voicing means that the player alters their oral impedance by altering their throat and tongue positions and altering their airstream to zero in on a particular overtone and all this just has to be done by feel and practice really.

There are some sax design and player limitations that no one can get away from and everyone is stuck with these limitations and so the player trys to get around these limitations by using technique.

No one can give a player the technique to alter their oral impedance, all they can give is general advice.
The player has to feel how to do it by practice and trial and error.

The sax has an impedance and so does the player and the sax and players impedance need to be in the right zone for the overtone to sound and the sax's impedance for a particular overtone isn't going to change and so the players impedance has to change and the Altissimo range overtones are generally weaker because they are usually above the sax's cutoff frequency and so the player has to alter their oral impedance to bring out the weaker Altissimo range overtones.
 

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I've been attempting to work through the overtone series for about three years now, but I just can't seem to figure it out. I have Rascher's "Top Tones for the Saxophone," I've had several different instructors explain it to me, I've read tons of posts on this website for ideas of what to try, I've sat for hours at a time just experimenting with tongue and soft palate position and whatnot, but I've been stuck in the exact same spot for three years, causing me to quit several times in frustration. I can get up to Bb3 from Bb1 and B3 from B1, but i can only occasionally get out C3 and I have never been able to get C#3. For the life of me I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong...So I've decided to just finally ask: is it just not possible for some people to be able to do overtones/altissimo?
Hey there! I feel your pain! I have been working hard and carefully for a similar length of time on this with similarly frustrating results. In my case, I have pretty much mastered the overtones up to the normal register of the horn, but I can't get them to speak above that. This includes overtones off the low note fundamental fingerings and off upper stack notes as well. I can play the very high altissimo notes well enough, but the lower ones (and related overtones) NADA!

I'm a decent enough player, I think, and I have good fundamentals in terms of tone production, but I just can't get this.

The only "bright side" for me is that there's no doubt in my mind that all this work on overtones has improved my overall tone a lot.

I often wonder: a) is it something about me physically? b) am I too old (45) to learn this? and c) is it my horn?
 

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Hey there! I feel your pain! I have been working hard and carefully for a similar length of time on this with similarly frustrating results. In my case, I have pretty much mastered the overtones up to the normal register of the horn, but I can't get them to speak above that. This includes overtones off the low note fundamental fingerings and off upper stack notes as well. I can play the very high altissimo notes well enough, but the lower ones (and related overtones) NADA!
So any overtone that ends up being in the Altissimo range above high F is a problem then?

The Altissimo range overtones are generally weaker than the overtones in the regular range. Because of the way the sax is designed there is a cutoff frequency and overtones above this frequency weaken off and a lot of Altissimo range overtones are above this cutoff frequency and so are weaker and harder to voice and play.

So the overtones in the Altissimo range require more oral variations from the player like raising the back of the tongue and a faster airstream speed ie voicing.

If the player can't control their oral variations for a particular Atissimo range overtone then the Altissimo range overtone will not happen or will happen in a unstable way.

Some mouthpiece/sax combos can make the upper overtones a bit easier to play because the upper overtones can be strengthed a bit by some mouthpiece/sax combos.

The Rascher theory is that someone starts on low note overtones probably because they might be a bit easier to play and then after this they head off to the Altissimo overtones mostly based on upper stack fingerings.

But some players can obtain the Altissimo overtones with something like 2 weeks of practice without biting or tone problems by just using their voicing without going near low note overtones and some get stuck in low note overtones and just stay there for ages really not going anywhere, so horses for courses I suppose.
Some people are going to catch on faster than others.
 

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So any overtone that ends up being in the Altissimo range above high F is a problem then?
Yup! I can play my front E-F-F# notes very nicely, I can hit those same high notes nicely off the upper stack fingerings (i.e. G/G#/A), and I can hit super high notes (Bb-C#) using various fingerings, but nothing in between.

I practice everything--mouthpiece only exercises, octave slurs up and down without the octave key, and endless hours on the first few pages of Rascher--no luck.

Sucks!
 

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Try literally singing the note you are going for in your throat as you start the sound. Doing that and the switching fingerings thing is what helped me get up there. I was stuck for a long time around the 3rd overtone but once I got past there it opened right up and I could go way up. Mastering these overtones is about a lot more than altissimo. Everyone can do them, and if you can't, you should keep trying as the benefits are huge.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Most Altissimo is not really played by using the low note overtones as there are other ways to play Altissimo notes mostly by playing the upper stack overtones which are voiced using the usual upper stack based Altissimo note fingerings.
I've never really heard low note overtones distinguished from upper stack overtones. Can you elaborate a bit more on this? What do you mean by "upper stack overtones?"
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
what mouthpiece and reeds are you useing?
I am using a Brilhart Level Aire tenor sax mouthpiece (I don't like it at all but I'm shopping around for a new jazz mouthpiece, any recommendations on those would be appreciated as well!). I am using 3.5 strength vandoren java jazz reeds.
 

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Everyone can do them, and if you can't, you should keep trying as the benefits are huge.

Yeah, but it sure stinks to not be included in "everyone." :)

Vendevorex: if I understand things correctly, "upper stack" overtones refers to playing higher notes using G/G#/A as your fundamental note. So...play G1. Then, without adding the octave key, play G2. Then, without changing your fingering, voice that up to E. This is the same note as the front E, only without the vent (Front F) key.
 

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Can't go wrong with an Otto Link in about a 7*.
 

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Well, the short answer to your question is yes, it is just impossible for some people. However, I believe your original question is based on the assumption that there may be something physically different about you that's preventing the altissimo, and that is what I disagree with. The reason I say there are some people that it's impossible to play extended harmonics and altissimo is that 9 times out of 10 there is a mental block. The purpose of the overtone exercises is to get you (the player) familiar with what it feels like to change your airstream and oral cavity to sound a note that is different than the fundamental tone you're fingering. Honestly, I was never able to hit my overtones above the 5th partial for any fingering, including low Bb, but I'm still able to play altissimo notes.

Your reed and mouthpiece are fine for altissimo. Honestly, I have never encountered a mouthpiece that I couldn't play altissimo on, and that includes soprano, alto, and tenor sax.
 

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As others have stated, no one really needs to be able to play low note overtones at all to be able to play some Altissimo overtones and vice versa no one really needs to be able to play Altissimo overtones to be able to play low note overtones.

If someone thinks that because they can play low note overtones up to a certain high overtone that they have then got Altissimo nailed, then they are being led up the wrong path.
This is only the second time that I have read that anywhere. The first was earlier this week. Up until now I had always assumed that the two were linked and that you had to master the low-note overtone series in order to play altissimo. Anyway, that is the way everyone has always laid out learning altissimo here on SOTW on numerous threads on the subject that I have read. They always wrote to first practice all the low overtones before tackling altissimo, and that seems to be what Rascher teaches also. But they never seemed to then link that to the altissimo practice or explain why or what the connection between the two is.

So what is the connection, if any? And if not, why is it always laid out that way if all I need to do is try and work on altissimo by itself and forget the low overtone series?
 
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