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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi
I've been lurking here every now and again, and have always come away with good information, but alas, this is my first post. Here goes;

I have a problem regarding my tenor sax.

I have been playing for around 15 years on & off (mainly off). I consider myself just a little bit further advanced than an amateur (not by much), as I am mainly a guitarist that occasionally plays sax.

The problem I'm experiencing recently is that when I start playing I have no troubles at all, but after about 15 minutes of practise, my tenor becomes extremely hard too play. The notes sound very weak or the wrong octave comes out.

I took it to be serviced, thinking it will solve the problem, but sadly my trouble remains.

My question is, is it the sax or me? I bought an alto sax about a year ago, and have been favouring it over the tenor somewhat. Could my alto playing be affecting the way I play tenor? I don't understand how I can start off playing the tenor fine and then after a few minutes I can bearly play a note!

I'm going out my mind here. This has never happened to me before. I don't really want to take it back to the shop if it is my playing that is the problem. I respect my service guy, but could he have missed something when he serviced it.

Any help and advice on this is greatly appreciated.

thanks
Colin
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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I would suspect your reeds. Also possible that a "sprung shut" key, such as the body octave or G# key is sticking open.
 

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It doesn't sound to me like a mechanical issue with the sax, especially if it is playing well when you first get it out, unless your G octave key starts sticking as the horn warms up. I occasionally run into this issue with students. Just double-check when you're playing to be certain the octave key on the neck closes all the way and the one on the body of the sax opens when you are playing middle D through second octave G. Sometimes the octave key on the neck will appear to be closed but still has a bit of a leak. Check it by playing a high G and pressing the key manually with the right hand. You should also be certain that you are keeping the neck in line with the body of the sax as you play.

I think it's more likely an embouchure/reed issue. If your reed is losing it's seal as you play, it can cause the issue you are describing. Be certain to wet the entire reed, not just the tip, before you place it on the mouthpiece. This can help create a better seal for the reed. You might also try changing the reed next time this happens and see if it solves the problem. You might even keep several reeds on a rotation, which will help you determine if it's a reed related issue.

Also, some folks have a tendency to bite more as the embouchure tires, often resulting in squeaks or the wrong octave. Next time you experience the problem, try resting for a few minutes then playing again.

Randy
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Randy and Maddenma for the replies, I really appreciate it

I have tried changing reeds, the same thing happens. I also went from a 3 & a half back down to a 2 reed, hoping that would do it, still no luck. Could the mouthpiece be affecting the reed?

My concern is that in 15 years of playing, this has never happened to me before. The only different thing I've been doing is that I've been playing Tenor less and Alto more. By the way, I have no troubles whatsoever with the Alto.

I'll still have a look at those things again tonight.

thanks
Colin
 

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Sounds to me like your reed is warping. See if you can get a pop from your mouthpiece (with or without the neck attached) as in this video. Try it when you first start and then once it starts giving you trouble.
 

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Do you have a good reed knife to flatten the back of the reed?
 

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Nah..

If your setup is warping reeds it's either a wonky mouthpiece or a ligature problem. Scraping the back is just a band-aid solution, you are better to solve the problem at the source. For me, a different ligature solved the problem completely on my old setup. It can be very frustrating for sure and sometimes happens after only a couple minutes of playing. Also for me, I found just wetting the tip of the reed helped, rather than soaking the whole length. Of course you should experiment for yourself. Good luck!
 

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Alto and tenor embouchure are different. Maybe a different mouthpiece on tenor might help to decrease the embouchure difference.
 

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You seem to be getting a lot of answers here, and yes it could be any one of those things. I think that if your playing was fine before you bought the Alto, and you have had the tenor serviced recently then the issue, as I see it, is with your embouchure. If you are trying to play the tenor with the embouchure or voicings of an Alto that would cause instability in the tone. I would suggest that you start every practice with at least 15 mins of long tones. These long tones help develop tone and support for the notes. With long tones you can hear how your tone sounds. Also, have you tried doing what Randy Hunter suggested? ie. when this starts to happen take a short break and come back to it. If your playing is back to normal for a while then it looks like your embouchure could be tired. And as dorono advised, this is something that will develop through time. Let us know how you get on.
 

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If your setup is warping reeds it's either a wonky mouthpiece or a ligature problem.
That can be the issue, but not necessarily.

Reeds can sometimes just warp due to moisture, and this usually happens after 5 - 10 minutes of playing.

Sometimes a concave mouthpiece table will actually compensate for this as the reed can swell and distort into the table concavity. The problem can be more obvious with mouthpieces that have flat tables.

Scraping the reed with a knife or just changing reeds can fix the issue, though it can happen again to the replacement (unless it's synthetic)

See:

 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all your replies, I am very grateful for your help.

I tried a few different things last night, this is how I went;

Firstly, my tenor playing started off worse than usual, normally I'm fine for a little while, but this was not the case last night.

I checked both octave keys, and they were fine, there was no sticking, I manually pressed the key down as Randy suggested and I was still having problems.

I couldn't work out how to do that popping thing, dshook, sorry

I then put a new reed on a different mouthpiece - and there was still no change in my playing.

I think Echoes may be on the right track, my embouchure has become too accustomed to playing alto. When I was playing last night, I sounded like a beginner! When I played a scale, I was ok going up, but coming back down was a nightmare. The high C was weak, the A was worse, and then the G was an octave higher than intended. Even the lower register was hit and miss.

I'll concentrate on playing long tones for a while and let you know how I go

cheers
Colin
 

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dshook:

I've used the "pop" technique for several years too. But I never thought that popping it actually did anything, it only told me whether the reed was leaking around the places (the table) where it should be airtight.

Occasionally I get a reed that just won't seal, and usually I only know because it's hard to play certain things--like the low subtpnes you demonstrated. When this happens, I do the pop thing (except I put the end of the neck on my palm, which seems to make a better seal), and I can often hear the leaks gurgling as I suck the air out, but for sure, when I take it out of my mouth, the reed tip comes away from the mpc immediately, and doesn't make the nice pop.

If this happens, I've never been able to fix the reed, and have pretty much gotten to just abandoning the reed and moving on.

When the reed is sealing properly with the MPC, it can take over a full second for it to pop--or as a friend of mine put it: "to say the dirty word".
 

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Chopmatic, based on your last post, I'm not entirely convinced that your horn is in top playing condition. One thing you might do is go to a shop and try out a couple of new tenors, if possible. If they play easily for you, then I would strongly suspect there's something wrong with your horn. Next step would be to take that horn back to the tech (or try a different tech) and have it looked over again. In a lot of cases a 'quick fix' isn't enough. There may be a leak that is not easy to find but still there, or the horn may need a more extensive overhaul. Which can get expensive, but you really don't want to be playing a horn that isn't responding due to leaky pads or whatever.

It could be your embouchure, reeds or other issues of course. Compared to alto, aside from a looser embouchure, tenor requires more air. So be sure you're filling the horn with air. But do what you can to be sure it's not the horn.
 

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Look for loose screws.
then,
Get it cleaned and build up your embesure for Tenor.
Alto and Tenor are 2 different embesures, and I dont know of anything that is dirty (including people) that functions well.
Post an update soon please. ;-)
 

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Reed warping can also be caused by too much jaw pressure, and this is a common problem with people who migrate to tenor from alto. Next time you encounter this problem, take the reed off your mouthpiece and put it, flat-side-down, on the smoothest surface you can find. If it pops up from the middle, you have your answer, and the next problem is to find out WHY you're tending to do this, and what the best solution might be.

If you put your mouthpiece on the neck of your horn (in the spot where you usually put it when you play), and post a photo--taken from the side--of it in that position, it might help us spot something that's contributing to the habit.
 

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Look for loose screws.
then,
Get it cleaned and build up your embesure for Tenor.
Alto and Tenor are 2 different embesures, and I dont know of anything that is dirty (including people) that functions well.
Post an update soon please. ;-)
I had an incident with my M6 alto the other day.
Very much llike what you describe, and I couldn't understand what was happening. I have been "rock solid" for a long time, and suddenly my C and A were weak, I was out of tune and nothing worked at all.
I changed reeds, MP and tried everything you could think of.
The strange thing was that sometimes it was fine and then it suddenly s*****.
Reason: A loose screw on one of the long rods.
 

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Of course there may be an issue with the horn, reed, or mouthpiece, I agree. I also played mostly Alto for years and only took the tenor up once in a while, and had the same issue then. Couldn't get proper notes out of the Tenor. Especially if you don't practice that much (your mainly guitar player, right?), your embrochue will be even more specialised to your "main" instrument.

Regards,

Thomas
 
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