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Discussion Starter #1
Hey, guys. I recently started reading things on this message board, and I might need a bit of advice. I have been playing the clarinet for quite a while now (on a less than professional, but mostly in tune horn), so I am not clueless beyond all hope. I know all the note fingerings - they're almost all the same as the clarinet, and there are fewer fingerings. And yes, I have figured out how to get the low notes. What I'm having difficulties with is what this forum is about - embouchure and tone production. I'm having trouble not using a clarinet single lip embouchure while I'm playing. I can start off with just my lips supporting it, but after a while, my lower lip will slip over my lower teeth and I find myself "biting". Also, I'm having trouble not going sharp in the upper register, and it just plain sounds bad (kinda ironic considering clarinets usually have trouble with low notes on saxes). I mean, I can make a sound all the way up to F#, but it's just that: a sound. Is there a certain shape that my throat should be in? Or is it just my embouchure problem? Thanks for any help.
 

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AnotherClarinetist,

I taught beginning band for many years, and there came a point in time that I had no choice but to require all students who wanted to play the sax to play clarinet their first year. As a result of this practice, each summer I taught a crash course for those students who still wanted to play sax to make the transition. Surprisingly enough about 60% of the students who wanted to play the sax in the first place liked the clarinet enough to continue on that instrument and the bands always had a good balance in the woodwinds (except for way too many flutes).:)

Let me start by saying that what I am about write about are the techniques that worked well for me and my students. I am not saying this is the only approach or even the correct approach, only that in my experience the vast majority of students taught by this method accomplished a very fast and successful transition from the clarinet to the sax.

The first thing I taught was the basic differences between the sax and clarinet. Please remember that these are Generalizations that can vary with each individual player. Think of them as a starting point rather than a destination.

Embouchure
Clarinet EE-OO tug-o-war forms the embouchure. EE muscles pull out, OO muscles push in. Both sets of muscles pull equally so its a tie. Chin is flat and pointed. Bottom lip is stretched tight and only a small portion covers the bottom teeth.
Saxophone Same EE-OO tug-o-war except the OO muscles are stronger. The EE muscles don't quit but the OO's win. The chin is more relaxed, not flat but not bunched either. A bit more of the bottom lip covers the teeth and the bottom lip is not stretched as tight, but acts more as a cushion for the reed.

Angle of the Mouthpiece
Clarinet Pointed down about 45 degrees
Saxophone Goes straight into the mouth

Placement of Top Teeth
Clarinet Approximately 3/8 " back from tip of mouthpiece
Saxophone Approximately 5/8" back from tip (Alto - more if Tenor)

Mouthpiece Pitch
Clarinet Plays near the top of it's pitch (can lip down but not up)--mouthpiece and barrel produces concert F# (or G on shorter barrel)
Saxophone Plays closer to the center of the pitch (can lip up and down) mouthpiece and neck produces concert Ab on Alto (E on Tenor)

Airstream
Clarinet Faster colder air (generally by comparison)
Saxophone Warmer slower air (generally by comparison)

Tonguing
Clarinet Touch the tip of the reed with the part of the tongue just behind the tip
Saxophone Generally the same as for clarinet, maybe touching a bit farther back on the tongue

The Most Common Problems My Students (Switching From Clarinet to Sax) Encountered
--Not taking enough mouthpiece in the mouth
--Playing with too tight an embouchure (too high on the pitch)
--Not adjusting the neckstrap properly so that the mouthpiece goes straight into the mouth
--Here's the Big One, Trying to give the relatively free blowing saxophone the same resistance as the clarinet by closing off the throat.

Suggestions
--Say "HOP" when you breathe to open the throat
--Play with warm air
--Always blow more air as you add fingers, its a Cone now not a Cylinder that you're playing on
--Don't choose reeds that are too hard at first #2 1/2 Hemke or Rico Royal is a good choice
--Stay with a good "classical" or "concert band" mouthpiece till your sax "chops" are more developed
--Keep checking the (Ab) pitch on the mouthpiece and gooseneck to keep from playing too tight

If you have good hand position and technique on clarinet you are way ahead of the game. The fingerings are easy to learn once you have played clarinet. You should pass up people who started on saxophone in terms of speed and facility. Good luck. I suggest you get the book "The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal ($11.53 at Amazon.com) if you don't have it already. It is an indispensable resource for anyone learning to play the sax IMO.
Good luck.

John

P.S. To answer your signature NO, but I do love "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".:cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, jtbsax. That information helped me a bit, what I didn't already know. Sorry I didn't reply sooner; I was focusing on preparing for my youth symphony concert (clarinet of course - I would not dream of playing in a classical ensemble on my saxophone anytime soon). I found that thinking of my lips as a rubber band seal helps, but some of my notes are up to 20 cents flat. My teacher tested my saxophone for me before we bought it, and he said it was pretty well in tune, so I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Fifth space G to seventh line C are the notes that go down to 20 cents flat. It was making me so frustrated that if I were an impatient person, I would have smashed up my horn. Most of my lower register is in tune, but those five notes are ticking me off. :x
 

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AnotherClarinetist said:
Thanks, jtbsax. That information helped me a bit, what I didn't already know. Sorry I didn't reply sooner; I was focusing on preparing for my youth symphony concert (clarinet of course - I would not dream of playing in a classical ensemble on my saxophone anytime soon). I found that thinking of my lips as a rubber band seal helps, but some of my notes are up to 20 cents flat. My teacher tested my saxophone for me before we bought it, and he said it was pretty well in tune, so I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Fifth space G to seventh line C are the notes that go down to 20 cents flat. It was making me so frustrated that if I were an impatient person, I would have smashed up my horn. Most of my lower register is in tune, but those five notes are ticking me off. :x

Try putting a bit more lower lip over your teeth, that's just an embouchure problem. Good luck!
 

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Alright, I'll try that. I was just trying to avoid that so I didn't start biting again, but I suppose it will get easier if I do it more. And weren't you the guy with the double lip embouchure? I noticed that the tenor and bari saxes at my school do that too, and it's pretty difficult for me. I can barely do it on the clarinet, much less on the saxophone. Does it have to do with my teeth? I mean, they are a bit crooked, and my top teeth feel so sharp when I bring my upper lip over them. I try not to bite with double lip, but that makes me really flat. I would try to practice it more if I knew for sure what muscles to use for support.
 

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AnotherClarinetist said:
Alright, I'll try that. I was just trying to avoid that so I didn't start biting again, but I suppose it will get easier if I do it more. And weren't you the guy with the double lip embouchure? I noticed that the tenor and bari saxes at my school do that too, and it's pretty difficult for me. I can barely do it on the clarinet, much less on the saxophone. Does it have to do with my teeth? I mean, they are a bit crooked, and my top teeth feel so sharp when I bring my upper lip over them. I try not to bite with double lip, but that makes me really flat. I would try to practice it more if I knew for sure what muscles to use for support.

Yes, I double lip, but it's considered kind of "taboo" in the saxophone world. I wouldn't suggest it if you can comfortably play with your teeth on the mouthpiece. Just keep practicing and practicing! Best of luck to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Ah, sorry I didn't reply sooner. I've been a bit busy lately... again. But I think I've figured out the main problem. I've been trying to hold the sax forward like I sort of do with the clarinet. Most other kids I see hold them at a 30 degree angle or less, but I make it more like 40 (but I do lift my head a bit to make up for that). Anyway, I was pushing my saxophone forward way too far and raising my mouthpiece too much... And it made my thumbs hurt a lot. So I tried resting it at my side more, but not too far back, and my flat notes are getting better. But the only way I can get most of my notes in tune, for both piano and forte, is to push my mouthpiece in so that there's less than one centimeter of cork showing. Are you supposed to do that? Thanks for any help, again.
 

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Well guys, I've done some solos for our jazz band in the past few weeks. The first time, I just memorized the written solo, but the second time I changed it a bit to make it more interesting. Both times, the audience enjoyed it, so I must be doing something right. I've been getting a lot of "You've only been playing for four months?" I'm guessing that either means something good, or the audience doesn't notice my mistakes, or both.

I noticed that I'm starting to curl out my lower lip. Are you supposed to do that? And I think my neckstrap slips. After a few practice sessions, I have to readjust my strap. Is that normal, or should I get a better one? Thanks for any replies.
 
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