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My middle D on my tenor sounds very muffled compared to my middle D with only the palm D key.
Is this common, common to my lower end sax and others like it, or a technique issue?
 

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My middle D on my tenor sounds very muffled compared to my middle D with only the palm D key.
Is this common, common to my lower end sax and others like it, or a technique issue?
Every instrument is different, and each one has some "wonky" notes. Part of your job is to learn how to play them so they all sound as close to the same as possible.
 

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Leaks, mouthpiece choice, reed choice, all influence the middle D. Venting it with the D palm is a standard trick but it sure is nice when you get a horn that really speaks on D. I have been known to try a new sax and only blow that note before putting it aside. Sure, maybe it could be fixed but I'll take the one that doesn't need any help. On my back-up tenor, a 1980's Selmer USA, the D was a little muffled until I changed necks and got an overhaul at the same time. I think it was mostly the neck but it sure is fun to play that D now and feel the horn vibrate. One trick is to go back and forth with the palm key while playing D to get a R&R effect on eighths or quarter notes. Here you actually play the palm key alone, alternating with the whole thing.
Something else to check is the opening of the low C key. Turn the bumper holder 'out' to raise the key unless its already 10 to 12 mm max and see how that goes. This is what they call 'voicing' and the veteran sax player can do a lot of it for himself. You're looking for notes that don't speak out like their neighbors and intonation is also a part of it.
 

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A slightly dodgy note because of the C# key's pad being closed.
So it will be better or worse on different models, depending on acoustic design compromises and design skill.4

Yes, try more venting of the C key as 1saxman suggests. Turn out the bumper holder, or if it it is not screwed, thin the felt. Or just for a try, take the key guard (with bumper) right off.

On some models you might get away with pressing the low C# key open, without becoming excessively sharp.
 

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My tenor can have a stuffy D — then I noticed that when I have a really good reed it sounds fine. So now I think of it as a built in reed quality detector
 

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Yup, The stuffy D is almost like a check engine light for my reed health. Sure, You might need an adjustment or two, but swapping out reeds is a lot cheaper to try first.
 

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It is completely normal for middle D to sound muffled compared to palm key D. So technically, it's Adolph Sax's and God's fault, not yours or the horn's. It's just the way it is.
 

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Typical. Some horns are stuffier than others on the middle D. I've got one tenor, that has a great middle D, unusually crisp and clear.
 

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One of Joe Allard’s first lessons for his students was demonstrating that middle D sounded better if, instead of using the standard fingering with the octave key, opening the D palm key instead produces a fuller tone because the natural octave key for middle D was the palm key. Middle Eb could be played with the Eb palm key, middle E with the E RH trill key. At middle F to middle G, the octave vents effectively and efficiently from its upper sax body location.

It’s just a trade off of having only 2 vents for the octave and finding the natural octave opening for resistant middle tones is something that classical sax players are exposed to. When Selmer introduced the optional C3 vent by the neck collar on the series III altos, it was a big step to improve that tone. I’m not sure if it works for C3 only though.
 

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One of Joe Allard’s first lessons for his students was demonstrating that middle D sounded better if, instead of using the standard fingering with the octave key, opening the D palm key instead produces a fuller tone because the natural octave key for middle D was the palm key. Middle Eb could be played with the Eb palm key, middle E with the E RH trill key. At middle F to middle G, the octave vents effectively and efficiently from its upper sax body location.

It’s just a trade off of having only 2 vents for the octave and finding the natural octave opening for resistant middle tones is something that classical sax players are exposed to. When Selmer introduced the optional C3 vent by the neck collar on the series III altos, it was a big step to improve that tone. I’m not sure if it works for C3 only though.
In my experience wonky notes (stuffy, etc.) get a lot better when you put a proper fully supported airstream through the horn.

Rather than running down a rabbit hole of adjustments, or wishing you had some extra keys, or special fingerings, or just accepting it, I recommend tone building exercises to learn how to match the tonal qualities of all the notes.
 

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Thanks Gordon! I’m sure you’re familiar with Michael Brockman’s frankensax articles that discuss these issues. Again for the mainstream player who isn’t a classical musician, finding ways to make this range ‘speak’ more effectively is done differently with more open mouthpieces, a higher opening/venting of the low C key, etc.
 

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One of Joe Allard’s first lessons for his students was demonstrating that middle D sounded better if, instead of using the standard fingering with the octave key, opening the D palm key instead produces a fuller tone because the natural octave key for middle D was the palm key. Middle Eb could be played with the Eb palm key, middle E with the E RH trill key. At middle F to middle G, the octave vents effectively and efficiently from its upper sax body location.
I wanna make sure I understand this (I know you are only giving a synopsis of what was probably a longer explanation/demonstration)...was he suggesting using those palm key fingerings on middle D, Eb, E ? Or just pointing out the greater clarity of the tone ?
Because IMHO using the palm keys for middle D, Eb may make the notes speak/sound clearer ... in many if not most most instances it also produces a note which is out of tune; which is why I assume folks do not use those fingerings except for passing notes, when convenient. I have played a few saxes where that wasn't the case, but most of the time I have found it to be the case....
 

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Glad to clarify: standard middle fingerings for D, Eb, and E but, instead of using the octave key, open the the individual corresponding palm key(s) and trill key, with the standard middle fingering. Essentially, it’s the low fingerings with each palm key and trill key taking on the role of a natural octave key.

I wanna make sure I understand this (I know you are only giving a synopsis of what was probably a longer explanation/demonstration)...was he suggesting using those palm key fingerings on middle D, Eb, E ? Or just pointing out the greater clarity of the tone ?
Because IMHO using the palm keys for middle D, Eb may make the notes speak/sound clearer ... in many if not most most instances it also produces a note which is out of tune; which is why I assume folks do not use those fingerings except for passing notes, when convenient. I have played a few saxes where that wasn't the case, but most of the time I have found it to be the case....
 

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I am on my forth tenor sax and they all had that problem. The sax I have now has been the best on that D note but still a little off. In my case a little creative fingering cleared it up.
 

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I had a "stuffy D" on my VI...
My repairman installed a metal "whiffle-style" resonator... leaving the rest stock... brought it right up to other notes...
Another cause... your mouthpiece/reed setup... I have found, on other horns, that the correct combination of reed/mouthpiece can make a horn more linear... This way takes a little longer than first repair... :)
 

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When I got my soprano (and being a sax-newbie coming from clarinet at that time), the soprano had a difficult (and less responsive) middle D. Then I discovered that the upper octave pip pad was not closing sufficiently all the times it was supposed to be closed. I adjusted the key and the middle D became very responsive with a nice warm tone. [maybe this helps a little]
 

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My middle D on my tenor sounds very muffled compared to my middle D with only the palm D key.
Is this common, common to my lower end sax and others like it, or a technique issue?
Middle D will feel stuffy compared to only the palm key, that's normal. Almost all the pads are down, which act somewhat to muffle the notes, and you're not getting anything coming out of the toneholes. It will sound somewhat brighter to you if you play facing a wall, bouncing more sound back at you.

One can use only the palm key in a situation needing faster articulation and a bit more bite, but the intonation isn't as good.
 

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Middle D will feel stuffy compared to only the palm key, that's normal. Almost all the pads are down, which act somewhat to muffle the notes, and you're not getting anything coming out of the toneholes....
With respect, I don't think that is the reason. Every note has a column of air with a hole at the end of it. The traveling sound wave leaves the sax from that tone hole., and also a little from the next 2 or 3.
If what you write were true then low B would be a very stuffy note.
For the main acoustic reason, see post 4. Another is that the octave vent is not in a good place for this note.
 
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