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Hi,

I moved from alto to tenor a couple of years ago and have since noticed that my middle Ds are generally quite stuffy. I have tried many things to overcome this issue, but it still sounds stuffy and at times is out of tune.

Any suggestions for a solution?
 

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D2 on saxophones inherently has two different problems. It tends to be sharp, and also have a "stuffy" tone when compared with the surrounding notes---especially open C#. The stuffiness is cause partly by the fact that it is an "undervented" note which means it vents through a tonehole (low C) which is followed by a closed tonehole (low C#). The sharpness has to do with the compromises in the taper of the bore (I think).

One solution is to make sure the low C pad is opening far enough. The catch 22 is that when you open the key to make the D less stuffy, it can also make it even more sharp so the key height is usually a compromise. On low D one can open the low C# key to make it more clear. This works because low D has a tendency to be a bit flat. Opening the C# key on D2 makes it too sharp to manage. One trick to open up the sound of the D without making it go sharper is to substitute the D palm key for the octave key. Another method of lowering the pitch of D2 when you play it as a long tone is to close the low B key.

Some makes and models are better than others, but I have found these to be the general tendencies of the instrument for that particular note.
 

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That pretty well says it. I had to open the C key on my 10M a bit more, this very morning. What a difference it made! I've used that solution on every horn I've owned (all 3!), and it works.
 

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My 10M had a stuffy D2 when I got it. I opened the C key and it helped a bit, but was still a little stuffy. I put an 8 LED leak light down the horn and could see no leaks with the keys fully depressed. But I did notice that a couple of keys in my right hand stack did not close quite evenly, such that one side of the key closed before the other side. With the leak light, I could see that keys did not fully seal until the last second. I worked on those 2 keys and got them to close evenly. Now there is no stuffiness with D2. Has anyone else tried this and had it work?
 

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My 10M had a stuffy D2 when I got it. I opened the C key and it helped a bit, but was still a little stuffy. I put an 8 LED leak light down the horn and could see no leaks with the keys fully depressed. But I did notice that a couple of keys in my right hand stack did not close quite evenly, such that one side of the key closed before the other side. With the leak light, I could see that keys did not fully seal until the last second. I worked on those 2 keys and got them to close evenly. Now there is no stuffiness with D2. Has anyone else tried this and had it work?
I have this problem, and it's causing me great difficulty playing the interval B to D fast in a classical piece I'm working on for a chamber thing. I'm going to ask my repair guy about the the C key and the right stack.
 

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I've been dealing with a stuffy mid D on my otherwise great S20. The most damaged area of this horn was at the bow bottom/ low C pad area, and although my tech has the C sealing OK, the tone hole is a bit out of round. When I brought it back to him to work on the D issue, he couldn't detect it with his Yamaha 4C test mpc. So, after trying several different mpcs, strangely enough it does seem to be worse with brighter ones. Aftet reading this thread, I think I will probably take it back in this week to try to "round out" the C hole and open it a bit. Will report back on results.
 

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This is a problem for me, too. Sometimes I'll try to work around it by using the palm key for middle D, which can sound OK, depending on the context. Another "trick" that some people do is to depress the D palm key while also doing the standard fingering for middle D. This feels awkward to me, but I've heard that that's what Coltrane did, so I might try to practice it more and see if I can get used to it.
 

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How many of you remember the guy spinning plates on the end of long rods, on the Ed Sullivan Show? Once he got all the plates spinning, he would get the hoops going around his wrists and one ankle. That's what using the palm key in addition to standard fingering, for D2, is like. It's doable, but not easily.
 

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If your E2 is open and clear you may have to open up more space on your low C which means raising its key height over the low C tone hole. One indicator that this could help is pressing low C# to improve how D2 and even D1 sounds. Bare in mind that those 2 D notes are venting right out of the bow mainly. Pretty simple to DIY with modern saxes. It just gets a little tricky if all of the lower notes were left with a typical uneven factory default setup.

Hi,

I moved from alto to tenor a couple of years ago and have since noticed that my middle Ds are generally quite stuffy. I have tried many things to overcome this issue, but it still sounds stuffy and at times is out of tune.

Any suggestions for a solution?
 

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My teacher says that for middle D you should be thinking about blowing forward and down, and the angle of the air will resolve it. He demonstrated blowing it the way he would blow a C#(open) and then the forward/down and it made the D have the same timbre as the C#. I'm working on it now.
 

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Hi,

I moved from alto to tenor a couple of years ago and have since noticed that my middle Ds are generally quite stuffy. I have tried many things to overcome this issue, but it still sounds stuffy and at times is out of tune.

Any suggestions for a solution?
Three points I would make.

1) Spend some time twiddling the "low C" pad height (the one that D is vented through, thus the inverted commas I placed around "low C".) You'll probably not be able to raise it very much before the note starts getting wicked sharp.

2) Every musical instrument has variability from note to note and there are inevitably some notes that are just "wonky". Part of learning to play a particular instrument is mastering these. Heck, in the altissimo register every single note is dramatically different.

3) If you put enough air through the horn, use a moderate middle-of the-road setup, put enough air through the horn, play with an appropriately soft and flexible embouchure, put enough air through the horn, make sure your "natural input pitch" is low enough, and put enough air through the horn, all these kinds of issues will get very substantially better.

Can you guess where I would suggest you focus your practice time?
 

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Hi,

I moved from alto to tenor a couple of years ago and have since noticed that my middle Ds are generally quite stuffy. I have tried many things to overcome this issue, but it still sounds stuffy and at times is out of tune.

Any suggestions for a solution?
Try playing into a wall?
Some of your feeling of stuffiness may also be that you are adjusting to the way the tenor bell points away from your ears more than alto.
So hearing your sound coming back off a wall may reassure you that your D is not quite as bad as you thought and you can relax into it more.

It it out of tune going sharp?
If so then you need to loosen off (obviously) but the reason you might be tightening unnecessarily is that you might be trying to get the same projection that you have a mental memory of that you used to get on middle D on alto and now you need to adjust to the new way D will sound on tenor.
Let it grow width wise in sound on tenor.
 

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I started to write a blog about D2 stuffiness, but when my list exceeded 15 common causes, I just gave up. Nobody wants to read 30 pages of likely causes. I'll try to keep it down to the basics. Most important for the initial examination is your make of saxophone. If it is a brand that any other person plays without a stuffy D2 problem, then it is not the horn. If you play a Yamaha, it isn't the horn. If you play a Yitzugibi, it might be the horn. The Yitzugubi might need cork crescents glued in the tone holes, or gift offerings dropped down the bell, or other strange and exhotic remedies. But if you play a brand name, then you are basically limited to the following three causes.

1. Mouthpiece incompatibility. You have a mouthpiece that causes the most unstable note (usually 2D) to choke off.
2. Mouth incompatibility. This includes both oral and lung capacity. You have some sort of weird oral cavity harmonics or undiagnosed tuberculosis.
3. Leak.

I would say #3 is about a 98% chance of being the cause. I don't care what your tech says or what your leak light shows. If other people play the same model horn without a problem, and with the same mouthpiece, and your head/mouth size is anywhere near normal for a human being, then it is a leak. Finding the leak is where my list got too long for a blog and way too long for a post.

Mark
 

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2) Every musical instrument has variability from note to note and there are inevitably some notes that are just "wonky". Part of learning to play a particular instrument is mastering these. Heck, in the altissimo register every single note is dramatically different.

3) If you put enough air through the horn, use a moderate middle-of the-road setup, put enough air through the horn, play with an appropriately soft and flexible embouchure, put enough air through the horn, make sure your "natural input pitch" is low enough, and put enough air through the horn, all these kinds of issues will get very substantially better.
+1. To both those points, especially point #3, and most especially "put enough air through the horn!"

I actually kind of like the timbre of that middle D; I don't find it especially stuffy, but rather 'thick' and full (did anyone mention it's important to put enough air through the horn?). I also occasionally use the palm key middle D for a different timbre. It's all part of playing the saxophone.
 

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My teacher says that for middle D you should be thinking about blowing forward and down, and the angle of the air will resolve it. He demonstrated blowing it the way he would blow a C#(open) and then the forward/down and it made the D have the same timbre as the C#. I'm working on it now.
Try thinking about singing exactly what that note sounds like as you play it, then apply to other notes. It’s amazing how much more you can think about music when you’re singing what you’re trying to play instead of trying to calculate the trajectory of your airstream and contort your throat intonall kinds of uncomfortable positions.
 

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I still remember my private lesson with Dr. Ray Smith at BYU where he had me play lower on the input pitch to produce an Ab concert on the mouthpiece and neck of my alto. The tone quality (timbre) of the D improved immensely, as did the intonation on D2 and A2. Another word for "stuffy" is "pinched" which is the result of the embouchure being too tight creating an input pitch that is too high.
 

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D2 on saxophones inherently has two different problems. It tends to be sharp, and also have a "stuffy" tone when compared with the surrounding notes---especially open C#. The stuffiness is cause partly by the fact that it is an "undervented" note which means it vents through a tonehole (low C) which is followed by a closed tonehole (low C#). The sharpness has to do with the compromises in the taper of the bore (I think).

One solution is to make sure the low C pad is opening far enough. The catch 22 is that when you open the key to make the D less stuffy, it can also make it even more sharp so the key height is usually a compromise. On low D one can open the low C# key to make it more clear. This works because low D has a tendency to be a bit flat. Opening the C# key on D2 makes it too sharp to manage. One trick to open up the sound of the D without making it go sharper is to substitute the D palm key for the octave key. Another method of lowering the pitch of D2 when you play it as a long tone is to close the low B key.

Some makes and models are better than others, but I have found these to be the general tendencies of the instrument for that particular note.
Says it all.
 

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My teacher says that for middle D you should be thinking about blowing forward and down, and the angle of the air will resolve it. He demonstrated blowing it the way he would blow a C#(open) and then the forward/down and it made the D have the same timbre as the C#. I'm working on it now.
Do you mean diagonally, such as aiming toward the neck tenon? Or as if you could actually change the trajectory of the air from forward to down, like turning a corner?
 
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