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Hello everyone,

If anybody remembers my posts I had a problem of being very sharp in the upper register. I was asking hundreds of questions and was getting replies (which I am grateful for), but nothing helped in reality.

However, yesterday I was able to boil it down to the core reason for this:
I did not want to sound loud (neighbors, +fear to be heard by everyone in the flat?), so what I did was only use small air stream - of course not with my diaphragm. So to produce sound with this little air stream, I had to squeeze the mouthpiece - there I had it: I was very sharp.

Yesterday, I tried to not squeeze the mouthpiece and blow from my diaphragm, guess what? I have noticed with my tuner, I was not sharp at all. Sometimes in the 2nd register I was even flat (unimaginable, usually I was half note sharp there), but when I sealed the mouthpiece well from the sides, I would be perfectly in tune.

I was very happy initially, and I need playing lots of notes and scales to advance and I had my motivation back, but the thing is I sound so loud. Very loud indeed which concerns me mostly. I do not want to do all the exercises so loud.

The question is: Am I doing everything correctly now and how can I be more quiet while playing? In short, a solution to being loud?

Probably, lots of you have experienced the same, and if you have any tips, I do highly appreciate them.
 

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The question is: Am I doing everything correctly now and how can I be more quiet while playing? In short, a solution to being loud?

Probably, lots of you have experienced the same, and if you have any tips, I do highly appreciate them.
Control. You need to maintain the same kind of support while reducing the amount of air flow.

I'm glad to hear that you've learned to blow through the horn and get a good sound. Now just don't blow as hard.
 

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1. Don't play softly. Most pianissimo markings should be taken with a grain of salt. I am working on a soprano sax solo with a P and PP marking (damn Holst ;) and the melody moves into the altissimo range. That's just mean, plus I can play it so softly the audience would never hear it.
2. Tune flat to start with. This means you never fix your emboucher airstream problem, you just end up working around it. Learning to play softly and in tune will help your sound.
 

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Here are two mental approaches which help me to play soft, and do so well.

1. Whatever "work" you find your body needs to do when playing loud, you need to work just as hard when playing softly. "Work" might not be the exactly right term to use here, but for me it means things like breathing deeply, using my diaphragm, providing a very well supported air stream, and so on. Sometimes when I finish playing a sax ballad at church, I notice a bead of sweat coming down my forehead.

2. When trying to play softly, or play with a nice tone, let your body from the chest down do the work, while from the chest up you are more relaxed to create the prettiness in your sound. I am not a music teacher of any kind, so consider this more of a concept to visualize than specific advice on proper technique.
 

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My teachers always gave me this advice for playing softly and in tune: blow fast air, just less of it. I don't know how long you've been playing, but if it's been a year or more, you probably know what I mean (it's VERY hard to explain otherwise). Other methods like opening your throat or lowering your jaw might help, but that's normally reserved for lower notes.

Another option: forget your neighbors. They get free music; what do they need to complain about? :D (just kidding, but it is a good idea to play at more of a mezzoforte until you get a feel for your individual intonation. Once you have it, then you can work with other dynamics).
 

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Walkman1,

Here's a tip. Whether playing loudly or softly both need a strong diaphagm. While exhaling apply pressure to your belt buckle until you need to stop and inhale, whether that be 4 beats or 8 beats or 12 beats. Good exercise to follow.
 

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One tip that helped me was to think of my embouchure squeezing in like an eye's iris at bright light. This isn't up and down pressure that will bite of the vibration. You can play whisper soft to nothing in any register with that technique using correct air support.
 

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Soft playing requires the reed's oscillations to not travel as far. One way we do this is by decreasing the volume of air which passes through the opening between the tip of the reed and end of the mouthpiece, ie. we don't blow as hard. The other component to playing softly that most players don't realize is closing the opening between the tip of the reed and the mouthpiece by increasing the pressure of the lower lip against the reed. The inherent problem this creates is that the pitch goes sharp when we do this on all single and double reed instruments. The solution is to keep the pitch from going sharp by sustaining the pressure of the air (breath support) while at the same time opening the throat and oral cavity. It is essential to listen very carefully while playing at the extremes of the dynamic levels called for in the music.
 

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jbtsax,

For the OP what you say is true; dynamics can introduce subtle intonation changes.
 

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Hello everyone,

If anybody remembers my posts I had a problem of being very sharp in the upper register. I was asking hundreds of questions and was getting replies (which I am grateful for), but nothing helped in reality.

However, yesterday I was able to boil it down to the core reason for this:
I did not want to sound loud (neighbors, +fear to be heard by everyone in the flat?), so what I did was only use small air stream - of course not with my diaphragm. So to produce sound with this little air stream, I had to squeeze the mouthpiece - there I had it: I was very sharp.

Yesterday, I tried to not squeeze the mouthpiece and blow from my diaphragm, guess what? I have noticed with my tuner, I was not sharp at all. Sometimes in the 2nd register I was even flat (unimaginable, usually I was half note sharp there), but when I sealed the mouthpiece well from the sides, I would be perfectly in tune.

I was very happy initially, and I need playing lots of notes and scales to advance and I had my motivation back, but the thing is I sound so loud. Very loud indeed which concerns me mostly. I do not want to do all the exercises so loud.

The question is: Am I doing everything correctly now and how can I be more quiet while playing? In short, a solution to being loud?

Probably, lots of you have experienced the same, and if you have any tips, I do highly appreciate them.
When I was in the US Marines, I lived in a tiny barracks room (not unlike your small flat, maybe even smaller!). When I wanted to practice, I would go out by the river off a bike trail. I could do all the dynamics practicing I wanted, and I wouldn't bother anyone!
 

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...Tune flat to start with.
I can't say I'd agree with this. If you tune flat, you'll tend to tighten up or bite to bring the pitch up. Better to tune a wee bit sharp and relax your embouchure to bring the pitch in tune. Probably best to tune right on pitch and learn to stay relatively in tune, regardless of what volume you play. As several posters have already pointed out, the key is to maintain good air support and simply control the airstream entering the horn. It takes practice.

I'd add that you want to practice at all dynamics. Don't limit it to just playing softly or at full volume. Best to practice at the volume and dynamics you'd use in performance!
 
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