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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I’m a pretty new sax player and I’ve been able to approach most technique exercises and improve them through practice- long tones, overtones, I can play the full normal range and at least sound altissimo notes up to c7, but when doing the mouthpiece-only scale exercise, I can’t go more than a fourth down from the “target” A (I can go up about a minor third too.) Everyone seems to suggest you should be able to go an octave or tenth down, but I seem to have a hard cut-off at the fourth below which hasn’t changed with practice. Does anyone have tips on how to even approach getting past this?
 

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If you're already doing it that way, then hopefully someone will have additional help soon.
 
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I assume you've watched the Joe Allard video where he makes a kind of hissing sound. For me to go down an entire octave or more, I have to do the hissing thing he does by making a small opening at the back of the throat using the tongue and using a lot of air pressure.

I know Joe is the man and swears by exercises like this. But I don't think they really serve any useful purpose. I've never done an exercise like this in my life, yet was able to do a tenth on my first try in order to respond to your question. This tells me that playing the saxophone normally gives you the skills to do this exercise, not the other way around. So I wouldn't waste too much time on stuff like this. These skills take time and will develop naturally in the course of playing the fully assembled horn.

I like to compare it to driving a car. When you learned to drive a car, you didn't just sit still and practice turning the wheel for a week, then use just the pedals the next week. You did everything all at once. I say put the horn together and play.

Since you can already play the full range and altissimo to C7, you've arrived. Your altissimo isn't going any higher and your normal range isn't going any lower if you do this mouthpiece alone trick. Forget about it.

If you insist on tangential exercises, I'd argue that learning to pitch bend on a harmonica is better. The technique is the same and has actual practical value since that's the normal way a harmonica is played, and you could actually get paid playing in a blues band.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I assume you've watched the Joe Allard video where he makes a kind of hissing sound. For me to go down an entire octave or more, I have to do the hissing thing he does by making a small opening at the back of the throat using the tongue and using a lot of air pressure.

I know Joe is the man and swears by exercises like this. But I don't think they really serve any useful purpose. I've never done an exercise like this in my life, yet was able to do a tenth on my first try in order to respond to your question. This tells me that playing the saxophone normally gives you the skills to do this exercise, not the other way around. So I wouldn't waste too much time on stuff like this. These skills take time and will develop naturally in the course of playing the fully assembled horn.

I like to compare it to driving a car. When you learned to drive a car, you didn't just sit still and practice turning the wheel for a week, then use just the pedals the next week. You did everything all at once. I say put the horn together and play.

Since you can already play the full range and altissimo to C7, you've arrived. Your altissimo isn't going any higher and your normal range isn't going any lower if you do this mouthpiece alone trick. Forget about it.

If you insist on tangential exercises, I'd argue that learning to pitch bend on a harmonica is better. The technique is the same and has actual practical value since that's the normal way a harmonica is played, and you could actually get paid playing in a blues band.
I’m not spending too much time on this, but as you sort of suggest, using it as a barometer of sorts to see how my embouchure/voicing/technique in general is developing. That’s why I’m a bit dismayed that regardless of improvements I make elsewhere, I’m unable to even, like, squeak out the beginnings of the fifth below. I guess I’ll try to put it out of my mind and check back in down the road!
 

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You sound like a great candidate for private lessons with a great teacher who’s also a great player. Keep on keeping on and I hope your habits are good.
 

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Frankly, I wouldn't spend any time on mouthpiece exercises, except maybe as a way to keep chops in shape. There is a device that will keep the volume down when you put the mouthpiece on it, and you want to do some embouchure pushups.

Putting air through the horn is way different than doing scales on a mouthpiece, and will pay off way more in the long run. Mouthpiece work might be useful to a teacher as a diagnostic tool to verify a student is forming the embouchure correctly, but in my opinion, is a waste of time otherwise.
 
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