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I am a senior in high school and planning on studying music at university, so please take me seriously. I have always been having problems with my high register (palm keys mainly). They sounds thin, weak, not very powerful, and sometimes the notes won't want to come out at all. Apart from long tones, what else can be done to help up there? And also, roughly how many minutes of my practice time should be spent doing long tones? (I practice an hour a day).
Any suggestions would greatly help.
 

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I also have the problem of thin sounding high notes. The obvious answer is long-tones, but I sometimes have motivation problems with doing those as long as necessary. What I have been doing lately is finding a ballad that is played up high, I'm using Ruby my Dear right now. This has the long-tones benefit plus you also get the benefit of playing the long-tones melodically.

The other thing that gives you some meat up high is going to stiffer reeds, but if your chops aren't up to it you'll be giving up some flexibility on other parts of the horn. In addition, I find that with those sorts of changes your chops adjust after a while and you end up with the same thin sound up high.

I'm not an especially experienced player, so take my advice with a grain of salt.
 

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I hate to put it bluntly, but you are not going to make it into a good music school if you only practice an hour a day unless you are rediculously talented, and if you are you should practice more anyway.

But as to your question, try experimenting with tounge position.
 

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Some other things to consider :
- take more mouthpiece in. (not enough just kills the vibration of the reed)
- focus on breath support (plenty of it needed)
- DON'T bite. That's the main killer for the high notes. Embouchure shouldn't change.

Check the exercises on tone production by Phil Barone : they help you control your throat, which is necessary to get a decent sound, also in the high register.

http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=65006
 

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I played with a thin and pinched off sound on the highest notes of the sax through high school. In college, I heard some recordings of Marcel Mule and Vincent Abato that changed my concept completely. I had been afraid of the high notes sounding bad so I had been backing off with the amount and speed of the air in an effort to try to "control" the sound.

After hearing how the high notes could "sing" when played by a gifted player, I started to practice the high D, Eb, E, and F as long tones playing fortissimo. I found that a faster airstream and an open throat were the keys to not only a better sound but better intonation as well.

I also discovered that the high F and the low Bb on the sax can use exactly the same embouchure and sound great. The exercise I used to match the embouchure throughout the range of the instrument starting on low Bb and slurring up to high F was: Bb - F - Bb - F - Bb - F and holding the high F while giving it the "feeling" of playing low Bb.

As the control of the high notes is achieved with practice playing loudly, then you can drop down to softer dynamic levels, keeping the throat open and a fast pressurized airstream to play the notes with a clear open sound without sounding pinched or stuffy. As with almost every playing skill on the saxophone, it must begin with the correct concept. That is the key.

John
 

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I'll just add:

If you don't have it already, get the adjacent tones exercise from the beginning pages of Rascher's Top Tones book. In a nutshell: Rascher argues that the difference you're talking about is to some extent built in to the sax; what he says is that, as you go up and down the horn, you have to play the notes slightly differently so that the final tone of the quality of the adjacent notes comes out the same. This is pretty much what John is saying, I think, but Rascher is scarier;) .

Rory.

ps. I also think he'd agree with Martinman--one hour is not enough to maintain/improve your tone--and he'd probably say that no amount of "natural" talent will replace robust and dedicated practicing of long tones, adjacent tones, overtones, and tone imagination.
 

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:)
saxdude48 said:
I am a senior in high school and planning on studying music at university, so please take me seriously. I have always been having problems with my high register (palm keys mainly). They sounds thin, weak, not very powerful, and sometimes the notes won't want to come out at all. Apart from long tones, what else can be done to help up there? And also, roughly how many minutes of my practice time should be spent doing long tones? (I practice an hour a day).
Any suggestions would greatly help.
If you are serious about studying music in college you have to have a private teacher-- what does he or she say about what you are doing wrong?:|
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Sorry guys, I didnt really give enough background information. The course I'm interested in for university is not a pure music course, it's called "Applied Music" and combines music with sound technology, recording, etc. So basically it's about half music and half engineering.
But yes, I really wish I had more time to practice. I have a ridiculously busy schedule with school, trying to juggle AP classes with band with after school activities with playing guitar in various worship bands. But every time I have spare time I use it by blowing on my horn.
As for my lesson teacher, he simply told me I should play long tones and try a stronger reed, so even as I write this a box of Plasticovers 3 are on their way. But he also tells me that as a musician it's very important to seek the advice of many musicians, not only one. So that's why I am writing on this forum to see if anyone else has suggestions.
But thanks VERY much for all the suggestions so far, I'll work on all of them. Martinman, what exactly do you mean by 'experiment with tounge position'? Just like put the tounge in different places, or what?
Thanks guys, this is a great forum.
 

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If you're interested, here's another drill I really like to use for this:

1. Make a copy of Tim Price's great ii-v-I patterns in all keys--you'll find them on the SotW main page.
2. Look at shape #1 and see in which of the keys the center part (v chord) is played mostly or mainly in the palm keys.
3. play that section of the pattern as whole notes and get the best, fullest tone you can get.
4. Now play the whole pattern as well as you can normally, making sure that you get the same good tone over the middle section.
5. Repeat with pattern #2 etc.

Good luck--and good question!

rory
 

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Higher notes sound quality and ease of playing can also be affected by equipment.
Although a really seasoned pro can make almost any horn do almost anything, for the rest of us the mouthpiece/reed/ horn combo can make a pretty big difference.
It might be interesting to see what happens for you on a different combo. Try your mouthpiece on another horn. See what the new reeds do for you. Try a mouthpiece with a shorter facing curve on your horn.
Overtones and 2 octave scales without the octave key may help, too.
 

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Practicing throat slides will help open up your upper register. High notes that are thin and weak are generally caused by a pinched throat cavity.

First - to answer your question about tongue position. Say the word "heeee" kind of with a hiss. Feel how your tongue arches up and moves forward in your mouth? That's about where it should be.

For the throat slides:

Start with palm key d. Make sure your tongue is in "he" position. Play the note forte and try to get the pitch to slide down by adjusting your voicing. Changing your voicing is kinda like the difference between singing the vowel sound eee and ahhh.

If you have never done this before you probably won't be able to slide down very far - maybe a whole tone. Crescendoing into the slide will help. Ideally you should be able to slide down about a perfect 4th.

The basic practice exercise is to slide down and back up a few times. Then move up to Eb, E, F.

another thing you can do, and this will sound silly, bend over at the waist while standing up - it opens the throat right up. Obviously you wouldn't perform this way, but it is great for practicing - especially altissimo.

good luck. If you have any questions - send me a message and I'll see if i can explain a little better.
 

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dohertyjazz said:
Practicing throat slides will help open up your upper register. High notes that are thin and weak are generally caused by a pinched throat cavity.

First - to answer your question about tongue position. Say the word "heeee" kind of with a hiss. Feel how your tongue arches up and moves forward in your mouth? That's about where it should be.

For the throat slides:

Start with palm key d. Make sure your tongue is in "he" position. Play the note forte and try to get the pitch to slide down by adjusting your voicing. Changing your voicing is kinda like the difference between singing the vowel sound eee and ahhh.

If you have never done this before you probably won't be able to slide down very far - maybe a whole tone. Crescendoing into the slide will help. Ideally you should be able to slide down about a perfect 4th.

The basic practice exercise is to slide down and back up a few times. Then move up to Eb, E, F.

another thing you can do, and this will sound silly, bend over at the waist while standing up - it opens the throat right up. Obviously you wouldn't perform this way, but it is great for practicing - especially altissimo.

good luck. If you have any questions - send me a message and I'll see if i can explain a little better.

Exactly what I was meaning. I don't have the best palm key sound, but it is getting better due to this exact stuff.
 

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dohertyjazz said:
Practicing throat slides will help open up your upper register. High notes that are thin and weak are generally caused by a pinched throat cavity. ETC..
Thanks for your post. That was v interesting and useful. :)
 

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For me, going to a (much) bigger bore mouthpiece helped reduce the thinness of the upper palm notes, while still allowing me to play the lowest notes of the horn softly. I can't say that this is the right approach for everyone, just that it helped me. I had started with a Meyer 5M, and kept buying new mouthpieces every few months for a while going up 1 size at a time, and I am now playing a Meyer 10M on my alto, using LaVoz medium reeds.

I would suggest first trying the advice posted my others - I believe the big bore mpc helped me because there is something strange about the way I play the sax. Also, this approach weakened my altissimo (but for me it was a good trade).
 

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harmonizerNJ said:
For me, going to a (much) bigger bore mouthpiece helped reduce the thinness of the upper palm notes, while still allowing me to play the lowest notes of the horn softly. I can't say that this is the right approach for everyone, just that it helped me. I had started with a Meyer 5M, and kept buying new mouthpieces every few months for a while going up 1 size at a time, and I am now playing a Meyer 10M on my alto, using LaVoz medium reeds.

I would suggest first trying the advice posted my others - I believe the big bore mpc helped me because there is something strange about the way I play the sax. Also, this approach weakened my altissimo (but for me it was a good trade).

Are you talking about bigger bore or bigger tip?
 

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As the others have said, i would say harder reeds. (If the Plasticovers don't work out try normal wood reeds, Like rico Jazz selects). Your embouchure will get tired and your sound will be airy and strained, but after you get passed that your high notes will be good and your tone will be better all around the horn. Though some players use reeds that are like wet paper......its whatever works for you.
 
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