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Does anyone have any advice for producing a subtone on alto sax? I'm having trouble figuring out how!
 

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A subtone is the sax equivalent of a whisper. I make a subtone using a warm, steady but not overly forceful breath column through the mouthpiece. Think warm. And you need to be using a reed that's willing to take a little air and kinda "coast" on it. What type of reed, and what reed strength, are you using? And how old is the reed?
 

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You lie the top of your tongue (not the tip, but the flat upper part) on the first inch or so of the bottom of the reed (as if you are about to lick the reed) and blow.

You gotta keep experimenting with different tongue placements, air pressure and embouchures until you find that "sweet" spot and you get the tone you're looking for.
 

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You lie the top of your tongue (not the tip, but the flat upper part) on the first inch or so of the bottom of the reed (as if you are about to lick the reed) and blow.

You gotta keep experimenting with different tongue placements, air pressure and embouchures until you find that "sweet" spot and you get the tone you're looking for.
This is news to me. I'm not sure what you are describing?? That's how you subtone?


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Discussion Starter #6
A subtone is the sax equivalent of a whisper. I make a subtone using a warm, steady but not overly forceful breath column through the mouthpiece. Think warm. And you need to be using a reed that's willing to take a little air and kinda "coast" on it. What type of reed, and what reed strength, are you using? And how old is the reed?
I am playing on vandoren ZZ #3s. It's about 2 weeks old, but I rotate between 4 different reeds
 

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I am playing on vandoren ZZ #3s. It's about 2 weeks old, but I rotate between 4 different reeds
Really neat to see a young person posting here. Welcome!

So, try a G in the lower register. Take a little less of the mouthpiece than usual in your mouth, and tongue with a "fu" rather than a "tu." Think warm air. Experiment with how little air you can use to get the G to whisper a tone. Then move down the scale: F#, F, etc. (A subtone low Bb is a wonderful thing.) If you're not getting it, try going to a ZZ 2.5.

Good luck.
 

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If you practice your long tones starting from air and working into becoming sound and then lowering the volume down to nothingness you will pick up subtone very quickly.

In the flute world these are called pre-tones and post-tones.
 

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I've been playing flute for decades and never heard of pre and post tones. I guess I'm not up on names for particular techniques and how to produce them.
 

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According to the music dictionary I have as a reference there is no such entry for "sub tone." Subtonic, yes, but not "sub tone" Subtonic is in practice called leading tone, such as B ascending to C. Good luck on figuring out how to produce a theoretical sub tone.
 

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I just recently have been doing it the past three months, and I love it! Basically what I do is.. Change my embouchure.. I make a kissing sorda movement, and recede my tongue. Just make sure you don't go flat! This tends to happen with a limp embouchure. Do what I described but make sure it's firm!

Oh also listen to your favorite artists and there subtone, and play with them to imitate subtone. I made a thread looking for good sax subtone artists.
 

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According to the music dictionary I have as a reference there is no such entry for "sub tone." Subtonic, yes, but not "sub tone" Subtonic is in practice called leading tone, such as B ascending to C. Good luck on figuring out how to produce a theoretical sub tone.
I can't tell if you are being serious or not. Surely you've heard of what subtone is? Many players of many years have used it to great effect. It is the breathy quality that made Ben Webster famous.

Paul Desmond had a great alto Sub tone Sound. Probably someone saxkid should look in to.

It is only applicable to woodwind instruments I believe. The OP knows what they are talking about. Confusing them with another similar sounding (but completely unrelated) term is probably not very helpful.
 

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I've been playing flute for decades and never heard of pre and post tones. I guess I'm not up on names for particular techniques and how to produce them.
I had never heard the term either until I watched a David Liebman video where he talks about this topic.

I'm not a flute player so I'll take Dave's word on the terminology.

Makes sense at least I think.
 

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I just started playing again to see what I do when producing subtone.. I seem to close my throat more... Not really close but push my throat towards my mouth.

So basically, listen to some great subtone artists..
Make your lips as if you were kissing.. But make it firm around the mouthpiece not loose..
Semi close your throat ( I know this is a horrible thing, but it seems to work..) and push your throat towards your mouth or the top of your mouth.. No literally just in that direction..
When starting subtone, try out the low notes, they work better, then work your way up.
 

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This is news to me. I'm not sure what you are describing?? That's how you subtone?


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Believe it or not ...THAT was how I was taught by a student of Getz! ... Gave up and now with by taking in a bit less of the RPC HB mpc and a 2.5 zz ... the warm air, whisper concept works great .... ala the first low E on us and them ...
 

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So, try a G in the lower register. Take a little less of the mouthpiece than usual in your mouth, and tongue with a "fu" rather than a "tu." Think warm air.

Good luck.
I don't really understand this. I don't know how you can tongue with a "fu". If you articulate "fu" your tongue is not really involved. I would say that such articulation without the tongue can be very effective along with subtone, but is not part of it. Also it an be used without subtone. And subtone can be done with any type of articulation.
 

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I don't really understand this. I don't know how you can tongue with a "fu". If you articulate "fu" your tongue is not really involved. I would say that such articulation without the tongue can be very effective along with subtone, but is not part of it. Also it an be used without subtone. And subtone can be done with any type of articulation.
The idea was to get SaxKidd to ease into the note. Hopefully I've not spoiled her technique forever. :bluewink:
 

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The idea was to get SaxKidd to ease into the note. Hopefully I've not spoiled her technique forever. :bluewink:
OK, fair enough then. I'm sure you haven't
 

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First up you need to do at least 20 years of nothing but long tones.

Then after that, you need to do at least 20 years of nothing but low note overtones.

Then as you approach latter middle age you can begin working on sub tones.

Imagine looking at a Goldfish and try to emulate the Goldfish's mouth position and then apply that while playing the low notes and that's sub toning.

You need to practice sub toning for at least another 20 years and then in the last 3 years of your life you can get around to actual playing.
 

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:| It does feel like that sometimes, doesn't it? Bill Dixon used to say something like you play a million notes, and then maybe you know what you're doing.

First up you need to do at least 20 years of nothing but long tones.
Then after that, you need to do at least 20 years of nothing but low note overtones.
Then as you approach latter middle age you can begin working on sub tones.
Imagine looking at a Goldfish and try to emulate the Goldfish's mouth position and then apply that while playing the low notes and that's sub toning.
You need to practice sub toning for at least another 20 years and then in the last 3 years of your life you can get around to actual playing.
 
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