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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not quite sure if this is the appropriate location for such a thread (so many choices...)

Anyways, I'm a high-schooler who has played clarinet throughout the past eight years. However, in the past semester, I engulfed myself in the tenor saxophone's sultry goodness for both jazz band and fun.

Switching from the little black rod to tenor wasn't too difficult, except for one hindering aspect: playing low. I can blast out the upper and middle ranges just fine, but once I start attempting to play Low D and beyond, I begin to honk, honk, and honk.

It's not the horn itself; I've played on an intermediate Yamaha and Yangiasawa 991 and had the same problem on both. I've tried switching mouthpieces, and other options (Yamaha 4C, Selmer C*) just seem to make playing low that much tougher. I still go back to chipped, violet-colored-moldy Conn with no distinguishing marks that I started out with.

Is it the mouthpiece? Is it me? And if it's me, what specific part of my sax repertoire should be altered? Or I am just a noob who should go home and pick flowers and let the big kids make their music?


Thanks.
 

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Good job on picking up the sax! In time you'll grow much fonder of the sax than the black stick of death (I know I did!).

Anyway, It could infact be the horns. Make sure there are no leaks on the horns. The school's tech should fix that for you if your horns are school owned. Leaks can effect the playability of low notes. If you have them (leaks), low notes are much harder to play.

You also might be using too hard of a reed for your ability level currently. If you're playing a Yamaha 4c and a Selmer C*, I reccommend a 2.5 strength reed. (2 strength if you're using Vandoren blue box).

Other than that, just keep practicing. Play long tones (just play notes for a long time, and work on intonation/steadiness of tone/color of tone/etc...)

Good luck, and happy blowing!

Rob
 

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Clarinet and saxophone embouchure are different from each other. The clarinet embouchure is has a flat face. To form it you say A and then Q. For saxophone you want to say "Ooh". Another problem could be your bottom jaw putting too much pressure on the mouthpiece. Take just the mouthpiece and play to see what pitch it makes. On tenor I aim for a G but I know a lot of people who think F# is the optimum pitch. Play with your jaw at that same spot with the same amount of pressure with the mouthpiece on the horn. If none of this helps. Post again and tell me about how dumb I am. :) (seriously... don't call me names... that would be mean, instead you could send me that yani horn so I can look at it :)... yeah that's it... look at it :) )

P.S. play a lot of long tones
 

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What reeds and reed strength are you using on tenor?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, thanks for all the replies! Also: this forum rocks.

TooSaxy: I'd gladly let you 'see' the Yani, but it's not in my privileges to do so. Sorry, although you could make some ...ahem... deals, if you understand what I mean.

RobertC: I'm playing on Medium La Voz right now (n00bish, I know). I tried playing 2.5 Vandorens and Med Hard La Voz, but they made playing low even harder.
 

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I'm actually thinking the opposite.

Try a softer reed and see if that helps.

A Rico 2.5 is softer than a LaVoz and cheap enough to try out if it doesn't work.

My mother called me Robert once, just once.
 

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It's you. I had the same problem. Although I came to tenor from trumpet rather than clarinet. With time and practice your chops build up and you can do it. The goal is to reliably play a low Bb with subtones without coming to it from another note.

La Voz MS and Vandorn 2.5 are stronger reeds than, say, Rico 2.5. Move down in strength and practice that way until you can reliably and consistently play low notes. Don't expect instant results, and don't lose patience. The notes will come one at a time. It will come faster for you than it has for me because you are young and your chops are more adaptable. Later you can move to a stronger reed if your tone says you need to.

Long tones and overtones.
 

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A few ideas that have worked with my students to help gain control in the low register:

-first, have your sax checked for leaks to make sure this isn't contributing to the problem
-use your C* or 4C (not the chipped Conn) with #2 or 2 1/2 reeds as previously mentioned
-(since you started on clarinet), make sure the mouthpiece goes straight into the mouth and that you take enough mouthpiece into the mouth, top teeth about 5/8" from tip
-set the embouchure to make an E Concert on the mouthpiece and neck alone
-shape your throat like singing "AHH" on the lowest note you can sing
-blow with warm air
-slur quickly from low G down to low C and hold it as a long tone at f, concentrate on keeping the throat open and be careful not to change the embouchure
-when the low C feels under control at f, try slurring down and holding low C mf then mp
-when you can do the above try coming in on low C at f, then mf, then mp
-when C is mastered, do the same sequence on low B, then low Bb

The most common problem clarinetists seem to have switching to sax are:

-not enough mouthpiece in the mouth
-the wrong angle of the mouthpiece (wrong neckstrap length adjustment)
-trying to recreate the resistance of the clarinet on the "freeblowing" sax by closing the back of the throat or keeping the back of the tongue too high
-not blowing enough air in the low register--especially the bell notes

Good luck, hope some of this helps
 

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jbtsax got it covered well, I came back to mention you air needs to be warm and come from deep in the lungs/kind of deep in the throat, but he got it already :( GL with the low notes :) they are some of my favorites.
 

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All of the above answers offer some excellent tips.

I would also suggest a Jody Jazz ESP mouthpiece. Or DV, or DV NY.
These are available for free trial period.

Excellent for easy big fat low notes without the honk sound.
 

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Try a Keilwerrth sax. The bigger bow and bell really do help the low end. My 11 year old daughter won first place in the music foundation audition s for sholarships. I guided her to Keilwerth cause I knew it would be a easier sax to blow for someone w/o a lot of experience.
 

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Along with all the good the physical stuff mentioned above, a basic principle in tone production is that you really have to be able to "hear" the note in your mind in order to be able to hit it on the horn.

If this is possible, ask your instructor or even a more advanced fellow student to take the time to sit down and play these low notes with you. Really listen to the sound of the lower tones and try to create a mental target to aim at when you're practicing them alone.

Let's assume you're having trouble with the major third intervals, jumping down between low E and Low C, D# and B, D and Bflat. The classic teacher Rascher has exercises where you play one note--say your low E--and hold it until you can honestly "hear" the target note, low C. He says that if you can truly "hear" the note you'll be able to play it--and this includes notes way outside of the normal range of your horn.

Assuming there's nothing wrong with the set up of the horns, you will get low tones soon enough. It sounds to me like you've developed a mental block rather than a target.

Good luck,
R.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wow, thanks, to each and every one of you. It's indescribably excellent to receive this much help from people who know their stuff, in and out.

I think this calls for an all-caps thank you:

THANK YOU
 

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And also remember just to keep on practicing the lower register, then it will come to you naturally. With a lot of practice.
 
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