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I've seen the Frank Catalano video, but as I struggle with split tones I am beginning to wonder if I understand the theory behind it I will have an easier time. I can kind of get it on F#-A in the altissimo range mostly by accident. I did a gig Saturday night and couldn't get it to happen for the life of me. So my question is, what is a split tone? Is it when the note breaks and quickly vibrates with a harmonic?
 

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A split tone to me is when you overblow and put more pressure on the embouchure and the tone(s) break up. you don't bite down into it but blow through.
It is not quite a scream or a growl but something in between, Dave Sanborn does it all the time on his pop records.
 

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A split tone to me is when you overblow and put more pressure on the embouchure and the tone(s) break up. you don't bite down into it but blow through.
It is not quite a scream or a growl but something in between, Dave Sanborn does it all the time on his pop records.
I think this is the sound I get when it's between two octaves. I hear it used a lot in modern classical saxophone. You can control the amount of distortion by altering the mix. I was wondering what this is called.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yeah most the contemporary guys do it - Nelson Rangell, Warren Hill, Eric Marienthal, etc. I sure would like to be able to do it on demand, but I'm just not there. So is it actually the tone just breaking up or is like an oscillation of the actual tone and a harmonic?
 

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There are two things I can think of that are pretty different.

First, there's the overtone treatment. Without any weird fingerings, changing the throat shape as you would for an overtone, but controlling it deliberately, you can get a combination of different harmonics.

If you have a microphone hooked up to a computer, it's interesting to download a fourier transform program.

A Fourier transform is a mathematical operation that can convert a jumble of frequencies (what you make from your horn) into separate frequencies with different intensities. When you're playing a note on your sax, the sound you're making is actually a combination of the fundamental tone (the note you hear) and many overtones (the notes you can get in the overtone series).

Even by playing the same note with different mouthpieces and reeds, you can see how the balance of overtones changes. We describe these characteristics as brightness or darkness of a tone.

Anyway, by managing the airstream you can get a more even mix of a couple harmonics. You can also achieve it to some extent by overblowing. If you hit the right combination, instead of just hearing the normally dominant fundamental tone, you'll hear the combination. Try it out just by overblowing some low notes and you'll get the octave.

Like your tone, it's completely analog - in that there's no magical point where you suddenly hear it. If you played into a fourier transform program, you would see the relative intensities of the harmonics slowly shift as you slowly change your airstream (or as you start to overblow, etc). It's very interesting to see.



The second thing with split tones is using unstable fingerings that are close to generating more than 1 fundamental frequency. A lot of the ones I know of give you an interval of a 6th. What you end up with, if you can stabilize the split tone, sure sounds to me like a rapid oscillation between the two notes you end up hearing. It's not a digital switching between the two, but more likely like 2 sine waves with a phase angle (I'd guess 180 degrees, but this might not be correct) where the intensity of each tone oscillates. On some split tones this is more pronounced (you can hear the beats) and on some it's less (the oscillation occurs much faster).
 
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