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Discussion Starter #1
Since I started playing tenor four years ago, those low notes have given me trouble. Everyone told me it is a normal problem that goes away with practice and time.

After four years I began to think it would never go away. I could never say reliably, here somes a low C,B, or Bb, and I'm going to sound it without peril. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. C was not as much trouble as the other two, but it would fail me from time to time. Usually when I most needed the note.

Hitting that B in the 4th measure of the bridge to Body and Soul was a sure recipe for disaster. Honk. Fizzle. Something about going down to it from D# that makes it more difficult.

Then one day a short time ago, the problem just went away all by itself.

Today I can pick up my Mark VI, Ref 54, or S20 and, after a brief warmup, nail those low notes with subtones. It coincided with changing mouthpieces and being convinced by more experienced players here on sotw to quit jumping from horn to horn as I tried to work out other problems.

But was it the new mouthpiece? I don't think so. I can put on one of the old ones and get those notes now where I couldn't before. What was it? I think it was a combination of things.

For the past couple of weeks, everytime I picked up the only horn I'm playing regularly now, the Ref 54, which is many times every day, I first blew low, long tones. Then I blew long high tones. Both at all volumes. The idea was to conquer that horn's anomolies as it relates to my chops and my abilities.

Then, after that warmup, I start practicing tunes. One day I found I was hitting the low notes effortlessly. I couldn't believe it. I put the horn down and let my chops go cold. When I tried again, the low notes came out just fine. Go figure.

I credit those here who counseled me with solving what has been for me the biggest tenor saxophone problem I've had.

A side effect of this new ability is that the Mark VI, which is the easiest tenor here to play, is now that much easier. It plays itself. But I'm mostly leaving it alone. The Ref is making a better player out of me, I think, I hope.

The Barone still has problems in the low register, however, so I had a pal, an oldtimer who has been playing tenor since about a week after Adolph invented it, test play it. He said it needs some more work. He had problems with the low notes. He did something with a length of audio tape and found a leak. I'll get it fixed.

So I asked him why it took four years for me to get to where I can play low notes. He said that's about right given my age when I took it up and the kind of open mouthpieces I play.

The problem now is that I'm so enamoured with those lovely low subtones of the tenor sax now that I can play them, that it's all I want to play. I overuse them in solos.

Because I can.
 

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There is no such thing as overused subtones. A subtone is quite possibly the most beautiful sound a saxophone can create.
 

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I completely agree - you can never play or hear too many subtones, especially from the likes of players like Stan Getz, Ben Webster, David Fathead Newman (the list goes on). I particularly dig when guys like these let the note die in the bell as it turns into that breath vibrato - Lush!
 

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Al Stevens said:
A side effect of this new ability is that the Mark VI, which is the easiest tenor here to play, is now that much easier. It plays itself. But I'm mostly leaving it alone. The Ref is making a better player out of me, I think, I hope.

I don't get it, Al, why do you say the Ref 54 is making you a better player even though the Mark VI is easier to play? I'd think the easiest horn to play would make you a better player, not the other way around . . . .
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You'd think so, wouldn't you? Me, too. The Ref has characteristics that encourage one to play more correctly. I can't get sloppy with embrochure, air control, and so on. Being newer, its action is stiffer, so finger control must be more disciplined. Thus, it makes a better player out of me.

The vi is a very forgiving horn. Less resistance everywhere. Once you can play the Ref well, you can fly on the vi.
 

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it took me a good part of 8 months to get a reliable subtone tenor Bb on a size 2 1/2 reed... I am now training on a 3 1/2 reed and I can now only reach the Low C without any problems...

One thing I feel is that to play the subtone (esp on the tenor), you need to played the subtone once before and remember how much air it is need to support that note. It is like a fine balancing act. It must be slow steady large volume air support as opposed to fast small volume aire support. Too small the volume, there is no air... too fast, you will not hit the subtone. You need to know how much air is needed and the corresponding subtone. Playing longtone is get the muscle memory on how to adjust your embrochure and lungs to hit that note.

This is how i feel when i finally could hit that elusive Bb... It was very very different from the subtone on the alto and soprano.
 

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Al Stevens said:
..........The problem now is that I'm so enamoured with those lovely low subtones of the tenor sax now that I can play them, that it's all I want to play. I overuse them in solos.

Because I can.
Are you getting those notes in a normal sound also? Subtones are effects, albeit very nice effects.
 

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Discreet said:
It must be slow steady large volume air support as opposed to fast small volume aire support.
That's what works for me. Slow, big, and warm, with a slight embouchre adjustment.
 

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Thanks Al!!

Its been really encouraging to read this thread and know that I'm not alone!

Since I started, I've avoided where possible the notes below low C and the top F/F# (palm keys), for fear of not being able to get them first time. Now I'm very interested in being able to play the whole sax from top to bottom, and have the palm keys no problems, and just about the bottom notes (but these need more work).

However, now to me, the plam key notes could do with being beefed up a little, I'm going to try a harder reed (2.5 Rico on Dukoff D5 tenor), but I know this means the lower notes are going to be harder to get again arrrggghhh!!!

Good luck guys!

Mrsax1000
 

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Assuming the tenor saxophone is setup correctly,low c down for me always requires special attention,lots of long tones,articulating the tone, light tonguing,i use the low notes in a lot of phrases,harmonics help opening the throat.i sing low notes daily,for this also helps,not everyone considers below c practical,in writing etc.i think its a great part of our instrument.i like to play these notes,in whatever dynamic i feel,if i have to honk them something has to change,quick.
 

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Funny Al, I was working on Body and Soul myself last night, also on my Ref 54, and that low B is a killer for me as well. Interestingly, I don't have as much of a problem with with a low Bb, go figure. Anyway, after the first couple of runs through the tune, I took about 10 minutes to concentrate on long tones on C, B, and Bb, and it helped quite a bit. I took in a bit more mouthpiece and experimented with my embouchure, and there was a big improvement in those notes.
 

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mrsax100 said:
Its been really encouraging to read this thread and know that I'm not alone!

Since I started, I've avoided where possible the notes below low C and the top F/F# (palm keys), for fear of not being able to get them first time. Now I'm very interested in being able to play the whole sax from top to bottom, and have the palm keys no problems, and just about the bottom notes (but these need more work).

However, now to me, the plam key notes could do with being beefed up a little, I'm going to try a harder reed (2.5 Rico on Dukoff D5 tenor), but I know this means the lower notes are going to be harder to get again arrrggghhh!!!

Good luck guys!

Mrsax1000
You will have a much easier time on low notes not using a close-tipped high baffle mouthpeice. Try a Link and it will be much easier.
 

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You will have a much easier time on low notes not using a close-tipped high baffle mouthpeice. Try a Link and it will be much easier.
Thanks for this, although a while back I tried a link ebonite in 7, didnt notice much difference, but it might be worth while re-visiting!

Cheers!:)
 

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Low subtones is why I switched from Alto to Tenor. Only because I could afford it, not because I'm good enough, however I do remember a thread saying it's easier to play on a quality instrument than a bad one, and I completely agree btw, I bought 3 months ago a premium rebuilt 1928 Conn New Wonder "Chu" from Sarge at World Wide Sax. Well let me tell you from a completely rank amateur, after only 1 year back on the sax and the few months on the tenor those sweet soft tones aren't perfect but wow they aren't that difficult either.

So I'm saying a well set up sax, no leaks, with an open mp, I play an Otto Link Tone Edge 8*, .115 opening, makes soft subtones and that sexy sound so much easier.

Also, lot's and lot's and lot's of basics, long tones, exercises, scales, when I have the time I play just that for 3 to 5 hours a day. Unfortunately when I work I don't get to play at all for sometimes 2-3 weeks at a time.

There you have it.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
fballatore said:
Funny Al, I was working on Body and Soul myself last night, also on my Ref 54, and that low B is a killer for me as well.
Here's one approach that helped me. Hold down the left hand B key starting when you get to the pattern F#, D#, B beginning in the 3rd measure of the bridge. I think a lot of the problem comes from moving the left pinky from the D# key to the B key.
fballatore said:
Interestingly, I don't have as much of a problem with with a low Bb, go figure.
That's my experience with the Ref 54, too.
 

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jazzbluescat said:
Are you getting those notes in a normal sound also? Subtones are effects, albeit very nice effects.
Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is a low subtone? It it that tone over the note that makes it sound "breathy"?
 

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Being a friggin' nut alwasys changing mouthp;ieces, reeds and tenors, I think without rehab. I finally found my answer to the secret of the B & Bflat tones. Finger exact placement is most essential, in older horns the placement is more difficult ( I have a pre cigar cutter, New largebore, which I prefer ovr my othr horns) The "The Martin Tenor" is easier on low notes, but notas goood as Selmers on Higher? My serieiii is easier to get the low notes, I THINK WHY YOU FOUND THE REF 54 EASIER IS BECAUSE THE L/H PINKY KEYS ARE MUCH MORE ARTICULATED, MAKING IT VERY EASY TO FINGER THE LOWEST OF NOTES. Good luck, Just me wild assed guess. BB
 
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