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Can the normal range be played on sop without voicing?

  • Yes.

    Votes: 7 33.3%
  • Almost (except palm keys or a few random stragglers, post to specify).

    Votes: 7 33.3%
  • No, you won't get far into the octave key notes without voicing just to get the note.

    Votes: 7 33.3%
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Discussion Starter #1
Is it true that if your embouchure supports a C or D on the mouthpiece alone, you should be able to play the notes of the normal range (leaving aside intonation and tonal quality) on a healthy sop without changing your embouchure or doing any vocal tract shaping?
 

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I see no one has replied - yet. I'll start it off by saying I did not vote - I don't know exactly what you mean.

I've been playing soprano for so long that I don't think about what I'm doing, really. I just do it. I suppose that subconsciously I make embouchure adjustments (mostly throat openings - and closing) as I play low or high.

And, I've said many times that I purposefully avoid playing high because I much prefer the horn in its range from Bb1 to C3 (and since I don't use written music, I can do pretty much what I want to do on soprano - or alto and clarinet).

This is not to say that I can't play up in the palm keys - and after having owned many sopranos over time, I know that some horns speak those notes much more easily than do other horns, even among those of the same brand/model. If I come across a soprano that does not speak those notes well, I move on, even though it really doesn't matter much to me whether the horn does or doesn't do those notes. I only care because I like my instruments to have the potential.

I don't recall ever testing the pitch of my mouthpieces off the horn. DAVE
 

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The problem with this question is - why would you leave aside considerations of tone and intonation? Depending on your mouthpiece and reed, you can probably find a combination that will play without significant throat (or embouchure) adjustments, up to F3 and down to Bb1. But it won't sound good, so what's the point?

I believe that embouchure changes should be kept to a minimum, but everyone I know loosens a little for the bottom 5 or 6 notes, and tightens a little for the top 5 or 6 notes. This is true regardless of instrument, but is most significant on soprano. Most of the work is done with tongue and throat, but the embouchure I use for low Bb will not work on the palm keys.
 

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The question is a lil’ too simplistic to merit a straightforward yes/no answer. It ignores everything else that contributes to playing the horn well.

Of course, if you are just looking to get a two octave squawk out of it, then sure - anything will work.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Dave--thanks! The mouthpiece pitch thing is mentioned by some people as a diagnostic for correct embouchure tension. It's also easy to find people who argue that it's a marginally useful rule of thumb yanked out of a moving sea of variables. :)

The problem with this question is - why would you leave aside considerations of tone and intonation?.
By isolating the raw ability to get the notes, I hoped to arrive at a diagnostic tool for instruments that was accessible to anyone who can form an embouchure of the 'right' tension.

The question is a lil’ too simplistic to merit a straightforward yes/no answer.
Well, the question was simple IN ORDER to encourage straightforward yes/no answers. :)

It ignores everything else that contributes to playing the horn well.
Yes, and intentionally. I understand why breaking things up that way without explanation would seem, well, inexplicable.
 

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When I started playing soprano 7 or 8 years ago I found I could play the low notes quite easily with a fairly loose embouchure. As I went up the scale I would tighten more and more to get the notes to speak, throwing intonation out the window.

Struggled for a year, then found this article by Paul Coats:

http://www.saxontheweb.net/Learning/SopranoIntonation.html

Solved my problem. I don't really check mouthpiece pitch anymore, I just know what a soprano embouchure feels like now.

Works (with slight adjustment) on C sop and sopranino too.

Still, I don't know how to answer your poll question. Maybe "yes, kind of, with the proper embouchure maybe..." but that's not one of the options.

I know sometimes when I'm improvising I'll go for a certain pitch that I hear in my head and mistakenly finger a different pitch. The result is usually neither, but closer to the pitch I was thinking so I must be voicing without realizing it.
 

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Could be theoretically tested compressed air and some large rubber tubing big enough to fit over the reed. Add some rubber band or other clamping to play the D on the mouthpiece alone, then stick it on the horn and see what happens.

Then you could rig some solenoids up and play it from a keyboard:)
 

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the only way to even trying to answer this question would be to have a workable model of the famous (or infamous ) saxophone playing robot.

In that case one would be sure that no throat adjustment is made by the player between tones.

Few of us are aware (therefore performing adjustments of the throat in a conscious manner) of what we exactly do with our throat, and oral cavities when playing, much the same of very few are aware of any compensating movements that we do while we walk.

Maybe this helps OP (wait until the video loads) on this page you will find many links to endoscopic images and conclusions.

https://www2.lawrence.edu/fast/jordheis/Chromatic_Scale_Throat.html

still image

 

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Discussion Starter #11
I know sometimes when I'm improvising I'll go for a certain pitch that I hear in my head and mistakenly finger a different pitch. The result is usually neither, but closer to the pitch I was thinking so I must be voicing without realizing it.
That's in the normal range? If so yes that is a clue, thanks.

[...] am not sure what you mean by voicing, can you explain?
We both know what it means.

the only way to even trying to answer this question would be to have a workable model of the famous (or infamous ) saxophone playing robot.
Yes a machine experiment would give a clear answer, but if that's one end of the scale, and 'voodoo' is the other, in between there remains the possibility of building up a likelihood through valid inference based on data such as TodPlays' useful anecdote, or the experiences of teachers with beginning students, or having one person blow and another finger the notes, etc.

As I understand the research to date, consistent voicing occurs in the altissimo with (was it most? all?) players, but in the normal range there was no consistency. If your links show otherwise I must have missed something.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The key is in the text. The alto saxophonists in that study all showed the same voicing changes even in the normal range, the videos are chosen to be representative. Thanks Milandro I had not retained that key point. Interestingly the study at the University of New South Wales found that the tenor players did not all do the same thing in the normal range.
 

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Cheers Serafino

without a very wide range of trials it would be premature to draw definitive conclusion from any such test since there may be many individual reasons and variations to voice (or not) and not only for type of instrument.
 

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[...] am not sure what you mean by voicing, can you explain?
We both know what it means.
"We both" do not know what it means, if you are including me. This is why I asked you to explain what you mean by voicing. Nor am I the only person.

I have a vague concept of the word "voicing" in terms of reaching difficult altissimo notes, and that is that you mentally imagine the ptich before playing the note which I have found at times to be useful. However you mention vocal tract shaping, which is not something I can easily grasp how to do or whether I would want to for normal playing. I try to keep an open throat as this forces your conterol to only come from the diaphragm. The only time I may actually use my vocal tract when playing would (I assume) be when I am using a growl. Something I may tend to do too much of these days.
 

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I've never really understood what VOICING means. I am not a "trained" saxophonist and the two years of private lessons I took as a high schooler don't count much. What playing skills I developed came from experience and not training or education. I am, essentially, self-taught.

However, after reading some responses here, I recall that my mind-set has a lot to do with how the notes on my soprano come out. Oh sure, I finger a note and that note speaks. But I too have sometimes been imagining one note while fingering another and that failure on my part creates a note that doesn't speak clearly AND is not at the correct pitch. That led me to believe that sub-consciously, what I am thinking has a lot to do with what is actually heard from the horn. DAVE
 

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I know I'm always comparing flute and saxophone, but why is it that this idea of voicing (throat) doesn't seem to have much to do with flute- like overtones on flute seem not to have much to do with the throat, everything is mostly tongue, lips and breath (and angle of the flute I think)- focusing on all that and not fingers.

On saxophone it seems like throat adjustment is so crucial and such a different process to get the right sound on each note- finding the "place" for each note, with breath and tonguing also crucial. Fingers seem to just fall into place when everything else is going on. Lips are so important on flute, but saxophone players don't seem to talk about that as being important. Maybe for flute, the lips get the whole mouth right for each note, while on saxophone maybe the throat does?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Hi Dave -- Voicing consists of the ways in which the air pathway from the larynx through the oral cavity can be shaped to affect the sound. If you already play the way you want to play and don't teach, you don't have a reason to pay much attention to it. :)

Roundmidnite -- my ignorant guess is that the combined lip and tongue shapes might be enough to create the required range of vibrations at the flute's embouchure hole, whereas controlling a reed might require a stronger effect? Have there been studies showing a passive larynx in flute playing? The other possibility is that larynx activity is happening but the player is not aware.

Although they precede some important studies, I found the articles kindly posted here by author Mark Watkins to be helpful:

http://emp.byui.edu/WatkinsM/publications.htm
 

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