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I have been playing on my 200xxx true tone alto for almost two years now, but I am still having issues with my hand placements. More specifically, my fingers tend to flatten out to play i.e. they lock in an extended position and only the knuckle closest to the palm bends. My sax teacher told me to practice a curved motion with my fingers as if I were playing whenever I can, but it seems whenever I get back into an intense lick my hands jam up again. I find this happens especially when using my palm keys (both left- and right-hand). Any advice from experienced true tone players would be greatly appreciated. I love the sound of the true tone, so I won't be switching any time soon, but the ergonomics can be quite frustrating. I'm planning on taking it to the shop soon, so please let me know of anything I can ask my tech about.

Side note: I have seen ads for palm key risers, but I have never heard of or seen anyone using them? Any thoughts on them?
 

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of course playing any horn is a matter of adapting , either adapt the playing or adapt the horn.

In the beginning of my playing I used palm raisers, they were cool (along with rover ligatures and metal mouthpiece), I bought some and I made some (cork) but in the end I learned to play te horn as far as possible the way it is.
I have had several TT and the best ones, for me but most people would pay mopre for them , are the more modern types with front quick F and halfmoon G#.

It has been a while but can't remember that it was a particularly challenging alto to play, in any case not more than any other instrument made between the '20 and the '30 (and even later until the more modern mechanics).

I think what you describe with fingers stretching is typical (I still do it I am more than aware of it) of a player not completely at ease with himself.

Older altos ( I found this certainly true of Conns to) are really made to be played in a very compact way.
Any teacher would advise to follow the movements of people like Charlie Parker which are hardly , visibly, moving and keep your fingers " glued" to the keys and move them just about the right way

Palm raisers may be the thing for you if you really have different than most people's hands, but they are really a crutch for a great many players, in my opinion, in most cases anyway there are cheap ones or expensive ones and certainly the best you can make yourself with cork ( or sugru) shaped as you prefer and glued on the keys BUT in the end using the horn as it was conceived is the best ( despite not being the same horn the point I am making is still valid)

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I'd say something like half the saxophone players whose horns I've noticed over the years have added palm key risers of one sort or another. Nowadays the palm keys are made much taller so I'm sure it's less prevalent.

On a True-Tone you're almost certain to want to raise the palm keys a bit. If you're constantly having to collapse your hand to get those notes it's not good for your hand position.
 

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I have been playing on my 200xxx true tone alto for almost two years now, but I am still having issues with my hand placements. More specifically, my fingers tend to flatten out to play i.e. they lock in an extended position and only the knuckle closest to the palm bends. My sax teacher told me to practice a curved motion with my fingers as if I were playing whenever I can, but it seems whenever I get back into an intense lick my hands jam up again. I find this happens especially when using my palm keys (both left- and right-hand). Any advice from experienced true tone players would be greatly appreciated. I love the sound of the true tone, so I won't be switching any time soon, but the ergonomics can be quite frustrating. I'm planning on taking it to the shop soon, so please let me know of anything I can ask my tech about.

Side note: I have seen ads for palm key risers, but I have never heard of or seen anyone using them? Any thoughts on them?
I agree with your sax teacher. I suggest you slow down, focus on smooth technique, and develop confidence in your playing. Adopt a hand shape that feels like you are cupping a tennis ball. Be aware when you start to get tense - in your breath, in your hands, in your neck and shoulder - and intentionally pause to breathe deeply and relax.

Yes, people do use palm risers, but there were also many thousands of people playing these horns before risers were invented. Learn good technique first, and then analyze what you need to do to take your playing to the next level. Don't blame the horn - work with it.
 

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I don't think there's anything particularly sacred about any given horn's keywork configuration. Since day one, makers have tinkered with pearl placements, angles of approach, pivot points, leverage, pressure, reach... & no two players have identical hand spans, finger lengths, or wrist flexion. Advancing age can bring changes in bones, tendons, joints, muscles -- all affecting how one deploys the horn. Something as simple as a new mouthpiece, neckstrap, or thumbhook can cause cascading consequences for good or ill.

So if you'd like to build up your palm keys with cork, Sugru, or some off-the-shelf riser, I urge you to disregard the nay-sayers & go for it. You have my blessing... just don't expect miracles. Sometimes, solving one problem makes another problem worse. It's a journey.

My soprano sax is a vintage True Tone, & while I love the horn to death I'll be the first to admit that its native ergonomics suck. Like you, I've found in recent years that my fingers tend to splay & overhang the pearls rather than flexing properly as they used to. Having experienced your issue, I'm not inclined to blame the victim, OK? It's not your fault.

One potential solution I can recommend from first-hand experience is the Lagan Wrist Saver Lagan Wrist Saver | Lagan Music, which effectively widens the arc of your right-hand grip, reducing finger overreach. Since several different models & configurations exist, you'd be wise to contact Brennan Lagan before ordering -- to ascertain whether the gizmo will fit on your horn, work with your thumbhook, & address your issue.
 

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I agree with your sax teacher. I suggest you slow down, focus on smooth technique, and develop confidence in your playing. Adopt a hand shape that feels like you are cupping a tennis ball. Be aware when you start to get tense - in your breath, in your hands, in your neck and shoulder - and intentionally pause to breathe deeply and relax.
Yes, people do use palm risers, but there were also many thousands of people playing these horns before risers were invented. Learn good technique first, and then analyze what you need to do to take your playing to the next level. Don't blame the horn - work with it.
I think Dr. G gives very good advice.
But I also think that methodical exploration of your fingers on keys in various sequences may reveal some cheap, easy and reversible mods you can try with your horn that may give you greater accuracy and hence less frustration.
One day at Sam Ash I saw a blister pack of three rubber palm key risers for $6 I think and decided to try them since my hand was often unintentionally bumping the wrong touch in some combinations.
For my hand size and particular horn, I ended up with rubber touch covers on the two outer palm keys D and F.
But I confirmed that they are the best for me by playing scales into altissimo, and then 3rds, and 4ths.
And the exercise attached below. And Lindeman fingering exercises transposed up an octave.
So perhaps if you do have a good hand shape but then stop when you cause a glitch, and analyze what happened, you may be able to knowledgeably alter your horn to better suite your hand.
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having watched countless pictures of players past I never noticed anyone ( there may have been the occasional one) using palm raisers.

The human body has changed over the years (we became, generally, taller) but still the majority of humans should be able to use the same equipment that it was once used without any modifications.

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if one can make the ergonomics better for their own morphology and posture, why not? we have great products like Sugru nowadays that are cheap and easy to experiment with. I found happiness with a simple mod to my Selmer palm D key:
 

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By the way the OP described his/her finger-positions (flat, like levers attached to your hand), I immediately thought the OP was coming to saxophone from clarinet. That flat-fingered lever-like position is how I learned to play the clarinet, which made for better tone-hole covering than curling the fingers so the finger-tip TRIED to cover those elusive tone-holes.

That position works good for clarinet, not so good for saxophone. All of the comments above seemed helpful.

As far as risers on some keys, I've had saxophones with layers of cork built up on the palm keys and side keys - and I've had saxophones without risers anywhere. I've tried some saxophones with the add-on risers, too. I much poreferred the layered cork as opposed to the add-ons.

Adapting to a particular saxophone's keywork just seems to go with the territory, in my opinion. I adapt to the horn. DAVE
 

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Not once have I seen anyone exclaim "you should learn to play it with the original mouthpiece" on a mouthpiece thread, so it is of interest to me that some would argue you have to play your horn with the original palm key heights. I don't see how it's any different. Now, any advice about focusing on technique is generally good advice, but if you think key risers would help you play, then give it a try. Just be mindful about how it affects your playing. Worst-case scenario it ends up causing other problems, so you get rid of them.
 

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It's nice to see those photos of great players of the past, but what I know is that when I started playing in '78, at least half the top level professional players I was in contact with had some level of modifications to their horns and cork risers on the palm and side keys were the most common.

I'm kind of surprised that here we are, 40 years later, and the argument still survives "Charlie Parker didn't need palm key risers to excel, so you shouldn't modify your horn to fit your own particular hands".
 

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I agree with both the proposition that you should learn to play the un-modded instrument as well as possible, and that modding keys to make them a bit handier is okay. The horn makers thought so; Buescher tweaked the palm keys several times after they added the front-F and crescent G#, and before the New Aristocrats came out. The later the TT horn, the better the palm keys. The side F# key touch, too. Yes you can play the earlier ones fine, but they didn鈥檛 keep changing them because nobody thought they could be improved.

That said, I鈥檝e got a TT tenor with the pearl G# and the palm keys on that are perfect for me w/o risers.

But then, I was playing a Martin soprano this morning & was thinking the E & F would be a bit friendlier to hit with a cork riser. Etc etc.
 
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