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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, Polly here, (didn't really think of myself as a late bloomer but guess i qualify! In my 30s and play sax for fun) I have been playing alto on and off for 7 years, really enjoy it BUT... only recently had my first lesson (oops!), and have discovered my bad habits, eg: lifting & replacing thumb on octave key, tension in neck & wrists, and horror of horrors, I play all my b flats with what i think is called 1 & 1 aka 'flute' fingering.
If anyone has advice or experience of unlearning these habits, would love to hear from you. The bis key feels so alien and can't seem to maintain it when i go for the octave key. I think my best chance at the moment is to learn to use the side B flat but this will take some serious unlearning too. Any thoughts?
 

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I would go with the side-Bb, that is what my teacher had me learn first. For the tension, focus on not raising your shoulders, keep them down, as soon as you feel them start to rise, take a break. Your teacher is in a better position to advise you on the octave key, but I roll my thumb onto the key.
 

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I wouldn't worry to much about the bis key yet. You should try (for a while) playing everything with the side Bb, even fingerings that would normally be better with the fork Bb. This is not to get toy into another bad habit, but to make your brain be aware of what you are doing. It will slow you down at first but don't worry. Do it until you feel comfortable with being ablt to choose between the two, then work out which passages are much easier with the side Bb (e.g. D F A Bb A D F repeated and work on those for a while.

Once you have this under your belt you can then try the same with Bb bis. Just use it exclusively (I once knew a player who did this anyway).

Again once you get to a certain comfort zone, start on exercises that are harder with fingerings other than a bis, e.g. up and down diminished arpeggios of G:

G Bb Db E Db Bb G.

Regarding lifting thumb off the octave key, do you mean lifting it off the actual octave key or the static button next to thew key which is there to rest your thumb on?

It should be on this static button, and off so it doesn't matter if it does raise very slightly off the octave key as it won't go far. But off you are actually raising it off this button, then the best solution is to fix it there for a while. You can use double sided tape or glue. (I actually did this for a while and it cured my "flapping fingers"
 

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Try the "bis" b flat. I think you'll find that most players make this the primary fingering, followed by side B flat, and 1&1 as a last resort for those rare technical situations where it might be needed. Practice the "bis" B flat in your scales and arpeggios and you'll quickly learn why it's the best option and how to get a feel for it. You'll also discover that you can keep your finger in place on the key most of the time.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks to you all for the input, I'm going to slow everything down and get to grips with side fingering, then try the bis when I've retrained my errant left hand! (yes i do lift my thumb off the static button, and tip my wrist, whenever i apply the octave key)

Time, focus and double-sided sticky tape...
 

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The way to unlearn bad habits in any discipline is to repeat the desired behavior enough times to replace the learned bad behavior thereby extinguishing it from your technique. This is not easy and takes time focus and discipline. It is far easier to learn correct habits from the beginning than to unlearn bad habits later on. A few suggestions from my teaching bag of tricks.

Raising rather than rocking the thumb on the octave key

1. Isolate the behavior by just practicing the thumb movement rocking forward and back.
2. Next slur from C to D back and forth. Start slowly concentrate on the thumb movement.
3. Make this the first part of your warm up each time you practice.

Not using the 1 & 2 plus side key Bb as the standard fingering

1. As was mentioned previously, use ONLY that fingering till it becomes natural to play Bb that way. Then add the other Bb fingerings.
2. A good finger warm-up would be to slur G A Bb C D C Bb A G over and over. This also reinforces the thumb octave movement.

Playing with your shoulders and arms relaxed (the wrists will follow).

1. Sit up straight in the chair with your ribcage high as if you are puppet hanging from a hook in your sternum (breastbone)
2. With only your neckstrap holding the sax, let the arms hang loose to the sides and shake your wrists for a minute.
3. With the ribcage still high, let the arms and shoulders feel as if they are a tablecloth hanging loosely from the sides of a table.
4. When everything feels very relaxed, slowly raise the hands and hold the saxophone in playing position.
5. Begin by playing some easy scales. The moment you begin to tense up, stop and go back to step 1.

Fader said it best: "time and focus" Don't get discouraged if the old habits keep coming back. That is to be expected till the old pathways in the brain are replaced by the new. Just keep practicing and the changes you want will take place.
 

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I'm a beginner but I learnt some bad habits early on. Especially using the Bis key and always lifting my thumb off the octave key in great big chopping arcs.
My teacher spotted this mostly through the typical fumblings and squeaks inherent with both habits and told me to re-learn all my scales with Bb using the side key only. After only about a week I started to gravitate naturally to that little sucker and only use the Bis very rarely.
As for the octave key? That's tough - I still chop my thumb about on faster runs. My teacher got me to slowly practice switching octaves without moving my finger position or wrist position - just rolling the thumb smoothly. I get it right most of the time and keep it in the back of my mind.
 

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double sided tape was an effective tool for me to keep digits from straying.
the bis key was weird at first. to make it more fun i learned "isn't it romantic" in f. now it is not weird.
 

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slowing it down...good idea

i taught myself with the 1 and 1 method(and i really think its better for playing fast in keys with lots of flats)....but also after asking questions on this forum was convinced just to learn how to play with the side Bb....

i immersed into it and just found it uncomfortable......but i stuck with it

FINALLY i built up the side key to make it easier to hit,and that did the trick!!! now its working just fine....
 

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Hi all, Polly here, (didn't really think of myself as a late bloomer but guess i qualify! In my 30s and play sax for fun) I have been playing alto on and off for 7 years, really enjoy it BUT... only recently had my first lesson (oops!), and have discovered my bad habits, eg: lifting & replacing thumb on octave key, tension in neck & wrists, and horror of horrors, I play all my b flats with what i think is called 1 & 1 aka 'flute' fingering.
If anyone has advice or experience of unlearning these habits, would love to hear from you. The bis key feels so alien and can't seem to maintain it when i go for the octave key. I think my best chance at the moment is to learn to use the side B flat but this will take some serious unlearning too. Any thoughts?
Keep taking the lessons...

You should be asking your teacher these things.

As for the Bb fingering question, learn the side fingering and fully integrate that first. Next, learn the bis fingering. 1+1 and it's variants should be after that.
 

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I used to play classical guitar and I find that unlearning bad habits on the sax is not that hard compared to guitar. What it takes is normal practice but much slower so you can think about the habit.
 

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Just focus on the side Bb for now to get used to it. I think it's too much to try to do both at once. You need to focus on reprogramming your mind to think and act differently. It takes lots and lots of repetition. I had to relearn how to tongue when I got to colleg and that was rough. I had been playing 7 years by that point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the ideas and encouragement everyone, it's helped me through the first hurdle (the stubborn mind that doesn't like change!), and now I'm practising things are getting somewhere.
My hand is a bit small to hold it quite as I was shown but have compromised to a fairly relaxed position. I'm leaving it at one lesson for now, as I think I got about 6 months work out of it!!
 
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