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Discussion Starter #1
I have been advised to re-post this here because it is a technical question rather than a Martin question.

I have just got a 1950's Martin "The Martin" Alto, described as repadded and leak free (aren't they all)

When playing a 2nd octave :space5: G or G sharp (i.e with the octave key depressed) initially the note is fine, but if I try and play quietly, or fade the note out, the note splits into harmonics and sounds awful. The only solution is to dramatically bite and alter my embouchure.

Any ideas what may be causing this?

I have tried

1) changing reed, lig and mpc
2) sealing the top octave hole in the neck by pressing the pad, whilst playing, no difference
3) lowering slighty by hand the height of the main tube octave pad (the tiny one at the back) whilst playing the G, this works, but only because it lifts off the neck pad slightly

The only thing that cures it is manually lifting off the neck octave pad, but that is not how it is supposed to work, and would be hard to incorporate into a performance:D

The horn plays easily from top to bottom, easier than my Yamaha, and it does seem to be leak free, so is this just an adjustment thing???

Thanks in anticipation
 

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Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
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An octave vent should be in a different location for each note. For G & G#, the compromise made for the vent's location is stretched to the limit.

Therefore the unsatisfactory location will have downsides in the way those notes play. Playing softly also stretches the boundaries for an instrument which was designed to play loud. Therefore the player may well need to compensate for these notes played softly, in embouchure and breath pressure, etc.

Depending on the the many acoustic design compromises that a capable sax designer/manufacturer chooses, this may be more so on some models than others.

IMHO you are more likely to have these sorts of problems in older instruments, just as you are more likely to have broken axles, blown head gaskets, and oil leaks with a 1950s vehicle.

There are threads here about altering the size of the vent hole. This may have other repercussions.

Do a search on "pantyhose" (2 words?), or "octave vent" in this forum to find suitable threads.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Gordon, very clear explanation. I will try altering my technique slightly before tinkering with this fine horn. I find already that slightly harder reeds help. I suppose it is all a juggling act, good fun though.

I like the car analogy.

I guess I now have a brand new Lexus and a 1950's Chevy (without having to spend as much..........)

Which one will I drive today.....?
 

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I would recommend having the sax and the neck tenon carefully checked for leaks by a competent repairman so that you can eliminate this variable before you start making extreme playing adjustments to compensate. It is nearly impossible to tell if there are minute leaks in an instrument simply by playing it---especially if it is a sax that you have not owned and played for a considerable length of time.

What is very unusual about your description is that the high G plays better when both octave vents are open. What happens when you finger low G without the octave key and "overblow" that note to high G without any octave vents open? This is beginning to sound like a perfect question for Curt Alterac at Musicmedic.com.
 

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Matthew,

This problem exists to one degree or another on all saxophones. There are even classical pieces that exploit this multiphonic directly (e.g. "Pitt County Excursions" by William Duckworth). It's one of the easiest multiphonics to produce at low volumes.

I am surprised no one has mentioned the possiblilty that the lower octave vent may be partially obstructed, which would cause this problem. My first attack on the issue would be to try a pipe cleaner in the lower octave vent in case there is built-up crud or some random lint from a swab blocking it. If the pipe cleaner is too big, you could also try (carefully) something like a safety pin or straight pin.

Many Selmers have this problem and fuction better after having the vent reamed slightly larger by a tech, but I have never heard of this problem on a Martin (then again, I'm not a Martin afficionado).
 

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It happens on many saxes
Once you learn to control it, you can also exploit it for various effects.
Many players such as Brecker do this.
 

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There are musical tricks to side-step this problem. I sometimes slur in from the previous note or create a grace note in front of the G. Also try holding the lower part of the instrument out from your body so you are blowing slightly down on the reed - and keep your throat open.

Brian
 

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Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
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Learn to adjust your breath pressure for any particular problem note or note change.
 
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