Evan Tate's SaxTips eZine

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Extreme Ranges Part II

The importance of practicing the extreme ranges of the saxophone.

The reasons are twofold:
Most saxophonists play the low tones as "subtone" which is merely an
effect, but not the "kernel" tone, real saxophone tone. Once one can play the
clean tone, one has more control over the instrument. Most saxophonists drop
their lower jaw while playing low tones, which takes away the support that's
need for the reed in order to have a steady embouchure. "Subtone" is an
effect that is created by spreading more lip over the surface of the
mouthpiece and just a little less teeth underneath.

Many saxophonists are displeased with their high notes in ways that
they are too sharp, too thin or a combination of both. This is often due to
biting, having a too tight embouchure, thus restricting the movement of the reed.
This also causes tension in the neck,throat and eventually the shoulders making full,
relaxed breathing difficult.

My suggestion is this:

Say the letter "e" in an exaggerated way and notice the position of
your tongue, jaw, teeth, etc. You'll notice that the tongue touches your
teeth on each side slightly. When you blow, you'll notice that the air stream
glides over the tongue, in the middle and out. This causes a type of "jet
engine" effect where an amount of air enters into the larger end of the engine
(from your lungs through your throat) and is pushed out through a smaller
opening (over your tongue, out through you teeth/lips/mouthpiece). This focuses
the air stream. Keep this position (without stress) and try to play from
middle "C" down the scale toward the low note while keeping this position.
While doing this - look up! - yes, set your eyes toward the ceiling and even
raise the horn "rock'n'roll" style. Do the same playing from middle "c"
upward to high "c" and look at the floor. Bend over if you have to!

What does this do? It's a simple law of physics. Through the "axle
effect", when you position your eyes, head and arms (horn) upward, your lower
jaw follows and give continual support to the reed while you are playing
the low tones. At the same effect, when you lower your eyes, head and body,
your lower jaw follows and looses up! Thus no longer pinching the reed to
play high notes! Try it, you'll be amazed how easily and quickly that works.
After a couple of sessions practicing this you should be able to play
the notes better without the bodily motions.

With the above-mentioned "e" position, it will tricky at first but
you'll get it and the benefits will come. Practice while playing scales or
long tones - when playing high tones, bend forward looking at the floor.
When playing low notes, bend back looking at the ceiling. This will give you
crispness in your low notes and robustness in your high notes.

Have fun!

Evan Tate


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