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Thread: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

  1. #1

    Default Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Hello there everyone, I have just joined. I have been playing sax for nearly 6 weeks and I have picked it up quite well. However I really struggle hitting high notes. I can hit up to a high B, but it does not sound very good, anything above this is almost impossible for me. Does anyone have any advice to improve upon this? Perhaps there are some methods or training exercises? If anyone can help I would be very grateful. Thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly

    im not a sax player, but just keep practicing.... high notes on flute is hard as well... i eventually got through with practice

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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    1. Do you have a teacher and has said teacher checked the horn?

    2. Are you biting?

    3. Are you taking in enough mouthpiece?


    Even if all the above are ok its just going to take some time.

    If you dont have a teacher find one...even if its only for a while. I know times are tough but bad habits are hard to break.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member Jazz House's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Try working up to them. Get to a very high note and try and hold it. Feel the position your oral cavity is in. Try to remember the position.

    It's either that or you need to look at getting some different reeds or a mouthpiece. IMHO you should get a decent mouthpiece. A selmer s80 C* is a good choice for developing a nicer tone and better response. Tell me what your setup is and I might be able to help you. Either that or your reeds are too soft. If you are on a 1 1/2 reed, moving up in strength will both improve your tone and the response of the instrument. Try to slowly work up in strength. Sitting around a 3 or 2.5 is a good idea.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Thanks for reply

    1) I think the horn is fine

    2) I am not biting

    3) I usually take in a quarter of mouth piece, maybe a bit less. How does this effect it? How much should I take in for high notes?

    I do have teacher who I see for half an hour each week, he has told me to keep working at it

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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Then it sounds like your set. 6 weeks isnt much time. If your teacher hits the notes fine then you will eventually. Just keep at it. When you get frustrated just remember that if it was easy no one would do it.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    True this, just keep practicing you'll get up there. For me if you hold like a g then an a and then a b and just slowly move up. Then when you get to the highest note you can play move back down.
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    hello aaroncantina,

    welcome to the world of wind instruments. High notes are fickle ladies. They don't sound like what you hear in your head? Thats why its called practice. I have been playing for a number of years, and I still work on high notes. They will come; it will take forever, and then it won't take forever. How is your second G? and your C3? You can't talk about a high F without those two. And in my opinion you can't talk about those two until you talk about F2. Keep working on it and understand the relationship of the instrument, your ears, your embouchure and everything else in between; your high notes will come.

    Eflat.
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    I have the same problem I have one note that I can't quite get either I believe it's the highest F the rest of the notes on the sax I can get/alto vandoren 2.5 reeds. E# F6

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    Distinguished SOTW Member jaysne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Just keep working at it. It would help if your teacher would demonstrate them for you and then have you immediately try to imitate him or her. Your ear will talk to your brain and then your brain will talk to your embouchure and lungs and tell them what to do.

    It's just one of those things that may take a while to get, but you will get it.

    It's like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time--no one can tell you how to keep your balance--you just do it.

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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    You're right Jaysne, I will get it eventually.

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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Quote Originally Posted by aaroncantina View Post
    Hello there everyone, I have just joined. I have been playing sax for nearly 6 weeks and I have picked it up quite well. However I really struggle hitting high notes. I can hit up to a high B, but it does not sound very good, anything above this is almost impossible for me. Does anyone have any advice to improve upon this? Perhaps there are some methods or training exercises? If anyone can help I would be very grateful. Thanks.
    Everyone here has great responses.

    Let me also add that I couldn't hit the notes on the palm keys with any consistency until I had been playing for (I think) about a year. That was a good 8 years ago, however, so I can't be sure of that, but just keep practicing those scales, arpeggios, and long tones, and they will come. The only way to know what having good chops is like is to practice the #$%& out of your instrument.
    Sax/clarinet/piano player, and composer/arranger/transcriber.
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  13. #13
    Distinguished SOTW Member saxpiece's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    When someone begins playing the sax, they really have hardly any voicing ability.
    Voicing is using your tongue, throat, embouchure and airstream speed and direction to make a note sound.
    The palm key notes are usually the ones that beginners have trouble voicing.
    A common trouble for beginners and palm key notes results in a squeak or a short high pitched note.
    That's because the players voicing is unintentionally voicing a higher overtone note which is really one of the Altissimo range notes and they have hardly any voicing control over the note and it sounds like a short squeak.
    After a while of trial and error and practice the palm keys begin to be voiced properly by the player.
    Later on when trying Altissimo notes these higher squeaks need to be voiced properly to become Altissimo notes.

    After a while the palm key notes become second nature.

    I would try to play a high B note and then while playing the high B go to a palm D fingering without changing anything about your airstream or embouchure but trying small tongue position variations like raising the back of your tongue up a small bit.
    You can also try to increase the airstream speed a small bit for the palm D note.
    Practice this back and forth between the high B note and the palm D note.

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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    While fiddling with the palm keys, pay attention to your overtone series. These exercises train your embouchure to voice the high notes right.

    Enough mouthpiece is putting your teeth above the point where reed and mouthpiece facing come together (approximately). If you take less, the reed can't vibrate freely and won't produce the correct note.

    Depending on the sax, the mouthpiece position is crucial. I can tell when my mouthpiece is not in the correct position by the response of my palm keys. If you have trouble, you can experiment with pushing or pulling the mouthpiece a few millimeters.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    when i learned how to play, i was taught to bite....apparently thats absolutely terrible. however i did hit 3rd octave F after 2 weeks of playing. but from my experience (and it isnt much) the most important thing is to keep a firm embouchure while not biting, relax, and push steadily from your gut.

    my biggest problem was (and sometimes still is) getting tense and frustrated when i cant play something. drop your shoulders, calm down and loosen up, dont concentrate on hitting the note, just play it. you can do it. even if you never have before.

  16. #16
    Distinguished SOTW Member Mal 2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Along with what has already been said:

    • Don't breathe quite as deeply. The first couple seconds of a really big breath can be hard to control. I usually only draw about 2/3 of the breath I could draw, unless I know I'm going to need to go a long time between breaths.
    • Don't try to play too loud, or too soft. Take everything at an easy mp to mf, and branch out from there. While it's harder to play ANY range really soft than it is to play it loud, this is particularly true at the top and bottom of the horn.
    • Don't bite. If you can whistle (believe it or not, I can't), you arch the back of your tongue to change the shape of the oral cavity and change the pitch. That's pretty much what you want to be doing here instead of biting down.
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Don't bite but increase pressure in the corners of your mouth and increase air SPEED.
    This is what works for me
    The cure to procrastination is the realization that procrastination in its essense is the failure in understanding that the work you are doing is to your own benefit, not the benefit of others.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    I just got my Alto Saxaphone i started in 4th grade (witch im in now) but I'm still practicing I acullay have trouble with notes maybe someone can help me. Anyway, is the B note supposed to sound high? Along with the A note it's always high when i play it. If u wanna respond my e-mail is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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    Last edited by kcp; 10-23-2009 at 01:53 AM. Reason: email removed / Not safe + this is a discussion forum

  19. #19

    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    It *may* be technique and a case of practice makes perfect, or it could be you have too soft a reed, as was the case for me.

    I was stuggling to get higher register notes, and those I did get sounded shrill and squeeky and inconsistent. I changed the reed to a harder one, upping it by one full strength, and immediately it was an amazing change, I could get the notes naturally, and they sounded less shrill etc. So it's worth trying that.

  20. #20
    Forum Contributor 2009 & Mouthpiece Patch Mogul Face Ache Mike's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hitting those High Notes Clearly on Alto Sax

    Your tutor can give you a "leg up" by playing the note you`re trying to get at the same time as you. By doing that, and standing close enough, the vibrations in the air will make your sax vibrate at the same frequency, doing some of the work for you. Once you get the note, the tutor should back away and let you hold the note. Now try to focus on whats happening - diaphragm, lungs, air stream, mouth cavity, embouchure thats what you have to produce next time. Good luck, keep at it and it`ll come. Practice makes perfect!

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