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Thread: Low notes on Tenor

  1. #1

    Default Low notes on Tenor

    So, I've been playing clarinet for a while, as many of you already know, and a few months ago, I decided to pick up the tenor sax so I could be in my high school jazz band. I'll admit, I'm actually better at playing jazz on my clarinet, but for some reason, I don't play it in the jazz band.

    Anyway, the switch wasn't too hard. The key layout is very similar, and the upper register on the clarinet, as you know, is very similar to both octaves on the tenor sax. The problem is, after months of trying, I can't seem to hit anything lower than an F or an E in the lower octave without starting at a higher note and going down. I've heard that opening the throat helps, and I can get the notes to sound pretty good, but this one song that our band is playing starts with a staccato low D, and so far it's always either squalked or came out an octave too high.


    Any suggestions?


    PS: The winter concert's on Wednesday.

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member ratracer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    Don't bite the mouthpiece. Tenor requires a very loose embouchure as compared to your clarinet. Playing that D an octave high is indicative of an embouchure that is too tight. You must play relaxed. It will be a conscious effort at first. Then it becomes natural.

    Good luck with the concert!!

  3. #3
    Forum Contributor 2007 jacobeid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    take in more mouthpiece, keep a loose embouchure, breath with your diaphragm, keep an open throat, think AH, and push air through the horn!
    Alto-Mark VI 118xxx, Mouthpiece Cafe New York Cafe Bros., Hemke 3, bonade inverted.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    True this. I don't play tenor very much one in a blue moon. But when i switch from alto to tenor i find it some what difficult for me until my embouchure adjusts. I imagine you just need to loosen up quite a bit.
    Alto: Kessler Custom/Otto Link STM 6*/Java's reds and normals
    Tenor: Antigua Winds A550SP/ Runyon Bionix 8/ V16

  5. #5

    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    Hmm, I'll try those. Thanks a lot!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    Use warm, fast air. It takes a while to adjust, stay loose and relaxed. I've learned that the more you worry about getting out those lower notes, the worse they will get. Have faith the note will come, and use an open throat and fast air!

    Practice long tones!!! Go from G to as low as you can by half steps. Don't move down a half step until you have a good tone and can consistently play the note you're on. Do this slowly!!!

    Also, you might want to practice switching between clarinet and tenor during your practice time, and note the differences in playing the two...(maybe even write down the differences so you don't forget?) This way, the two won't blend together and you end up getting a hybrid tenor-clarinet sound (that's BAD).
    "Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit" -Cicero

  7. #7
    tristanhall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    to practice getting down the bottom do as "soundandtime" suggests with the long notes gradually chromatically going down...

    further that by practicing you major scales descending... start at the top and finish on the tonic held as a long note... you could also do this from the 5th descending so you are able to hold the lower note for longer... i.e. F major starting on 5th... C, Bb, A, G, FFFFF as a long note... then E Major... B, A, G#, F#, EEEE as a long note.... just 'baby steps' chromatically descending gradually expanding your range.

    this well help you get the range down the bottom and help with the tuning because you are hearing the bottom notes related to the major scale, rather than isolated... THEN... when that starts to get comfortable... you will be able to do long tones down the bottom...

    remember to vary the dynamics as well... so eventually you can play a sub-tone B - Bb at the end of the tune pianissimo.... or just belt out a low Bb... either or...

    tris


    PS... maybe try and experiment a tiny bit with the position of the neck in the yolk (the big bit of the horn)... i find that on my tenor when its 1-2degrees anti-clockwise there's a problem with everything... so FOR ME, i have to move it back so the octave key mechanism is like 1.5mm to the left of center... i assume your not touching the palm keys when your playing opening them ever so slightly (just thought id ask)

  8. #8
    luzsax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    You've already received some good advice. Here's my "2-cents worth"

    Without being able to see and hear you, it's difficult to give advice with any certainty.

    Sometimes, a player will "reach" for the low notes by dropping the jaw when playing in the lower register.

    To see if this is the case, practice the long tones and slow, descending scales while watching yourself in a mirror.

    If this isn't the case, you may notice something else.

    What you would be watching for is excessive jaw movement. Keep the embouchure firm and steady. Be sure to provide plenty of air.

    Good luck and be sure to let us know how you're doing.

  9. #9
    Distinguished SOTW Member ratracer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    Let's keep in mind, long term vs. short term. Max needs the biggest bang for the buck as his performance is this Wednesday.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    This should clear up your problem. Start with the lowest note you can play which is F. Play the note just to get the pitch and then sing the note. Sing it like an opera star with an AHHHH and a relaxed very open throat. Sing it full and with a good sound. Sing it several times so it is very natural and sounds full and good. Then play the F with that pitch in your head and without changing anything. You should get a beautiful F.

    Continue working your way down. If you can't hit the pitch just keep singing the note and go as low as you can. Think Barry White. Playing sax should be just like singing. Clarinet is quite a different animal, but sax playing should be just like singing. I often sing low notes with the different vowel sounds while driving to a gig. When I put the horn in my mouth it is effortless to play.

    Wisco

  11. #11
    Distinguished SOTW member/Official SOTW Sister bandmommy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    If you are playing on a school owned horn, you may want to have it checked for leaks.
    If it's leak free, work on relaxing that clarinet embouchure, and making sure you're not accidentially opening one of the palm keys a hair.
    Old reed players are like fine wine. They only get better with age. Tom Hagen

    Play the Music, not the instrument.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    Thanks for the great advise! I'm using the school's sax for the concert, but I own one that I practice with at home. The school's is actually really nice. I don't know the model exactly, but I know that it's a Yamaha, it was about $2400, and it was recently repaired for something, so as far as I know, there aren't any leaks.

    My personal horn, a Belmonte, isn't bad, but I'll be using the school's tomorrow.

    Also, I just learned today that I have an improv solo in one of the songs, so wish me luck!

  13. #13
    Distinguished SOTW Member Jazz House's Avatar
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    Default Re: Low notes on Tenor

    Quote Originally Posted by bandmommy View Post
    If you are playing on a school owned horn, you may want to have it checked for leaks.
    If it's leak free, work on relaxing that clarinet embouchure, and making sure you're not accidentially opening one of the palm keys a hair.
    Bandmommy is right. When I played a tenor that belonged to my school, it had a few ripped pads, almost no lacquer there was a resonator falling off, the cork on the neck nearly didn't exist.... The list of things that didn't work goes on and on and on... forever. I hated it. My tenor has gained a few leaks but it still plays well.
    Soprano: Jean Baptiste Deluxe Curved Soprano, Bari Gold #8,#3 Alexander Superial reeds
    Tenor: Conn 10M Naked Lady, Sakshama Shorty 7*, #3S RJS reeds

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