BC106 - Troubleshooting

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Posted by Daniel Christian on 05 Nov 20:09

In this free online saxophone lesson I cover how to play BAG FED and some ways I find useful when those low notes just "dont wanna speeeak!!".

Playing the saxophone need not be painful, let me help! Feel free to ask any questions about this video here, I'll be happy to help.

Happy Saxing!

New Notes - F E D + Troubleshooting

Now we're happy with the first three notes, we'll add three more!  The Saxophone fingerings are relatively straightforward, remember to keep your hands rounded and as you play notes try and keep your fingers touching each key, even when you are not depressing them.  Play a G and then press down the first button key in the right hand, that is low F, adding the key below that will give you an E and all 6 buttons will play D.  A way to remember the notes on the Saxophone is that as you add each finger you will spell  B A G F E D.  

Troublesome Low Notes

As you work your way down the instrument feel the change in pressure as you close more of the tube of the Saxophone.  This is normal and it's very important that you can feel this change in pressure and adjust accordingly.  Try walking down the notes slowly holding each note for a couple of seconds before moving to the next.  Again, listen closely to each note...how does F sound? How does E Sound? What about D?  

Common problems with low notes...

The most important part of playing any Musical Instrument is listening hence why I put such a strong emphasis on Ear Training throughout this course.  This is no different when trying to play low notes...and the subsequent issues you can have...

Overtones (Squeaking)

Every note we play contains a fundamental frequency that vibrates and then an infinite number of overtones.  When you play a low D and a higher note comes out, you have effectively picked out what we call an "Overtone" a higher frequency within the sound that you want.  Now we don't need to understand fully this concept straight away but let's have a think about what you are trying to achieve when playing a lower note.  

When you play a concert A (440Hz) on the Saxophone the reed vibrates 440 times per second!  When you play a low D on Saxophone the reed is vibrating roughly 160 times a second, in Saxophone terms, that's slow!  Now if you go too far down the reed you allow the reed to vibrate in an uncontrolled fashion...we don't want that.  Why? Because when you aren't controlling the reed and blow air past it, anything can happen!  Most likely, squeaks!  Later on we can use this to our advantage but for now if you are squeaking, make sure you aren't taking in too much mouthpiece and that your bottom lip and top teeth are aligned so you aren't creating any funny angles in which the reed may act strangely.

Keep your tongue flat and throat "Oh"pen.  As you play lower notes think about Opening your throat as if you were to sing a really low note "Oh" or try "Ahh" as if you're showing the doctor your throat.  Why? Well the more open your throat is, the more "spread" out the air is, making the air travel slower, this slow air is important for slow reed vibrations.  If you narrow your throat the air travels faster, that's when squeaks happen.

The Wobble

Often players will find that their low D (and even more so on notes lower than this) will "Wobble" this is best described as a sort of quick switch between two tones.  If this is happening to you it is probably because you are very close to the correct embouchure pressure but still need to open your throat a little more.  Quite an awkward problem to diagnose but make sure your tongue is flat, you aren't "squeezing" on the mouthpiece and your throat is open.

Exercise 1

Hold on a G on for a few seconds, just to listen to it.  Then walk down to an F and hold this on for as long as you can really listening to the sound.  Do this for both E and D.  Remember to open your throat, keep your tongue flat and think "Ahh" if need be!

Exercise 2 - Note Switches

1 min G -> F (GFGFGFGFGF etc)

1 min F -> E

1 min E -> D

Exercise 3 - 15 sec Switches

15 secs - GFGF

15 sec - GEGE

15 sec - GDGD

15 sec - GGGG

15 sec - FFFF

15 sec - EEEE

15 sec - DDDD

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