BC111 - Low C and the C major scale/Ionian Mode

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Posted by Daniel Christian on 06 Nov 21:43

Scales, Modes and some more Low Notes

In this free beginner saxophone lesson video Dan teaches you how to master low C and the c major scale (also known as ionian mode). Major modes have been used in western music for centuries, from Bach and Mozart to One Direction and although you may not to want to play many One directions songs ;) I can pretty much guarantee that all of your favourite songs contain elements of major scales. This video covers some common problems beginner and in some cases, more experienced saxophone players have when playing low C.

Low C

You play this with all 6 pearl keys and using your little finger, push down the bottom pad as shown in the video.  

The issue with low C is that the reed is vibrating really slowly, therefore you need more control in order to not either over or under-vibrate the reed.  Imagine you are going to sing a really low note, the lowest note you possibly can, when you do this you "open" your throat allowing the air you produce to "spread" rather than being directed.  This effectively slows down the flow of the air, thus allowing you to vibrate the reed slowly, this is when the low C will come out as you want it to.  

Low C Troubleshooting

You can play low C, but it sounds somewhat like a foghorn.  If this sounds like you then you need to adjust your sidewards lip pressure, keep your tongue flat, take in just the right amount of mouthpiece and your throat open.  Easy that will fix you.  Ok, so you're probably not able to do all four things at once.  Lets try one thing at a time.  

Lip Pressure - Exercise 1

Let's start by just blowing air down the Saxophone, no sound just air noise.  Like a steam train!  Shhhhhhhhh.  Form your usual embouchure but let your lips be extremely loose, tight enough to channel air down the Sax, not out the sides of your mouth.  Now, slowly draw in the edges while fingering low C until you can hear the faintest whisper of Low C.  Try this daily. Also try this the opposite way start from a loud sound and loosen off until there is only air noise.

Throat Shape - Exercise 2

coming soon

Tongue Flattening - Exercise 3

coming soon

Mouthpiece Sweet Spot - Exercise 4

coming soon


Scales are REALLY important...I mean it, seriously, they're REALLY important.  Want to be able to fly around the instrument like Charlie Parker? Learn your scales.  Want to be able to Improvise in any key? Learn your scales.  Want to be put off playing Saxophone for life? Practise too many...nah only kidding!!  Now, scales are a wee bit tedious as my Scottish Sax playing buddies say but they're the gateway to getting good in the quickest time possible.  Not only does pretty much every piece of western music ever use at least a part of a scale but scales are a sure fire way of making sure you have practised that awkward movement.  Master your scales and you'll find that you'll begin to recognise where music you listen is going to and consequently how to play it!

The first scale I'll show you is a "Major" scale, the Major Scale is a pattern or sequence of notes...(TBC)

Learning the saxophone shouldn't be stressful. Dan aims to provide a free, structured and fun way to get your saxophone journey off to the right start. Your path to saxophone supremacy starts here!

Please be aware that this is part of Dan Christian's saxophone beginners course and contains references to techniques and methods taught in earlier videos. Do check them out.

Dan is a british based saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. He has over 10 years of experience teaching Saxophone, Clarinet and Piano and over 20 years of playing experience. he has come to YouTube in order to bring free, quality saxophone lessons directly to you in the comfort of your own home!

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