rec.music.makers.saxophone

2.5 Altissimo notes - fingerings

The altissimo register is particularly popular in jazz circles. As each note that you play is already made up from other notes (giving your characteristic timbre) it should logically follow that with a little effort these notes can be separated out. In fact you can go further than this and play notes which normally a saxophone could not play (above top F#). The way to play altissimo is not easily taught but in general you need to have a much more supportive embouchure, and a controlled airstream. Experimenting will soon show you what is meant. When you can play one altissimo note, try the next. Remember that some will follow sequentially and need little adjustment, while others will need a completely new airstream to be playable - these will be a problem until you have learned how to predict the next note.

Caveat: student instruments and closed mouthpieces will underachieve in this department. It may even be impossible to play altissimo notes on your instrument. If you can't get anything to work, don't give up too soon but do seek advice in the newsgroup. Remember that if you are a novice you will probably only spoil your enthusiasm for playing if you try this too early! :-)

NB. Octave key depressed in each case, although it is in the essence of the altissimo register that you don't need to use it! These fingerings will need adjustment for the intonation of your instrument in many cases, but are valid for all saxes (expect the last two notes).

Note
Left Hand
Right Hand
F#
Front F, C
E side
G
Front F
F side
G#
Front F
E side
A
C, G
F, E, D
Bb
G
C side
B
D palm
None
C
D palm, Eb palm
None
C#
Front F
F
D
D palm, Eb palm, F palm
Bb side
D#
D palm, Eb palm, F palm
E side, C side
E
D palm
None
F
D palm, Eb palm, C
E
F#
D palm, Eb palm
Bb side
G
C
F
G#
None
None
A
D palm, C, G
F, E, D
Bb
None
Bb side
D#
BARITONE ONLY D palm, C, G
F, E, D
E
BARITONE ONLY D palm, G
F, E

From Shooshie:

"Now... let's talk about creating your own fingerings. Look closely at the fingerings you use and figure out what they are doing. Essentially they are creating a new octave overblown at a harmonic rather than the octave. They enable you to use that overblown harmonic with your key system for a span of a few steps at a time before having to overblow at the next harmonic and start the key fingerings over. One key generally acts as a vent (an octave key) to force the harmonic to sound, while the other keys give you some fingerings that connect chromatically. The best altissimo notes are those overblown at the lower harmonics. They will be firm and have tone, not just squeaky sounds. The higher harmonics are absent in lower overtones, and therefore have less body to distinguish them from the same note on a flute or clarinet (or reed squeak). So, with this knowledge in mind, you can make up your own altissimo fingerings so that you can connect chromatic fingerings and have true usage of your scales and arpeggios up there without jumping from one key system (at one harmonic) to another key system (at the another harmonic). Am I making sense to you? I never tried to put that into words before, but have used it for decades in creating my own fingerings. Most people have trouble with altissimo not because it's hard to produce, but because the fingerings are so awkward.
And they ARE awkward when you are jumping from one harmonic to another with each note. Keep them connected under the same harmonic and you will have virtuosic control."
shoosh@mac.com

The following document is an appropriate supplement (or replacement) for the chart of fingerings I supplied above. Jack Laing's fingerings for the altissimo register differ because this register is such a pragmatic zone in sax playing. If you are having p roblems producing altissimo notes you will find these hints useful!

There are numerous fingerings for altissimo notes some of which are more suitable for alto than tenor or are dependent on which make of sax you play. The main thing that helps in achieving the note is pre-hearing, in other words, knowing what the pitch of the note is before you go for it. Practice Shooshie's m/piece exercise so that you can apply it to the sax and try to lower notes within the normal range by up to a minor third. Try playing bottom C, middle C, top C then harmonic C (this is one of the easier harmonics to get). Then try bottom B, middle B, top B then harmonic B using the same fingering as harmonic C but bringing the note down a semitone by using your larynx. B altissimo is usually a difficult note to get so this makes it a b it easier. I usually do this when going for an Ab by using the A fingering and pitching it down as the Ab is usually an awkward one to get. Before trying to play altissimo notes it helps if you practice overtone exercises as follows (see David Liebman's b ook "Developing a Personal Sound"). Play middle Bb then finger bottom Bb and try to get the sound and pitch of middle Bb. With the same fingering try for the F above (top line of the stave). Now try F then slur to middle Bb then bottom Bb all with the bot tom Bb fingering. Next see if you can get top Bb then a D above that. This is more difficult but don't squeeze the reed up; alter your larynx as a singer would to get the note. Again, David Liebman's book and Shooshie's mouthpiece exercise notes are help ful. It is the harmonic series of Bb that you are trying to achieve without using any fingering but bottom Bb. Next try the same exercise using bottom B as the base note, then C then C#.
Fingerings: Where a front key is to be pressed I will show a cross instead of a circle and a will show only those side keys that are to be used. Octave key on at all times. Notes are often better with the bottom Eb key depressed.

F#
AuxF AuxFAuxFAuxF
O PalmEbOO XOO
O PalmDXX OXX
O PalmFOsideBb O Xside Bb OsideBb O
Ekey OF#key OO XXX
F#key OOO OOX
OOO OOO

G
AuxFAuxFAuxF
OOO XXXX
OOO OXOO
F#key OOBbkey O XXX F#key O
OOO OOXO
OOO OOOO
OOO XOXO

Ab
AuxF
OOX OXXO
XXO XOOO
XXSideC X SideBb OSideC XSideC X SideC O
OOX XOXO
OOO OOOO
OEbKey XEbkey O OXO O

A
OOO OO
OXX XX
Side Bb OXX XX
G#
XXX OO
OXX OO
OXO OO

Bb
OOO O
OX PalmDO X PalmD
SideC XXX X
OOX X
OOX X
OOO O

B
OXO
O PalmDXO PalmD
SideC XXX
OXO
OXO
OXO

C
XXX O PalmFO PalmEb
OOO O PalmDO PalmD
SideBb XXX SideC XO
XOX OO
OOO OO
XXEbkey X OO

C#
AuxFAuxF
XO Palm EbO OXX O Palm Eb
OO Palm DO OOX O Palm D
OXX XXXO
E keyE key
OOO XOXO
OOO OOXO
OOO Ebkey XEb key OX O

D
AuxFAuxFAuxF AuxF
OOO OOOPalmEb O
OOO OXOPalmD O
OSideC OEkey O XXEkey OPalmF O
OOO OXOX
OOO OXOO
OOO Ebkey XXO O

Eb
OXX O
XXX X
SideC XXO O
OXX O
OXX O
OEbkey XO O

(If you have a top F# key you can get an Eb by pressing all the palm keys( D,Eb,F) and the top E and F#)

E
XOO X PalmEbX
OO PalmDX XO
XSideC XO SideBbOX
XOX OO
XOX XO
XOEbkey O XO

F
X
O
X
X
O
X
jacksax@freeuk.com


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