Altissimo Notes

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 6:09 PM By: Ian

I have played for over twenty years but have recently began to try alternate fingerings for the altissimo notes. I am having a hard time with the new mouth piece, Beechler S5, producing the notes with the same success as the metal mouthpiece that I used to play with. Does anyone think it is just not being used to the mouth piece or is it easier with different fingerings then I am used to.


  1. Kennygfan96 avatar

    On Sat, Dec 4, 2010 at 5:23 PM, Kennygfan96 said:

    Altissimo is not an easy thing to do. don't get discouraged. first be proud that you have been playing for so long ^ . ^ well, how about an altissimo harmonics key hmm?

  2. NeilSite avatar

    On Sun, Aug 15, 2010 at 2:03 AM, NeilSite said:

    First of all, you need to be very comfortable in the upper register, and by this I mean you can play up to high F at various dynamic levels and be flawless with a variety of articulations and playing styles...don't forget playing in tune as well!

    I have used that very same mouthpiece before--it is a good mouthpiece. Speaking of which, the mouthpiece is extremely important in choice. Assuming that is okay, I don't care who you are, what college you attended (I have both a bachelor's & a master's degree in music ed, playing sax 20 yrs now), but as long as it fits, it does not matter what ligature you me--anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something; therefore, there is no such thing as a ligature for jazz music or a ligature for classical players--nothing occurs in either genre that is impartial to the device that holds the reed in place...I thought Sigurd Rascher & Benny Goodman settled this all decades ago...

    Reed selection is critical, again it is not impartial to jazz or classical music as one needs to realize that no 2 reeds are exactly alike because it is made of wood--bamboo in fact, therefore it is a $2 disposable yet necessary product. To play altissimo notes, I suggest a reed that is soft enough to vibrate freely yet strong enough to stay in tune. I discovered the perfect answer to this--if playing an alto sax, try a tenor sax reed, say no harder than a 2 or hopefully medium soft. Likewise if playing tenor sax--try using a baritone sax reed, medium soft and be sure to soak your reeds for at least an hour the first time you use them!

    Don't try this with a soprano sax, as it is already a high-pitched instrument, playing notes above high F, F-sharp, or even high G are simply not given the attention that altissimo notes are given when played from a lower-pitched instrument, such as alto and tenor sax. I use a sopranos sax reed on soprano sax and a bari sax reed on bari sax but don't bother with altissimo notes on either as they are hard to notice, given the natural range of such instruments. But using a tenor sax reed on alto sax (or a bari sax reed on tenor sax, both medium soft and allowed to soak for 1 hour for first-time use) will fit, just the "butt" of the reed extends to the end of the mouthpiece, but the response is like a chainsaw through warm butter--try it before you judge. No one in the history of the saxophone is qualified to say that a piece of bamboo cane is "only for this particular instrument," as reed making is guesswork after all, and again, is not an exact science either way.

    Also, try Rico Plasticover (black coated reeds) but not plastic/synthetic reeds, as they are too stiff, too expensive, and will eventually break. Don't buy FlavoReeds--they select the worst quality of reeds and cover it up with just enough food coloring w/a touch of flavoring to hide such blemishes. Besides--if you want a yellow, orange, green, or blue reed--just ask a beginner!

    Finally, I recommend Ted Nash's Studies in High Harmonics for tenor and alto saxophone. It's a short book/manual with fingering charts for both instruments of various fingerings starting with high F and going to the next F, along with scales, and popular songs that implement such notes. If you're in a hurry, check out Candy Dulfer (the blonde Dutch funk saxophonist, daughter of Hans Dulfer) website and check her info under "Education." She has fingerings in the altissimo range...sorry to refer a Kenny G fan to Candy Dulfer's website...

Post a comment

Ian’s Blogs

  1. The song from the...

    Fri, Nov 18, 2011 at 7:36 PM 1 comment
  2. Altissimo Notes

    Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 6:09 PM 2 comments

Newsletter Signup