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    brother cavefish

      at this point, i really don’t see a need to hit above A on the altissimo range, and rarely that, i like mostly ballads , stan getz, Ben Webster kind of things, rock and roll from the 50s, is good too,

      JD Smith

        The primary reason I signed up for the course was to play a Junior Walkers “What Does It Take” which he does on the tenor. Like I said, I’ll just play it on the alto. I’ve been playing for over 50 years, have done studio recordings, in fact you can hear me on the ’50s Do Wop group, The Coasters on their “Christmas With The Coasters” album done in 2015.


          When i started learning to play the sax, i’d only been playing for about 6 months, then i started Johnny’s altisimo course, and within 6 months i was hitting the altissimo G but not consistantly. In my case i initially could only do the first three overtones, before i started hitting the altissimo G.
          I tried for ages to get the fourth overtone and couldn’t get it, but for some strange reason, i found i could hit the 7th overtone. So i then worked down from the 7th overtone to the 4th overtone. The 4th overtone was last overtone for me to get. Once i’d got all the overtones, then i found it a lot easier to get up to the 2nd altissimo G. In the altissimo range, my altissimo notes only sound ok up to altissimo E, above altissimo E up to the 2nd altissimo G sound very screechy. But i only play on the Alto, so i guess the Tenor could be harder to play in the altissimo range.

          now i find i can play up to two overtones on a lot of the high keys, and a lot of the altissimo fingering positions you find on the internet and there is lots of variations, they do actually work.

          But what pays off, if you do JF’s altissimo course, the range of fingering positions selected make it easier when you play altissimo scales, the last thing you want to be doing is tying your fingers up in knotts when going up and down a scale by moving through awkward finger change positions.

          some things i found with the sax – 1) if you want do something on the sax, there’s no reason to start right away (don’t be put down by people saying you have to be playing donkeys years) 2) there is a natural progression and steep learning curve, use your common sense, you can’t run up and down a scale until you’ve learnt where the keys in the scale are. 3) for anyone wishing to improvise – take my advice start straight away, i know a few people who got all there music grades out of the way and then started learning to improvise, and wished they’d started from day one instead of 8 to 10 years down the line.


            I’ve received my copy of the saxophone book by John Harle and was busy with an exercise in the first chapter, trying to do what he says and suddenly I was able to hit some really high notes from the same fingering. That’s never happened before and I’ve spent quite some time trying to get past the second overtone, without success. What I found interesting is that I wasn’t blowing harder and it wasn’t difficult to play at that moment. It seemed to be happening in my mouth with focus on tongue and angle of attack etc. However after a few minutes I wasn’t able to do it again. This is obviously a skill one has to master which will take me plenty of practice.


              When you’re starting out with altissimo, and if you haven’t been playing the sax for very long (ie novices like me),

              mouthpiece type + Reed strength brand DOES make a difference to getting altissimo easier or harder, but shouldn’t affect beginners as they are on the bottom scale of mouthpieces and reeds.

              muscles around your lips (embouchure) need to strengthen – only improves with daily practice, don’t attempt overtones until you can play all the keys on the sax up and down.

              When you play any key on the sax, try and play as loud as possible, if you only have the strength to play weak sounding pitches, forget about playing altissimo (you got no chance)

              how you breath (use of diaphragm) CAN hold you back, your diaphragm should be holding a pitch strength loudness and duration – if you’re not going to get control of your diaphragm in playing a wind instrument, then start now otherwise you will rely on your mouth and biting your lips to shreds, making it impossible to get higher altissimo pitches.

              Sloppy starting and stopping of notes with your tongue is also going to affect your altissimo.

              Getting overtones and altissimo is case of mastering all these areas, not just one of them.

              When you can start doing overtones and altissimo, what you will find is a stronger gives a stronger and fatter altissimo pitch.

              One of the problems beginners aren’t aware of is the mouthpiece grading. When they start on a basic mouthpiece and start sounding great tone and pitch wise, what they don’t realise is at some point they have reached their potential on that mouthpiece, at that stage it’s NOT going to make any difference what they are practicing, nothing is going to change in terms of sound quality tone etc..
              There too scared to go up a mouthpiece size – The moment they start going up a mouthpiece size, their now in a broader tonal range spectrum, and after several months what you will find is what you can do on the new mouthpiece you can’t do it on the old mouthpiece.
              So you need to keep going up in size until you can’t go any further.

              Once you go up in mouthpiece size, you’ll also find you have to start going up in reed size, as the lower strength reeds are too week to get a good strong sound on a higher mouthpiece size.

              At the moment i’m on a NO 7 mouthpiece and the equivalent of a No 3 reed size, if i played altissimo on a No 1 reed now, it would be crap sounding.

              If you’ve been playing the sax for hundreds of years, and you’re just starting altissimo, i wouldn’t know what to advise, as i’ve only been playing nearly 4 years now.


                When you can start doing overtones and altissimo, what you will find is a stronger reed gives a stronger and fatter altissimo pitch.

                JD Smith

                  Thanks for all the replies. Let me state for the record. I am not a student nor a beginner. I am using an Otto Link metal NY mouthpiece, a No. 3 reed, a Theo Wanne ligature, on a Selmer Mark VI. I can play EVERY note on the sax with ease and in tune. Fingering low Bb, I can hit first and second overtone most every time and can occasionally the third overtone. When I first stated the course about two months ago, I would work on this every day, and get totally aggravated. I didn’t pay money to get aggravated. I know Johnny says there is always room for improvent and I totally agree. I just cannot get the hang of what to do inside the mouth to make these notes come out. I’m done with it, will use the Alto when the Tenor will not reach range of song I am playing.



                    Excellent stuff JD ! i don’t doubt that you are a PRO, i’m only a novice.

                    The only thing i can say is two months is way too short to expect to be hitting any altissimo note and certainly not the whole overtone range.
                    So it would be foolish to give up now.

                    It took me 6 months to get 3 overtones and a hit or miss altissimo G.

                    What i found when i was learning overtones and altissimo, TEN MINUTES a day was the maximum i could work on it. I found after 10 minutes it was a complete utter waste of time spending more time in it, and like your self only found myself getting frustrated and annoyed.

                    I would just set aside 10 mins each day and lower your expectations, and be less critical of your abilities.

                    good luck mate – you will get there


                      Oh man I’m so glad I saw this post because I have been doing the JF altissimo course now for a few months, and what do you know ? That third overtone really “blows” pardon the pun. The only way I can do it is to sort of cheat a little. I blow the low Bb, then go for the mid Bb then F. Easy … but then to get that next Bb the ONLY way I can do it (currently) is to first use the octave key and have the sound in my mind’s eye (if that makes sense), then let the octave key go and sometimes (maybe 1 out of 10 blows) I can get it. But I feel your pain … you’re definitely not alone. I can’t imagine (at this stage) going higher than that 3rd overtone … not in a million years if it is THIS hard to get the third overtone). I have just finished a sax practice session now and read this thread so I’m going to try the advice above tomorrow and maybe swap out some reed/ mouth piece combos to see if I get any success – I’m clutching at straws now out of frustration. Please post your progress as it is very encouraging if you guys can get it. Thanks a lot and may your horn blow hard.

                      JD Smith

                        I FREAKING gave up. When I want to play high, I just grab the Alto!

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