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How to Hit Altissimo Notes on a Saxophone

Updated on January 16, 2013
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The Notes

Altissimo notes are these wonderful pitches of sound that can be produced while wailing away on the Saxophone. They are the notes that cause goose bumps to erupt across your arms as you listen to smooth jazz, blues, and a sweet balled.

If you happen to be an aspiring musician, you have probably been trying to find a way to hit these notes without your horn sounding like a train reach or a dying animal.


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Posture

Whether standing or siting, they most important thing to keep in mind is posture. Keep the spin strait, the lungs open, and do not tilt your head at an odd angle.

Breath from you diaphragm, not from your chest.

Use a steady stream of air, but do not over due it.

The Best Notes to Start With

The best thing to keep in mind when attempting to Altissimo notes on the Saxophone is that it is easier to do so with lower notes. On the Alto, I would recommend starting on a low Bb, and on the Tenor, try starting with the middle G. From the Bb on the Alto you should be able to hit Bb, Bb2, F2, Bb3, D, F, Ab, Bb4, etc respectively.

Now for the trick to this talent.

When it come to producing these notes, the work is all in the throat. The best way to describe it is to partially block some of the air flow through your throat by raising the back of your tongue. Try saying the word "too" and keep the air flowing through it. By doing this, you will end up over pronouncing the "T" and the "oo's" will turn into your air flow. You are doing this right if you can feel the back of your tongue elevated and your air flow kind of sounds like a running faucet.

The Execution

Now, the product and change of the notes are all controlled by the throat, not the embouchure. Pretend like you are singing through you throat. Higher notes will required higher pitches. To get the higher pitches, try to get your throat muscles tighter like making a high pitched "eeeee" sound.

Use this technique to practice going up and down the overtone range. If at first you sound like a dying duck, do not be discouraged. This can take some time to train your throat muscles for. Practice, practice, practice. Also note that the higher you go above the starting Bb the harder it will be to produce the overtones.

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Some Extra Tips

The easiest way to get these notes out is to use a Jazz mouthpiece, or a plastic reed. Though it is not impossible to do this with a classical/student mouthpiece, it is just harder.

If you have not played your horn in a while, do not expect to have a fantastic sound come out of it. Your embouchure is like a well toned muscle....you have to exercise it for it to be well toned.

Do not bit down hard, keep your jaw muscles loose. There is no need to scar all the dogs in the neighborhood with a high pitch squeak.

Make sure that you are all warmed up before trying to produce these wonderful sound

Use a bit of an overbite, this seems to help some people.

Remember, this talent takes time. You have to get used to it, so practice and do not give up.

Make sure that you already have your range down. If you can play a low C pianissimo on demand, then you should practice and master those before trying to master these notes.

This is the same for higher notes. Make sure that you can confidently hit higher notes without getting sharper than a razor blade and making those around you cringe If you have a hang on these notes, it will make learning Altissimo easier.

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