Altissimo – Not for the faint hearted

Its loud, screechy and bloody hard to do.  It will take hours of practice until you feel like your back to the days when you first started to learn to play the sax – you remember those days right?  When the cat refused to come home and the dog wailed constantly.

You can buy any number of books telling you how to perfect this skill.  There are thousands of webpages dedicated to it.

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-altissimo.html is a good one to get you started.

Every article I have come across has four main points to it.

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Strengthen your embouchure
  • Learn the fingerings
  • Hear the notes you want to play
I first came across this last point at a masterclass by Snake Davis.  He advocates a teaching game which increases your awareness of what you’re actually playing and develops your ear tonally.  It’s surprisingly simple as well.  All you have to do it sing something random then try to play it on the sax.  Easy right? Well, yes if you have perfect pitch but just getting the notes right is not the point of the game.  You have to get the intonation right, you have to duplicate the way the notes bend or slurr and you have to play with real feeling.
So, how does that help with altissimo? Once you can hear the note you want to play in your mind you will have a much more stable bench mark than the usual woolly “I’d like it to be high” that we all start with.  So they say.  I play sax professionally and I still struggle with this, I have a real mental block over it.  So, I’m going to stop writing now and go practice.
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