Psax Advice: Low C & High DEF Resonance

Xaphoon Fingering Chart
Xaphoon Fingering Chart
When learning to play any reed instrument, inevitably one will stumble into obstacles like squeaks, silences and unwelcome vibrations.

Most of these things are regular novice issues which can be researched and remedied easily enough.

When it comes to the Pocket Sax however, there are a handful of hurdles remaining on the horizon even whence one has acquired a good grasp of the instrument.

Low C

One of these is the Low C resonance.

When playing this note it will become apparent that it sometimes has a tendency to vibrate in a way very unlike the other notes, so much to the extent that it can sometimes sound to the listener like you are blowing a raspberry through a piece of cheap plastic.

Only the Low C note does this and it is because, when all holes are “closed”, there is very little relief in a short bore for any pressure to exit.

As such, the Low C is thence often best played a little gentler, if possible. Unfortunately this can be counterproductive of course, if performing a louder piece, or if volume is vital to the phrase.

However, with the following good practise, this whole worrisome conundrum can be easily remedied.

The key technique here is to “redistribute” your lip pressure on the reed while “softly” applying its initiation.

By changing the pressure distribution into a wider and less focussed pattern, you effectively “dampen” the resonance very slightly, hampering any vibrational quake from sounding.

Between notes, this is very much a “split second” adjustment of embouchure and will therefore take some time to master.

Yet if you can succeed at this technique the Low C will begin to sound as warm and passionate as an Alto sax… and I do guarantee you that.

So never give up.

Middle Range

Here now we have the roaring fire of a dragon. These notes are where all kinds of powerful phrases can be mastered and with very little quarrel.

Just be sure to keep a good mutual embouchure with your instrument and everything will be fine.

High Notes

The other end of the spectrum, as would be anticipated, shares a similar resonation quarrel with its low end counterpart.

When playing the high notes however, rather than “vibration”, what you will most definitely experience is “squeak”.

Particularly with the High D, High E and High F.

The even higher second register I will not go into because, its purpose and function in a piece of music is only that of curiosity. If you get squeaks here, well, there is little remedy.

Yet the top end of the first register, where we find our High D, High E and High F, these notes are of absolutely profound importance.

The key technique here is to approach them with tender fragility, as if they were a frightened little bird which you would take into your hands and comfort.

Thus the moment of initiation should be as carefully administered as like the moment you coach a nervous baby chick into your fingertips.

The problem discovered is that these high notes require more lip pressure to sound in tune, yet it is this very increase of lip pressure which causes them to squeak in the first place.

Thus the “masterfullness” is being able to produce a most resounding note yet with the least possible pressure.

When it comes to embouchure, imagine the bird is also thirsty. Now, as you coach it into your hands offer to feed it water through a straw. Thus from your lips unto its beak.

The mutuality of your lips unto the reed should be somewhat like this, but only as an abstract concept. Of course it is vital to maintain the correct embouchure and so do not apply this concept literally.

However truthfully, playing these notes is very much as delicate a thing as feeding a bird in your hands fresh water through a straw.

It is all a practise of finding a very finite balance of embouchure and within your own individual approach.

Yet if you can succeed at this technique the High D, High E and High F will begin to sound as sweetly angelic and poetically profound as a Soprano sax… and I do guarantee you that.

So persevere, thou good Nightingale.