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Sigurd Rascher

I'm going to be embarking on a study of Sigurd M. Rascher's Top Tones: 4 Octaves book over the next while due to the suggestion for a good Tenor friend of mine. Has anyone here gone through the book step by step and is there anything you'd like to say about it?
 
I haven't done that one yet, but I plan to. Please let us know how it goes.

I recommend that you also get Racher's "158 Saxophone Exercises." My teacher told me this was Coltrane's favorite workout.

My teacher, a good jazz player with no foundation in theory, was surprised that I could rip through these exercises as quickly as I did. (Because of a vision impairment, my sight-reading ain't what it ought to be.) I told him they were easy to read because most of the exercises are arpeggiated diminished and augmented chords.

He said, "What's a dimished or augmented chord?" :)

I find this book helpful in getting one's fingers over the arpeggios that contribute to interesting improvisations. When you can do this book up to speed, and when you learn the relationships of altered chords to dim, half-dim, and aug chords, you can ride the changes to anything.

Maybe that's why Coltrane liked it.
 

saxhound

Moderator
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I tried to do this many years ago. I set a goal that I would work through it over a summer break from college. Not! In reality, it's a life long pursuit.

IIRC, there is a caveat in the beginning of the book about not jumping ahead to the altissimo fingering chart and exercises until you have worked through all the fundamentals. This is excellent advice, which I, of course ignored. I found that I was able to play high F# (no F# key) and the notes from C to F pretty consistently. From G to B, I had not a chance.

Don't underestimate the importance of the overtone exercises. If you don't learn how to shape and adjust the speed of your airflow to play the overtone series, you won't have the tools to hit the high notes consistently. Shooshie's mouthpiece exercise (playing scales and intervals on just your mp) will also help immensely.

Once you get the fundamentals down, then it's time to check out the Robert Luckey book Saxophone Altissimo. This will show you alternative fingerings for each note on SATB. There are also some excellent overtone exercises in this book.

Good luck.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Get ready for ugly sounds (in the beginning, long term it is a miracle worker, just like any hard work) and frustration.

Keep at it, it IS worth it.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I would strongly recommend going the added expense and getting "Voicing An Approach to the Saxophone's Third Register" by Donald Sinta and Denise Dabney. It is $39.95 compared to Rascher's Top Tones at $12.95. You will be glad you did.

Rascher's book consists of mostly of exericises. Sinta's book is actually a text book on playing overtones (harmonics) and notes in the altissimo range. It is both comprehensive and easy to follow and understand since it starts right at the beginning. It is unfortunate more players haven't heard of it.

It can be ordered from: http://www.vcisinc.com/saxophonemusicstudies.htm

Scroll to the bottom of the page.

John
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I didn't even attempt Top Tones. 22 Intermezzi was challenging enough: that's the book I studied in my first year at college when I was taught by Dr. Laurence Wyman, a first-gen student of Rascher's.

Even though most of the other students in my class were alto and tenor players, it's arguable that I really didn't need "top tones" as much on bari :).
 

saxhound

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Even though most of the other students in my class were alto and tenor players, it's arguable that I really didn't need "top tones" as much on bari :).
Not to mention soprano!

I agree about bari - anything above F# seems somewhat unnecessary.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I guess that it depends on the point of view of the user. For those playing "traditional" music (concert band, Broadway show books and the like), there's little call for such technique. So, as long as you stay in this comfort zone, you can pretty well ignore anything above a high F#.

I've had zero skoolin' on the saxomaphone, and until just the last few years had no need for stuff above the fingering chart. However, as I grew out of playing shows and into playing pop stuff, I was suddenly exposed to the occasional altissimo A natural, a note that I cannot get to consistently pop on my Yamaha YBS 62.

I'm not about to start in on a regime of practice so as to nail these few and far between tones with the same degree of musicality that prevails on the rest of the horn. I either drop them an octave, or do a controlled "squeal" (the notes are written as "squeals" anyway).

Some day, after I've mastered the basics on the flute, I might take a shot at the altissimo methods. Some day...
 
Fortunately, even though I'm excited about having better control of my altisimo, the main reason why I'm hitting this book is because I want to have more control over my throat and ombiture so I definitely don't want to skip ahead.

What you said SOTSDO is absolutely correct about classical having very little altisimo with only the occations except. When I first started a BYU (I didn't finish there) I was working on the Paul Creston Sonata for Alto and low and behold it had a high G in there, after 11 years of playing that was a first for me.
 
Playing overtones has definitely helped me with my sound on tenor--which has always been my problem instrument of the four. My sound has definitely gotten 'bigger'.

I already played plenty of altissimo (Creston, Ibert, Bassett), but I've noticed the sound of my altissimo is more like the sound of the 'regular' register. It's kind of like developing a falsetto like countertenors do.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Approaching the discussion of "altissimo" from a singer's standpoint, there is some good benefit for playing around with it, even for basses such as me: it helps extend your range.

One vocal exercise I used to do was essentially a glissando from a note in a standard range to as high as possible, even if you were out of tune. It reminded me of a slowed-down recording of a dog yawning. It does limber up the ol' vocal apparatus.

Additionally, I would practice singing in falsetto (read that as "faking a high tenor range") -- in tune -- for a few minutes. Somewhat challenging, but it makes those pieces with notes above middle C seem pretty darn easy.

Another thing with falsetto is that you should try to make it sound like there's no real break going from your chest to, well, more nasally (except if you're doing a piece that does this for effect). It should sound like an extension of your natural range. Practice makes perfect!
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
This would come in real handy at the Karaoke bar singing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips".

John
 
What you said SOTSDO is absolutely correct about classical having very little altisimo with only the occations except. When I first started a BYU (I didn't finish there) I was working on the Paul Creston Sonata for Alto and low and behold it had a high G in there, after 11 years of playing that was a first for me.
Well, wait a minute. I think SOTSDO was referring to the saxophone parts in a concert band/wind ensemble. Notes above F# are indeed rare there (although I have seen them). However, classical saxophone repertoire in general, is FULLLLLLL of altissimo. You can't be much of a classical saxophonist in 2010 and not play altissimo. The Creston Sonata is kind of an entry-level piece to the world of classical sax, so it makes sense when you say that it was your first encounter with altissimo.
 
I think that without a doubt, the best exercise for altissimo is playing the overtone series off low Bb, B, and C. You don't need to buy a book to do it. When you can hit each overtone and hold it steady, up to about 3 octaves over Bb, B, and C, then you'll have the chops to play any altissimo you want. It will also help every other aspect of playing.
 
I'm in the early stages of working through the Toptones book. FWIW, my teacher says that there are valuable benefits from pursuing the study of overtones, besides actually playing overtones. The benefits are better tuning and intonation.
 
Playing overtones improves everything.

breath support
embouchure
your ear
intonation
tone quality
dynamic range
your mental concept of what you can and can't play
new sounds for improvisation
alternate fingerings
controlling your body resonator (vocal tract) and how it shapes notes
articulation
lung capacity
finger technique
 
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