Sax technique question from Alex Canales

"Hello, David, my name is Alex Canales, a saxophonist currently working on the Royal Caribbean cruise line. I've been thoroughly enjoying your blog for years, thank you for putting in the time and effort!

Anyway, one thing I am interested in seeing addressed technique wise (forgive me if I happened to miss it) are the palm keys on saxophone. It's always been a bit of a problem for me throughout the years, and it's been hindering my playing. If I press them too hard and too fast, it causes more pressure in my lower lip. If I try to brace the saxophone better with my thumbs, they end up hurting after a while. If I try pressing them with minimal force and effort (like I do with my other fingers), then I sometimes don't depress them fast enough, or fail to open them all the way so the notes don't speak/go out of tune.

Would you be able to come up with some exercises and general guidelines for this tricky area? Maybe Matt Otto would have some useful input as well.


tape some flat head thumb tacks facing point up on the palm keys... that should retrain you quickly. Just kidding. It seems like the question may contain the answer? Just practice playing a light and as gently as possible until you create permanent (habitual) change... might take a few years.. chances are, if you play the palm keys too hard, you're playing the whole horn to hard.

Thank you! As I do this, do you recommend bracing the horn with the right hand at all? I play alto to the side of my right leg using a BG strap if that makes any difference. Alex"

 I would recommend playing the horn straight in front of your body while standing- aligned with the spine as much as possible (this is how my Alexander teacher taught me), elbows slightly out - so that the wrists are straight, no support from the hands at all if possible, balance the horn by resting it on your waist... just my 2 cents... what does Dave think? He plays alto, I don't own one :(

DCV: That sounds about right Matt. When I'm playing while sitting I always play holding the horn between my legs, which seems to keep my spine straighter.


Unknown said...

Palm key risers perhaps? Just a thought, but it might not be an issue on your horn. If the keys are too low, risers would eliminate extra travel to activate the keys, and thus reduce inertia from your hand. Vintage horns especially tend to have low palm keys. I like them to be as close to resting position of my palm as possible without hitting them accidentally.

Dan Perez said...

Hi, Alex! Good question, man. I have perpetual trouble getting my palm keys clean, too. Thanks to matt and David for the helpful answers. Al, drop me a line when you get back on land, man! It's been too long.