Learn how to play Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone. Online tutorial.

Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone

Written by Greger Hillman, Saxophone teacher and music educator

In this guide you'll learn how to use the Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone, which is a popular effect that adds another layer of intensity to your sax solo.

Fair warning, this can be addictive. Once you learn the Altissimo Glissando effect on your saxophone you will most likely overuse it in the beginning and I don't blame you. Done right, it can take your saxophone solos to the next level.

I personally like to use the Altissimo Glissando (“The Siren”) on pop, rock and funk solos. It does take some time to master but when you do it's a lot of fun.

What is the Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone?

It's a way to move through the altissimo register with out any sharp edges between the altissimo notes, also referred to as playing “slurred” without tonguing any note. Instead, the notes are tied together creating a rising pitch in a smooth legato bend.

What notes should I use for the Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone?

This depends on what altissimo fingerings you are using and if you are playing alto sax or tenor sax.

However, if you are using the standard fingering for Altissimo G on your Saxophone then it will be the best starting note when you want to have the longest glissando effect.

Keep in mind that you don't have to make the Glissando from altissimo G all the way up to Altissimo D on your sax. You will have to make adjustments so that it fits the key you are playing in.

That being said, if you are aiming for the most effect and “wow”-feeling from the audience more is better.

Should I Play the Altissimo Glissando Slow or Fast on my Sax?

This will be dictated by the music you are playing and the overall effect you are looking for. I found it to have the most musical impact when I play the altissimo glissando fairly slowly even though it's harder to keep smooth compared to bending the notes faster.

How do I learn to play the Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone?

Playing in the altissimo register consistently on your Saxophone, hitting every note every time, requires a solid Saxophone Embouchure. That also include having great tone control, air support and practicing overtones on your saxophone.

You can look at this like an athlete. The athlete needs to build stamina and endurance in order to perfect the technique required to perform at a top level.

Playing in the Altissimo Register on Saxophone consistently requires the same level of dedication and practice.

It's a lot of work but based on my experience it is totally worth it when you are able to rip out a Altissimo Glissando in your sax solo that will turn heads of your fellow musicians as well as make the crowd go wild.

It's a very cool feeling!

How to avoid failed Altissimo Glissandos on Sax

The most common reason for failing an attempted Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone is the lack of tone control and fingerings. You need to practice this methodically in order to truly master the Altissimo Register overall.

Practicing Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone

This starts with learning the basics which means a solid tone, air support and a strong embouchure. These are the key pillars to the foundation you need to perfect your altissimo register on Saxophone.

That means working on your long tones, saxophone scales and etudes while keeping a consistent air flow.

In addition to that you should be practicing the altissimo fingerings, to make sure you are just as comfortable with them as with the G major scale fingering on you saxophone.

Protip: Practice the fingerings without playing. This will help you develop your muscle memory, which makes it so much easier to play the altissimo notes as you can turn your focus to the embouchure when you know the fingerings well.

Common mistakes playing the Altissimo Glissando on Saxophone

I remember when I first learned the glissando effect back in 2000. It was a pivital moment for my musical carrer and I felt like I had just unlocked a big secret.

I've seen many of my saxophone students experience the same thing as they hit the altissimo notes for the first time. It' super cool.

That being said, playing in the altissimo register can become addictive which potentially can cause issues if you over use it.

I'm not referring to the musical over use but rather the physical limitations of your embouchure.

I unfortunately learned this the hard way as I went on a altissimo practice nerd trip for 3 weeks straight which caused me to get jaw pain, back pain and it also affected my overall sax sound in the normal register on the saxophone.

I recovered, learned from my mistakes and I want to make sure you do not have to go through the same thing.

Based on that, my recommendation is that you make altissimo notes part of your weekly practice routine instead of your daily practice routine.

That way you give your body, lips and embouchure time to recover from the use of that added pressure to the embouchure you need to play in the altissimo register.

This way you are building a solid foundation which is needed to perfect the altissimo glissando as well as the altissimo notes in general.

Saxophone teacher online Greger Hillman

Written by Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher with +36 years of experience playing saxophone. 

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