The lowest note on Alto Saxophone is the the written low Bb note (B flat) which translates to a Db concert pitch. So, as an example: If you play low Bb on alto sax and a Db on a piano, it will sound the same.
I've taught 100's of saxophone students over the years and there's a common theme when it comes to playing the low notes. If you do not develop a good embouchure and use a steady air flow, it will be hard to play low notes on your sax.
In my experience, learning how to play the lowest notes with control is usually something you would start getting into during the 2nd or 3rd year as a saxophone beginner.
It all depends on how much time you put into practicing the basic skills on you saxophone. If you stay consistent and play saxophone excersices that ar tailored to strengthen your embouchure and tone control you could be playing a good sounding low Bb within a year.
It's one thing to hit the low Bb “kinda” right, but I'm talking about playing the note with full control as a saxophone pro would.
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How to play low Bb on Alto Sax
Playing low Bb on your saxophone requires a great deal of control. You need to use steady air flow and good embouchure, so that your low B flat will come out loud and clear.
Watch this video where I cover how to play low B flat on alto sax in more detail:
You'll be using both hands to play the low Bb note on saxophone. Fingering all main keys on the front of the sax and also adding pinky keys in order to complete the fingering.
Check out this article about playing low Bb note on your saxophone if you want to dig deeper.
The lowest note on Alto saxophone?
I common terms the low B-flat is referred to as the lowest note on saxophone in general. That includes the four main saxophones in the saxophone family. The Soprano, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Sax and Baritone sax. However, the Baritone saxophone often have a low A key as well. At least if it's a well known saxophone brand and it was produced after the 1980's.
Subtone for low notes on saxophone
The characteristics of the low B flat note can be altered by a skilled sax player. It takes practice and control, but one thing that sets a pro player apart from a saxophone beginner is the sound throughout the saxophone.
This becomes more evident in the low register as it requires you to be controlling the air to produce a solid low note on your saxophone.
The “subtoning” technique on saxophone involves producing a breathy, almost whispered tone that is extremely quiet and subdued. This is close to impossible for a beginner (by will) as it requires you to blow the air slowly through the saxophone mouthpiece in a steady flow just to make the reed vibrate.
A subtone is soft and soothing to the ear and hard for the player to achieve. It's one of those things where the listener enjoys it and the sax player fights it in order to keep the subtone going.
In my experience it takes a really good saxophone embouchure to play subtones with ease on your saxophone. But it's a nice effect and if you are into playing jazz saxophone this will be a nice addition in your toolbox for creating interesting saxophone solos and melodies.
The biggest and lowest sounding saxophone
Maybe you've heard about the most common types of saxophones like the Alto Saxophone and the Tenor Saxophone. But did you know that there are a total of ten different saxophones in the saxophone family?
That's kind of wild when you think about it. However, there are really only four saxophone models that are mainstream these days. That being said, the biggest and lowest sounding saxophone is the Contrabass Saxophone. You find it on the “Less known types of Saxophone”-list and they are rare to find.
Playing the Contrabass Sax requires a pretty massive air flow as the saxophone is so big. I've played the Baritone Saxophone in a few big bands and even that sax model requires plenty of air. So I can only imagine how much air you need to put through the Contrabass sax in order to make a sound.
Why can't I play low notes on saxophone?
The most common issues when it comes to playing the low notes on saxophone has to do with at least one of these things:
A Bad Saxophone Reed:
Having a bad reed on your saxophone mouthpiece can really ruin your day. I've probably gone through $10 000 in saxophone reeds over the past 35 years of being a saxophone player. You need to make sure that the reed is wet and without any cracks or other damages in order to produce a solid saxophone tone.
Lack of air support and low airflow:
When playing the saxophone, it is important that you maintain a steady stream of air into the instrument. Without it there will be no (or a bad) tone. In order to play the lowest Bb on an Alto saxophone you must have strong breath control and provide a solid air support with each note played.
Using the Wrong Embouchure:
The most important thing when it comes to producing a low note on saxophone is having the right embouchure. Your embouchure plays a major role in how well you can control your sound and your air flow. The trick here is to make sure that your lips are tight around the mouthpiece but still allowing enough air to pass through the reed. If you are having trouble with this, consult a professional teacher or saxophone player who can give you some advice on how to adjust your embouchure accordingly.
In addition, make sure not to blow too hard as this will make it harder for you to control your sound and airflow. It’s important that you take time in finding the perfect balance between blowing too hard and not enough. It takes a good embouchure and air support in order to easily play the low notes on saxophone. With practice and dedication, you will be able to master the low notes.
Practicing long notes throughout the entire register of your saxophone helps you develop you embouchure and that makes a huge difference when it comes to playing the lower notes on your saxophone.
If you make this a daily habbit you will see great results in just a few weeks so keep practicing and you'll see.
Over blowing into the mouthpiece:
One of the common issues you may face as a saxophone player is over blowing into the mouthpiece. Over blowing occurs when you blow too hard into the mouthpiece, resulting in a harsh loud sound with poor tone quality and also potentially hurt your mouth. When you over blow into the mouthpiece, the sound tends to become shrill and lack richness.
Over time, this constant physical strain can lead to cuts, sores, and blisters around the lips, as well as general discomfort. To avoid over blowing and hurting your mouth, you should focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths and avoid the temptation to blow too hard into the mouthpiece. Instead, focus on proper airflow and controlling the sound, which will ultimately enhance the tone quality of the saxophone.
In conclusion, over blowing into the saxophone mouthpiece will negatively impact your sound quality and potentially harm your mouth over time. Therefor, you need to focus on proper airflow and control which will ultimately improve your playing experience.
Not blowing enough air through the saxophone mouthpiece: If you don't blow enough air through the mouthpiece it will not make the reed vibrate and produce any sound.
That's why it's so important that you learn how to handle your sax reeds, especially as a beginner. As long as you've got a good playable reed on your mouthpiece, the best way to get a good sax sound is to make sure your are blowing enough air through the instrument when playing.
It's one of those things you cannot learn from text or a video. You need to practice your own saxophone to figure out the correct amount of air that you need. It will sound awful at times and that is fine. It's all a part of becoming a better sax player.
Just make sure that you take slow, deep breaths and then relax your abdominal muscles so that all of the air comes out of your lungs. When you yawn your throat opens up more and that's the “openness” you should be aiming for in your throat in order to get a rich and full saxophone tone.
Not covering the right keys with the fingering: This is pretty self explanatory but still a common issue especially among beginners.
I get it. There's a lot to focus on at the same time and pushing extra keys by accident do happen from time to time. Especially the palm keys in your left hand and the side keys in your right hand. If you find yourself not being able to play a note you can check to make sure you're not adding any other keys by mistake. Use a mirror and look at you finger positions. That makes it easier to spot other keys being opened or covered by mistake.
Will the lowest note on alto saxophone come easy?
Yes, eventually it will come easy on your saxophone. When you've mastered the basics and figured out how to handle your reeds, embouchure, breathing and controlling your tone it will all come together.
There are no shortcuts here. You need to focus on the basics and keep practicing your saxophone. That's the only way you will develop the tone control you need in order to play both the lowest note on your alto saxophone and the highest note as well. It's all tied together.
Keep practicing and remember to have fun playing your saxophone. Play on! ~Greger