Sigurd M. Rascher
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by Jason Adams

The publication of Rascher’s three editions of Top-Tones for the Saxophone were 1941, 1962, and 1977 respectively. As the latest edition is more than twenty years old, the suggested fingerings were not tested on many of the modern saxophones used today. The fingering chart is not specific to a particular member of the saxophone family.

Rascher deals primarily with tone development and overtone exercises before introducing altissimo fingerings, making it an overtone based method. Top-Tones is filled with explanations concerning tone character, tone imagination, overtones and altissimo fingerings.

Rascher begins his method by explaining the concept of maintaining uniformity of tone character and volume on all notes, and that the ability to control tone production within the standard range is essential to the development of a useful altissimo register. Rascher’s concept of “tone imagination” suggests that while playing a note on the saxophone, one is to internally imagine all aspects of the following note. This information is unique to Rascher’s method, and particularly useful in helping a saxophonist develop the oral cavity reflexes necessary to voicing notes in the altissimo register. The desired result is that the saxophonist will be more prepared for the following note, thus improving its accuracy and quality.

Rascher then proceeds to explain the benefits of playing overtones on the saxophone. “The student will find it very difficult to produce any tone above ‘top F’ with the fingerings indicated on page nineteen if the natural overtones have not been studied” (Rascher 1941). Rascher’s final explanatory section discusses the suggested fingerings on page nineteen. Rascher stresses that these are not the only possible fingerings for tones higher than ‘top F’ (Rascher 1941). He also notes that saxophonists set themselves up for failure in achieving altissimo note production by neglecting or omitting the [proceeding] exercises (Rascher 1941).

In the first section of Top-Tones for the Saxophone, Rascher includes exercises which develop tone character, tone imagination, and the production of overtones. Following the section containing altissimo note fingerings, Rascher ends his method with pitch/tone quality exercises.

For some readers, Rascher’s method may be moderately difficult to comprehend. For example, in Rascher’s section on tone imagination (p. 8), the reader is instructed to play a note on the saxophone and consciously “imagine” a different tone in his or her mind. This concept may be difficult for some readers to understand since it is not tangible. Also, a reader may not have previous aural training in music and/or lacks sharp aural acuity. In this way, a reader lacking these skills may find tone imagination to be a difficult concept to understand and master. An advanced student already developing oral cavity flexibility would find Rascher’s method book most useful. A student at this level may be more apt to comprehend the method’s explanations, preparatory exercises, and overall concept of the book.

Altissimo: Comparing Saxophone Altissimo Books
by Jason Adams
published in MayJune 2002 Saxophone Journal
Vol. 26, No. 5

© 2002, all rights reserved, international copyright secured
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