How To Play Saxophone

Creating music is considered a talent, and this can be as simple as picking up an instrument and looking to the right sources for guidance. For saxophone, a source such as this one is a good place to start.
The saxophone is a complicated instrument, with a lot of keys and buttons and a mouthpiece that if used without proper technique, might not be playable at all. This makes you wonder about the magic of being able to use such an instrument. The basis of playing this instrument relies on a few things: being able to identify music, proper mouth position, and proper finger positions. The simplest of the three is finger positions; an internet search will yield many charts of “fingerings,” or finger positions. Therefore, other than this guide, there are many helpful tools on the internet. As both of these topics could take several articles to describe, and reading music is something that could also be found relatively easily online, I will explain the hardest issue, mouth positioning. The term for mouth positioning for an instrument is embouchure and consists of a few basic principles: creating a seal, harboring tone, and maintaining air.

In order for the mouthpiece to sound, you must create a seal around it, so that you do not leak air when trying to use the instrument. The easy part is pulling your lips in to form the seal, but while doing so you must also position your bottom lip to allow the reed to vibrate. As the reed’s vibrations cause the instrument to sound, you cannot restrict its movement with your teeth or lip. Your bottom lip must be taut and supported by your bottom teeth in order to be able to play for any period of time. While keeping your jaw relaxed, say ee, as in the end of see. This allows your bottom lip to gain tension, the feeling you ultimately want. Immediately after this, say u, as in the end of you. This will bring the edges of your lips together. When transitioning to the u sound, make sure to keep the tension of the bottom lip intact by rolling it back onto your bottom teeth. When you have done this, you will have proper embouchure. This can be modified slightly to fit your body and the shape of the mouthpiece, but it should be extremely similar. Once your mouth is in the proper position, you may insert the mouthpiece, placing your top teeth on top of the mouthpiece (not pressing hard, but enough to keep a slight grip) and your bottom lip up against the reed, pulling in the corners of your lips to form the seal.

The next part to playing is harboring proper tone. Though it is based on individual preference, there are a few factors that help determine tone: how much of mouthpiece you are using, how tight your jaw is, and how your cheeks are positioned. How much mouthpiece you have in your mouth determines how much control you have and how much room the reed has to vibrate. The less of the mouthpiece you have in your mouth, the more control you generally have over the instrument, while the more you have in the easier it is to create sound. The reason it is an issue: the sound of the instrument is produced by the vibrating reed, and the only part that is vibrating is the part of the reed that is inside your mouth. If you do not have enough in, it will be difficult or impossible to produce sound at all, but if you have too much in you will have no control over the reed or the sound. As a safe average starting point, the mouthpiece should be between a quarter and a third of the way in your mouth. You can adjust it to your personal preference but that is a safe starting point to learn and practice. Along with this, the jaw needs the right tightness. A tight jaw produces a sharper tone, and a loose jaw produces a flatter tone. With some notes and phrases you are supposed to change jaw tightness to better control or produce a better tone, but for most phrases you should have your jaw tight enough that you grip the mouthpiece and no more. Adjust the tightness for notes and your individual build and style. Lastly, the cheek positioning is also a matter of personal preference. When the cheeks are flattened out, it allows the airstream to be more direct, keeping it constant. All adjustments to hit different notes are made by the diaphragm. When the cheeks are puffed out, the air stream is also controlled by the cheeks, changing the way you make notes sound. The ideal choice is to have flattened cheeks, but again this is up to the individual. Whatever you find fits your habits and style best, use it. When all of these factors are combined in a working manner, you then harbor the proper tone for what you are playing.

Finally, you must maintain your air. It will be difficult at first, as your body is not used to doing this, much less for long periods of time. A lot of air, known as breath support, is necessary to keep your playing audible and sounding good. While some instruments and notes require a different amount of air, all of them require large quantities in order to sound clear and precise. If you do not use enough air, then your notes will sound bad, and you will not be able to hit many of them. With practice, you will learn how much breath support you will need. With this, when you are breathing, make sure to push with the diaphragm. It may seem odd at first, but after some practice your diaphragm will grow accustomed to it and become stronger, making playing easier and more enjoyable.

As long as you have proper embouchure, you are able to harbor a good tone, and maintain your breath support, you are in better shape than many players. This is the key to successful playing and playing that you and your loved ones will enjoy forever.

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