Getting the right set up of mouthpiece and reed is essential to good sax playing.There are a huge variety of saxophones, mouthpieces and reeds out there, so it's well worth getting a qualified person to help you out with the right set up.
There are however some things you can check for yourself :
- The reed should be centred squarely on the mouthpiece
- The tip of the reed should be level with the tip of the mouthpiece
- You may find adjusting the ligature slightly up or down improves the air movement through the reed.
- Draw the lower lip back over the teeth
- Rest the reed lightly on the lower lip
- Make sure the jaw muscles are relaxed
- The upper teeth rest gently on the mouthpiece - without biting!
We're going to try to make our very first note with the sax now. You don't need to press down any of the keys - it's just a simple matter of controlling your mouth and lungs.
With the mouth positioned as outlined earlier, now place the tip of your tongue on the tip of the reed and in a gentle 'spitting' motion, draw it backwards, releasing air into the instrument.
The air blows over the reed, causing it to vibrate and (hopefully) producing a tone!
What to do if it doesn't work
- First off - be patient!
- Blow a little harder - if you blow too soft, the reed will not vibrate.
- If you make nothing but squeaks, try slightly adjusting your mouth muscles, watching and listening for any improvements.
Take a deep breath before each note and try to hold it for as long as possible.
Learning how to control your breath is crucial to good saxophone playing.
When you breath in, the air should fill the lower reaches of the lungs first. You should be able to feel your abdomin swelling up as you breath in. Most importantly - do not let your shoulders rise as you breath.
The main thing to learn about breathing out is being able to control the speed at which the air is exhaled.
Exercise playing long notes
- Play long notes with full breaths. Do not strain at the end, but remain relaxed.
- When the note has finished, inhale fully and play the same note again.
- Once you have practised this a few times repeat the exercise starting very soft and increasing in volume to the end of the note. Try to time the increase so that you don't arrive too soon at the loud note.