Articulation and Style
- When playing jazz, think of swung 8th notes as a triplet subdivision.
- Accent downbeats (not heavily, but enough to help with the time and feel). With difficult passages, this will help you maintain a steady pulse.
- Tongue with the middle of your tongue, not the very tip.
- Always touch the pearls on your keys with your fingertips; don’t let your fingers “fly” around.
- Sit with proper posture (no slouching, crossed legs, or leaning back).
- Take full breaths and control your air from your diaphragm not your chest.
- Practice everyday (even if it is only for 15 minutes).
- Blow Strong, constant, fast, full air.
Embouchure and Mouth
- Keep a firm embouchure and open your throat when you play (for jazz).
- Think in terms of voicing the notes. Sing a high note and pay attention to the shape of your throat and mouth.
- Sing a low note and do the same. Try to recreate those positions when you play low and high notes on your instrument.
- At least clean the inside of your saxophone after use if you don’t feel like cleaning the entire instrument.
- Don’t leave reeds on your mouthpiece (it ruins your reeds and your mouthpiece).
- Dry your neck and mouthpiece out after use. Wipe down the outside of your instrument, that is, unless you want the lacquer to wear.
- Take your horn in to be checked by a professional repair person every six months.
- Get too soft if used for too long.
- You can soak your reeds in mouthwash to clean them after use.
- Try rotating two or three reeds at a time to give them a longer life. It also ensures you always have a backup reed that’s already been broken in just in case.
- Listen to music as often as possible and to as many different performers as possible.
- Steal ideas from everyone – it is how you build your music vocabulary (I am not endorsing copyright infringement).
- Transcribe solos – technology now allows you to slow down songs so they are easier to learn. Take advantage of it!
- Practice with a metronome. Time is a continuum – you can’t change it, stop it, or catch up to it – so don’t try. Just keep it.
- Practice as often as possible.
- Practice things you can’t do, not things you can do.
- Practice scales – major, minor, pentatonic, blues, and chromatic (for beginners), whole tone, diminished, and augmented (for high school and college). Learn them one octave first, then play them full range and all 12 keys.
- Practice with a metronome.
- Practice arpeggios.
- Learn etudes – they help your sight reading, technique, and musicality.
Improving Your Sound
- Mouthpiece exercises – try to create a consistent tone with just your mouthpiece. Soprano pitch is C for classical, Bb for jazz, alto pitch is A for classical and F# for jazz, tenor pitch is G for classical and E for jazz, bari pitch is D for classical and Bb for jazz.
- Long tones – always play with a tuner and practice all ranges (low, high, middle).
- Vibrato – done by moving your tongue as if saying “ya-ya”. Be careful not to overuse vibrato.
- Overtones – are good for developing flexibility, voicing, intonation, and altissimo.
For the More Advanced Player
- Altissimo – initially practice this with long tones, then work it into scales, melodies and your soloing.
- Scooping – this can be done with your jaw or fingers.
- Ghosting Notes – this is when you put your tongue on the reed, but the note still speaks.
- Learn music theory. Take a class or read a book.
- Experiment with composition.
- Top-Tones for the Saxophone: Four-Octave Range by Sigurd Rascher
- Rubank Selected Studies: Saxophone
- Ferling – 48 Famous Studies
- Neihaus Jazz Conception for the Saxophone (3 levels)
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