How to Play Saxophone Like a True Pro

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Published: 20th March 2012
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Despite the fact that it’s one of the quickest instruments to initially pick up, learning to play saxophone like a pro - or even a high level student, is a whole other matter.

Improving Your Saxophone Tone

Ask just about any wonderful sax player, and they’ll tell you that the most critical area that a saxophone player must focus on is the caliber of their sound. Of all the wind instruments around, the saxophone brings with it the widest variety of sonic options. Take Stan Getz as compared to Lenny Pickett, as an example.

Let's consider just two things that you can do to step-up the level of quality of your saxophone tone:

* Practice overtones. If you finger a low Bb but blow through the horn as though you were going to play a middle Bb, you’ll notice that the middle Bb comes out sounding bigger and louder. Work to make the middle Bb fingering sound as large as the low Bb fingering. Take the exercise up in half steps as far as you can go, making use of palm key fingerings once you get to middle D as your bottom note. Don’t adjust your embouchure to get the overtone notes to come out. Consider how your throat would be if you were singing those overtone notes, and have your ear direct your throat to the proper position.

* Keep the bottom lip rolled out sufficiently so that the fleshiest part is touching the reed.

* Play with the “EE” vowel sound on your mind. This will keep your throat unobstructed.

Building up Outstanding Saxophone Technique

Although the term “technique” can apply to any part of playing an instrument, for most musicians, technique pertains to the capability to play very fast successions of notes cleanly and distinctly.

To play saxophone with great technique, here are three things you can should:

* Work with scales and arpeggios in one key at a time. It’s a lot better to perfect a scale in one key than it is to be able to play through all twelve keys in a sloppy fashion.

* Aim at hearing the music you’re playing, and not what your fingers are doing.

* Always make sure that there’s no stiffness in your neck. Stiffness in your neck creates stiffness in your shoulders, which leads to stiffness in the arms, hands, and fingers.

Working on Saxophone Articulation

Articulation is the term for the method in which we start and stop notes. We use articulation to give the melody shape and texture, otherwise you end up with what sounds like “robot music.”

Here are some ideas to help you improve your articulation on the saxophone:

* Don’t tongue the very tip of the reed, but instead touch with the tip of your tongue the point just past the tip of the reed. You can also go about half an inch to an inch back on your tongue if that’s more natural for you.

* Move the tongue up towards the reed and down away from the reed. Articulating by moving the tongue back and forth should be avoided.

Putting it All Together

Learning how to play saxophone like a pro is not something that inevitably happens just because you have a great saxophone teacher or because you read a great saxophone book.

Ultimately, the mission is to cultivate a keen ear so that, in your mind, you establish a well-defined sonic picture of what you’d like to sound like. This means listening to the best saxophone players throughout music history, and practicing with strong focus. Remember, when you're practicing, it’s not about the quantity of hours you practice, but really, it’s about the quality of your practice time.

Author Bio

Doron Orenstein is the creator of Bulletproof Saxophone Playing - a program that helps you take your saxophone playing to a whole new level. If you take the actions recommended in this comprehensive and inspiring course, you’ll play saxophone better than you over thought possible. The program features a 70-page e-book and audio interviews with Rick Margitza, Walt Weiskopf, Dr. David Demsey, and others. http://www.bulletproofsaxophoneplaying.com

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