Developing an embouchure for a great sound on soprano, alto, tenor and bari!

Developing an embouchure for a great sound on soprano, alto, tenor and bari. Just buzz on the mouthpiece only. How much mouthpiece do I use? Look at the side of the mouthpiece and look for the part where the reed stops touching the mouthpiece and you see some space between the mouthpiece and reed. Your mouth should go this far on the mouthpiece. As mentioned above top teeth on top and fold a little bit of the bottom lip over the bottom teeth using this as a cushion only don’t bite. All your pressure and support should be on your top teeth. Never bite up because it will cause response problems down low and cause the palm keys to be very sharp. Also you want to focus the corners of the mouth in and have a circular formation of the embouchure to add for support and control. The sound you want to make on the alto mouthpiece is a concert A or F# on your sax. If you have the right embouchure you should sound a concert A. If it is low you need to be more firm. If you are high then drop the jaw and focus the corners in to bring the pitch down. For soprano you want to think same approach, but with a more compact embouchure. You will want to match a concert C or use your palm key D on soprano. With tenor use a concert G and with Bari use a Concert D. The larger the instrument the more relaxed embouchure. When playing on the mouthpiece use plenty of air support because the mouthpiece is more resistent then the sax. If you do everything correctly you will find that the sax responds better for you.

The importance of long tones!!!

Playing long tones for several minutes everyday is important to developing your sound. During this time you can focus on tone, even sound throughout your range and consistancy of air support.

When I have my students play long tones starting from middle C down I have them do it in whole notes with the quartet at about 92. Then I have them listen to their sound as they are moving down diatonically keeping the tone very still with no vibration in the sound. I tell them not to move your embouchure as you change notes keeping the air consistent. After they finish I ask them if there are any notes that didn’t sound very good or was there vibrations or shaking in certain notes they were playing? Some students will have some vibration in the sound as they do long tones because their muscles in their embouchure is not developed enough yet, but continued work on long tones will eventually stabalize the tones.

Then I will have students play from middle C to High F#. If students are using enough air support and a set embouchure the sound will be consistent from bottom to top, but if not certain notes such as Middle D and the palm keys will jump out at you when played.

Long tones is the time you can focus on “your sound”. Always analyze your playing especially when you are doing long tones. If you don’t like the sound of a particular note on your sax ask yourself what can I do to make this sound better? I recommend about 20 minutes of long tones if possible or longer. Your sound is the first thing people hear and if you do not sound good you can have all the technquie possible and no one wants to listen to you.

There is another exercise I like to use with long tones. Same exercise as above, but I hold it for 8 counts starting on C. Start it niente crescendo to FF then move to the next note down and decrescendo to nothing. Then start on the note you ended with and repeat the same process. This exercise is great for developing amazing control and tone.

Bad Habits: Chest VS. Diaphragm Breathing

Some problems with tone, embouchure, breath support, intonation can all be caused by not breathing properly. First of all, put your hand over your stomach, take deep breath’s pushing your stomach in and out and not letting your chest and shoulders rise. All your breathing should be controlled through your diaphragm and no upper body movement should be made. Concentrate breathing completely from your diaphram. When you breath from your chest, your sound will be smaller, less focused and thinner sounding. Intonation will be more of a problem with added response problems. Furthermore, when you get nervous your chest tenses up, air becomes trapped in the lungs and you find yourself taking breath’s every measure. Breathing from your diaphragm will actually help relax you. Your air stream will become more focused, fuller sound, better intonation and your embouchure will be more relaxed because you’re using good air support.