Learn to Play Sax by Ear Using the 5 Notes of the Pentatonic Scale

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This lesson is about the saxophone embouchure which is everything that’s going on with your mouth when you’re playing the saxophone.

It’s very important to get this right from the beginning as Incorrect technique and bad habits can cause you some big problems and long term difficulties.

Watch the video below to learn the basic saxophone embouchure:

MOUTHPIECE AND GEAR USED IN THIS VIDEO:

**Vandoren v16 alto sax A6 small chamber

**Vandoren Java Alto Sax Reeds strength 3 (red box)

**Vandoren Optimum Ligature Alto Sax

A list of the gear I use can be found here.

If You’re a Beginner

In the video, I demonstrate with just the mouthpiece and neck apart from the rest of the horn. If you’re a beginner, this is a great way to get started producing a good sound on your saxophone.

If you haven’t done so already, take 2 minutes right now to watch my video on how to put a reed on correctly.

Saxophone Embouchure Instructions

  1. Insert the mouthpiece into your mouth, your top teeth should touch the top of the mouthpiece and help anchor the horn in place
  2. The mouthpiece should go in to about the point where the reed meets the mouthpiece table.This is approximate. There is room to take in a bit more or less, and you can experiment to find what gets you the best results.
  3. Your bottom lip should be between your bottom teeth and the reed and act as a cushion for the reed to vibrate on.
  4. Close your mouth around the mouthpiece and reed applying firm pressure from all sides of your mouth, as though you were pulling the cord on a drawstring bag.
  5. Your bottom lip should be bunched up and fleshy.
  6. Don’t bite down too hard on the reed. Only apply firm pressure from all sides but concentrate especially on pushing the corners of your mouth inward.
  7. Take a deep breath and blow a steady stream of air through the mouthpiece and neck pushing from your diaphragm. Continue applying pressure from all sides of your mouth.
  8. Hold the note you get for as long as you can.
  9. Allow your throat to stay open and relaxed. Think of making an “ah” or “oh” sound.
  10. Repeat several times experimenting with different levels of pressure from your mouth.
  11. Reattach the neck to the horn and tighten the screw.
  12. Now practice playing long tones over the entire range of your saxophone.
  13. It is normal for the muscles in your mouth and face to get tired. You have to build up strength over time by playing everyday.
  14. You’ll notice as your embouchure tires, the corners of your mouth will pull back causing your sound to become thinner and less controlled. Don’t continue to play with a completely exhausted embouchure, as you will just develop bad habits.
  15. Take frequent short breaks as necessary. I suggest listening to music for a couple of minutes while your muscles recover to help you stay focused on your task.

I strongly recommend that all saxophone players begin every practice session by playing long tones in order to work on strengthening the embouchure, developing control, and building a beautiful sound.

In my Core Essentials Program I teach the most important warm-up exercises for saxophone players who want to improve their sound and technique.

Everyone’s physiology is different

Some people have more of an overbite and some have more of an underbite. Lip size varies from person to person, as does the configuration of our teeth, the size of our head and shape of our jaw.

Each saxophonist needs to play a lot and experiment to find “their own personal” embouchure.

The instructions I’ve given here are a broad overview that can be applied to everyone. The minute details of your embouchure will vary for each individual depending on a range of factors.

Check out the Better Sax Core Essentials Program which guides you through exactly how to get the most out of practicing Long Tones and a whole series of other sound and technique building exercises.

 

Share Your Thoughts - Please Comment Below

Thanks for reading and watching the videos. We'd love to hear from you if this information was helpful for your embouchure and saxophone playing. Please leave a comment below and tell us about your embouchure experiences.


Jay Metcalf
Jay Metcalf

is a saxophonist who has performed and recorded with some world renowned musicians including Booker T, Graham Nash, Madeleine Peyroux, Larry Klein, Ashford & Simpson, Huey Lewis, Ben Taylor, Chuck D and others. As the founder of BetterSax.com his mission is to help developing saxophone players break away from traditional music learning methods and discover a more efficient, practical and fun way to become a Better Sax player.

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    6 replies to "Saxophone Embouchure Tutorial"

    • Abel Adebusuyi

      i am a beginner of saxophone and I really want you training

    • Paul Braga

      Thanks so much,Jay. Excellent, structured tuition as always. Never really understood the point of practising long tones before, but you’ve convinced me. And I’ll be watching my embouchure in the mirror as I do them.

      • Jay Metcalf

        Thanks Paul, glad I was able to convince you…

    • Duane Benton

      I’ve been playing ever since I was young. I got away from it for a good 30 or 40 years because there was not enough money in it in my area. I purchased an Alto a number of years ago. Practice was slow to non-existent. The techniques that you are demonstrating are a great refresher and you reveal some things I never thought of or never did because when I was taught the instructor said, “This is the right wqy to do it.” So, we did it his way. Yeah, it’s breinging all the things I do as an unconcious habit back to mind. This reinforces my to know that this is the right track.

      • Jay Metcalf

        Great to hear this Duane. Glad the lessons are helping you out.

    • Duane Benton

      I beenplaying for a long time, but I took a long break. I haven’t play a sax in more than 20, but I oracticed my keyboarding and guitar skills. This is just what I was thinking of doing to get back into sax. You have made it much easier for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to practice, but now I enjoy it more and do it more. Thanks dude.

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