BC102 - Getting a good sound

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Posted by Daniel Christian on 05 Nov 20:03

A brief guide on how to make a good sound from your Saxophone.  This online beginner Saxophone video covers Saxophone Embouchure and playing on the mouthpiece/crook alone in order to make a nice sound.  There is also a troubleshooting section and some practise tips.

How to make your first sound a good one!

Welcome to the second online saxophone beginner lesson Bc102. 

Remember that any sound that is made from the mouthpiece itself ultimately comes out of your Saxophone.  If you can play a consistent tone on the mouthpiece alone without worrying about all of the other keys on the Saxophone then you are a good deal closer to achieving a great tone from your Saxophone.


Saxophone Embouchure refers to mouth shape and within this we have many factors that influence the way the Saxophone sounds.  Things to be aware of at this stage are you Tongue, your throat, lips and facial muscles.  Don't get too bogged down with really trying to control all of these muscles and body parts for now but try to be aware of whats happening.  When you make your first sound on the Saxophone you really need to ask yourself why certain things might be happening and when you do achieve a constant sound: What did you do?


You don't need anything other than a Mouthpiece to start doing this exercise but a good chromatic tuner would be useful to help you see exactly whats happening when you blow on the mouthpiece alone.  I refer to certain pitches that should be made from the mouthpiece and crook alone if you are doing everything right, this is a good way to see if you are squeezing too tight/loose and in order to see these you should get hold of a Chromatic tuner if you don't already have one:

Clip on tuner


There are various types of Saxophone Embouchure that we can use and also various ways to clamp around the Saxophone Mouthpiece.  I suggest you start with my embouchure and as you improve start to experiment.  This is my own tried and tested method on hundreds of students, it works well.  

Inward Lip

Start by pulling your bottom lip in slightly (Not TOO far!!) then place your finger on your bottom lip to check where it is solid, this is the platform upon which we will rest the mouthpiece.  Imagine taking a ruler on the corner of a table and "twanging" it.  The further towards the end of the ruler you place the pivot the less of the ruler will vibrate and vice versa.  This is exactly the same with the Saxophone Reed and the pivot that you have just created.  Envisage the Saxophone Reed as a ruler that you are "twanging" with air pressure.  You want to place the mouthpiece in your mouth so that your bootom lip (pivot point) is at the perfect position down the reed.  

This perfect reed position is the point at which you can no longer see a gap between the reed and mouthpiece if you look at the mouthpiece and reed from a side profile.  Why? Because the right amount of the Reed can now vibrate freely, if you go too close to the end, just like with the ruler, you won't get many vibrations.  Remember: 

  • Too much mouthpiece = Too many vibrations (Squeaking likely!)
  • Too little mouthpiece = Too few vibrations (a "strangled" sound)

Your first sound...

Exercise One

After you have curled in your bottom lip place the mouthpiece in, put your top teeth on the top of the mouthpiece and pull in the corners of your mouth   >O< then all I want you to do is blow softly but don't SQUEEZE.  Hold in the corners of your mouth so that all of the air you exhale goes through the mouthpiece can you make just air noise through your mouthpiece, not a squeak?

A quick note on breathing on Saxophone:  Make sure you NEVER remove your teeth or bottom lip from the Saxophone Mouthpiece when you breathe in.  We breathe in through the corners of our mouth while our top and bottom teeth remain in position.  Imagine grinning while the inhale through the corners of your mouth.  I'll cover this in more detail later on.

Once you can blow just air through the mouthpiece (with no leakage from the corners of your mouth and zero sound) pull in the corners of your mouth a little more as you blow.  As you slowly tighten the edges of your lips you should hear the high pitched sound of the mouthpiece begin to come through - yes the mouthpiece alone really DOES sound that high! :D  This is how you begin to develop control.  Practise doing this on the mouthpiece before moving onto the next exercise

Exercise Two

Blow firmly through the mouthpiece alone and hold a note for as long as you can.  Try to make a constant sound with no bumbs or wobbles in the sound, get used to how it feels to hold the mouthpiece of the Saxophone in your mouth.

Try this same exercise with the crook and mouthpiece together and be aware of the slightly difference in pressure between this and the mouthpiece alone.

Exercise Three (Tuner or Pitch reference required)

Now you can make a sound lets try and modify it to the right pitch.  it's very hard at first to tell how hard to you should be pulling in the corners of your mouth or how much mouthpiece you're putting in your mouth but with experimentation we can build muscle memory and eventually get a good sound, every time!

Blow firmly down the mouthpiece and see what pitch you achieve.

The pitches that you should, ideally, achieve from the Mouthpiece + Mouthpiece and Crook alone:

Eb Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece alone:  You should get near a Concert A

Eb Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece and Crook should play near a G#

Bb Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece alone: You should get near a G

Bb Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece and crook should play an E.

These pitches are only really for reference and they will give you an idea of whether you are squeezing too tightly/being too loose.  As a rule of thumb, if you are playing a note higher than these then you are probably squeezing too tightly or taking in too much mouthpiece.  If you are flat (playing a lower pitch than these) then you are probably putting too little mouthpiece in or slackening your jaw.  Again, this is only a guide but in the majority of cases this is the issue!

In Exercise 3 try and hold the note on the correct pitch for as long as possible. More Advanced Mouthpiece exercises coming soon :-)

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