Dec 16

The importance of level teeth and saxophone tone

Level and even teeth affect the alignment of your head and neck, pressure on your reed, and the chamber size in your mouth.

Upper teeth that are not level can cause your head to tilt on your mouthpiece, which can create problems in your neck, back, and jaw. Tilting your head also puts more pressure on one side of the reed, restricting it from vibrating.  Likewise, your reed will be restricted if your lower teeth are not level and even.

We intuitively make adjustments with our throat, jaw, and embouchure to compensate for the sound produced from a restricted reed, which in turn affects our pitch, tone, and attack.

Talk to your dentist if you have concerns.  Explain how your teeth affect your playing. If you feel you need to make changes, do so by small degrees.  Take the precaution in having 3D images taken and a stone cast made of your teeth.  You may need these if you damage your teeth or have work done on your teeth.  Finally, be careful not have anything done that would unnecessarily change your bite or jaw movement.

You spend years developing your playing.  Give some attention to your teeth.


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Dec 10

David Liebman on the Compositional Style of Joe Henderson

I have been in the process of revamping my website, and it has been a while since my last post. Here is an excellent article by David Liebman on the compositional style of Joe Henderson.

Click here for the article:

David Liebman on the Compositions of Joe Henderson

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Jun 20

Finger Efficiency

Speed is always a subject for saxophone players.  How can we learn to play faster?

Here is something to consider when you are working on your finger technique.  Keys close (side keys open) at the speed that your fingers press the keys.  But, the keys come back at the speed of the springs. For that to happen, our fingers need to let go of pressing the keys.  Many players lift their fingers instead of letting go, which not only requires a lot more effort but also can be slower than the spring action.  You can tell if you are lifting your fingers if you see them rising off the pearls of the keys.

All you need to do is to quickly and lightly press the key and completely let it go. Gently practice doing this with each finger until you get the hang of it. The simplicity of pressing and letting go can be elusive at first. In the end, this will reduce the effort in your hands and increase the speed of your finger technique.


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May 03

Warm up, Part 1

I usually find myself addressing how students warm-up.  Most saxophone players typically don’t give warming-up much thought. But, without it we can develop bad habits and setup ineffective practice sessions.

Generally, warm-ups start with no brainer type things and progress to more specific and demanding things. Warming-up is not practice.  It is not supposed to be attractive or perfect.

First, you need get your air moving and throat relaxed.  Without the saxophone, take a big breath and exhale fully.  A lung full of air takes ½ second to exhale without pushing.  If it takes longer, you are restricting your breath.  Do this several times, pausing between breaths so that you do not hyperventilate.

Then, play breath attacks with a lot of air.  The tone should sound like it is accented, but without changing the air speed (“fffffff – Ahhhh).  It is very important to move a lot of air.  Start on a middle B and work your way down to a low Bb. Then work your way from middle B up to a high D.  Don’t worry about making an attractive tone.  The sound should be raw and brash.  You also might find that you are playing flatter.  That’s OK.  Let it be flat for now. I’ll write more on this later.

I will post more warm-up in upcoming weeks. Stay tunes.  Tell your friends, because this is stuff that will automatically improve your playing.

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Apr 03

The aesthetics of good health

In our ambition to achieve what we want we are willing to use much more effort than is needed. Unnecessary effort usually leads to ineffective performance and fatigue.  This can lead to discomfort, pain and even injury. When we hurt, we focus most of our attention on getting rid of the pain or injury, and forget that it was the lack of clarity that got us into trouble. It is important to remember that healthy playing begins with an aesthetic question. What do we want, and how clear are we in realizing what we want?

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Dec 03

Bob’s Rules

When I was young, I had the good fortune to study saxophone with Bob Rainger.  Like many musicians at the time, Bob made his living freelancing. He had a number of axioms on how to live in the world, which he would refer to in any given situation.  These simple phrases spoke to quality, integrity, and practicality.


Bob’s Rules


  1. Every note has a tone.
  2. Think for yourself.
  3. Who cares?
  4. Who needs it?
  5. … and, everybody’s happy.


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Sep 09

Music is a What and When Question

What do you play and when do you play it?  Without one there is not the other.  It is like catching a bus. You have to be at the bus stop when the bus stops.  Otherwise, there is no bus.

Likewise, a note placed at the wrong moment creates an incomplete sound.  Literally, there is no sound when there should be. The flow or time feel is interrupted, and for a brief moment, everyone is left wondering what the sound should be.  So, the placement of the note is an essential part of the sound.

When the placement is right, everyone becomes more comfortable and listens more closely. When a note is misplaced, the other musicians filter out the distracting sound and interact less openly.  Consequently, other qualities deteriorate like tuning, balance, and blend.

So, always consider WHAT you want to play and WHEN you want it to happen. Your performance will be more effective and your ensemble will interact better.

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