Have you ever wondered how to play the sax better than you currently do? There’s always room for improvement, even if you’re a professional. Musicians play music because they deep hardheartedly love it, but we all need to start somewhere and there’s always a drive inside of us to improve our performance. We believe that the saxophone is one of the best instruments to learn. If you’re looking for some tips and ideas to make your time on the saxophone better and more fun, here’s a list just for you!
Looking to Improve Your Sax Playing?
Sometimes we need to get back to the basics. The old fundamentals our music teacher used to call them. Like anything in life, you have to master the fundamentals in order to become really good at whatever it is you want. The saxophone is no different. That’s why we wanted to put it all on the line for you. Do not underestimate this top 10 tips to improve your sax playing.
#1: Look at your fingering chart constantly
Put your chart where you can see it every day. This will help you remember some of the high notes that you may forget if they aren’t in the music pieces you are practicing with. A great idea would be to put your fingering chart by your bed. That way you can see it before you go to bed and after you wake up every day. If you don’t have a fingering chart by now, purchase one immediately!
#2: Make sure you wet your reed before playing
One of the first things you should always do when you pull your saxophone out of your case is pop the reed you want to use in your mouth, then keep it there as you assemble the sax together. Keeping your reed wet before you play helps your reed vibrate more efficiently, and it’s consistent from the moment you play until the end.
#3: Choose a position and stick with it
There are a couple positions to play the saxophone in. Obviously it depends on who taught you and how you were taught. You can either hold the instrument between your legs or to the right side of your legs. Neither is better than the other and it all just depends on your personal preference. We recommend you try both methods and get a feel for which one you like better.
There are a few different types of saxophones that you may be using. If you are an alto player, make sure you have the best alto saxophone that fits your budget and skill level. Higher quality saxophones are lighter and can really help improve the consistency with the position you like the most.
If you change your position technique all the time, you won’t master one position and thus hurting your ability to play at a high level. The angles at which your fingers hit the notes change when you switch positions. What you should be focused on is perfecting the vibrato and tone, not switching positions constantly.
#4: Make Sure You Tighten Up Your Ligature
If you have ever gotten a terrible sounding bubbly noise (kind of sounds like water under your reed) then your ligature most likely needs to be tightened. That awful sound can ruin any piece of music you try to play. In addition, we all know how incredibly hard it can be to stop in the middle of a piece. In conclusion, turn your ligature joint an extra half turn next time before you play, it can make a gigantic difference.
In other instances, you could have an outdated ligature. First, we recommend tightening the ligature and if that doesn’t work then it’s probably time for a new one. If you think this is the case there are some excellent ligature products on the market right now.
#5: Improve Your Posture When Playing
Time to get back to the fundamentals and improve your playing posture. It goes back to the days where you were taught to sit up straight and tall when playing your sax. In fact, it’s true with any instrument you play. The better posture you have and continue to use, the better and more consistent you will play.
Your posture may be different depending on which sax you play. The tenor is a little bigger than the other ones, so you’ll need to be strong and really sit up straight. Be sure you invest in the best tenor saxophone that fits your budget and skill level.
When you sit up straight, your body can respond better and has more room to expand. This means you will have the ability to play longer and more powerful notes. In addition, you will be able to play stronger vibrato and tone.
#6: Get in the habit of Cite-Reading
As we begin our journey as musicians, we tend to try and learn the piece of music by playing it over and over until we master it. Cite-reading has taken off in the music industry as more and more musicians are starting to go that route.
To be able to cite-read, and then play that piece very well, shows that person has a musical talent. There is a way you can get better, just like everything else, through practice. If you change your habits and start cite-reading every piece you come across, you will get better at it.
The next time you start breaking down the music measure by measure, catch yourself. Now, try cite-reading. Expand your music horizon. It becomes fun once you get the hang of it. Get in the habit of doing it daily and you will be able to stretch your music muscles beyond belief.
#7: Use a neck strap (or a better one)
If you think using a neck strap doesn’t help your playing ability on the saxophone, you’re dead wrong. Most of the time, we stand up when we play the saxophone, unless you’re in a concert band. It is vitally important to use a neck strap when you stand and play. It will give you more ability to efficiently use your fingers more swiftly as is causes your body to relax and focus on the notes. There are plenty of high quality neck straps that you can pick up on amazon or at your nearest music store. With that being said, we highly recommend a padded neck strap, preferably a newer model.
#8: Get the Correct level of Hardness of the read you use
The last thing you want to do is have to push harder to play your saxophone. Sometimes this happens after you took some time off playing and then whip out the sax out of the case and try to play your favorite song. Even your favorite reed can get “stiff” on you. At least that’s what most saxophone players think.
In reality, your embouchure got weaker over time. On the flip side, if you build up strength with your embouchure, you’ll need a higher strength reed that can handle the way you can blow into the mouthpiece and reed. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and how it corresponds with the strength of the reed so you can produce the optimal level tone you always dreamed.
#9: Commit to using high quality reeds
Don’t be cheap, invest in high quality reeds! While we realize that was almost a good rhyme, we want it to serve the purpose of hitting home that high quality reeds will make a big difference in your playing ability.
What is a high quality reed?
Reeds that are made of cane or other natural materials are considered high quality reeds. We do not recommend fiberglass reeds. If you stick with cane, you’ll get a better tone and control over your sax.
#10: Play with rooms that have great lighting
Hard to do anything in the dark, wouldn’t you say? Even if it’s dim, you have a harder time reading music and really concentrating. Invest in good lighting, or use a room that has the resources. If you don’t have the funds to purchase a great lighting system, use natural light. After all, sunlight is the best light. If you play at night, use a lamp, just be sure that it is close enough where it sheds light on the most important places.
Get Professional Saxophone Tutelage
This article was meant to acknowledge the importance of fundamentals, and give out some tips that may have slipped your mind. We all want to get better at playing the saxophone and it starts with mastering the basics. However, if you do all of these tips all the time, and you still want to improve, then we highly recommend paying for lessons.
Today, you can find amazing teachers online and it allows for you to practice and go at your own pace anytime you want. You’ll have to be self-motivated though, as no one will be there pushing you to log on and complete lessons. We did an entire Artist Works Saxophone Lessons by Eric Marienthal review, which we highly recommend reading before diving in to his courses.
Now that you have all the tips you need to become a better saxophone player, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty and start practicing. Remember, practice with good habits and stick with it. Commit to mastering the fundamentals.