Sax on the Web Forum banner

Beginner Tonguing Question

2539 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Pete Thomas
Hi everyone,

Since I can't see into people's mouths, maybe somebody can explain to me a tonguing problem I'm having. [Before we get into it, my first lesson is in 3 weeks. Until then, I'm trying on my own to get as much basic stuff as I can to at least a beginner level.]

On my baritone sax, the mouthpiece is big and it gets pretty deep into my mouth. To tongue it at all, I'm been anchoring my tongue to my bottom teeth and arching up to catch the reed tip. This also catches the roof of my mouth, and I know that I have the air pressure behind that tongue wall. When I do this, I can get a (relatively) clean start on demand across the range of the baritone.

This seems to be a lot "more tongue" than people call for. It completely stalls the airflow behind my tongue, but that seems to work. Yet, when I read or listen, everyone says that you don't need to seal off the saxophone. If I don't seal off the sax, however, I'll get that "breathing into a saxophone noise" and the tone starts whenever it feels like it.

Should I continue to use this tonguing method, as I suspect I should, or is there something I'm missing here? Do you hold the air column back with your tongue as you enter a note, or is there a timing issue I need to perfect to coordinate the arrival of the air column and the removal of my tongue perfectly?
1 - 2 of 7 Posts
It has been a while, and for any absolute newcomers with the same problem, I'll share what I found to fix the problem.

First, I took my teacher's advice to heart and ignored tounging until I had (within reason) gotten my pitch stable and with stable intonation across both registers. For me, that took getting really deep on the mouthpiece for about a week, then gradually loosening up and moving back out to a spot that was actually far closer to the tip than before. The tone was stable, and it took only the smallest of changes to move the problematic notes on my bari.

Once I was sure of where the mouthpiece belonged for me (this is more personal than anyone can put into words I suspect), I added tonguing practice to my routines. I concentrate on two things: Consistent air and using the smallest possible area of my tongue to the tip of the reed. That tends to be a bit behind the tip for me with my Gene Simmons-esque tongue, but your mileage may vary. Keeping the tongue to a minimum is my constant battle right now, but it is getting better by leaps and bounds.

Thanks to everyone with their helpful advice. My next battle is keeping the second octave G & G# stable (every other note from top to bottom is within 3 cents when I'm fresh, but G goes way sharp and then prefers to growl between octaves or jump to a higher harmonic. A harder reed immediately fixes that, but I'm still working on my chops for playing anything harder than a rico orange 2.5 consistently)

Thanks again.
See less See more
1 - 2 of 7 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.