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Ok, the title is aweful. Before I start, just want to say I'm writing this in order to help all the beginners that (just like me) had trouble and doubts regarding the achievement of an acceptable beginning tone, and by that I mean a good, stable tone, on which you can play the entire saxophone range (well, not entire but, you know, the "basic" saxophone range) without squeaks. I'm not going to explain how to obtain this tone, because I'm a beginner myself (started the alto sax on this year's May), and worst of all... I'm self taught. I didn't get a teacher so far because my schedule (and budget) couldn't afford one. Fortunally this will change and I'm hoping to get one this September.

So again, I'm not going to explain how to improve on the saxophone. Instead, I'm going to share how I improved on mine! (yeah, start throwing the rotten tomatoes) The reason I'm doing this is because I once too was stuck with squeeks, "lip ache", bad embouchure, and an unstable tone in the beginning, and very, very slowly, after maybe weeks of pure frustration, I started to improve, correcting myself on little mistakes. So, if you are interested, please proceed with your reading! :)

Ok, so how did I started? Bad. Problem is I didn't know I was bad in the beginning. Why? Two things: no information regarding how to play and a very untrained hear.
Only one month after I started playing did I realize I was doing my embouchure all wrong. And although it was wrong, I was already able to play songs like Summertime and When the Saints go Marching. So, this obviously showed that playing a song on the sax does not mean your embouchure is correct! =P This was when the frustration started. I had to start on ground zero, getting used to the habbit of using my lip muscles and correct air support from deep inside (diaphragm!). This is very important, because it made me stop biting my lower lip, which is a major major major mistake. I found (after developing the embouchure) that I had a stronger control of the note flow, with minimum effort.

Still, after weeks of training, I felt something was wrong. So I started doing that I should have done since the very beginning: hear a LOT of music with saxophones on it... not just hear some, hear a LOT, and hear carefully! This will save you a lot of reading believe me! After hearing a couple of songs I started "catching the kind of tone I'd want", and not only the tone but also the articulation of the notes. My sugestion for beginners is: Listen, listen, listen! Check out artists, of many genres, and once you find a style of playing that you like, pay attention to it! To how the notes are produced, how they start, how they end, what emotions they carry. Then, on the sax, try it yourself!

Now, I once read that it is highly recomended not to play with the moutpieces that come with the bought saxophones... so one day I ventured myself into spending my allowance on a new, classical moutpiece. Again, scored some points with this!
After buying it, I spent a hell of a lot of time trying to figure out why the upper register in the sax kept squeeking. And then I found out: the reed.
I was using a Vandoren Standard #2 reed, and after trying out the #2.5, I could play the upper and lower register, squeek free! Unfortunaly, the 2.5 proved too much hard on my mouth, so I kept training on the #2. Now I'm using the #2.5.

Another thing worth mentioning: buy a cheap tuner! This is essential (in my opinion) for it will help not only in tuning the instrument, but it will also help when you are practicing (say for instance, long tones). A trick I used once was to play the mouthpiece only, and blow it in until I reached the A on the tuner, but I had to reach a perfect A note in a position that would require my lip to be completly relaxed and without tension. This was my "perfect embouchure".

Sorry for this looooooooooong post =( But I really felt like sharing some info that might help anybody. Just to summarise everything:

- LISTEN: it's important to listen to a lot of saxophone playing, on records, live, on the radio... and after that, "imitate, assimilate, and innovate".
- EXPERIMENT: the mouthpiece only playing is very very important. Experiment playing it in different ways untill you find one that is confortable and effortless, and then practice that embouchure on the sax.
- GO BACK: when you find you're doing a mistake, don't think twice, go back to the beginning, and work everything again from ground zero.
- PRACTICE (duh...): i play aprox. 2 hours a day, sometimes more. I've been giving a lot on this instrument, and still I only see results months after practicing a specific something. Don't get desperate, just keep it going!

Again, I'm so sorry for the long post...
Cheers from Geckoddity!:D

Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
3,204 Posts
One more decent advice :

get a teacher (and a good one)!

I'm selftaught, and my eyes opened up after more than two years when I finally got a teacher. And had to start unlearning all those bad habits...
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