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Hi, I still find playing quietly a challenge, does anyone have any tips?
Yes. Blow less air into the horn. Coltrane once stated he had a hard time stopping playing. Miles Davis said "take the f-ing horn out of your mouth".
 

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Hi, I still find playing quietly a challenge, does anyone have any tips?
Playing quietly is a challenge for me as well, as in order to do so I tend to constrict my embouchure and weaken my breath support. This leads to a weak tone and a tendency to quiver. I'm working to do the opposite: keep my embouchure relaxed but my breath support solid and the air moving.

While it may be true that with enough skill one mouthpiece can do it all, I use different mouthpieces, reed and ligature combinations when playing in situations where a lower volume is needed, such as with my friend who plays a nylon string guitar.
 

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Yes. Blow less air into the horn. Coltrane once stated he had a hard time stopping playing. Miles Davis said "take the f-ing horn out of your mouth".
I recall the conversation between Coltrane and Davis was regarding having a difficult time ending a solo.

To the OP: The challenge for many players is maintaining the requisite support while reducing the air pressure they produce. It's tough to do that and maintain good tone.

Don't forget to practice playing at greater volume, too - all the while maintaining good tone throughout the range of dynamics and pitch.
 

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Hi, I still find playing quietly a challenge, does anyone have any tips?
I think we all struggle with that to some degree. The answer, as usual, is practice.

Specifically, it's good to work on this while you do long tones. One exercise that I like is to hold a tone for three measures at 60 bpm, starting off ppp, building to fff in the middle measure, then dropping back down to ppp. It's ALL about controlling that air stream.
 

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I recall the conversation between Coltrane and Davis was regarding having a difficult time ending a solo.
Yes, that's it. I was just supplying some brute force reasoning. I'm thinking the OP has not been playing long. Pure speculation but maybe trying to blow through leaks?
 

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I was going to ask what your setup is (mouthpiece, size, and reed + reed strength). Often times playing too hard of a setup can lead to much less flexibility in volume or of course if you haven't been playing too long it could just be that your air support needs to be built up.
 

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What's the point? Just trying to do it to see if you can? The saxophone was invented to be a military marching band instrument to bolster the woodwinds but with the projection of a brass instrument. You don't have to blast out at fff all the time but its essentially a loud horn.
In your long tone exercises, varying your volume slowly from soft to loud and back will build your embouchure for control at both ends of the volume range.
 

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In my experience soft playing is easier using a classical mouthpiece rather than a wide open jazz mouthpiece with a baffle. It also is easier to play softly on a reed that is not quite as hard.
So true. Just to prove something to myself, I once played a two hour rehearsal with my classical quartet on my Lamberson J8 (.120). Yes, I got by with it, but at such a cost. I was spent. It was so much more demanding than just BLOWING as I would in my big band. In contrast, I also played a big band gig on a Morgan 6C - my sound did not get buried as some might anticipate, but I was very aware of the increased resistance.
 

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What's the point? Just trying to do it to see if you can? The saxophone was invented to be a military marching band instrument to bolster the woodwinds but with the projection of a brass instrument. You don't have to blast out at fff all the time but its essentially a loud horn.
In your long tone exercises, varying your volume slowly from soft to loud and back will build your embouchure for control at both ends of the volume range.
Not sure I follow your point of view.
There are too many examples to mention of amazing playing at low volumes from Mingus pieces to Pink Floyd, etc.
That low, breathy yet solid tone is something I practice almost daily to get better at.
 

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I think we all struggle with that to some degree. The answer, as usual, is practice.

One exercise that I like is to hold a tone for three measures at 60 bpm, starting off ppp, building to fff in the middle measure, then dropping back down to ppp.
This exercise has always been one of my favourites (though I don't think all of my students would agree!), I usually go up for 10 seconds, down for 10 seconds. When doing this with students, I'll put a metronome on 60 so 1 beat = 1 second, when doing it on my own, I don't need it anymore. I believe this idea originally comes from the Rascher Top Tones book, which also had an exercise in which you hold separate notes solidly, going up and down the dynamics. I think there was even a video floating around of Rascher teaching this one. Ideally your embouchure should stay put and not move too much, though it will not be like this at first.

I've always had the opposite problem; pretty much every teacher/conductor/bandleader I've ever had has at some point told me to play louder. Usually I don't have any problem doing so when reminded like this, I think it's just my shy, introverted nature; it just feels natural/normal for me to play softer.

Setup also plays a big role for me in determining range of volume, it is one of the main things I look for in reeds/mouthpieces. My standard mouthpiece (AL3), for example, is strictly classical and doesn't like to be pushed, however it would definitely be easier to play softer than something more open. Even my C* (which I use for Big Band), is more open and can be pushed much further, much more easily.
 

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I always marveled at how Ike Québec could play so soft and yet full on ballads. My thinking is embouchure, air support, mouthpiece, then reed. I know some reeds subdue the sound over others.
 

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In my experience soft playing is easier using a classical mouthpiece rather than a wide open jazz mouthpiece with a baffle. It also is easier to play softly on a reed that is not quite as hard.
True. I'd go as far to say that if you do choose to use a wider tip opening, then use a softer tip on it. The inability to play softly MAY also be an indication of a leak.
 

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Softer reed and smaller tip. The problem is you’ll see that’s what you should be playing all the time
 

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Great tips from everyone and I’d add a well setup horn is important. The smallest of leaks can effect the ability to play softly. Also, I believe some horns are inherently easier to play softly with really nice sub-tones.
 

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Hi, I still find playing quietly a challenge, does anyone have any tips?
Check how much MPC you have in your mouth - it shouldn't be too far in. Try playing with less MPC and see what that does.

Maintain air speed. Quiet playing still requires air speed - you should be able to diminuendo to a whisper with the same air speed throughout (this can seem counter intuitive to start). What you are reducing throughout is air volume.

Long notes - vary the dynamic.
 

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I am not surprised at the responses that say don't bother trying to play soft, saxophone is a loud instrument, but I disagree.

In fact, I think that a decent saxophonist will be able to cover the entire dynamic range. I have seen many of the greats play and they all used microphones. Gene Ammons, for example, would go from a whisper to a shout in the course of a single phrase. Which is one of the aspects of his playing that made it so emotionally compelling. So I think of the saxophone of being a vocal rather than a loud marching band instrument (I have never played in a marching band). I think too many player get caught up in playing loud and they give up expressive musicality in favor of trying to be "killin'" rather than singin'. But listen to even Brecker off mic and he is not playing loud.

So, nuts and bolts: classic playing requires a classic MP and conception, in jazz, dynamics are achieved in part through sub-tone and in part through breath control and breath efficiency. Watch the way good players will move their jaw in and out to achieve dynamic variation in their lines going from sub-tone to full tone, etc.
 
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