Saxophone Techniques

Playing a sax requires learning Saxophone Techniques of many different kinds to really master the instrument. The following touches on the basic techniques that players will encounter and develop as well as a few advanced techniques that are recommended to any saxophonist who wants to improve.

Tonguing is using your tongue to touch a reed and separate the stream of air that is vibrating the reed. This is how players make notes that have short spaces between them, or articulation.
Depending on how you bend your tongue and the speed that you use, you can do a variety of sounds.
Slap-tonguing, for example, is a very strong and loud kind of tonging using the broadest part of your tongue that touches the reed to "slap" the reed. It results in a loud, wooden sound. It is common in jazz improvisation and solos.
Double-tonguing is another technique that is often used in classical and jazz pieces. By touching the reed with the tip of your tongue, rapidly followed by a spot further back on your tongue, you can learn to alternate these positions. Rapidly changing between the two is a faster, advanced way of playing short notes than the standard way of tonguing.

The following video is an excellent demonstration of double tonguing:

There are also different ways to finger some notes on the saxophone. Some alternate fingerings exist, especially, for the higher range notes, which are also known as altissimo. There are also many breathing and tone techniques. The best way to learn is by listening to players and teachers. It's even better if you can go to a show or watch a video and watch their facial and chest movements as they play.

Another technique to watch for is phrasing. When playing a passage of music, grouping notes melodically together in how you play and breathe is known as phrasing.
By studying a piece of music before playing it, you can find the groups of notes to play with similar feeling, strength, and dynamics.
For example, four measures together may have a tie above them that are also a logical group within the melody. When playing that group, you can gradually increase and decrease the volume of the notes in a gradual arc to bring out the melodic feel of phrase. Music theory, listening to great players, and studying many pieces of music can help develop your sense of phrasing.
There are many more techniques to learn, including:

  • Diaphragm Strengthening
  • Note Bending
  • Embouchure Strengthening

  • Please explore The Saxophone Player's Guide to learn more!

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