Musicians play music because we love it, but everyone has a beginning point and all of us work to improve our performances. Below are some easy ideas to make your time on a sax better & more fun!
Number 1: Post your fingering chart where you see it on a daily basis
For me, there are always one or two very high notes that I forget if they aren’t in the music pieces I am working on. I have posted my fingering chart by my bed and see it before I fall asleep at night. If you don’t have a fingering chart, buy one! They are small, inexpensive and readily available at most music stores.
Number 2: Wet your reed before you play
The first thing I do when I pull my case out is pop the reed I want to use in my mouth, and keep it there while I assemble my saxophone and sheet music. This helps your reed vibrate more efficiently right when you start playing.
Number 3: Pick a position and stay with it
Depending on who taught you to play the saxophone, you either hold your instrument between your legs or to the right side of your legs. There are merits to both methods, and it is completely personal preference. Try both methods, and then pick the one that you prefer. But either way, stick with it!
Changing your position constantly will hurt your ability to play. This is because you will be concentrating on how to reach that difficult fingering through a different hand position instead of a perfect vibrato or even tone. When you switch positions, the angles change. This changes everything!
Number 4: Posture
Remember when you first started classes or lessons, one of the first things you learned was to sit up straight? We’re back to basics for this tip. By sitting up straight, your diaphragm has more room to expand. This means the ability for longer and more powerful notes, and stronger vibrato and tone.
Number 5: Tighten your Ligature
Have you ever gotten that awful bubbly noise of water under your reed? It will completely destroy any piece you try to play, and sometimes it isn’t possible to stop in the middle of a piece. Turning your ligature joint an extra half turn can make all the difference in the world.
Number 6: Make sure your reed is the right level of hardness
Have you ever stopped playing for about a month, and you start to play with your favorite old reed, and you’re like “Wow! I don’t remember having to push this hard last time I played”? And that is because you didn’t! Your embouchure (the way you handle the mouthpiece and reed in your mouth or the muscles controlling those motions) has grown weaker over the month you’ve been away. On the flip side, if you’ve been playing more than usual your embouchure will have grown stronger. Make sure you get the strength of reed that corresponds with your strength for optimum tone!
Number 7: Use a neck strap
Using a neck strap, especially when you’re playing standing up, is crucial. Distributing the weight off of your thumbs enables your fingers to move more swiftly and efficiently.
Number 8: Cite-read a piece before you start learning it
There are special competitions for cite-reading, for both individuals and bands. Being able to look at a piece of music and run through it a few times, and then being able to play it fairly well shows musical prowess. Cite-reading sometimes, even if you don’t want to compete in it, is a great way to stretch your music reading muscles. I tend to cite-read a piece of music that I am going to learn to play, before I start breaking it down measure by measure. I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in my music reading ability since starting this. To top it off, once you get the hang of cite-reading it is really fun!
Number 9: Play in an area with good lighting
There is nothing worse than playing in an area with subpar lighting. You can’t see the notes right. Playing in the sunshine or in a well light area just improves your mood. I play below a window and have a lamp by the window for playing at night.
Number 10: Invest in high quality reeds
Have you ever had a reed splinter in your mouth? It hurts and tastes really awful. Since then, I have always purchased a higher quality reed. Originally it was to avoid another “Fantastical Exploding Reed” but my tone quality has improved so much. And please, none of those fiberglass reeds. Only reeds made of cane or other natural materials for better tone and control!
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