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1. PLAYING THE INSTRUMENT
The Instrument
Neck Cork
Posture
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To have good technique it is necessary to use the correct posture. The back
and neck should be straight, allowing for proper breathing. Sit straight; your weight
should be supported by the legs and not the lower back.
The saxophone is primarily supported by the neck strap. The neck strap must
be pulled up far enough so that the mouthpiece comes to the mouth. Make sure
you are sitting up straight, and it is a comfortable position for you. Adjust the
mouthpiece such that your head is straight (and not tilted). Do not shift the head to the
mouthpiece.
The tenor and baritone saxophones must be held along the right leg, although
the alto saxophone can be positioned between the legs. The player must be sure not to
lean the instrument against the chair or on the lap; this can change the placement
of the mouthpiece in the mouth.
The right thumb is placed in the thumb guard so that the hand can gently
curve with the fingertips on the pearls. The right pinky finger is placed where the Eb
and C keys meet so that they can be used quickly. The left thumb acts as a balance to
hold your instrument in place. The thumb should be placed so that it can easily reach
the octave key. The rest of the left hand is curved around the palm keys so that the
fingertips touch the pearls. The left pinky is placed on the G# key so it can be used
quickly. It is important to keep the fingers that are not being used as close to the keys
as possible. When playing middle C#, when no keys are depressed, all fingertips
should still be touching the pearls. Keeping fingers close to the keys eliminates
wasted motion and allows more rapid movement between notes. Another example
occurs when playing a low G. The three left fingers should be down and the left pinky
should touch the G# key. The fingers of the right hand should be resting on the pearls.
(For more illustrations, please refer to the Standard of Excellence.)
To be effective, technical learning must be slow and methodical. Slowly
teach the fingers what they need to do. Establishing a good practice routine,
setting short and long term goals, and employing constructive critical thinking
will help one become a more accomplished saxophonist.
Breathing
Good posture with a straight back and neck will greatly aid the breathing
process. Do not raise and lower the shoulders when breatbing. Lifting the
shoulders creates tension that will affect the sound and the fingers. It is important
players should try to use their entire lung capacity, allowing the lower part of the
lungs to push the stomach forward, then filling the upper cavity. The air is then
released steadHy, controlled by a muscle called the diaphragm. The air stream should
always be steady, never choppy.
For beginners, you can tbink of yawning as a good way to fill your lungs
witb as much air as possible. Try it, tben imitate the action again. Feel your
lungs expand and contract wben you breatbe in and out when you yawu.
* Remember, when you breathe in and out it is witb warm air, and warm
air is important in playing the saxophone!
A player can think of filling the instrument or the whole room, never stopping
the air except at the end of a phrase or during a rest. Using too little air can result in
playing sharp, while using too much air can cause a note to go flat. A good way to
practice producing a steady air stream is to play scales at various speeds. Concentrate
on producing an even air stream and consistent sound all the way up and down.
Emboucbure
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1. Cover the bottom teeth by folding in your lower lip over the teeth.
2. Place the bottom lip on the reed at the point where the mouthpiece curves away
from it.
3. Place the top teeth on top of the mouthpiece at approximately the same spot above
the bottom lip. (Refer to image below.)
4. Create pressure around the mouthpiece so that no air escapes from the comers of
the mouth.
The embouchure should remain consistent for the entire range of the instrument.
There should be no movement of the jaw to produce any note- avoid opening up for
low notes or squeezing for high notes. The embouchure is generally consistent.
Saxophonists should be able to play all pitches by simply producing a steady air
stream and pressing fingerings. You should be relaxed and not tensed (at mouth
area) at all times!
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Intonation
All saxophones have pitch inconsistencies that must be identified and
compensated for in order to achieve good intonation. No two saxophones are the
same.
However, various registers of all instruments do have similar tendencies.
Typically, low Bb through low D# are sharp, low E to middle C# are flat, and middle
D to high F are sharp. Many of the elements (such as mouthpiece, reed, condition of
the instrument, and air support) can greatly affect the intonation.
The pitch and timbre of some notes can be extremely troublesome. High A can
be flat, middle C# extremely flat, and middle D and E can be somewhat sharp. These
notes need to be corrected with alternate fingerings or by tightening or loosening the
embouchure.
Two rules can guide the tuning of individual pitches: first, tighten the
embouchure to raise the pitch of a note; second, loosen the embouchure to lower the
pitch of a note. However, only adjust your embouchure slightly to not affect the
overall tone/sound.
Tonguing
Tonguing refers to the way the saxophonist articulates particular notes and
rhythms. The tongue can produce light staccato, heavy marcato, long legato,
emphasized accents, and many more sounds.
,
The tip of the tongue'is arched fonvard and, as the syllable is produced, the
part of the tongue slightly above its tip contacts the tip of the reed, momentarily
blocks the air, and causes the note to be rearticulated when released. The air stream
remains steady, without stopping.
• The tongue should move quickly, and moves from the reed fast as well. It
retreats back to its starting position, then repeats the cycle again.
• Only half the tongue is moving, not the whole tongue!
In general, the saxophonist creates the syllable to be produced with the tongue
before sounding the note. Use the syllables "doo," "dah," or "dee" for a lighter tongue,
"tah" or "tee" for a heavier tongue. Do not let the tongue slap against the reed, it will
produce a thud-like, unfavourable sound.
Tonguing should be practiced with scales. Often, the hardest part of perfecting
a technical tonguing passage is coordinating the tongue with the fingers. The speed of
the tongue can be developed by doing exercises to strengthen it.
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2. FINGERING CHART
Instrument Care Reminders
Before putting your instrument back in its case
after playing. do the following:
Remove the reed, wipe off excess moisture and
return it to the reed case.
• Remove the mouthpiece and wipe the inside
with a clean doth. Once a week. wash the mouth·
piece with warm tap water. Dry thoroughly.
Remove the neck and shake out excess moisture.
Dry with neck cleaner.
Drop the weight of the chamois or cotton swab
into the"bell. Pull the swab through the body
several times. Return the instrument to its case.
Your case is designed to hold only specific objects.
If you try to force anything else into the case,
it may damage your instrument.
o = Open
• = Pressed down
The most common fingering appears
first when two fingerings are shown.
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. 3. TAKING CARE OF YOUR SAXOPHONE
Reed aod mouthpiece care
After playing, wipe out the mouthpiece dry with a soft cloth, not a brush. This
cleaning will prevent gurgles and foreign objects from hampering sound production.
Exercise care to avoid chipping the tip or scratching the bore and rails of the
mouthpiece.
Saxophonists should maintain a minimum of four playable reeds at all times.
Reeds that are waterlogged, chipped or cracked should not be played.
When putting the saxophone away, do not leave a reed on the mouthpiece. It
can easily chip, become discoloured, or develop an unpleasant odour. Reeds should be
stored in a reed guard or the plastic covers that come with some reeds. This will keep
them safe until the next use and they will dry evenly without warping. A reed guard
can be made from a piece of glass, with rounded sides for safety, and rubber bands to
hold the reeds in place. Reeds should be rotated frequently, allowing them to dry out
properly and last longer; this will cost less in the long run because fewer reeds will be
needed.
Assembling the mouthpiece, reed and ligature
I. Take the reed out of its case carefully. Be careful not to chip or damage the
reed. Place the reed onto the mouthpiece. The flat side of the reed should be
touching the mouthpiece.
2. Take your ligature and slot it onto the mouthpiece. The wider part of the
ligature should be at the bottom while the narrower part should be at the top.
3. Adjust the reed. The reed should be at the same height as the mouthpiece.
Mouthpiece
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Assembling the saxophone
1. Take out the neck and the saxophone.
2. Insert the neck of the saxophone in. If the neck opening on the saxophone is
too tight, apply some cork grease.
3. Tighten the screws on the saxophone.
4. Make sure the neck and the saxophone is straight and inline with each other.
5. Insert in your mouthpiece that has already been assembled.
Saxophone neck
Saxophone Neck with Mouthpiece Inserted
4. EXERCISES
Suggested exercises: Symphonic Band Technique
Suggested exercises to develop musicality and key sense: number 89 and 90
• Please take note that all notes are played correctly and that music is played
musically as much as possible.
Suggested exercises to practice articulation: number 104, 107, 108, 113, 115, and 123
• Please take note that articulation should be constant and precise. Tongue
each and every note similarly. Follow the articulation marks.
Suggested exercises to practice for rhythmic sense and sensitivity:
number 136, 138, 140, 142, 162 and 167
• Please take note that rhythm should be precise. Tempo should be kept
strictly constant and not fluctuate in order to develop a good rhythmic sense.
It is recommended to use a metronome.
More exercises: Universal Method for Saxophone
Eighteen exercises in articulation: Page 52 - 54
Forty exercises on slurred and detached notes: Page 165 - 178
20 progressive exercises: Page 45 51
Exercises on eighth notes, sixteen notes, dotted and rests; dotted sixteenth notes and
thirty-second notes: Page 159 - 162
Tips on playing exercises
When playing each exercise, players can vary the tempo, dynamics and
articulation. For example, players can tongue every note, replay the exercise slurring
every two notes and replay using light staccato etc. Take note of the intonation when
playing. Also, check on the articulation to make sure it is accurate. If necessary, use a
metronome. Play the exercises slowly (around 40) and then speed up as you get more
and more familiar with the exercise. It is best to practice everyday.

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