How to Play Alto Saxophone Notes

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This article will tell you how to place your mouth around the mouthpiece (called forming embouchure), breathe properly, and produce your first notes on the alto saxophone.

Embouchure

  • Open your mouth. Roll your lower lip over your teeth. Your lip shouldn't stretch uncomfortably.

  • Put the mouthpiece into your mouth up to the point where the reed and the mouthpiece separate. Rest your upper teeth on the top of the mouthpiece. Make sure you have a solid grip of the mouthpiece with your mouth. Your lower teeth should never touch the reed, but your lower lip should.

  • Put very little pressure on the lower part of the mouthpiece; otherwise the opening between the reed and the mouthpiece will be closed off. The corners of your mouth should feel firm. Your chin should feel pointed and tight.

  • Blow into the mouthpiece. If your embouchure is correct, your cheeks should not be able to stretch much and the air should flow straight into the opening between the reed and the mouthpiece.

How to Breathe Properly

  • Keep your upper teeth on the mouthpiece.

  • Do not drop your jaw. Your embouchure must stay in place.

  • Raise your upper lip slightly. Breath through the corners of your mouth. Do not raise your shoulders when you inhale. Do not expand your upper chest.

  • Breath deeply and allow the air to flow into your lower chest. Take in as much air as possible while still being able to control its use.

  • Keep your shoulders, throat and lower body relaxed. Don't worry, the more you practice this breathing method the easier it will become.

How to Play C# Notes on the Alto Saxophone

  • Sit forward in your chair.

  • Adjust the mouthpiece so that your head stays straight. Placing the mouthpiece at an angle will stiffen your neck muscles.

  • Form your embouchure around the mouthpiece.

  • Take a deep breath from the corners of your mouth. Do not hold down any of the keys on the saxophone.

  • Let the air out into the mouthpiece in an even flow a little at a time. You should be playing a C#.

  • Try to continuously play the C# for four beats, either by counting silently or by tapping your toe. Stop the sound after the count of four. You've just played a whole note.

  • Try other notes. A half note is held for two counts. A quarter note is held for onee count. Practice playing whole notes, half notes and quarter notes one at a time.

  • Play one half note, a quarter note and a whole note all in a row. Try to do this all in one breath. Repeat.

  • Learn other notes by practicing with sheet music or a beginner's music book. Refer to an alto saxophone fingering chart to learn the proper fingerings to play other pitches and continue to practice. (See Resources below.)

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not chew on the wooden reed once it is on the mouthpiece of the saxophone. This can not only cause you to pinch or get a splinter in your tongue, but chewing will damage the reed. Once a reed is damaged, it must be replaced.
  • Do not hold the saxophone by any of its keys. This will bend the keys out of position and cause the saxophone to need repairs.

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