The Saxophone Standard [HD]

– Hi, I’m Sergeant
First Class Brian Sacawa. – I’m Sergeant First Class
Christopher Blossom. – I’m Staff Sergeant
David Parks. – I’m Staff Sergeant
Daniel Goff. – And this is
The Saxophone Standard. [SAXOPHONE MUSIC] Welcome to
The Saxophone Standard. The concert band
saxophone section of the U.S. Army Field Band
has drawn on our collective experience
as classical performers and educators to bring you
this collection of resources that we
feel is essential to playing the saxophone. Whether you’re a
beginning saxophonist, a more advanced student,
or a music educator, we hope you find the information
on this video both useful and interesting. – Also be sure to visit where you will find
downloadable resources, including suggested
repertoire and etude books, recordings, recommended reading, altissimo fingering charts,
and many of the exercises and arrangements you
hear on this video. – These are great resources
for saxophonists of all levels
and music educators. Thanks for watching
The Saxophone Standard. BRIAN: The saxophone was
invented in the late 1830s by Belgian instrument maker
Adolphe Sax, who introduced it
to the world in 1841. Sax wanted to design a musical
instrument that combined the power and projection
of the brass with the agility
of the woodwinds. He received a patent for
the saxophone in 1846, which by then
had already won praise from the famous composer
Hector Berlioz. While never completely adopted
as an orchestral instrument, the saxophone did find an
immediate and permanent home in military bands as well as
within the walls of academia. Sax himself was hired to start
the first saxophone class at the famed Paris Conservatory, beginning a long and proud
tradition of the saxophone as a classical instrument. In the early 1900s,
the saxophone began to gain a foothold across the Atlantic
in more popular musical styles. Ensembles and players like the
Brown Brothers Sextet and Rudy Weidoeft
introduced the instrument to a wider audience through
approachable and fun music, and also began to expand
the instrument’s technical and sonic potential. The saxophone soon became
an important voice in blues and jazz. The sax sections of the
groups led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, and Glenn Miller
defined new sounds, while players
like Charlie Parker and later John Coltrane revolutionized the
instrument’s solo potential. While solidifying its
place as a jazz instrument, the saxophone was becoming
more accepted in the classical music
tradition as well. Though sax’s original class
at the Paris Conservatory ended in 1870,
its reestablishment in 1944 with the appointment
of Marcel Mule was a defining moment
for the instrument. Widely regarded as one of the
greatest classical saxophonists of all time, Mule was a
pivotal figure in defining the instrument’s
classical technique, developing its
repertoire and pedagogy, and establishing
the saxophone quartet as a legitimate
chamber ensemble. With Mule paving the way,
the classical saxophone began to see a renaissance in the United States
and elsewhere. A new generation of performers
and educators emerged, with Sigurd Rascher,
Larry Teal, Donald Sinta, Fredreick Hemke,
and Eugene Rousseau doing much to further develop
its repertoire and firmly establish
the saxophone as a serious classical
instrument. Today, the saxophone is heard
in a wide variety of settings and musical styles,
including military bands, jazz ensembles,
pop and rock groups, and symphony orchestras. Now let’s meet the members
of the saxophone family. The modern saxophone family
consists of nine instruments: the soprillo, the sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass, and the subcontrabass. Other rarely-used versions
of the saxophone include the C soprano, mezzo soprano, C melody, the slide sax, saxello, and the tubax. Here, we’ll introduce the
four most common saxophones. – The soprano
saxophone is pitched in Bb, and is the highest of the most
commonly used saxophones today. It has been included in
the standard saxophone quartet configuration
since the early 20th century, and has been called for by such
orchestral and band composers as Maurice Ravel, Richard Strauss, and Percy Grainger. The soprano has been
increasingly used as a solo instrument,
and its solo repertoire has steadily grown
over the past several decades. – The alto saxophone
is pitched in Eb, and sounds a perfect
fifth below the soprano. It’s the most used
saxophone in classical music, as demonstrated by its extremely
large body of repertoire. Many well-known composers have
written solo works for the alto, including Alexander Glazounov
and Jacques Ibert, while in
the orchestra, its beautiful, dark, and
malleable tone has been embraced by Georges Bizet, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leonard Bernstein,
and many others. – The tenor saxophone
is pitched in Bb, and sounds an octave
below the soprano. While an important voice
in the saxophone quartet and concert band,
its solo repertoire is still
relatively limited. Composers such as
Sergei Prokofiev and Paul Hindemith have used it
in large ensemble works for its powerful sound
and lyrical qualities. – The baritone
saxophone is pitched in Eb, and sounds an
octave below the alto. Often compared to the cello, the bari sax is the lowest voice
in the saxophone quartet, providing the foundation for many of the
quartet’s harmonies. The bari sax is also the
only commonly used saxophone to feature a low a key,
which allows a player to perform string
transcriptions at pitch. Solo repertoire for the
baritone is also rather limited, but many orchestral composers, including George Gershwin, Bela Bartok, and Charles Ives, have
incorporated it in their works. – A few of the less common
saxophones that you might see from time to time include the sopranino, the C melody sax, and the bass saxophone. Of the three,
the bass is the most used, appearing in large
saxophone ensembles, a few works for wind ensemble, and even as a solo instrument. – Though the saxophone quartet
in the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone configuration
has been around since the mid-1850s, it rose to
prominence as an ensemble during the late 1920s
with the formation of the Quatuor De La Garde
Republicane, which later became The Marcel Mule
Saxophone Quartet. Voiced much like
a string quartet, the saxophone quartet remains
a distinct and viable ensemble to this day. [MUSIC] – Before you can play
your instrument, you need to know
how to assemble it. Putting your saxophone together
for the first time is an exciting moment. Here’s how to do it. Let’s go over the
parts you’ll need. The body
of the instrument, the neck, a mouthpiece, ligature, reed, neck strap, and some cork grease. First take your reed and put
the thin part in your mouth. You’ll want the reed
to be wet later when you put it on
your mouthpiece since a dry reed
won’t play as well. Take the neck
and the cork grease. Put a small amount of cork
grease on the neck cork and rub it in. Next, take the mouthpiece
and using a twisting motion, slide the
mouthpiece onto the neck. Put on your neck strap and pick up the body
of the instrument by the bell. Clip the neck strap
onto the instrument. Take the neck
and mouthpiece assembly and insert it into the body. If it’s too tight,
loosen the screw on the body of the instrument and use
a slight twisting motion. Once you get the neck on,
tighten the neck screw. Make sure the flat part of
the mouthpiece is facing down towards the bottom
of the saxophone. Now it actually
looks like a saxophone, and you’re almost ready to play! Put the ligature
on the mouthpiece, noting that one end
of the ligature is smaller than the other,
so it can only go on one way. Some ligatures have screws
on the top and some have screws
on the bottom, but they should always
face to the right. By now your reed is wet and
ready to put on the mouthpiece. Always be very careful
with the tip of the reed. Move the ligature towards the
tip of the mouthpiece slightly. Put the thick, flat part of the
reed against the mouthpiece and slide it
under the ligature. Move it so the tip of the reed is just below the tip
of the mouthpiece. You want the reed
to be even on all sides, so you may need
to wiggle it a little. Always put on the ligature
before the reed to avoid damaging
the tip. This may seem awkward right now,
but you’ll get the hang of it. Now that the reed is on, you can
tighten the ligature screws to hold it in place. Tighten the screws just enough
to hold the reed securely. Now adjust the neck strap
a little so the mouthpiece goes right into your mouth
and you’re ready to play! – As saxophonists, one of our most important pieces
of equipment is the reed. With the wrong reed, we end up
struggling with things like poor response in the upper
and lower registers, an unclear or unfocused sound, a lack of resonance
or projection, and the list goes on and on. First, let’s get familiar with
the various parts of the reed. The most important
parts are the table, the heel, the vamp, the tip, and the heart. Knowing these parts will become
more important once you start learning about
maintaining and adjusting reeds. How do we choose the right reed? First, look for obvious
visible flaws in the tip and throw out reeds
that are chipped, cracked, or split. Also avoid reeds that
are too hard or too soft. A reed that’s too hard will
often cause you to tighten the embouchure
and bite or pinch, and will usually sound
very heavy or airy. [AIRY SAXOPHONE] On the other hand,
a reed that’s too soft won’t provide enough
resistance to project, and can sound
very thin and buzzy. [THIN SAXOPHONE] While there’s no science
to choosing the right reed these basic guidelines
are a good place to start. Over time you’ll learn more
about what works best for you and refine
your personal preferences. – Once you’ve found a good reed, it’s important that you
break it in properly. Reeds will always perform best
and last longest after a gradual break-in period, which will seal the cane
and make the reed more stable. Today I’d like to take you
through the process for breaking in a reed. When you first take
your reed out of the box, you’ll need to get it wet. When I’m just starting
to break in a reed, I always prefer to let it soak
in a glass of water for about a minute,
or just long enough that the entire reed
is soaked through. Be very careful
to not let the reed sit in the water
for too long. A waterlogged reed won’t have
the vibrance or responsiveness that we’re looking for. Limit your playing on a new reed
to just a minute or two each day
for about a week or so. It’s important that you
even play on the reeds that don’t immediately
sound like good reeds. During the break in period,
reeds can change drastically from day to day and you never
really know which one’s going to turn out
better than the other. Keep rotating the reeds
you’re breaking in and gradually increase your
playing time on each reed as they begin to seal up, always being careful
to not allow any water to oversaturate the reed. During this process,
it can also be helpful to put light markings
on your reeds to help you identify
their characteristics. I use an “S” for soft reeds,
“H” for hard, and a star for ones
that are fairly good. Develop your own
system so you remember. Now, the reason
we do all of this, is to allow the cane to seal. This helps to make the reed
more consistent each time we play on it. If you take a reed
straight out of the box, wet it, and then
blow through the end, you can actually see that
the cane is still porous. In general, it takes about
a week or so for the cane
to seal up completely. There are a couple things
you can do to help speed up
the sealing process. After a short playing
session on each reed, I’ll usually rub the back
of it on a sheet of paper, and use either just my thumb
or my thumb and a sheet of paper to polish the top. When you do this, make sure to
be gentle and not push too hard. While the playing part
of breaking a reed in is extremely critical,
how you store your reeds between sessions is equally,
if not more, important. So now let’s talk about
how to store your reeds. The key to good reed storage
is to create an environment where your reeds
will never completely dry out. A reed that completely dries out
between playing sessions is much more susceptible
to warping. – There are many different
products designed for reed storage. Many of them will
keep your reeds flat, but not all of them will
regulate the moisture, meaning your reeds
will still dry out. – You can buy reed cases
that regulate the humidity or you can make one yourself. It’s relatively simple and only requires some
sort of air tight case, like a plastic
food container, and a method to keep
moisture in the air. And for this you
can use a sponge, water pillow, or a humidifier. – To keep your reeds flat,
you can either use the plastic sheaths
the reeds come in, a plastic reed guard, or make your own
out of glass or plexiglass and some rubber bands. – Regardless of what method
you use to store your reeds, always make sure
that they’re protected and not allowed
to dry out completely. This will keep them playing
more consistently and will prolong
the life of the reed. Whether you choose
to sit or stand when you play, your upper body should
always be upright and relaxed. Here’s a good exercise to
check your upper body posture. With your elbows
pointed forward, grab the top of your
ears with your hands. Gently pull up on your ears and
imagine there is a giant string attached to
your spinal cord that someone is pulling up
towards the ceiling. Open up your
elbows to the sides, then let go of your ears
and slowly lower your arms. Notice how your rib cage
feels nice and open. This posture gives your lungs
room to expand, allowing you to take in
as much air as you need. When you play seated, your upper body
posture is the same. Think of it as
standing from the waist up. Both feet should be
flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart, and you should sit on the front
third of your chair. Now that you’re sitting
up with good posture, bring the saxophone up to you. Adjust your neck strap so you
don’t have to bend or slouch for your mouthpiece
to reach your mouth. The saxophone
should come to you, you shouldn’t have to
move to the saxophone. You can place the instrument
either to the side or between your legs, whichever is most comfortable. Most beginning students as well
as tenor and baritone players find it easiest
to place it to the side. Lastly, adjust the angle
of your mouthpiece so you don’t have
to tilt your head. The best hand position is
the one that allows your hands to feel the most
relaxed and natural. If your hands
are free of tension and you minimize the
movement of your fingers, you are more likely to play
with better accuracy and speed. To find a good position, put your hand on your leg
and let it relax completely. Lift your arm up while
letting your hand hang there. Notice the slight curve
that forms and how your hand lacks tension. This is essentially how your
hand should look and feel when you bring it up
to your instrument. As you press the keys, think about squeezing
them closed gently; just enough for the pads
to seal against the tone holes. When you press down
or lift your fingers, do it quickly, even if
you are playing long notes. When lifting the keys, keep your fingers as close
to the keys as possible. I like to imagine that I’ve put
a tiny bit of super glue of my fingers, so that they’ll
stay connected to the pearls. Observe your posture
and hand position in a mirror and make a habit
of being upright and relaxed. Careful attention
to your finger motion can drastically improve
the accuracy of your technique. – Having a great sound
starts with a great embouchure. Your embouchure is how you use
your lips and facial muscles to hold the mouthpiece in your
mouth and direct air into the mouthpiece
and through the saxophone. Let’s talk about how to
form a proper embouchure. There are five key things
to keep in mind: the shape your lips make, keeping your chin
flat and pointed, the pressure you use, your top teeth placement, and your bottom teeth placement. Let’s start with the first two. Say ‘ooh.’ this puts your lips
in the perfect round shape and keeps your chin flat. Next, it’s important to
use the proper pressure. You want your
embouchure to be relaxed, but also firm and supported. Think about your lips being
like a rubber band that’s been wrapped around
the reed and the mouthpiece, providing equal pressure. A trick to achieving this is to
think more about the pressure coming in from the sides, rather
than from above and below. Now let’s talk about
where your top teeth go. As a general rule, you should
place your top teeth right about
where the reed starts to break away from
the mouthpiece. Putting them here will allow
the reed to vibrate most freely. Not taking enough mouthpiece
in will produce a muffled sound without much resonance. [MUFFLED SAXOPHONE] While if you take
too much mouthpiece the sound will be crass
and uncontrolled. [CRASS SAXOPHONE] One way to find this spot,
is to take a business card and lightly slide it between
the reed and the mouthpiece. When the card
won’t go any further, see where this corresponds
to the top of the mouthpiece. This is where your
top teeth should go. The last part of forming
the embouchure is where you put
your bottom teeth. The bottom teeth should
rest under your bottom lip, which acts as a cushion. Remember that ooh shape
we talked about making and be careful not to roll
your bottom lip out or all the way in
over your teeth. A lot of beginning saxophonists
will complain about biting. And this is almost always a
result of rolling the bottom lip in too far over
the bottom teeth. If you do this, there is no
support between your teeth and the reed. If you take your finger
and roll your bottom lip over your bottom teeth you
can really feel the difference. One final and very important
thing to remember is that everyone’s mouth and lips
are shaped differently. Don’t worry if your embouchure
doesn’t look exactly like somebody else’s. Just remember the basics
of the shape your lips form, keeping your chin flat, having equal pressure
all the way around, and your top and bottom
teeth placement and you’ll be on your way
to a great embouchure. – One of the first things
you have to do once you’ve put your saxophone
together is to tune it. You’ll need to warm
up your saxophone. If your instrument is too
cold it will sound flat. Warm it up by playing for a few
minutes or by fingering a low Bb
and blowing warm air into it. [AIR BLOWING THROUGH SAXOPHONE] Once the
instrument is warmed up, you’re ready to tune. – I like to tune to an
F# on top of the staff. This is the most acoustically
true note on the instrument because of the placement
of the second octave vent, which is exactly
half the distance between the mouthpiece
and the F tone hole. – To check if you’re in tune, take out your tuner
and sustain an F#. [SAX PLAYING F#] Pull your mouthpiece
out if the note is sharp, or push it in if you’re flat. [SAX PLAYING F#] Remember that by moving
the mouthpiece you’re actually changing
the length of the instrument so it affects every note
on the saxophone. – Once you tune your instrument, it’s still not going to play
every note in tune. In general, lower notes
tend to be flat and upper notes
tend to be sharp, but every saxophone
and mouthpiece combination is different,
so check the tendencies of each note carefully
with a tuner. [MUSIC] Without question,
breathing and air support are the most aspects
of playing the saxophone. Having poor air support will hinder your ability
to play long phrases, negatively impact your tone,
articulation, and dynamic control, and can lead to fatigue problems
with your embouchure. Let’s talk about
a few key things that will help your breathing. Let’s start by breathing in. Breathing normally
is subconscious, and uses only a small portion
of your lungs. Being aware of how we breathe,
and utilizing our lungs is the first step
to good air support. It’s vital that you start
with good posture. You want your lungs to have
as much space as possible to expand. Here’s an exercise to make sure
you’re doing it right. Imagine your lungs
as a glass of water that you’re filling up
from the bottom. Put your hands on the sides
of your stomach while you breathe in and see if you feel them
pushing out. [INHALE] Take a proper breath now,
by mouthing ‘poh’ as you inhale through your mouth. – Poh. – Never breathe
through your nose. You won’t be able to breathe
as quicky or as efficiently as you would through your mouth. As you breathe in,
stay relaxed and avoid raising
your shoulders. Now let’s talk about
breathing out. There are two types of air
that you can use when blowing into
the saxophone: warm air and cool air. To feel the difference, place
your hand in front of your mouth and blow on it like you’re
blowing out candles. [BLOWING AIR] This is cool air. Now, pretend that you are
steaming up a window or your glasses. [BREATHING AIR, SOFTER] It’s not good enough to just
blow into the mouthpiece; you have to support
from your core. Imagine you’re about to get
punched in the stomach. See how your body reacts? These are the same muscles
you should be engaging when you are playing. Here are two different exercises
you can use to work on your air support. Inhale for one count, and exhale
while making a hissing sound. Time yourself to see how long
you can exhale. Be sure to push
as long as you can engaging your core
the whole time. Hold a sheet of paper
against a wall, and see if you can keep it there by just using your breath. [BLOWING] Breathing properly and
understanding breath support is the foundation of everything
we do as saxophonists. Always revisit these three
key breathing fundamentals whether you’re a beginner
or more advanced student. [MUSIC] – The most important part
of starting the tone is understanding the role
of your air, and your tongue. Here’s an analogy I like to use
to help illustrate this. Think of a faucet. When you turn a faucet on,
you’re opening a valve to allow the water to come out. The water is always right there
behind the valve trying to get through. But when the valve is closed,
it’s unable to. On the saxophone,
your air is the water, and your tongue is the valve. The reed vibrating is what makes
the sound on the saxophone. If the reed isn’t allowed
to vibrate there’s no sound. Your tongue is what
controls this. Now let’s walk through the steps
for starting the tone. First, place your tongue
on the tip of the reed. Where your tongue actually hits
the reed will vary from player to player. But in general, the reed should
hit the tongue just a bit behind the tip. Be careful you’re not putting too much of your
tongue on the reed or just using the tip
of your tongue farther back on the reed. Too much tongue on the
reed will result in a very aggressive
initial attack, while just using the tip
farther back on the reed won’t allow you to get
the clarity or definition that we’re after. Now that you’ve got your tongue
on the reed, start blowing air. Obviously, there won’t be
any sound because your tongue
is preventing the reed from vibrating, though it should feel like a lot
of pressure has built up behind your tongue. The last step if to remove your
tongue from the reed, to release the air,
and produce the sound. [DELAYED SOUND] I use an exercise that I call
‘interruptions’ to help get the feel
for what its like to keep the air moving while my
tongue is on the reed and to develop a finer control
of the technique. Set your metronome
to quarter note equals sixty and begin the sound
as we just discussed. Next, bring your tongue back
to the original position, but only slightly dampening
the reed’s vibration while still blowing air
through the mouthpiece. This is not unlike the way
you would ghost a note in a jazz style. Continue this exercise
all the way up the octave, and back down. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] – All articulations need
to be supported by a good air stream think of a legato as a bump
in the air stream. The tongue should never stop, the tongue should barely touch
the reed, and the consonant you think of
should be something like ‘la’ or ‘loo.’ if you say ‘la la la’
over and over, you’ll notice that the ‘ah’
sound never seems to go away. It’s just bumped
by the l sound. When you use legato
articulations, you should feel when the reed
touches your tongue. Set your metronome to
quarter note equals sixty, and play a long tone,
articulating every beat. [QUARTER NOTES] You should hear the sound
sustain throughout the exercise. Gradually speed it up, so you’re articulating eighths,
triplets, and finally sixteenths. [MUSIC] You can do the same exercise
with scales, but to get the best feel for
legato articulation, start with long tones throughout
the range of the horn. If you’re thinking of staccato
articulations, you’ll want a very quick attack
and release. Giving you space
between each note. Think of staccato
as a ‘tat’ sound. You want to interrupt the air
stream as quickly as possible. Remember that staccato doesn’t
mean short, it means separated. So for example, a staccato
sixteenth note will generally
not be the same length as a staccato quarter note. Put your metronome at
quarter note equals one hundred and try playing
staccato quarters. You should hear the same amount
of space between each note. [SHORT, QUICK NOTES] Again, transition to eighths,
triplets, and finally sixteenths, paying particular attention
to the space between the notes as well as the attack
on the notes. Try to avoid accenting
certain notes; your goal is uniformity. [MUSIC] Obviously, there are nearly
infinite nuances possible through articulation. Practicing a good
legato and staccato will provide a great foundation to work toward other
more subtle articulations. [MUSIC] – Sometimes, practicing slowly
isn’t enough to clean up a tricky passage. Here’s an exercise for improving
a fast, difficult passage of music. Set your metronome
to a slow tempo. First, play the passage with a
dotted eighth-sixteenth rhtyhm. [MUSIC] Then, reverse the rhythm
to sixteenth-doted eighth. [MUSIC] Next, play the exerpt
in triplets. It’s especially important that
you subdivide the triplet evenly, ensuring that each note
has exactly the same duration. [MUSIC] Finally, finish with
the original rhtyhm at a slower tempo. [MUSIC] You may find it helpful
to break up a long passage into smaller ones. So use the same method
to isolate a single interval or group of notes. Changing the rhythms is a simple
way to improve the clarity and evenness
of a difficult passage. Use these concepts
any time you are struggling to play things evenly. Always remember to not just
practice to get something right; rather, play it so that
you can’t get it wrong. [MUSIC] A fast single tongue is the
result of two things: a short rebound distance
from the reed, and coordinating the tongue
with the airstream. Here’s a quick exercise
to ensure that your tongue remains close to the reed. Set your metronome
to quarter note equals sixty. Articulate two notes
as quickly as you can, and repeat with each click
of the metronome. Always keep your air moving
during this exercise. [MUSIC] It’s impossible to see exactly
what’s happening inside of your mouth
when you articulate. Therefore, it must be felt. When it comes to great
articulation, it truly is “less is more.” [MUSIC] Like vocalists, string players,
and flutists saxophonists use vibrato in
a variety of musical settings. Vibrato can be an effective tool
to add shape and direction to a musical phrase. – Vibrato is simply a wave
in the sound. To produce this
on the saxophone, first start with
your normal embouchure so that the pitch is in tune. Then, slightly release the
pressure on your bottom lip by lowering your jaw. Finally, return your jaw
to its original position. It’s critical that you always
return the pitch back up at the end of the vibrato, or else the note
will not sound in tune. Try this movement slowly
at first to get a feel for it. [LONG NOTE,
PITCH FALLING AND RISING] if you’re not using
a steady column of air, you’ll find that you can’t
maintain the sound when you lower your jaw. You only want the vibrato
to go below the pitch, not above,
because you never want to bite above the normal
jaw position. – Set your metronome
to quarter note equals sixty. Play a middle F, and try
undulating eighth notes. Practice this until
it becomes comfortable, and you’re able to produce
an even wave at that speed. [LONG NOTE, PITCH WAVERING
WITH QUARTER NOTES] Next, do the same with triplets
and sixteenth notes. [LONG NOTE, PITCH WAVERING
WITH NOTES] The end result should sound
like a natural, spiraling wave in the sound. [LONG NOTE, WITH VIBRATO] – Now that you know how
to create the vibrato, it’s important that you know
both how to use it, and when. Vibrato isn’t something you want
all the time. Often when playing in unison
with other instruments, especially ones
that don’t use vibrato, a straight tone works best. Also, your vibrato shouldn’t be
turned on or off like a light switch. Use it to enhance the sound
and give directions by varying the speed, depth,
and intensity – The best way to develop
your vibrato concept is to listen to other musicians
who play with good vibrato. Over time, you’ll imitate
what you hear, and figure out how you like
to do it. The more you listen and refine
your concept of vibrato, the better you’ll get
at adapting it to various musical styles
and settings. [MUSIC] – Voicing refers to the shape
of the oral cavity specifically your
tongue position when playing
the saxophone. It contributes to many things, including playing
with a great sound being flexible
with your intonation, and playing
in the altissimo range. Here are a few exercises that
will help us get in touch with what’s happening inside
of our mouths while voicing. Start by whistling
the lowest note you can. Next, gliss up to
your highest note. [WHISTLE, LOW TO HIGH] Pay specific attention to what’s
happening inside your mouth. As you whistle higher, you
should notice that the back of your tongue goes up, and almost touches
the roof of your mouth. This simple concept
is the key to understanding how voicing works. Let’s get more specific with
the syllables we’ll be applying to the saxophone. Put your hand around
your throat and say ‘uh’. Now say ‘ee’. You should also notice,
like in the previous exercise, that your tongue
goes from very low to almost touching
the roof of your mouth. Now let’s add the saxophone. Finger a low F and
begin the sound by saying, kuh instead of using
your regular articulation. [LONG NOTE] Now, do the same thing, except
start the sound by saying, kee. [LONG NOTE] Don’t be surprised
when the note automatically jumps up
the octave. This is what’s
supposed to happen. Remember that all it took
to do this was to change the vowel
you used which changed the shape
inside of your mouth. That’s the basic concept. Now let’s work on refining it. We’ve already talked about
the basic concept of voicing, and once we understand this, the
next step is to start developing some flexibility and control. We can do this a couple of ways. Let’s start by just
playing on the mouthpiece alone. Playing on the mouthpiece
alone is good for two reasons. First, by taking the
saxophone out of the picture, we’re able to isolate
the technique and really dial in our control. – Second, it’s going
to ensure that we’re using the correct amount
of embouchure pressure. We can tell this by the note
that sounds on the mouthpiece. On an alto mouthpiece,
you should hear a concert a. If you’re blowing a Bb, it means your embouchure
is too tight. Likewise, if the note
sounds below an a, your embouchure is too loose. Both of these things
will affect how well the saxophone responds
for you. – That’s a really good point. If I ever feel that something
isn’t quite right or settled in my playing, going to the mouthpiece alone
and making sure I’m blowing that a really
helps everything settle everything back into place. – Practice these exercises
sitting at the piano so you are able to match
the pitches exactly. A tuner can also work,
but hearing the sound and matching it is actually
more important because we want to develop
our ability to hear the pitch before it sounds. Start by playing
the A on the mouthpiece. Then, by changing
your tongue position, bend the pitch
down by a half step. [HIGH PITCHED SQUEAKY NOTE] The change in vowel shape
in your mouth should be something
like if you were to say: eeee—-uuuhhh. It’s important to be sure
that you’re not changing your embouchure in any way. As you get better at this, keep increasing how far you’re
able to bend the pitch . [HIGH PITCHED SQUEAKY NOTE] Now let’s put the mouthpiece
on and do what’s called the front F trick. This is the same
concept we just worked on, but now we’re going to use
the saxophone instead of just the mouthpiece. – Begin by fingering
and playing a front F. Next, finger a front E,
return to F, and then using your voicing, bend the pitch down to an E
and back up to F. Do it slowly at first
just to get the feel, then try to do it
with your metronome set at quarter
note equals 60. Just like working with
the mouthpiece alone, gradually expand your range and see how far
you can bend the pitch. [MUSIC] – Finally, remember that these
exercises are more about control and precision
rather than speed. It’s not how fast
you can do them, but how controlled
that’s most important. A great resource for more
exercises and information
about this concept is Voicing: An Approach to the
Saxophone’s Third Register by Donald Sinta
and Denise Dabney. [MUSIC] Playing in tune with others is an essential skill
for any musician. But first we need to understand
how intonation works and the mathematical
principles behind it. – There are two types
of tuning systems that you should be
familiar with. The first is equal temperament, which divides the
octave into twelve equal parts, making every
half-step interval equal. This system is a compromise,
allowing keyboard instruments to sound relatively in tune
in more than one key. Practicing and understanding
equal temperament is useful to get yourself in the ballpark, but shouldn’t be
used in ensemble playing, because the intervals
won’t sound in tune. The other system is
called pure temperament, sometimes called
“just intonation.” Instead of breaking the
octave into twelve equal parts, each interval is adjusted based
on what part of the chord you’re playing, so the resulting
harmony is free of waves. The saxophone, like any
other non-keyboard instrument, has the flexibility to adjust
each pitch it plays based on the harmonic context. Listen how to adjust the
interval of a major 3rd so it sounds in tune. [SAXES PLAYING,
MAJOR THIRD APART] The best way to practice this
on your own is to use a drone pitch. Many metronomes and tuners
will sound a pitch for you although any method
will do as long as it is loud enough to hear
while you’re playing. You can even
practice with your friends. Just make sure they can
hold a pitch very steady! Here’s one exercise to try. – Have one player
produce the drone. And the other practice
holding each pitch until it sounds in tune. Adjust each interval
as quickly as you can always listening down
to the lowest note. Understanding the mathematics
of intonation will help you adjust
so you sound in tune. Knowing what note
you have in the chord can help you anticipate
which direction and how much
you’ll need to adjust. – The two most important things
to remember about intonation are to be flexible and always be
listening to those around you. [MUSIC] Altissimo is the upper range
of the saxophone above the highest palm keys,
high F or F# on most saxophones. Playing in this register used
to be considered an extended technique,
but for today’s repertoire it’s a necessity. And for most
professional players, it’s part of the
saxophone’s normal range. There are many fingerings
we can use for these notes, but knowing the fingerings will
not automatically allow you to play altissimo. In fact, the fingerings
aren’t even that important. Watch as Sergeant Sacawa
sustains an altissimo G# while fingering an
entire chromatic scale. [PLAYING, BUT PITCH
NOT CHANGING DRASTICALLY] This is an extreme example,
but one that really shows how unimportant
altissimo fingerings can be. It is, however, very important
to develop a good feel for the front F fingerings
that bridge the gap between the palm keys
and the altissimo register. These are the front E,
F, F#, and G fingerings. Try incorporating
these fingerings into your scale routine,
as well as gradually extending the range of your scales
into the altissimo. I also like practicing the
first 5 notes of my major scales beginning on high Bb. [MUSIC] And of course you can always
simply isolate problem intervals and practice them slowly. Remember, that while fingerings
can facilitate playing in the altissimo register,
the most important ingredients for success are the voicing
concepts you learn from practicing overtones
and mouthpiece exercises, and the ability to hear
each pitch before you play it. [MUSIC] I’d like to talk about one of
the more advanced techniques for the saxophone. Circular breathing is a method
of playing continuously without stopping for a breath. This is done by storing a small
amount of air in the mouth, allowing you to continue blowing
into the instrument while inhaling
through your nose. This technique has become
an essential part of contemporary classical
saxophone performance. First, take a deep breath
and fill your cheeks with air. Now exhale as much air as you
can through your nose but keep your cheeks puffed out. Breathe in and out
through your nose a few times while keeping the
air in your cheeks. This reservoir in your cheeks
is what you’ll be using to circular breathe. Now exhale all your
air from your nose, and follow with a forceful
“puff” from the mouth using the air in your cheeks. Once you’ve
mastered the cheek puff, you’re well on your way. Now find a thin straw
and a glass of water. A coffee stirring straw
works great for this exercise. Put the straw in the water
and fill your cheeks with air just like before. Exhale through your nose
and then blow bubbles using only the air
in your cheeks. What came out before
as a quick puff of air now comes out much more slowly
because of the straw. Next, blow bubbles
with the air in your cheeks and try to breathe in
and out through your nose allowing your lungs to fill. When your cheeks are empty, just allow them to fill up again
with the air in your lungs. Once your cheeks puff out again, you’ll find you’re using
the air in your lungs. Now the trick is to be able
to use the air in your cheeks whenever you feel
like you need a breath. Keep in mind you’re not actually
breathing in and out at the same time;
it’s sort of an illusion. You’ll have to use your cheek
muscles to push out the air while you breathe in
through your nose. It may take a while to get it,
but once it clicks, it will seem easy. Now you’re ready to
try it on the saxophone. Practice a normal long tone
while puffing your cheeks and pulling them back in several
times just to get a feel for it. [LONG CONTINUOUS TONE] Then try to make some sound using just the air
in your cheeks. [SHORT TONES] The goal is to avoid
the hiccup in the sound that comes when you switch from
cheek reservoir to lung power. [LONG CONTINUOUS TONE] You’ll find there are certain
ranges and passages where circular breathing
is virtually impossible. Circular breathing
should not be noticeable, and should only be used to
improve the musical phrase. Slap tonguing is
a percussive effect achieved by creating suction
between the tongue and the reed and then allowing
the reed to “slap” back onto the mouthpiece. – There are two basic types
of slap tongue: the “pitched” or “closed” slap, where the mouth
remains closed and you hear the tone resonate, and the “open” slap, where you
open your mouth quickly and primarily hear
a percussive effect with very little tone behind it. – Today we’ll just talk about
the more common closed slap. – The closed slap is achieved by
creating suction on the reed with your tongue. Start by practicing this
with a reed off the mouthpiece. Some people say a
larger reed works better, so if you have a tenor
or bari reed you can feel free to use that. – Now stick out your tongue. Create some suction on the reed
so it sticks to your tongue. You’re basically wrapping
your tongue around the reed. Pull the reed away
from the tongue and you should hear
a slight pop. [POP POP POP] During this exercise you
probably had about half the reed in your mouth
to get the suction. You’ll want to work on creating
suction on a smaller area of the reed
using less of your tongue. – Work on this for a while, then put the reed
back on the mouthpiece. Create the suction
and allow the reed to pop back on the mouthpiece. [SLAP SLAP SLAP] That’s the slap. Though this technique
might seem awkward right now, the more time you spend on it,
the easier it will become. The goal is to be able to insert
slap tongued notes as desired without changing
your embouchure. [SLAPPING] – Slap tonguing is considered
an advanced technique and should be approached
with the guidance of a private teacher. It should only be used when the
music specifically asks for it. [MUSIC] Double tonguing
is a skill that saxophonists don’t use all the time, but one that can be
helpful to have. In band, because we
often play with the brass, even a great single
tongue sometimes isn’t enough. And it’s situations like
these that knowing how to double tongue
can be extremely beneficial. Double tonguing is done
by alternating between two syllables–
tuh and kuh. The tuh is your
regular articulation, and the kuh is an articulation
made by the back of your tongue. Here’s an exercise to
help you get a feel for it. Set your metronome
to quarter note equals 60 and play legato quarter notes
on a single pitch alternating between
the tuh and kuh articulations. [MUSIC] Focus on making
the two articulations sound as similar as you can. It might feel like you have
to exaggerate the kuh a bit to get it to match the tuh. This is the key. Once you get comfortable
with the basic technique, you can start to refine it. Just like working on
your single tongue, start slowly and
gradually increase the tempo. Here’s an exercise
that I like to use. [MUSIC] One trick to developing
a smooth double tongue is to try and play exercises
like this as legato as possible. Thinking about playing legato, will keep your air moving
forward and really helps you refine the transition
between the two articulations. As you continue to
develop your double tougue, it’s important that you don’t
just practice eighth note and sixteenth note patterns. Exercises in triplets
are extremely beneficial and can actually help you
increase your speed dramatically since they force you to
begin every other downbeat with a different articulation. [MUSIC] While there’s no substitute
for a good single tonguing technique,
knowing how to double tongue can be useful
when you need more speed. Ideally, you shouldn’t be able
to tell the difference between your single tongue
and your double tongue. Practicing slowly
and refining your technique with some of the exercises
we talked about will help you achieve this goal. [MUSIC] Since every player’s
hands are unique, and there are several slightly
different designs for saxophone palm keys, it’s important to
understand how your hands work with the palm keys
on your instrument. For some people, your hand may actually press
the keys with the palm, and for others it may
be part of the finger closer to the knuckle. There are also after-market
rubber or metal risers designed to make the reach
a little easier, and you can have custom risers
built out of cork by a good repairperson. Regardless, you’ll need to find
a way to reach the palm keys without changing
your hand position. Practice very
slowly in the mirror, and pay special attention to
where the key hits on your hand, striving for consistency. Practice all your
scales full range, up to high F or F#, also practicing them
in 3rds, 4ths and 5ths. You’ll likely find
that the palm key sections are the most difficult
parts of any scale so practice them slowly. The more you understand how your
body works with your instrument the more control
you’ll have when playing. Taking note of how your palm
keys work with your hands is a great way to improve
your upper register. [MUSIC] The low register
can pose challenges to both response
and intonation. Because we’re blowing
through most or all of the saxophone’s tube, proper
embouchure and air support are critical to getting
the low register to respond
at any dynamic level. For fast passages, precise and accurate finger
movement is also important. If the right keys don’t open
and close at the same time, low notes won’t speak. Slow, repetitive practice is
needed to develop precision, especially in the low register. Also, the lowest notes
on the instrument use the pinky cluster keys, which require rolling the pinky
between multiple keys. Slowly practice awkward
intervals like low C# to B, B to Bb,
and Eb to C. [MUSIC]] Gradually build up the
strength and dexterity needed to navigate
the pinky keys. Here’s a tip: for low B
to Bb, I simply use my pinky to nudge the low Bb key
down from the roller. [MUSIC] You may notice your hands
getting tired, especially if you haven’t
used these keys much before. Don’t overdo it
or injure yourself. If your hands
start getting sore, stop for a while and
revisit these exercises later. Though we don’t use the low
register all the time it’s still important
that we work on it. Over time it should become as
fluid as the rest of the horn. Check out books like
The Saxophonist’s Workbook by Larry Teal, and Trent Kynaston’s
Daily Studies for more great exercises
to develop your facility in this range. [MUSIC] We wanted to take a moment
to share with you some things we consider essential for you to
have in your musician’s toolbox: – A metronome loud enough to be
heard over normal dynamics… A chromatic tuner that sounds
various pitches… – A reed guard or safe storage
method for your reeds… – Cork grease… – A reed knife and high grit
sandpaper for balancing reeds… – A small flat head
screwdriver… – And a pencil. You may find some other things
that you like to carry with you but this list
is a great place to start. – Now that you have
the right tools, the best advice
we can give any musician is to practice often and don’t
practice mistakes. Practicing is essentially
a training session where you teach your mind
and body how to do something. And though it’s okay
to make mistakes, if you repeat them, you are
essentially training yourself to play those mistakes. – Use a practice routine,
but vary it from day to day to keep yourself engaged. Your routine should include
a warm up made up of breathing exercises,
attacks and releases, and long tones; scales
and articulation exercises; as well as etudes and music. – With everything you practice,
learn it slowly and gradually
increase the tempo. Never practice faster
than you can play cleanly or sacrifice sound
or musicianship for speed. – That’s right. You should never
just work on the notes. Always play with
direction and musicality, regardless of the tempo
or what you’re playing. The best players always practice
as if they’re performing. – We can’t emphasize enough
that there is no substitute for practice time. There are no shortcuts
or easy fixes when learning an instrument,
and only you can do the work. Embrace the joy of learning how to play your
instrument everyday! We hope you find
these tips helpful, but it’s best to find a private
teacher to meet with regularly. [MUSIC] Have you ever noticed how
different middle C# and D sound? Even though they’re right next
to each other on the staff the middle C# usually sounds
really small and thin, while middle D is
much darker and heavier. This is because the C#
uses a very short tube while the D uses
a very long one. This is what we call the break. So how do we keep the tone
quality consistent and make sure both notes
always speak? Voicing can help if we direct
the air in a way that minimizes the differences
between the two notes – in effect making the C#
sound slightly darker or the D slightly brighter. Try isolating middle C to D
and middle C# to D and practicing them alone,
paying special attention to how both notes
sound and respond. Here is an exercise
to work on this. [MUSIC] Air support is also
extremely important, because playing from one note
to the other creates a sudden, dramatic change
in the length of tube. Any time this happens, we have
to use enough air support to fill up the longer tube, otherwise that note
might not speak. Keep this in mind anytime
you play over the break. With some practice, playing over the break should
sound natural and seamless. [MUSIC] If you’re a beginner,
you’ve probably learned the most common fingerings. But if we only use
these fingerings we end up with some awkward
problems to overcome, namely cross fingerings. These cross fingerings include
intervals like A to Bb, B to C, and F to F#, and each of them can be
difficult to play cleanly without using
alternate fingerings. – For Bb
we have two options – the bis key is depressed
with the index finger along with the 1st key, and can be useful when
playing from G to Bb. – The lowest side key
is great for trilling between A and Bb and also cleans up the interval
between Bb and C. – The second side
key is used for C, and allows us to play
from B to C while avoiding
the cross fingering between the index
and middle fingers. – The alternate F# key
is pressed with the right ring finger, and serves the same purpose
when moving between F and F#. – These alternate fingerings
should make many challenging passages
easier, and over time you should become
as comfortable with them as you are with the rest
of the instrument. [MUSIC] Middle C# can be a troublesome
note on the saxophone for two reasons. First, because all
of the keys are open, it has a very different
tone quality than all of the other notes. Second, on many saxophones
this note can be very flat. Here’s a fingering that can
help with both of these things. Press the octave key and push the G key down with
your left hand ring finger. That’s it. This is the C#
fingering I use all the time, and unless I’m playing something
extremely fast I’ll use it in most
technical passages. Be careful because this
fingering doesn’t work on all saxophones, and might even lower the pitch
on some models. But for the horns
it does work on, it’s a great way to make
your middle C# sound better. [MUSIC] We’ve all experienced a sticky
G# or low C# key at some point, and possibly in some
fairly embarrassing ways. But as saxophonists
it’s a fact of life for us, and something we have
to learn to deal with. So, how can we help
prevent this from happening? – A quick fix for a sticky G#
or low C# key is to take a dollar bill,
fold it and stick it between the pad and the tone hole, and while pushing
the pad down lightly, pull the dollar bill out. This will remove any moisture
that is causing the key to stick. It’s a very simple fix but one
that will usually work when you run into this issue. – Have you ever tried
to play a low Bb, B, or C# only to find
that it barely speaks? If you’re having this issue,
one thing to check is the adjustment screw
that closes your G# key. – Most modern saxophones
have adjustment screws that close the bis
and G# keys when the right hand stack
is depressed, and also one that closes
the low C# pad with the low B and Bb keys. If these adjustment
screws are too loose, they won’t keep the pads
down when we need them to. If they’re too tight, they’ll prevent other
keys from closing all the way. Use a flathead screw driver
to turn the screw to where it just closes the key. – If you don’t feel comfortable
adjusting them yourself, have a repairperson check
them for proper adjustment. – There are many
things you can do to help prevent
your reeds from warping. But unfortunately,
a reed’s fate is inevitable due to a constant process of
wetting, drying and vibrating. However, a little work
can save your best reeds from a forceful shove into
a wall or music stand. – For a reed to work well, it should lie completely flat
against the mouthpiece. You can check if your reed
is sealing properly by removing the neck, placing it in your palm,
and sucking out the air. If your hear a “pop”
after a few seconds, you are good to go. If you’re not able
to create this suction, and you hear air leaking from
the sides of the mouthpiece, your reed is likely
too dry or warped. Check the reed by placing it
on a flat surface and see if it rocks
from side to side. – Once you’ve identified
that your reed is warped, you will need a flat surface,
like glass or plexiglass and some fine grit sandpaper. It’s important that you only
attempt to adjust your reeds once they’re
completely broken in. With a pencil, lightly draw a
straight line horizontally along the center
of the back of the reed right about where the edge of the table of your
mouthpiece would be. You can often find this spot
on well used reeds because you will see a tiny
U-shaped ridge on the reed. Press the reed gently
against the sandpaper and sand the back of the reed. I either move in circles, both
clockwise and counter clockwise, or do some sort of figure 8 . You will want to sand the reed
just enough so that when you look
at the back of the reed your pencil mark
is no longer there. If the reed is
still not sitting flat, you can repeat this process,
but be careful. There is only so much cane
you can take off of a reed before it fails to
vibrate properly. You can always remove
cane from the reed, but you can’t put it back. Test the reed by playing on it
before taking off more cane. – Another thing that can happen
to your reeds over time is what we like to call
the potato chip reed where the tip
becomes wavy. To fix this, make sure
the reed is wet, and smooth out the tip
of the reed on a flat surface with your thumb. I typically use the table
of my mouthpiece to do this. Play on the reed for a minute
or so and repeat this process. You’ll soon find your potato
chip reed has ironed itself out. Reeds are expensive and you’ll want to get
the most out of them, so try to fix a warped reed
before you throw it away. [MUSIC] Playing chamber music
or in an ensemble of any kind is one of the most
rewarding and fulfilling musical experiences
you can have. I think we all agree that one of
the greatest parts of our job is that we get to play in a
saxophone quartet together. Working closely with the same
musicians on a consistent basis is really fun and over time you
actually learn to communicate with each other
without even speaking. So we thought we’d share
a few of our favorite tips for playing chamber music. – You can communicate a lot to
another member of the ensemble just by making eye
contact with them. In addition to eye contact, using your body language
and gestures can help communicate
entrances, cutoffs, and other landmarks
in the music. – Speaking of entrances
and cutoffs, you can always tell how good
a group is by paying attention to how together they are at the
beginnings and ends of notes. Breathing together when starting
any phrase is an easy way to make sure you all
start at the same time. An ensemble that
breathes together, plays together. – Know whether you have
the melody or an accompanying figure. In general,
when you have the melody you’ll want to
play out a little bit, but when you have an
accompanying figure you should play softer
and underneath the melody. – Just like you’ll listen
horizontally to know whether or not
you have the melody, you should also
be listening vertically so you know which note
in the chord you have. Developing your ear this way
takes a lot of the guesswork out of playing in tune since you’re more aware
of how you need to adjust to sound in tune
with the chord. – In a chamber group
everyone’s voice and opinion is equally important. Be open to listening to
others’ musical ideas even if it’s not something
you think you’d do yourself. Always give an idea a shot. There’ve been lots of times
when we’ve all been surprised at how well
something worked, even ideas that seemed
odd to us at first. – How well a group communicates
musically can often be linked to how well they know
each other personally and how much trust
they have in each other. Spend time just hanging out with
the members of your ensemble in a non-rehearsal setting. – Getting together
outside of rehearsal can also be a fantastic time
to listen to recordings of other great musicians
and ensembles. For example,
when we were working on the Beethoven Quartet,
we regularly spent time together listening to the Guarneri String
Quartet’s recording of the piece and talking about how we could
incorporate some of their musical ideas into
our own performance. – Playing in a chamber group is a lot like being
in a relationship. There’ll be ups,
there’ll be downs, and you’ll continue to
grow and evolve together. Remember all of these tips
when you’re starting your chamber music journey,
but most of all, remember that it’s fun to make
music with other people. We hope you’ve enjoyed
these lessons on classical saxophone playing. Keep watching for some
great tips on jazz saxophone from the Jazz Ambassadors. Hi! We’re the saxophone section
of the Jazz Ambassadors of the United States
Army Field Band. I’m Master Sergeant
Andrew Layton, lead alto saxophone. – I’m Sergeant First Class
Joshua Fox, alto saxophone. – I’m Sergeant First Class
Pat Shook, tenor saxophone. – I’m Sergeant First Class
Bradford Danho, tenor saxophone. – I’m Staff Sergeant
Dustin Mollick, baritone saxophone. – The following chapters discuss
and demonstrate how to play the saxophone
in a jazz style. In this portion of the saxophone
standard you’ll hear some things that are similar
to what you learned in the classical section, and other things
that are quite different. We’ve limited the topics
discussed to the most relevant, including jazz embouchure, jazz tone, jazz articulations, jazz feel, and some differences
in equipment. – We’ll also discuss the history
of the big band saxophone section through
some playing examples, and talk about each
player’s role in the section. We hope to help you feel more
comfortable as a jazz player, and to clear up any
misconceptions you might have about playing jazz saxophone. Thanks for watching. – Learning how
to articulate in jazz can be like trying
to put a puzzle together without having
all of the pieces. In jazz band charts, often the
music doesn’t tell you which notes to tongue
and which notes to slur. Most classical music is
meticulous when it comes to articulation,
but jazz is not. Jazz articulation
leaves it to the player to decide which notes to tongue
and which notes to slur. The difficult part is learning
how to make those decisions. There is no handbook or style
guide to walk you through how to articulate. The best way to learn
is by listening to as many great jazz saxophonists
as you can, and imitating them
as closely as possible. But, here’s a basic lesson
on jazz articulation that can serve as a starting
point for beginners. Because we’re
playing in a jazz style, my notes will be
played with a swing feel. I’ll start by playing a Bb
concert scale up to the ninth
scale degree, which is one note above
the octave, and back down. A basic jazz articulation
is to tongue the up-beats and slur into the downbeats. It’s notated like this,
and sounds like this. [MUSIC] How heavy the swing feels depends on the tempo
of the chart. The faster the chart, the more even your
eighth notes will sound, and the lighter
your tongue should be. [MUSIC] The slower the chart, the more bouncy
your eighth notes will be. [MUSIC] When practicing this, keep your
airstream full and connected. Don’t chop up the volume
of sound based on tempo. There are a variety of etude
and solo transcription books available that will help you
learn how and when to tongue. Lennie Niehaus’ etude books
are a great place to start, and finding transcription books
that show articulations can also be very helpful. Look for the Jazz Ambassadors’
video “Inside the Big Band” demonstrating
jazz articulations, and also watch the section
on playing with a jazz feel from the saxophone standard
as they go hand-in-hand. Once you’ve spent time listening
to recordings of great jazz saxophonists
and applied what you’ve learned to the charts you’re playing,
you’ll begin to learn how to make decisions on your own
about articulations. Hopefully, you’ll notice
a big improvement in playing simple
jazz articulations and you can apply
these techniques to your own playing
using these simple tips. Historically, the saxophone was
created to exist in the world of classical music, but it has also found
a prominent place in the musical
style of jazz. You have probably noticed
that jazz tone is slightly different
than the sound you produce when playing classical music. In this segment, we’ll be
talking about developing a characteristic and
personal jazz saxophone tone. Ask any wind player the best
way to improve tone production and their answer
will likely be “long tones!” This is as simple as it sounds; playing sustained notes in order
to focus on sound production. – Here’s an exercise
for you to try: start by playing a B natural
in the staff at a forte dynamic for as long as
you can in one breath. [MUSIC] Make sure you’re
breathing full, from the bottom
of your abdomen. I like to imagine
that I’m breathing all the way from the bottom
of my feet. Produce a full
and focused sound; fill the room with it. Repeat the exercise
going down chromatically all the way to low Bb. [MUSIC] Then, play the B natural
in the staff again and go up chromatically
to a palm key F. [MUSIC] Playing long tones every day will improve many aspects
of your playing. Your tone will improve, your
embouchure will strengthen, and when you play with a tuner,
you’ll learn the intonation tendencies
of individual notes on the horn. – Developing as a jazz player
largely involves listening to and imitating
players whose style you enjoy. This is how jazz musicians
have always developed their own personal
styles of playing. First, find a player you want
to emulate and listen to an
improvised solo by that player until you can sing
along with it. – Next, imitate the player
on your instrument, ideally learning
the solo by ear. When studying jazz
conception like this, it’s essential not to forget the
foundation of sound production you learned studying
classical saxophone. With regard to developing
a personal jazz style, the great jazz
trumpeter Clark Terry said, “Imitate, assimilate, innovate.” This truly sums up the
process players use to develop
a personal jazz style. – So maybe you’ve been playing
saxophone for a few years, and your band director thinks
you should join the jazz band. You have little or no experience
with jazz, and you have more
questions than answers. Do I need a different saxophone? Do I need one or
two more mouthpieces? Do I need different reeds? The short answer to these
questions is “Probably not, but maybe.” Let me elaborate… When playing jazz, you are often required to play
with a louder sound than you would
in other settings. Playing in a small group
with drums… Playing in a group
with amplified instruments… And playing in a big band are a few situations
that require more volume than you would want to use
for playing in a quartet or other chamber music setting. Hopefully, by now
you’ve learned that you, the player, make the sound. Your placement
of teeth and lips, tongue and throat
position, and most of all, how you use your air are what
create your personal sound. Those are the most
important variables, although many people
seem to be stuck on which saxophone
or mouthpiece are “best.” Before you try out
different mouthpieces, reeds and saxophones in an
attempt to change your sound, experiment with changing
your airstream… [MUSIC] Rolling your lip in or out… [MUSIC] Trying double lip embouchure
to make sure you aren’t pinching off
the sound… [MUSIC] And taking in more
or less mouthpiece. [MUSIC] Do you need a
different saxophone? Most likely you do not, unless
it’s damaged beyond repair. It’s of utmost importance
that your saxophone is in good playing condition
with no leaky pads. This is important for
playing saxophone in any style. Do you need a different
mouthpiece or different reeds? Maybe. Again, if your
mouthpiece or reeds are chipped, scratched, or damaged in any
way, they are working against your efforts to create
your best saxophone sound. If you can already play the full
range of your saxophone from a pianissimo
to a fortissimo and control the
intonation and tone quality, especially at the louder end
of the spectrum, your mouthpiece
and reed combination will probably
work just fine. If not, you might need
to experiment with a larger tip opening
and/or harder reed. If your band director has
expertise in this area, great. If they have a box of different
mouthpieces you can try out, even better. I would suggest taking a private
lesson with a saxophone teacher who has different mouthpieces
and reeds you can try out. A private teacher will also
likely have some great advice on which mouthpiece
sizes and reed strengths would be best for you. So, I think you’re beginning
to get the picture now. You, the
saxophonist, produce the tone. Your personal tone. Your mouthpiece, reed,
and saxophone should help, not prevent you
from creating your best tone. As long as you can control
the tone, any saxophone, mouthpiece,
reed, or ligature is suitable for playing jazz. – The embouchure is one
of the most important aspects of playing the saxophone, regardless of age
experience level. With this in mind,
it’s not surprising that we’re often asked
about the embouchure and what effect it has
on achieving a characteristic jazz sound. The Jazz Ambassadors work
with many young students who have learned shortcuts
to a jazz sound, which modifies their embouchure
in a way that causes problems in their daily performance. It is vital to develop a strong,
fundamentally sound embouchure and not to manipulate it
with bad habits. The embouchure is directly
connected to your long term success on the instrument, and a fundamentally
incorrect embouchure can lead to problems
with tone production, intonation, physical discomfort, and frustration. Remember, regardless of the
musical style we choose to play, we are all students
of the saxophone first. Now is a perfect time
to examine your embouchure to make sure it’s not causing
problems in your playing. It’s especially important
in jazz to remain relaxed, because stylistic elements
depend on it. The easiest way to check the
firmness of your embouchure is to work with
the mouthpiece by itself. The mouthpiece of each saxophone
makes a specific pitch when played, and practicing
with a piano or tuner will help you make
any necessary adjustments. The alto saxophone
mouthpiece, for instance, will sound a concert A
when played by itself. [PIANO TONE
AND MOUTHPIECE BUZZING] The tenor will sound a G
and the baritone a D. [PIANO TONE
against an A on the piano. If your pitch is too high, you
may be using too much pressure and should relax
your embouchure. [PIANO TONE
AND MOUTHPIECE BUZZING] If your pitch is low, you may need to work toward
a firmer embouchure. [PIANO TONE
AND MOUTHPIECE BUZZING] Depending on the results
of this test, you may find that an adjustment
is necessary. Continue to use
the mouthpiece and piano until you have developed
sufficient muscle memory to consistently play an a
on your own. It will take time to make
those adjustments, so be patient. Remember, the embouchure
is central to your success. Take it slow and let the muscles
learn and strengthen over time. In the end, the only way
to develop a characteristic jazz sound is through
the combination of focused listening, a strong embouchure, and appropriate equipment. Any modification
of the embouchure to achieve a so-called
“jazz tone” will most likely lead
to big problems and should be avoided. Instead, take your time and let your ear shape
the sound for you. – “Feel” is the product of
a personal sense of time, swing, and articulation. Phrases like “swinging”,
“laid back”, and “on top of the beat”
all refer to feel. Everyone has their own feel,
and the best way to change or improve yours is to listen
to and imitate the masters. As discussed in our pro
tips video on articulation, swing feel is determined by
note length and articulation. Different types of swing feels
are appropriate for different tempos, genres,
and style periods. For example, eighth notes
at slower tempos typically have more
of a triplet feel than eighth notes
at faster tempos. Take a listen to “Lilly’s Song”
from the Jazz Ambassadors’ educational project,
“Perspectives.” It’s a slower tune,
and the eighth notes have more of a bouncy
triplet feel. [MUSIC] The faster the tempo, the more evenly your
eighth notes will be played. For a great example of this,
listen to the Jazz Ambassadors’ recording of “Knowledge” from “The Legacy
of Mary Lou Williams” CD. [MUSIC] Musicians of the bebop era
were known for writing and playing tunes
at blistering tempos and their lines are often played
with a straighter swing feel. Just like you heard
on the recording. A simple way to start practicing
this concept is to play scales
with a metronome at both slow and fast tempos. [ASCENDING
AND DESCENDING SCALES] When playing in a big band, it’s important to be familiar
with the various feels of many different big bands
and their respective sections. As you can hear in
our playing examples, our section adapts to the
stylistic differences native to each composer and era
as well as to the sections and lead players every great saxophone
section has their own feel, and it’s important to listen to
and imitate these sections the way you would the masters
of your instrument. The history of the big band
saxophone section goes back to the 1920s. Clarinets were the first
woodwinds used in jazz, and eventually,
the tenor saxophone became the instrument of choice
in early jazz bands. With the popularity
of large jazz ensembles in the early thirties, bands like Fletcher Henderson’s
Jazz Orchestra and Benny Carter’s Orchestra
began to feature arrangements for three- and four-part
saxophone sections. One of the most popular
big bands of the 1930’s was Benny Goodman’s. Listen as the Jazz Ambassadors
saxophone section plays an excerpt of
Fletcher Henderson’s arrangement of “King Porter Stomp,” written for
Benny Goodman’s Band. The style of this section
is idiomatic of the period: short notes, slight quiver
of vibrato from the section, and a warm, almost “classical”
sound from the group. [MUSIC] Just a few years later, Duke Ellington’s
saxophone section became the sound to
emulate for every jazz band. Players like Johnny Hodges,
Ben Webster, and Harry Carney came
to define what would be the Ellington
saxophone sound. We will now play Duke’s famous
“Cottontail” saxophone soli. Listen for the
section’s big attacks, vibrato, and full
section sound throughout. The eighth notes are starting
to swing a little more than the Fletcher Henderson
example, but are not quite
what we would play today as swung eighths. [MUSIC] – One of the most prominent
big bands of the 1940’s was the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Kenton’s bands were also some
of the largest jazz orchestras ever assembled, and their saxophone sections
had a sound and style all their own. Here’s a soli from a
Kenton ballad arrangement, “Street of Dreams.” Notice the
complete lack of vibrato, along with a heavy breath accent
on all of the sixteenth notes and triplets, both hallmarks
of the Kenton saxophone sound. [MUSIC] – The Count Basie saxophone
sections of the 1950’s and 60’s were the epitome of the
jazz saxophone section sound. Writing for sax sections was
getting more and more involved, and the limitations on what
could be done with saxophones in a big band setting
were completely redefined. Players like
Marshall Royal, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Frank Foster, and Frank Wess
became household names for anyone wanting to play
saxophone in a big band. We’re going to play a soli
by Frank Foster on his chart, “Who Me?” Listen to the bounce
of the eighth notes- almost a dotted
eighth-sixteenth swing, reminiscent of the
stride piano players that Count Basie came up with
in Kansas City. This swing feel is necessary when playing anything
by the Basie Band. Note also the section vibrato
on anything longer than a quarter note,
along with the scoops and super short staccato
quarter notes. [MUSIC] – From the late 1960’s
through the present day, the pinnacle of the big band
saxophone section resides on Monday nights at
the Village Vanguard Jazz Club in New York City, where the
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra performs
on Monday nights. This band, founded by
Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, continues the tradition
of the strong big band saxophone section. Players like Dick Oatts, Gary Smulyan, Joe Lovano, and Pepper Adams have played with or still play
with this fantastic group. The soli writing for this group,
written by Jones and others, set the bar even
higher for what could be done in a big band saxophone section. Jones’s chart three and one is an important part
of the big band tradition. You’ll hear a little bit of
everything on this one: strong attacks,
heavy swing, full volume from
each member of the section, and a never-quit attitude
from beginning to end. I like to say that
if you’re not out of breath by the end of
a Thad Jones saxophone soli, you didn’t play it right. [MUSIC] Jazz Ambassadors will be
discussing how each part of the section has a specific
defined role, and what exactly
those roles are. Each member of the saxophone
section has a distinct and important job
to ensure that the section
sounds just right. If any one member doesn’t follow
the roadmap for the role that he or she is playing,
it can destroy the sound and cohesiveness of the section. As the members of the Jazz
Ambassadors saxophone section explain what
their roles are, you’ll see how
we all work together to achieve the best
section sound possible. The lead alto player
in any saxophone section has to be in charge
of the section. Everyone in your section must
listen to you for dynamics, style, swing feel, and time. You must understand all of the
various styles one can encounter in a big band chart,
from Fletcher Henderson to more modern styles
like you might hear from today’s composers. You need to have your
ears open at all times. Is your second alto
matching your pitch and vibrato? Is your lead tenor playing
too loud for the section? Is your baritone copying
your eighth note style? Constant listening is a must! Above all, be consistent. Always do your best to
play things the same way, every time. If you’re constantly
changing things up, how can you expect your
section to follow you? The more consistently you play, the easier it is
for the others to match you. [MUSIC] As the voice
nearest to lead alto, the primary role
of the second alto player is to match the lead alto’s
style at all times. This will vary in degree
depending on the chart, and direction
from the lead alto, but you always need to listen
actively and follow the lead. Even on a chart
that dictates a more soloistic approach
for the lead alto, a good second alto will match
the lead’s inflections slightly, softening the lead alto’s
interpretation against the section’s. Matching style is also necessary when the second player
is called on to play lead. Unless you are playing lead
throughout the chart, it’s your responsibility to
keep your style consistent with the style established
by the lead alto. To be successful at this chair, you need to have one ear glued
to the lead player at all times and listen, listen, listen. The more you listen, the easier
your job will be and the better the section
will sound. – The primary role
of the 1st tenor in the jazz saxophone section is to support the lead
alto player’s musical decisions. When not playing with the
rest of the saxophone section, you’ll often double a
trumpet or trombone part. Listen back and try to blend
and match style with those instruments,
as more often than not they can not hear you
to match your style. During unison passages,
the tenor saxophone should be the lead voice in the section to
balance the overall sound. – The 2nd tenor sax
has a multi-faceted role in the jazz
saxophone section. First and foremost,
the 2nd tenor player should always actively listen
to the lead alto. Being voiced towards the
bottom of the section, the 2nd tenor
along with the baritone creates the foundation
of a strong and cohesive section sound. The 2nd tenor also sometimes
plays in unison with other instruments,
such as 3rd trombone, so listen back to the brass
as well as the lead alto. – Traditionally,
in big band music, the bari player divides his
or her time playing with either the saxophone section
or the bass instruments. The bari provides the foundation
for the saxophone section. It has the lowest range of
any saxophone in the section, and is usually voiced that way. In saxophone solis, the bari is often written
in unison with the lead alto. This presents a unique
intonation challenge since you are playing the
same notes one octave away from the highest voice. MAN: Dustin, can you play those
three bars at 125 real quick? – Just so I can hear what…
– Yes! Let’s do it. MAN: Just go ahead and play it
by your self one time so I can hear… [MUSIC] MAN: Let’s do it, let’s do it
together one time just a little bit bouncier on
the eighth notes, okay? Ready? One, two, uh one, two,
three, four… [MUSIC] MAN: Yeah, good. – The rest of the time, the bari is playing in unison
with the bass and bass trombone. This means you’re trying
to balance your sound with two of the loudest and
most powerful instruments in the ensemble. When playing parts with
the bass instruments, it’s essential to listen back
to your bass trombonist and across the ensemble
to the bassist for balance. Dynamically, it’s easy to get
too wrapped up in trying to play the dynamics
exactly as they’re printed and forget to listen
to the section you’re currently playing with
for dynamic cues. Don’t fall into this trap. As a general rule, I try
to play the “strong version” of the written dynamics. This isn’t to say that you
should just ignore the given dynamic markings
and play loud all the time. Whether you’re playing
pianissimo or fortissimo, you are the foundation
of the section and, along with the other
bass instruments, the foundation of the band. – Following these steps and
laying out simple guidelines for the individual parts
will have a huge impact on the success
of your saxophone section. Never settle for mediocrity. Your saxophone section’s goal
should be to listen to one another
and work together. I hope you gained a little
more insight into how the Jazz Ambassadors
Saxophone Section thinks and works together. Remember, you must work
as a team. Always work together to
achieve the best section sound. Thanks for watching
the saxophone standard by the U.S. Army Field Band’s
Concert Band and Jazz Ambassadors
Saxophone Sections. Studying a musical instrument
is a lifelong pursuit, and we recommend seeking
a private teacher to guide you on that journey, regardless of your ability level
or playing style. Check out our website: for additional resources, including reference recordings and additional
educational videos.

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