BLOW THE DOT:
In order to focus the air and get a beautiful projection of sound, we can practice directing the air toward a dot on the hand. Gradually increase the distance of the air bridge by slowly stretching out the hand while maintaining air contact with the dot. The other hand can be placed on your abdomen to feel the abdominal musculature work to support the targeted air. Move the other hand around the waist 360 degrees to explore air support.
In order to find our most natural and effective mouth position, these five steps can be useful both for beginners and professional musicians.
(1) Feel the contact between the lower lip and the fibers of the bamboo reed.
(2) Roll the reed attached to the mouthpiece slowly in and out so that you can alternate the lip folded and unfolded. Let this movement become less and less so that you find the balanced mode where the lower lip gets enough generous support of the teeth.
(3) Position the upper teeth in contact with the mouthpiece topside.
(4) Draw air through the saxophone as a milkshake. A newborn baby’s first sucking reflex = perfect lip placement. This step also helps prevent air leaks from the corners of the mouth.
(5) Blow your tone and you have now secured a well positioned embouchure!
To find the saxophone´s neutral intonation we can tune like a string instrument, i.e. on a well-greased cork sliding up to pitch from below while playing a lefthand fingered note in the lower octave. Adjust the mouthpiece by pushing it further onto the neck, raising the pitch, until you’ve reached the exact pitch for that note.
Put a reference mark in ink on the cork. Then you know the instrument’s basic pitch without changing your mouth position.
Being able to play a beautiful staccato and being able to start the tone with precision requires a stable air pressure while the tongue acts as a valve that determines exactly when the tone starts. We can first practice this without an instrument in order to feel the full pressure while the tongue works like a bicycle valve. When we manage to get a crystal clear approach that is completely neutral, like a square brick, we can build on our articulation ability.
By being free to choose how much or little mouthpiece that is optimal for every musical situation, we can increase our dynamic and tonal range. It can be advantageously practiced crescendo – diminuendo. Start pianissimo with top teeth at the end of the mouthpiece, which then slowly slides into the mouth as far as it feels good and we have a beautiful fortissimo. Then slide back while we do a steady diminuendo until the tone is almost imperceptible. If you dare to do the exercise in full, it will end with a cliffhanger when the top teeth are just coming off the mouthpiece. It requires a hard and smooth mouthpiece plate without pits that your teeth can get stuck in. Allow the head to stay still so it is only the saxophone that moves.
Vibrato is an intuitive means of expression that can enhance the musical experience. The vibrato mechanics can advantageously be practiced in quintuplets or septuplets. Pay attention to the amplitude and timbre so it still feels like the original tone.
PATTERNS IN ALL KEYS:
To strengthen our relationship with our instrument, it is useful to practice everything in all keys and in all octaves. Feel free to create your own technical exercises by choosing, for example, four tones played rhythmically and accurately with a metronome at least 10 times. Double the tempo when you accurately master the slow pace. Transpose by half tones up and down until you have played in all the possible transpositions. Then take a real break – You deserved it!
When we play, we can with different vowels in the mouth affect the timbre and pitch. Aah (pronounced like car) is neutral. Ee raises the pitch and create more harmonics. Oh & All (like ball) lowers the pitch and creates a rounder sound.
BREAKING POINT “SWEET SPOT”:
By keeping a fixed mouth position, play the upper octave without octave key and wait until the lower octave comes by itself, we find a breakingpoint “sweet spot” where we have the exact same mouth position and can play all the notes and intervals legato without changing anything. We then create the ideal conditions for playing all conceivable intervals legato and with the same tone quality.
HARMONICS & TOP TONES:
To achieve the beauty of safely playing notes above the traditional range requires careful preparation. It is about crystal clear imagination, hearing the tone you want before you play it, and by practicing the natural overtone series. Sigurd Rascher’s Top Tones for the Saxophone is a good guide for this adventure.
REED & MOUTHPIECE CARE:
Bamboo thrives in a humidity of 55% – 65%. Keep them on a glass plate in an airy humidor or cigar box and moisturize regularly. Wipe the mouthpiece with a clean cotton handkerchief + chopstick after the day’s play. Grease the mouthpiece and the inside of the mouthpiece with grease from the outside of the nose. This forms a water repellent film, which prevents condensation and saliva noise. The top of the reed benefits from being greased with nosefat in a unidirectional movement downhill. This will close the pores of the reed and life expectancy increases. The pores on the underside of the reed can also be closed by moving the reed in the longitudinal direction on a glass plate, one-way, only with the thick side first, thus, no back and forth movements. Think of a cat who would prefer to be stroked along the fur!
The body is our primary instrument. Holding the instrument while maintaining the natural curvature of the hands and steady small finger movements are prerequisites for getting a good technique and legato. Pain from the body is a signal that we need to try a new playing position or other instruments.
Physical exercise, body awareness, meditation and relaxed symmetry are often valuable ingredients in our quest to become better musicians.GOOD LUCK !!!
Copyright Anders Paulsson Music Production 2010