Embouchure is one of the main things affecting the quality and timbre of our sax sound. It includes lips,teeth,jaw tongue as well as almost all the muscles contained in our mouth and face. Embouchure affects both the air stream (finally) coming to your mouth and the characteristics of reed’s vibration. If one has some embouchure faults, it immediately results in unsteady, week and muffled sound and lack of control. Who wants to listen to and to produce that kind of sound ? I bet no one does. So here are a few words about embouchure appropriate for sax playing,
In other words, saxophonists’ embouchure is basically just “how do we hold the mouthpiece in our mouth”. Here is a simple algorithm:
- Place the top front teeth on the mouthpiece making sure they are centralized. You can figure the distance between the tip of the mouthpiece and your teeth only by trial and error, as it varies from player to player. Perhaps a good point to start with is about 10 millimeters and then to “find your own place” on the mouthpiece you are comfortable with.
- Slightly turn in the lower lip as if you are saying the syllable “v”.
- I prefer to obtain the right position of my tongue and lips by imagining that I am pronouncing ö (german o umlaut), as it combines approved and advised by saxophone pedagogues “o” position of lips with “ee” (like in english word “eat”) position of tongue, which makes the air stream (and, consequently, the sound) more focused.
- Finger the middle C or B note and blow your horn pronouncing “four” (according to Sonny Rollins) or “vo” (according to Eugene Rousseau) or “vö” (according to me)
But the main thing to keep in mind is that the embouchure should be “natural”. That means firm but relaxed, feeling maybe like putting a popsicle in your mouth; and let’s remember to avoid putting pressure on the reed with your bottom lip.
Playing long tones every day in the beginning of your sax practise session is an indispensable exercise for both our embouchure and breathing.