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Help with Sax sound

Hi everyone! 

New to the alto sax and i have a quick question, when i go to play i have about one or two seconds of just air and then the sound comes out fine - is this caused by my breathing, embouchure or reed? I have no idea? I just want a clean sound to come out the moment I begin. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :)

[article] Sax practice routine

One of the main problems every saxophone player faces at some point is: “what and how to practise”. I just wanted to share some experience and knowledge on the topic - I’ve been a practising saxophone player for about 18 years already. This is not a complete guide or an instruction, but a note containing some suggestions. Though I am more into practising improvisation now, I’ve tried to mention some more general practise activities here .
So let’s just go through an example of daily practice schedule:

  1. Breathing.
    Whenever I have time I get back to some breathing exercises (see my article on breathing) - 3-5 minutes or so - as breathing is one of the most important things for producing great sound, and cool sound is what we are constantly aiming for.

  2. Long tones
    - indispensable both for embouchure and for breathing skills. Moreover, different dynamics, cresc, dim, steady tone, etc. - at least 15 minutes. Be aware of your intonation and timbre during this exercise! You may want to use some tuner. Also read the article about embouchure posted in this group, I find it important. One of saxophone myths is that “only beginners should practise long tones”. I like to compare that with sports: every sportsman warms up before actually starting doing sports; long tones - is a warm-up for professional wind player, we need that to be in good shape, that’s of vital importance!

  3. Overtones*
    - practising overtones and matching them to standard fingerings. Try to match the “full” timbre and pitch of overtone when playing tones using “normal” fingerings. There are several books on the topic, a good place to start is the corresponding section of David Liebman’s “Developing a personal saxophone sound”

  4. Techniques you need:
    tonguing exercises for “junior” saxophonists , different articulations - for all sax players (it’s extremely helpful to start with simulating articulation of your favourite saxophonists, especially for jazz-oriented musician) for more advanced players the list might look like this: flutter tonguing, split tones (multiphonics), altissimo, growl, circular breathing, etc.

  5. Scales and arpeggios.
    All kinds of scales and arpeggios you need; a plenty of things for jazz players: all modes of major/minor scale, diminished and augmented scale, melodic minor scale (actually there are tons of scales, see the fundamental work of “Yusef Lateef “Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns”) , triads and 7th/9th chords (including augmented ones) arpeggios, studying chord/scale theory (check Mark Levine’s “Jazz Theory Book”). David Baker’s “Creative.Approach To Practicing Jazz” is a good source of ideas. “ I am not too familiar with classical stuff, so feel free to post your thoughts and share your experience in comments.

  6. Exercises.
    Both classical (for developing your overall playing technique, like “Daily exercises for saxophone” by H.Klose) and jazz (elements you need for improvisation - enclosure, 3 to b9, licks and patterns:II-V7, all kinds of cadences, cycle of fifths, etc.. Just remember to practice things in all 12 keys whenever it is possible. Here are the authors of literature on the topic: Jerry Coker (co-writer of “Patterns for jazz” and the author of a bunch of other books), David Baker (“How To Play Bebop” in 3 parts, etc.), and, of course, the educational books with playalongs by Jamey Aebersold.

  7. Practising improvisation.
    That is: studying transcribed solos (and the process of solo transcription itself, of course) - remember analysing not only the notes played in different harmonic situations, but also the master’s articulation and time feeling (is he behind, before or on the beat?; learning tunes with chord progressions, applying patterns, licks and everything you’ve learnt in steps 5 and 6 and, finally, several minutes of “just improvising” to track your progress and just for pleasure. There is a really cool book called “Elements Of The Jazz Language For The Developing Improvisor” by Jerry Coker, I highly recommend it. The same author has an article entitled “How to practice improvisation” in his “Complete Method for Improvisation” book (part of this article was included in Jamey Aebersold’s “Jazz Handbook”)

If you have any questions or if you have something to add to this article - please don’t hesitate to do it in comments!

List of available jazz standards

Alphabetical list of MuseScore jazz standards lead sheets:

All the Things You Are - https://musescore.com/user/27845251/scores/4962493
April In Paris - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/april-in-paris
Autumn Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes) - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/autumn-leaves
Bag's Groove - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/bags-groove
Body and Soul - https://musescore.com/user/27845251/scores/4962109
But Not for Me - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/but-not-for-me
Ballin' the Jack - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/ballin-the-jack
Caravan - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/caravan
China Boy - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/china-boy
Christmas Song, The - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/christmas-song
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/do-you-know-what-it-means-to-miss-new-orleans
Estate - https://musescore.com/user/34714/scores/121561
Fly me to the moon - https://musescore.com/user/84373/scores/103144
Foggy day, A - https://musescore.com/user/28274246/scores/5041483
Frim Fram Sauce, The - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/frim-fram-sauce
Honeysuckle Rose - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/honeysuckle-rose
I Can't Get Started (with You) - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/i-cant-get-started
I Wish You Love - https://musescore.com/user/34714/scores/52280
I Won't Dance - https://musescore.com/user/10401/scores/4987740
Just Friends -  https://musescore.com/user/28274246/scores/5100461
La Vie En Rose - https://musescore.com/user/34714/scores/52287
Lester Leaps In - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/lester-leaps-in
Love For Sale - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/love-for-sale
Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?) - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/lover-man
Man I Loved, The - https://musescore.com/user/637886/scores/432436
Maple Leaf Rag - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/maple-leaf-rag
My Funny Valentine - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/my-funny-valentine
My Romance - https://musescore.com/user/28274246/scores/5041449
Old Country, The - https://musescore.com/user/34714/scores/52281
On A Misty Night - https://musescore.com/user/34714/scores/52289
Poinciana - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/poinciana
Round Midnight - https://musescore.com/user/27845251/scores/4984712
Royal Garden Blues - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/royal-garden-blues
Star Dust - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/star-dust
St. James Infirmary - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/st-james-infirmary
Smile - https://musescore.com/jmechmech/scores/5040821
Stella By Starlight - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/stella-by-starlight
St. James Infirmary - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/st-james-infirmary
Summertime - https://musescore.com/user/27845251/scores/4962990
Take The A Train - https://musescore.com/user/9331886/scores/4923174
What Is This Thing Called Love? - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/what-is-this-thing-called-love
What's New? - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/whats-new
Willow Weep for Me - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/willow-weep-for-me
Yesterdays - https://musescore.com/ericfontainejazz/yesterdays

Jazz standards transcription plan

This is our transcription plan. If you wish to make a lead sheet of any of these standards, please write "xxx started" and "xxx finished " when you finish it (where xxx is the number from the list). Don't forget to post the transcription into this group with a link to the score - and we will put it in our "Available standards" list. If you would like to post any other standard - that's also cool, just upload it and provide us with a link to it.

16. Sweet Georgia Brown
19. [in process] In a Sentimental Mood
20. [in process] St Louis Blues
21. [in process] How High the Moon
22. [in process] Oh, Lady Be Good!
24. [in process] Embraceable You
25. [in process] On Green Dolphin Street
26. [in process] Tenderly
27. [in process] The Way You Look Tonight
28. [in process] These Foolish Things
29. [in process] I'll Remember April
31. Sophisticated Lady
32. Ain't Misbehavin'
33. Night and Day
34. After You've Gone
35. Laura
36. Lush Life
37. Sweet Lorraine
38. Don't Blame Me
39. Cherokee (Indian Love Song)
40. Night in Tunisia
41. Indiana (Back Home Again in Indiana)
42. You Go to My Head
43. There Will Never Be Another You
44.Georgia on My Mind
45. Satin Doll
46. Prelude to a Kiss
47. I Should Care
48. Stompin' At the Savoy
49. How Deep Is the Ocean
50. I Cover the Waterfront
51. Come Rain or Come Shine
52. There Is No Greater Love
53. You Don't Know What Love Is
55. On the Sunny Side of the Street
56. Misty
57. Love Is Here to Stay
58. Perdido
59. Tea for Two
60. It Could Happen to You
61. I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)
62. Skylark
63. Over the Rainbow
64. The Nearness of You
65. If I Had You
66. (I Don't Stand A) Ghost of a Chance
67. Angel Eyes
68. Out of Nowhere
69. Lover Come Back to Me
70. Darn That Dream
71. All of Me
72. More Than You Know
73. I Got Rhythm
74. Just One of Those Things
75. Mean to Me
76. September Song
77. Someone to Watch Over Me
78. I've Found a New Baby
79. Polka Dots and Moonbeams
80. Easy Living
81. Pennies from Heaven
82. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
83. Memories of You
84. It Don't Mean a Thing
86. They Can't Take That Away from Me
87. Star Eyes
89. [in process] Alone Together
90. Just You, Just Me
92. Things Ain't What They Used to Be
93. Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me
94. Blue Moon
95. I Surrender Dear
96. You Stepped Out of a Dream
97. My One and Only Love
98. 'S Wonderful!
99. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
100. Here's That Rainy Day

Saxophone scores and groups

 Welcome to the Saxophone group! Here is some Information for you and links to sax scores and other sax-related groups on MuseScore.  

First of all, this particular group (Saxophone) is kind of “basic” saxophone group, containing discussions and articles about saxophone. To read an article - just scroll down after clicking the "discussions" section. You will recognize an article in "discussions" by the [article] prefix in its title.

You are very welcome to make more posts!  

Then, here are some links to other saxophone-related groups including sets of valuable saxophone scores:  

1) Saxophone ensembles group (quartets,quintets,etc.) - 
https://musescore.com/groups/saxophone-ensembles
2) Jazz Standards Lead Sheets
https://musescore.com/groups/jazz-standards-leadsheets
3) Sax arrangements group - saxophone arrangements of rock/pop music or movies’/games’ soundtracks      
https://musescore.com/groups/sax-arrangements
4) Sax solo transcriptions
https://musescore.com/groups/sax-solo-transcriptions
5) Collection of scores: sax solo or with accompanying instrument - https://musescore.com/groups/saxophone/discuss/5015764

Feel free to create discussions and articles, to add your scores and to comment! 

Solo transcriptions

Hello everyone! I am a professional improvising sax player (mainly tenor sax). Created this group to post sax solo transcriptions synchronized with youtube videos/audios.

Have posted first 2 solos - check out them in "sheet music" section of the group, here they are:
https://musescore.com/user/27845251/scores/4993696
https://musescore.com/user/27845251/scores/5008464

Please feel free to post solos transcribed by you and sync them with original recordings on YouTube.

See the post below on synchronizing scores with youtube videos/audios

Guaranteed Feedback on Saxophone Scores

Hey, everyone!

This is Joshua, and I'm a composer and a performer and a new admin for the group Saxophone Ensembles. I just wanna generate some discussion and get some activity for these forums. Alex has done a really great job so far with his helpful information. Now, it's my turn: to do this, I think the best way to start would be a feedback form: post your scores to the group or just post a link in this chat and I'll do my best to give feedback. Arrangements or original compositions, I'd love to look at all of them and give feedback. This is just to raise some awareness for this community and also get activity going. Expect more discussions and whatnot in the near future.

So, if you want any feedback, I'd be happy to give some to your saxophone score. Post to this discussion or just send to me and I'll take a look at it.

Collection of scores: sax solo or with accompanying instrument

This is a collection of scores for sax+accompaniment (sax+piano or sax+guitar) or solo scores, mostly of classical style, provided by ORWELL6 ( https://musescore.com/user/139709 ), checked by me. I also added some scores there. Please feel free to post more scores of this type (post in this group for now and paste the link to it in comments).

The idea is: If we get more shit music of this type, we will create a separate group of classical sax scores, which will contain this set as a part of it.

[article] Breathing

One of the most important, even the most important aspect of saxophone playing technique is producing sound. Well, that’s obvious: after all, music is the sequence of sounds, and if some musician can’t produce full, nice, let’s say “high-quality” sound, then it’s not worth practising anything else - both the performer and the listener won’t like any music such musician could ever play. But the good news are: with “right” breathing and embouchure (position of lips and everything that is in and around your mouth) anyone can produce the sound he or she really happy with. So let’s deal with the first part of it in this overview: breathing. I’ve been playing saxophone for 17 years and would like to share the information on the topic I find extremely useful.

Actually there are three breathing methods that we use during our day-to-day life. Those are: clavicular (colar bone), chest (throatic) and diaphragmatic. In order to get a full-supported sound on saxophone we need to combine all three methods, but the accent should be put on the diaphragmatic breathing, as this one is the most efficient for our goal: wind instrument playing.

So, what is diaphragm? I don’t feel like inventing something new here, but just referring to wikipedia article instead: it is ” a sheet of internal skeletal muscle that … separates the thoracic cavity, containing the heart and lungs, from the abdominal cavity and performs an important function in respiration: as the diaphragm contracts, the volume of the thoracic cavity increases and air is drawn into the lungs.”

The idea is simple: the air flows naturally to the place with less resistance. So all we need is: 1) Exhale as much air as we can, thus making our lungs a low resistance area 2) Inhale expanding our chest cavity as much as we can to get more air (for our future use in playing instrument) - that is done by lowering of the diaphragm. When playing saxophone during exhaling we “support” the air column contracting the stomach muscles, meanwhile preventing the diaphragm to get quickly to the initial “upper” position, That enables us to play long musical phrases with steady tone/sound.
Here are some exercises on the topic.

To feel the diaphragmatic breathing

  • Ex.1 While lying on the floor (or on the bed or couch if your floor is too dirty:) place an average sized book on your abdomen area. Just breath in a regular way and you will notice the rise of the book when you breath in and the fall of it when you breath out. So the whole breathing process consists of expansion during inhaling and contracting on exhaling

  • Ex.2 To feel the diaphragmatic floor extending: bend over, place your hands on the back of the abdomen area and inhale.Then slowly straighten up and try to get the feeling in the abdomen. For more extreme example try panting like you are out of breath while you are bent over.

To practise the diaphragmatic breathing

  • Ex.3
    1. Place your hands on the abdomen or on the back of the abdominal area
    2. Breath in.with your mouth. I visualise it like being a balloon filling with air (under high pressure) by some pump. So the idea is the quick and powerful air flow to your lungs; quick sip of air, kind of “sucking” it through some imaginary straw.
    3. Breath out with a loud whispered sound, something like “ah”. Try to do that as loud as you can and don’t interrupt the sound. In several days you should be able to reach at least 10-15 seconds of sounding this way.

In this exercise feel the muscles in the abdomen squeezing more and more until you run out of breath. Try to exhale all the air you have, think of it as of squeezing out a sponge. At first squeezing is gentle, but when the sponge runs out of water it becomes more tight. And then - back to step 2. Do it several times, from 10 to 20.

Remember: when inhaling don’t raise your shoulders. Of course they will rise( but just a little !) as the chest cavity expands filling with air, but our goal is diaphragmatic breathing, so focus primarily on the expansion in your abdomen area.

Very thorough study of breathing process and its connection with saxophone player I found in David Liebman’s “Developing A Personal Sound” book, also John O’Neil’s “Jazz Method For Saxophone” contains some useful information on the topic. I’ve mentioned only some pieces of information from the books in this article.

Share more thoughts, breathing exercises in comments. I am eager to know your experience on the topic as well.