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How do you put the saxophone in your mouth? Mistakes that you should know

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

As from the first kiss with the person you like, even from the first look of the embouchure of a saxophonist you can understand, in general, what kind of sound born.

Quite often, a beginner takes positions that may seem comfortable at first, but in the long term they are very bad for the balance and the control of the sound.

We should understand that the saxophone is made up of 6 parts:

1 - Reed;

2 - Ligature;

3 - Mouthpiece;

4 - Neck;

5 - Body of the instrument;

6 - Strap.

Each of these elements is connected to each other.

How can a person at the very beginning pretend to use 6 objects at the same time and to hear a good sound?

You always end up complaining about the reed, which is too hard or too soft, the type of mouthpiece, too closed or too open, and the saxophone that is not of a good brand or is not in tune.

The sound starts and ends in the mouthpiece: the way you blow into it. Nothing else.

I am simply talking about the quality and control of the sound and not the additional nuances which depend on the materials and which are, for 99% of the cases, audible in the most extreme registers of the instrument. Let's leave these opinions to experienced musicians.

The thing that should be of interest to a student is an instrument that closes well and does not have manufacturing defects.

What is the correct embouchure?

The most comfortable to see and probably the least immediate to play! Check out this video of the great Jerry Bergonzi.

You were born with it!

In principle, there are two main embouchure that are explained very well in this short video by Gabriele Andreotti.

Over the years I have noticed how, on average, the musicians of the past put less mouthpiece in the mouth than the more recent ones (we are talking about millimeters of course).

I found the answer: since the mouthpieces were much more closed in the 40s / 50s than today, the lateral gap between the reed and the mouthpiece was less long, which is why a "more superficial" embouchure created less problems.

Imboccatura poco aperta di Coleman Hawkins, mouthpiece technique, Davide Romeo
Coleman Hawkins con imboccatura poco aperta.

If, on the other hand, the mouthpiece is open enough, the gap is longer and, in order to cover this lack of material, it is obviously necessary to put it more inside, to avoid excessive air escaping. (Unless you intentionally want to get a particular sound).

Imboccatura poco aperta di Don Byas. Articolo di Davide Romeo
Dettaglio molto evidente in questa foto

So what is the most common mistake for those who want to start playing the saxophone?

The most common mistake is to buy a mouthpiece with a large opening thinking that this tip opening is directly proportional to the volume of sound that is obtained by blowing into it!

The second mistake that depends on the previous one is that, in order to avoid the difficulties of a large opening and often an unbalanced reed, the players put the mouthpiece only on the tip. The result is that he will "bite" the reed with the lower lip changing the original tip opening.

In the vast majority of cases, all this translates into the classic sound of the duck, even if you have a Selmer Super Balanced Action of 10,000 euros!

He, therefore, will have an 8 opening mouthpiece that become 5 or 6 ... It makes no sense! My experience as a teacher suggests that, the most common interval between openness of the mouthpiece and hardness of the reed for a neophyte (AND NOT ONLY!) playing alto or tenor, is respectively 5 or 6 and from 2 to 3. I will suggest you some mouthpieces that you can buy without being afraid of making a mistake.


If you like to have a conversation with me you can book a free online lesson by clicking here

I would be happy to share my experiences and direct you, within the limits of my skills, towards what I believe is formative.

Thanks for your attention.


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