Soprano Saxophone: Many Ways to Deliver The Air

Much too little attention is paid to the topic of “how” the air can be delivered when playing soprano saxophone. It is not easy to discuss but it is very easy to experience for yourself. Then , you can draw your own conclusions about just how much you can ‘create” your own sound.

So, try these things for yourself:

  1. First play the way you always play or the way you’ve been told is “correct”. Listen to the quality of the sound as you play slowly through the middle of the horn.
  2. Now, let’s change “how much” mouthpiece you take into your mouth. Try moving “out” closer to the tip with your upper teeth and lower lip. Nothing really dramatic but something substantial. You will “feel” immediately that the new position makes different demands on your embouchure. Play again across the middle of the horn and listen to the sound. How does it compare to #1 above? You may not be able to control it very well but that is not the point; how has the “tone” changed?
  3. Next, change your connection to the mouthpiece with your upper teeth. If you normally “center” the mouthpiece beak on your two front teeth, try “favoring” one tooth or the other, possibly using only one tooth. Play that way in each of the positions from above (more mouthpiece, less mouthpiece). How has the sound changed?
  4. Experiment with the placement of your mouth on the mouthpiece, in small increments of change. Very small changes can have significant impact on the sound quality. It can also have a significant impact on your ability to vary the tonal complexity of your sound in new ways.
  5. Ever notice how some soprano players play with the horn a bit “sideways” coming out of their mouth? That would indicate that they are favoring on side of the their upper teeth. Why would they do that? Try it and find out.

This experiment is not designed to discover the ‘easiest” way to play the soprano. It is rather useful in discovering how to have more control over your tone and your facility as a player, more choices and more eloquence. It can and will show you that YOU can darken your own tone or brighten it, that you can actually ADD partials to your tone or ‘dampen” them.

Be warned, though. Once you have discovered just how good you can sound, you may be compelled to change your approach.

There is not one way to “play” the soprano saxophone. Do some experimenting, but know that there is likely a going to be some work to do to make it second nature. I changed, after 30 years.

We use the term “blow”, but we really mean “play”. There is a difference.