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As a beginner, I find maintaining my embouchure very difficult. Airy sounds. Help

BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
As a beginner, I find maintaining my embouchure very difficult. I mastered major scales:- D, C, G & A pretty well but last week my tutor added F and B# major scales and it has been so hard. The sounds coming out are airy/breathless. I try relaxing my jaw, reducing my bite but nothing seems to be working, it is so frustrating.. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,327
Hi, Bev....as noted in the other thread, 2 things:

1) have you confirmed your horn is leak free ? You said your teacher "tightened some screws" at your first lesson. Did they then playtest the horn ?

2) if so and all is OK with the horn....did you talk about reed strength with the teacher ? What strength reeds are you using now ? What is your mouthpiece ?

This info would help as a start so others here can offer their suggestions....
 

MarkSax

Member
Messages
140
Your mpc/ reed combo is making your jaw fight a relaxed embouchure because it’s tiring after awhile.Try a softer reed or a narrower opening. This balance is crucial in obtaining a relaxed embouchure with the added benefit of improved intonation. YMMV
 

Zugzwang

Member
Subscriber
Messages
512
B# ? That would be very cruel... Perhaps Bb?
But to be more serious - no scale has notes that are 'harder' than others - harder to think about, certainly, but not harder to blow, assuming you're playing them in the same range.
Getting the bell notes out is a challenge, so if you're playing the both the F scale and the Bb scale down to low Bb, that's hard work, and maybe the stress is making you change all the notes - try 'turning back' early, ie not playing the bell notes, and see how that sounds...
 

Gasax

New Member
Messages
1
The reed, reed placement on the mouthpiece and the mouthpiece could be the issue. Your embouchure and how much of the mouthpiece you take in can also effect the way it sounds.

Hopefully you're not playing on a jazz mouthpiece. I don't play jazz but some of the jazz mouthpieces have an airy sound to them IMO.

What reed strength are you playing and what mouthpiece do you have? Too hard a reed can be difficult to play and may sound a little stuffy or airy. A mouthpiece with a large opening may require a softer reed. Too soft of a reed and it could stop vibrating when you really try to push air through it.

Reed placement on the mouthpiece is also very important. To much of a gap between the reed tip and tip of the mouthpiece can also give you an airy sound. To far the other way and you may squeak a lot. When you put the reed on there should be like a hairline gap between the reed tip and mouthpiece tip. Point the tip up when trying to get that hairline gap between the tips.

How much or little of the mouthpiece do you take in? Once you get the reed on correctly hold the mouthpiece up to the light from the side. Where the reed and mouthpiece meets is the point where your mouth, lips should go around the mouthpiece.

Is your tongue touching the reed while you're playing? That also can make a muffled airy sound.

If it's only airy sounding on some of the notes then it could be something wrong with the saxophone. Keys need adjustments or maybe a leaky pad somewhere?

I'm new to the forum and haven't looked to see if you posted your setup yet. But that information can help us give you some suggestions.

Good luck and keep practicing! :)
 

randulo

Playing alto 2.25 years
Subscriber
Messages
3,757
Hi Bev,

You'll find some interesting information here on Taming the Saxophone

I began by doing exercises without a mouthpiece at all, to strengthen the facial muscles. These involved alternative smile and grimace and holding a pencil in the mouth. The sight of both of these drove my wife crazy, but I can practice of play for hours every day with no muscle fatigue at all, and I'm over 70 years old.
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
B# ? That would be very cruel... Perhaps Bb?
But to be more serious - no scale has notes that are 'harder' than others - harder to think about, certainly, but not harder to blow, assuming you're playing them in the same range.
Getting the bell notes out is a challenge, so if you're playing the both the F scale and the Bb scale down to low Bb, that's hard work, and maybe the stress is making you change all the notes - try 'turning back' early, ie not playing the bell notes, and see how that sounds...
I stand corrected, yes Bb. It is very challenging but for some reason my tutor thinks I can do it... I am going to try turning back early and see how I get along. Thanks for the advice.
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
Hi Bev,

You'll find some interesting information here on Taming the Saxophone

I began by doing exercises without a mouthpiece at all, to strengthen the facial muscles. These involved alternative smile and grimace and holding a pencil in the mouth. The sight of both of these drove my wife crazy, but I can practice of play for hours every day with no muscle fatigue at all, and I'm over 70 years old.
Hi Randulo, thank you for link and facial exercise tips. Will definitely give it a go.
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
Hi JayNM, thank you for responding.
1). I think some of your response relates to someone else's post. But in response to your question. No I haven't had my horn checked to see if it's leak free. I will ask my tutor at my next session.
This is where the mix up comes into play... I didn't say my teacher "tightened some screws at my first lesson"
My Reed strength:plastic 2.5 and came 1.5
Mouthoiece Yamaha 4C, which came with my tenor sax and I have not changed it.
I used my plastic 2.5 Reed when I learnt my major scales:-D, C, G & A. Then I switched over to cane Reed 1.5 whilst learning to play Amazing Grace, Mary HD a little lamb.
This week's homework is major scales F, Bb, and song Oh Johnny Boy... what a struggle it has been..
I hope this info will help in further guidance.
Thanks a lot guys.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,586
I am not sure what instruction you have had so far, but this article by Bruce Pearson contains some fundamental basics of saxophone tone production that I have found effective in my teaching career. The Saxophone Embouchure Bruce Pearson

The stability of one's embouchure is dependent upon building up the strength and endurance of the muscles around the mouth. One of the exercises I used with my beginning players was to play long tones on just the mouthpiece and neck. The note that should sound on tenor is an E concert. I had them play with a big full tone using lots of air holding the note while looking at a clock that showed seconds. We would begin at 15 seconds and gradually work up to 30 seconds or more, resting in between.

An exercise given by Larry Teal in "The Art of Saxophone Playing" to strengthen the muscles in the corners of the mouth is to smile then whistle 50 times, then rest and repeat.

In my experience playing on 1 1/2 strength reed does not help to build the embouchure. I would recommend a cane #2 moving up to a #2 1/2 after a few weeks. When the embouchure tires it is wise to rest for a while. Playing when the muscles are tired can develop other bad playing habits.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,327
Hi JayNM, thank you for responding.
1). I think some of your response relates to someone else's post. But in response to your question. No I haven't had my horn checked to see if it's leak free. I will ask my tutor at my next session.
This is where the mix up comes into play... I didn't say my teacher "tightened some screws at my first lesson"
My Reed strength:plastic 2.5 and came 1.5
Mouthoiece Yamaha 4C, which came with my tenor sax and I have not changed it.
I used my plastic 2.5 Reed when I learnt my major scales:-D, C, G & A. Then I switched over to cane Reed 1.5 whilst learning to play Amazing Grace, Mary HD a little lamb.
This week's homework is major scales F, Bb, and song Oh Johnny Boy... what a struggle it has been..
I hope this info will help in further guidance.
Thanks a lot guys.
Yeah sorry, two recent members here ....I confooosed the two.

Besides the good suggestions given so far.... I reiterate, leaky horn or too hard a reed are two common culptits which result in low notes difficult to make speak cleanly.
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
Subscriber
Messages
3,633
BTW @BevJ you may try to shorten the title of you post next time... ;)

Especially as you repeat the story in the post itself. Or perhaps your applying one of my favorite techniques to get a message across: 'Message is Massage's, although I'm not sure there is a message... Just a question.

Like Jay, I recommend having your horn checked for leaks. It makes a world of difference when it's leak free.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Subscriber
Messages
5,362
Just to repeat what others have said. If you are playing a Bb scale starting on the bottom note of the instrument then that is genuinely hard for a beginner. Try starting at the middle Bb and go down.
 

sizzzzler

Member
Messages
178
Hi Bev
We all have a sound in our head. As our embrouchere developes it tries to achieve that sound. From what you have said I think your sound may be towards the classical. If this is so then the Yamaha 4c would be slightly too big a tip opening and too big a chamber for your stage of development. Your embroucher would be doing too much work to try and get your personal sound out. Rather than buying a new mouthpiece, I would suggest borrowing or trying out Vandoren optimum TL3 and selmer S80 C and C* to see if these work for you.
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
Hi Bev
We all have a sound in our head. As our embrouchere developes it tries to achieve that sound. From what you have said I think your sound may be towards the classical. If this is so then the Yamaha 4c would be slightly too big a tip opening and too big a chamber for your stage of development. Your embroucher would be doing too much work to try and get your personal sound out. Rather than buying a new mouthpiece, I would suggest borrowing or trying out Vandoren optimum TL3 and selmer S80 C and C* to see if these work for you.
Thank you sizzzzler, my tenor sax is a Sakkuju deluxe, which is from what I understood for beginners, as is the mouthpiece. I will do as suggested and try out a different MP. Thanks again.
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
Your mpc/ reed combo is making your jaw fight a relaxed embouchure because it’s tiring after awhile.Try a softer reed or a narrower opening. This balance is crucial in obtaining a relaxed embouchure with the added benefit of improved intonation. YMMV
Thank you Mark, what would be considered as a softer reed? My cane reed is 1.5 and the plastic coated reed is 2.5...
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
Just to repeat what others have said. If you are playing a Bb scale starting on the bottom note of the instrument then that is genuinely hard for a beginner. Try starting at the middle Bb and go down.
Thank you Nigel's, I will try that out and see how I get on.
 
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BevJ

New Member
Messages
25
BTW @BevJ you may try to shorten the title of you post next time... ;)

Especially as you repeat the story in the post itself. Or perhaps your applying one of my favorite techniques to get a message across: 'Message is Massage's, although I'm not sure there is a message... Just a question.

Like Jay, I recommend having your horn checked for leaks. It makes a world of difference when it's leak free.
Hey Saxyjt, being new to this forum, I didn't realise I had typed my question in the title box until I tried to post it. So ended up typing it out again and forgot to delete contents in title. But thanks for noting. No message massaging, just a simple error on my part..

The first thing I will ask my tutor to do at my next lesson is to check my sax of any leaks. Thanks for advice, very much appreciated.
 
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BevJ

New Member
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25
Jbtsax, thank you for the link. I found it very useful. I will take on board all you have said. Thanks again.
 
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