Beginner Bad Habits To Watch Out For As a Beginner


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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Another thread gave me the idea to make a list of all of the bad habits that I regularly encounter when teaching classes of beginning saxophone students. This is intended to not only help beginners, but to help teachers know what to watch for.

Problem: Not putting the top teeth on the mouthpiece.
Solution: Use a mouthpiece patch to make doing so more comfortable.

Problem: Putting a different amount of mouthpiece in the mouth each time.
Solution: Use a mouthpiece patch with a groove for the top teeth to find and lock into.

Problem: Playing with the mouthpiece at a different angle each time.
Solution: Play with good posture and adjust the neckstrap to exactly the same length each time.*

Problem: Puffing the cheeks when playing.
Solution: Tighten the muscles at the corners of the mouth as if holding pencils there.

Problem: Poor posture.**
Solution: Use the correct neckstrap length. Bring the sax to you not the other way around.

Problem: Tight throat.
Solution: Say "HAUP" when you take a breath and blow warm air. Think first part of a yawn.

Problem: Moving the chin or jaw while tonguing.
Solution: Move the tip of the tongue the shortest distance to touch the tip of the reed.

Problem: Starting the note with a guttural "GUH".
Solution: Practice blowing an airstream against the finger voicing "tu tu tu tu tu".

Problem: Scooping the beginning of notes unintentionally.
Solution: Practice this sequence for starting the note: Breathe, Set (the embouchure), Release (the air).

Problem: Moving the fingers too far off the keys.
Solution: Practice slowly keeping the fingers touching the pearls to develop the concept. Double stick tape?

* Sitting with good posture adjust the neckstrap so the tip of the mouthpiece touches the curve above the chin. Tilt the head down slightly to insert the mouthpiece into the mouth.

** A useful definition of good sitting posture is 1) both feet flat on the floor 2) back straight 3) ribcage high 4) shoulders relaxed like a tablecloth hangs on a table 5) head straight as if balancing a glass of water on top of the head.

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