HI all, been playing alto for a couple of weeks now, and progressing very nicely, just one thing, my breathing while playing is terrible, i run out of puff quite quickly, has anyone got any good exercises/techniques......cheers
Hi swagger - are you taking lessons or teaching yourself? Two things to say anyway - firstly, your reed and mouthpiece combination should allow you to play at a decent volume (mf) without undue exertion. If you feel like you're really having to blow hard to get the instrument to speak then you need a softer reed / easier mouthpiece. Remember, the challenge of the saxophone as far as volume is concerned is to control it at a low volume, not a high volume. Saxophones are really pretty loud instruments and they will seize any opportunity you, as a beginner, give them to blare out wildly.
Otherwise, it's a matter of practice and familiarity - perhaps not unlike the phrasing and rhythm of speech. Most people have a sense when they're speaking of when they're going to run out of breath, and they phrase their speech accordingly, snatching a breath in the middle of a long sentence if necessary. Playing a wind instrument is not much different, really.
I think baritonesax said it, but look at the piece you are playing and plan out when you are going to breath - mark it on the score if you wish. If that still seems too long, then cut each phrase in half again.
Take a big breath into the bowels of your lungs and work it out by using your diaphragm, holding long, long steady notes, until you are truly empty, then another deep breath and off you go again.
But check your reed strength too.
I started on a 1.5, have played a 2.5 for about 2 years, and am just moving to a 3. But I know people who have played a 2 for years; as mentioned above it's very dependent on you and your ability to maintain the column of air through your reed/ mouthpiece combo.
A big welcome from the Skabertawe Woodwind and Brasswind Acquisition Consortium. What mouthpiece/ligature/reeds do you use?
Among initial problems, there is obviously the need to take in breath - inflate your belly so that you look or feel like a Buddha or Bagpipe, then do as Mandy advises - just concentrate on a few notes at a time, gradually building your repertoire without rushing it.
Problems with equipment can be as follows:
1. Mouthpieces. Best if you get a good beginner mouthpiece - often the one you get with a sax is not good quality and can be hard work to blow. Very good beginner mouthpieces (cheap as well) are made by Yamaha (4C - 6C), Rico Royal (B3), or Runyon 22 (5 or 6 tip) in size - the tip opening is the gap between the end of the reed and the end of the mouthpiece, usually measured in 1000ths of an inch. The smaller the gap generally the easier to start off with. 0.060" - 0.070" would be good to start with on Alto.
2. Ligature. Make sure that you have one that fits well, and is never too tightly fitted. A decent metal (Rico etc.), or fabric (Rovner or BG etc.) will be worth getting. If it fits badly it won't hold the reed well enough and can lead to squeaks etc..
3. Reeds. As others have said you need to play a reed which is soft enough to produce a sound without much effort - just a good breath, but not exhaustive. Most folks start on a 1.5 or 2 strength reed.
It can help to soak a reed before playing and keep in the reed guard that they come with. Most of us will probably have a couple of reeds or more on the go at the same time so that we are not playing the same one until it dies of overuse. I usually have 4 on the go so each one gets played every 4 days or so and has time to try out and keep its shape.
These 4 things together will all influence the sound that comes out of the end of the sax. It will be helpful to focus on each aspect of this just to see whether there are any weak points that need attention more than others.
Hope to be able to follow how you get on in the nextfew months.
Hello swagger. All of the above will be excellent stuff for improving your breathing. What I´d say is do it all and you will improve but I wouldn´t get worked up about the problems just yet. Two weeks playing you will be out of puff. Too many things to think about all at once to get your breathing right too. It all comes together if you keep doing it right. You probably arent making a really nice noise either, soon will be though. Best wishes
Hi tom. yeah i got a yamaha 6c and my reed is a vandoren 1.5 my first 15 mins of practice is great (few squeeks etc) but then i struggle a bit. am musical piano/drums/guitar, and read music so am ploughing through my john oneils jazz method book ok, even got Van morrisons moondance going ok , love improvising, i will start using the other reeds as suggested, cheers.......cool vibes
Do make sure that you have a break when playing. When I started I played in 15/20 minute slots, with a break in between. Developing an embouchure is challenging and takes time, and gradually makes your breathing more efficient.
Been a VM fan since 1973 - up until "No Guru, No Profit, No Mortgage..." when he lost it .
Lots of good advice from those who have been playing, much longer than I have, but as a beginner myself on tenor, all I can say is, hang in there and eventually you will find that the gaps between needing to take a breath become longer until you find yourself breathing quite naturally without running out of breath. It just takes a little effort to concentrate on a good breathing technique and before you know it, you dont have to think too much about it, honest!
Only a novice myself, but still trying and can agree with piece and reed combination comments already made.
One thing I find is important is to try and practice every day, even if its for only 15-20 minutes. It has become very clear to me that your embouchure deteriorates even after a day or two without playing, breathing too improves the more you play.
Good luck on your journey, highs and lows but think how great it is to be making music; it is surprising how things improve over time, and with some passion for the sound.