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Beginner Puffed out cheeks, Help!

Julie Lambert

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OK, so my son JUST started playing the alto sax. He played his first notes for me today and I was as proud as a peacock. The only problem is that he can't get the note to sound unless he puffs his cheeks all the way out. He said he almost passed out in class trying to play a note. What tips can you folks give me about perfecting his embouchure. Or what else might be wrong?
 

jimmylh

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Is he getting some one on one tutoring from a teacher? If not I'd say that's what he needs right now.
 

jbtsax

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There are so many things that need to be addressed here, but I have time for just a few.

1. He should not be on a reed softer than a #2 (the higher the number, the harder the reed)

2. He is biting too hard and closing off the reed if no sound comes out. He needs to push in with the corners of the mouth like saying "OO" and open the teeth more. A #2 or 2 1/2 reed will help to not close the reed off.

3. Have him put his thumb in his mouth like sucking it. The top teeth press down into the pad of the thumb. The thumb nail pushes the lower lip over the teeth just enough to cover them. The bottom lip just rests on the teeth, they do not bite into the lip. Have him blow hard on the thumb letting the air leak out the corners of the mouth. This is how the sax should feel when he plays.

4. Have him play just the mouthpiece and neck at first with this feeling. It should make the note Ab on the piano. Once he gets a sound, then have him hold it as long as he can and repeat.

5. Once the mouthpiece and neck are in control, have him try the full sax playing B which has just the first finger on top on the 2nd button down from the top. Good luck.
 

kevgermany

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To add, what mouthpiece is he using? If it's a wide tipped professional one, he's really going to struggle. Something like a Hite premier, Fobes Debut or Yamaha 4c would be Ok, but so would many others.

Another thing to look at is the angle of the mouthpiece as it goes into the mouth. If he's got his head up, the mouthpiece should be dropping slightly to the sax.

He should be able to just blow lightly with moderate lip pressure. Puffed out cheeks shouldn't happen and ruin sound.
 

old git

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Can anyone explain why Dizzy was such a good player and have a look at the performers at the infamous Count versus Duke Prom. As musos they are probably better than most members, yet quite a few puff their cheeks. Surely not an appearance reason?

Again apologies for being serious.
 

kevgermany

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Can anyone explain why Dizzy was such a good player and have a look at the performers at the infamous Count versus Duke Prom. As musos they are probably better than most members, yet quite a few puff their cheeks. Surely not an appearance reason?

Again apologies for being serious.
When did Dizzy play sax?
 

Colin the Bear

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Trying to learn to play a saxophone by getting a third party to ask questions on a forum isn't the way to go. He needs a tutor to get him going. Unlearning bad habits before learning good habits is doubling the task.

The "set up" which is the mouthpiece and reed combination, is critical at any stage of a saxophone players career, but more so when starting out. An experienced tutor in the room with him can save time and heartache for very little outlay of time and money. Many give up in frustration finding the instrument too difficult. Any difficulties can be simply remedied by an experienced tutor.
 

QWales

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Was about to create a new post this morning before I saw this one. I have been getting a fair bit of pain from my jaw of late, the upper side closest to the ears. I used to get this a bit if I was trying out a mouthpiece that was too big or reed that is too hard. The thing is I have been using the same reeds and sax for around 3 years now and things seem to have just gotten a lot worse over the last few weeks. My ombrosure seems to be struggling to maintain shape quite quickly of late and I can often end up having to stop playing in the middle of a song or get to the point where most of the air is going down the outside of the mouthpiece. When I get out of work I will try to spend some time going back through this post and look at all the links in the hope the answer is here.
 

Julie Lambert

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Port St. Lucie, FL
Thank you all for your tips. It is greatly appreciated. I am looking at a tutor already, even if just for a month to get him comfortable and get the basics down. I noticed when he was trying to play the notes that he has his head down with his chin on his chest, seemed strange to me. Yesterday, the band teacher went around to everyone and asked them to play a certain note. He was really jealous of the folks on percussion. lol. I will look at the size of the mouthpiece for sure. He had a plastic one that Miles Reese gave him, had to buy a ligature. Maybe it is a larger one, he is an adult after all. I am going to read through these posts with him tonight. I mentioned getting a tutor for a short time to him and he was really against it. I explained that a tutor can spot immediately if he needs to adjust how he plays, holds, are uses his instrument. He can see a problem and know the remedy right away. About half the class has already been playing their instruments. He is one of the ones that is totally new to them (aside from recorders and playing bell choir). At least he can read notes so that is half the battle. lol. I think if I can get his embouchure right, he will start to really like it. His eyes do light up a bit when he makes the notes but its just soo hard for him right now, mentally and physically. Everyday is a new step, though. Please keep tips coming.
 

ellinas

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I know he/she is really really anxious to play BUT:

A good teacher will teach him/her essential basics that cover more than the correct embouchoure.
Like putting cork grease, how and where from to hold it, correct the body posture etc.

Here is my advice. And people that followed it thanked me a lot later.
Your kid is "thirsty" about learning all things saxophone.
All this energy should be spent wisely and learn things right.
So buy your kid this book : Larry Teal - The art of saxophone playing.

It has a LOT of advice about the instrument including correct embouchoure and it is a book that will be REALLY REALLY useful from the early beginning stage until he/she becomes pro.

This book is like a user guide. It's like a reference guide on what to do and what not to do. It'll be useful for all stages of playing. Most tips I see online follow this book.

Personally I think that it should come with every saxophone sold.

I bought mine for 4 euros used. It's the most valuable book I have.
Lots of great information in there.

Please buy it and let your kid give a read.

You'll thank me later.
 

jbtsax

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I completely agree with getting a teacher to work with the student one on one. Having a teacher in the room to "monitor and adjust" is indispensable. Just one more suggestion. If his head is down on his chest, the neckstrap is not the right length. Have him sit up straight with good posture on a chair, and balance the sax with the thumb of each hand with the neckstrap hook in the center. Adjust the length of the neckstrap so that the tip of the mouthpiece touches the curve directly above the chin. When it is adjusted to that length, have him tilt his head slightly down so the mouthpiece enters the mouth.
 

Julie Lambert

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OK, so I just bought a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece, a Legere Studio Cut 2.0 Synthetic Reed, Snark SN-8 Super Tight All Instrument Tuner, and a copy of Larry Teal - The Art of Saxophone Playing. Since I got a bargain on his Conn Director, I can pimp out his other accessories. lol. Pimp my sax!
 

jbtsax

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Can anyone explain why Dizzy was such a good player and have a look at the performers at the infamous Count versus Duke Prom. As musos they are probably better than most members, yet quite a few puff their cheeks. Surely not an appearance reason?

Again apologies for being serious.

On most wind instruments, the flute being the exception, much of the control of the vibration of the reed whether it is a "lip" reed or a cane reed comes from the muscles at the corners of the mouth being firm. I call them "little knots of muscles".

There is nothing wrong with puffed out cheeks per se, but when that happens, it means that the corners are too relaxed. Experienced jazz players can expand the oral cavity by allowing the air pressure in the mouth to push the cheeks out and still keep the corner muscles firm enough to get a good sound. Beginners on a saxophone, trumpet, or clarinet cannot do this, hence we teach "don't puff out the cheeks".
 

jbtsax

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OK, so I just bought a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece, a Legere Studio Cut 2.0 Synthetic Reed, Snark SN-8 Super Tight All Instrument Tuner, and a copy of Larry Teal - The Art of Saxophone Playing. Since I got a bargain on his Conn Director, I can pimp out his other accessories. lol. Pimp my sax!
Probably the most important part of a beginning player's set-up is an interested and supportive parent. Way to go Julie.
 

Julie Lambert

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Port St. Lucie, FL
Hell, I played in the recorder band, too. My hubbie says we should all learn to play an instrument. He's the only one in his family that doesn't play. I may still pic up a sax myself at one point. I hate to be vulgar but with all this embouchure talk, I think females may have the advantage there. lol. :rofl:
 

kevgermany

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+1 for Larry Teal.
May help to find youtube videos of sax players - and get him to look at posture & head to sax angle. Paul Desmond & Stan Getz spring to mind, but there are many others. He needs to understand that it's a sax, not a recorder, or clarinet and the playing is slightly different. If he's really insisting on head down, Get him to sit with the sax on his right side and experiment by pulling it back until it becomes easier to blow. Neck can be rotated to the left for this without affecting playability. That'll probably convince him to lift his head as holding the sax back like that is no fun - as will adjusting the music stand higher.

But the real answer is a good teacher as the others have said.
 

Colin the Bear

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I think you should take up the saxophone. You're obviously in love with the instrument. If you're already proficient on the recorder it shouldn't take long to be proficient on the saxophone. The fingering system is very similar to the recorder. You can share everything you learn with your son. The natural gentle competition will push you both along and you can be each others critic and mentor. Get another mouthpiece for yourself.
 

Targa

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Hell, I played in the recorder band, too. My hubbie says we should all learn to play an instrument. He's the only one in his family that doesn't play. I may still pic up a sax myself at one point. I hate to be vulgar but with all this embouchure talk, I think females may have the advantage there. lol. :rofl:
Get your hubbie a guitar, he'll soon entertain you with some riffs, chops and licks.
 

kevgermany

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Get your hubbie a guitar, he'll soon entertain you with some riffs, chops and licks.
No, guitarists all want the limelight and just turn up the pa. to play louder/drown everyone else out. Bass is a much better idea.
 

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