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Beginner Sore throat!


Hi everyone, I'm quite new to this saxophone playing, and having found a good teacher, i am happily on my 6th lesson and progressing well, more than that i am actually really enjoying the process.
I had to visit my doc today with a badly inflamed throat, he thinks it is more to do with some pills i am on after a recent operation, but i am not so sure, anyway i have more medication to deal with it.
As an experiment I am thinking of buying a new mouthpiece which is easier to blow, with softer reeds and see if it helps at all.
I currently use a Yamaha 4C with number 2 reeds, can anyone suggest anything to try which would be any easier? All help appreciated.

My main experience is as a singer (I'm a novice sax player) but there is an aspect of singing relevant to sax playing: relaxing the throat.

The reason that many "pop" singers (or people who emulate them) have problems is that they're not singing, they're indulging in what I cal 'tuned shouting' with a tight throat. This leads to both rapid tiring and to a sore throat. If you tire rapidly when singing it's either because you have a tight throat or you are trying to sing at too high a pitch for your voice.

The solution is to relax the throat - if you do this, with practice you can sing (and presumably play) for hours without harm.

To demonstrate, try yawning: this will do two things: it will lower your jaw and it will lift the soft palate at the back of the mouth. When you yawn there should be no sensation of tightness in the larynx/throat. It is the lifting of the soft palate that's most relevant to a sax player.

If you tighten or close the throat, this will be both tiring and will lead to soreness.

A singing exercise might help:

  • breath in through your mouth whilst raising your outstretched arms in front of you to shoudler level
  • this will left the rib cage and ensure you are using your diaphragm
  • breath out slowly hissing on an 'sss' and lower your arms as you do so
This will encourage you to keep your rib cage lifted, use the diaphragm and should help relax the throat. Repeat the exersie for 4, 8, 12, 16 beats etc.

Hope this is of some use.
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As an experiment I am thinking of buying a new mouthpiece which is easier to blow, with softer reeds and see if it helps at all. I currently use a Yamaha 4C with number 2 reeds, can anyone suggest anything to try which would be any easier? All help appreciated.

Hi Titus!

Generally speaking the Yamaha 4C mouthpiece is about the world's easiest mouthpiece to blow - very small tip opening which requires minimal puff. Also number 2 reeds are quite an easy blow, but depends on which reeds you actually use, as not all 2's are the same. By the way I am assuming you are using an Alto sax - but if it is a Tenor do say!

With regards to the mouthpiece the 4C is a common starter mouthpiece, and ideal for teenagers upwards. If you are having some difficulty you may actually need a bigger tip opening (gap between tip of mouthpiece and tip of reed). If that is the case it might be a good experiment to try a Rico Royal B3 or B5 mouthpiece (only costs about £15 - try ). It has a 0.070"/0.075" tip, rather than the 0.063" of the Yamaha 4C.

Regarding reeds, it would be useful to know what brand/model you are using. Often players begin on either a Rico Royal 2 or a Vandoren Traditional 2 - the latter is the same actual strength as a Rico Royal 2.5, and may be too hard if that is what you are using.
A Rico Royal 2 should be ok but they do a 1.5 strength also. Do let us know what reed you are using and we can offer more help. It is also useful to prepare reeds by soaking them in some warm water for 10 mins or so, giving them a massage from base to tip using thumb/forefinger on a flat surface to bed down the reed fibres, and moisten before playing each time. Ideally you should have 4 or so in use and rotate them regularly, rather than play one until it dies.

Dental hygiene is also important as bugs can develop in reeds - chew gum/brush teeth before playing, wash your mouthpiece regularly in COLD water (hot can turn it green if made of Hard Rubber) and some of us soak reeds in mouthwash/alcohol or something antiseptic to protect against bacteria.

Hope this is helpful so far.
Kind regards
is the mouthpiece clean?
I've heard said you can get sore throats fromm less than good mouthpiece hygiene. I don't know, I just give mine a couple of pulls-through with umm, err, a pull-through!
Occasionally it gets a run under a warm tap, but never anything fancy.
Oh and I always take the reed of and dry it on said pull-through and put it away in its case.

So TBH I'd be surprised if the mouthpiece caused the sore throat.
Hi Everyone, and first of all thank you to everyone who has responded to my problem.I am blowing a Yamaha YAS275, and i have been using Vandoren No2, Rico no 2 1/2,and Hemke No2, i have found 3 reeds which i think blow ok (i'm new to this.)
I do keep the instument clean especially the mouthpiece, so i really dont think this is an infection, and the doctor thought it could be a result of drugs after a recent operation, but now i have realised what the problem is, i think it was going on before my operation anyway.
I have left the sax alone for a few days to see if the problem settles down, and i am going to talk with my tutor on Thursday, too see if it is anything i may be doing technique wise.
Have you got Tonsilitis, Titus......................................?;}
No tonsilitis! had em out already, My teacher said it could be caused by tention in the shoulders and neck, which i do have as i have just had a shoulder operation and need the other one doing as well, i have limited myself to 10 mins of practicing throughout the day and it has improved, so will see how it goes.:sax:

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