All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
SYOS

Beginner Sax The Beginner and 3-6 months in

sizzzzler

Member
Messages
230
For a beginner, get a secondhand student sax and a Yamaha 4 or 5 c mouthpiece, three of each 1 1/2 reeds, 2, 2 1/2, 3. Go to Taming the saxophone, get the video and first 3 books. Start working thru them. Practice for at least 1 hr per day for 5 days a week. Have a few lessons. Put on some music and play along. There is a secret to improvising, practice keys and cords and long notes everyday, and learn to read music.

3-6 months later
If this sax thing has caught you like a sad wriggling fish and you’re practicing more than 5 times per week for over an hour each time, you’re a player. It’s time to find your voice.
First dump copying a famous player’s sound and style. It will never happen.
It’s time to find your core embroucher. What we are after is your easy point, where it all feels comfortable and natural. Use a reed you find easy to play across the whole range of the sax. Start by varying the amount of the mouthpiece you stick in your mouth. Find what is comfortable, ie natural to you. Do the same with the pressure of lips and teeth to get that comfortable point. Then do the same with the pressure of your blowing. Together these are your core embroucher. From this core you will control your sound while playing by doing more or less, depth, mouth pressure, blowing pressure. As your muscles develope the sound of your core embroucher will move a bit, but the main change will be your moment by moment control over the sound.
Now listen to your core sound using your regular mouthpiece. Record yourself on your phone playing long, staccato, loud, soft, etc, and listen back on the ear phones. This is your core embroucher mediated by your mouthpiece, reed, ligature and sax.
The talk about warm, bright, focused, spread, bloom, can be confusing. A good place to start is with the way the sound of a sax can vary from kazoo v to woodwind instrument. This is all in the match of your core embroucher to the mouthpiece. Bear in mind that the reed and it’s rating are also part of this story. But as reeds are cheap concentrate on the mouthpiece. You will hear various views on ligatures. My advice is get one that fits the mouthpiece and holds the reed because yes they do make a difference, but not as much as the rest of the setup.
Pete has a section in TTS where he tries out different mouthpieces. But it’s limited. Instead go to neffmusic to hear hundreds of different mouthpieces, old and new, played by the same player on the same sax in the same circumstances. Perhaps the easiest place to start on neffmusic is to listen to a Selmer Soloist then a New York metal Otto link. As you travel around neffmusic you’ll discover that a mouthpiece does not create the sound, it moves the sound created by your core embroucher in this direction or that. Now go and try out mouthpieces, some will be unplayable for your core embroucher and others an ugly combination. What you’re looking for is your voice. When you find it, buy it.
Once you’ve found your mouthpiece, it’s time to pick a proper sax. Look at Stephen Howard’s site. He is a tech and a fine player. He points out the mechanical strengths and weaknesses of various saxophones. Pay attention to his views but don’t replace them with trying the sax out yourself.
When buying take along your mouthpiece and a few reeds. Do your normal practice session. Play long notes 2-3 times on every semitone across the entire range of the instrument. Don’t play from top to bottom. Jump around. And slur them. In particular play octave jumps with no tonguing the reed. Try out scales, chord patterns, loud, soft. Take your time, you’re creating, it’s important to be bloody minded. Take your phone along and record yourself. Then leave, get a coffee, listen to the recording. Maybe you’re ready to buy, maybe not.
Buying in a shop. It can be intimidating to have a more experienced player in a nearby booth, but ignore it. Record yourself playing a few saxophones you liked. Then leave the shop and go and get a coffee and sit down and listen to your recordings. Now you might be ready to buy.
Buying secondhand from classifieds and eBay can be a lottery. That ramshackle, dented partly unplayable Martin for £300 with £300 spent on a quality overhaul with a few tone holes needing soldering, can become the best sax you ever own and your voice for £600. Or that yts62 that sounded great but needed an overhaul could be beyond help. You won’t know until you’ve spent on a tech overhaul.
Secondhand v new. This is a finding your voice matter. There is no doubt that new is easier and quicker and comes at a premium. Secondhand, especially from classifieds, can be a money pit. For me I’ve had disasters and stunning success.
The safest buy is new from a main dealer. For secondhand, a shop or well known dealer, but you won’t have so much choice. Last is the classifieds. Like a car, go and play it. Expect to see invoices for overhauls, and check for dents and twists, etc. But most of all, if you can play and take the time to put the sax thru a practice session, you have minimised the risk.
The vintage sax fixation. It’s true that an sba or mk VI or 10m tenor can be the best sounding tenor saxophone ever built. The Martin altos from the 30s likewise. The beuscher 400 Alto can be stunning. But some aren’t. Some of them have a note so out of tune they are a liability. So take a tuner and check every note. If it’s a 1/2 semitone out, it’s too much. There is only so much note bending one can do. New saxes have a fluidity that is delicious, a delightful tonal perfection. For me these quantities have taken away the cracks and sighs and gasps, the imperfections, that give a sax voice emotion, make it human. From selmer’s references to the Andy Sheppard autograph, every professional instrument made today, I don’t like any of them. With this ending you’ll understand why I have ignored all my own advice and bought buy big eyed bashed about saxs that need overhauling.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,103
There are several good ideas and useful bits of information in this post, but it would be much easier to read and comprehend if each separate idea/topic were given its own paragraph and perhaps an underlined subheading.

Please forgive my unsolicited critique on your writing, I taught school for 34 years and can't help myself.
 

Keep Blowing

Senior Member
Messages
1,701
There are several good ideas and useful bits of information in this post, but it would be much easier to read and comprehend if each separate idea/topic were given its own paragraph and perhaps an underlined subheading.

Please forgive my unsolicited critique on your writing, I taught school for 34 years and can't help myself.
There are several good ideas and useful bits of information in this post, but it would be much easier to read and comprehend if each separate idea/topic were given its own paragraph and perhaps an underlined subheading.

Please forgive my unsolicited critique on your writing, I taught school for 34 years and can't help myself.
It's way too much for my little brain to take in
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,103
Here is just a quick example of one way to do it. Please feel free to copy and edit this version to make it your own. :)

First Steps
For a beginner, get a secondhand student sax and a Yamaha 4 or 5 c mouthpiece, three of each 1 1/2 reeds, 2, 2 1/2, 3. Go to Taming the saxophone, get the video and first 3 books. Start working thru them. Practice for at least 1 hr per day for 5 days a week. Have a few lessons. Put on some music and play along. There is a secret to improvising, practice keys and cords and long notes everyday, and learn to read music.

3-6 months later
If this sax thing has caught you like a sad wriggling fish and you’re practicing more than 5 times per week for over an hour each time, you’re a player. It’s time to find your voice. First dump copying a famous player’s sound and style. It will never happen.

Core Embouchure
It’s time to find your core embroucher. What we are after is your easy point, where it all feels comfortable and natural. Use a reed you find easy to play across the whole range of the sax. Start by varying the amount of the mouthpiece you stick in your mouth. Find what is comfortable, ie natural to you. Do the same with the pressure of lips and teeth to get that comfortable point. Then do the same with the pressure of your blowing. Together these are your core embroucher. From this core you will control your sound while playing by doing more or less, depth, mouth pressure, blowing pressure. As your muscles develope the sound of your core embroucher will move a bit, but the main change will be your moment by moment control over the sound.

Core Sound
Now listen to your core sound using your regular mouthpiece. Record yourself on your phone playing long, staccato, loud, soft, etc, and listen back on the ear phones. This is your core embroucher mediated by your mouthpiece, reed, ligature and sax. The talk about warm, bright, focused, spread, bloom, can be confusing. A good place to start is with the way the sound of a sax can vary from kazoo v to woodwind instrument. This is all in the match of your core embroucher to the mouthpiece. Bear in mind that the reed and it’s rating are also part of this story. But as reeds are cheap concentrate on the mouthpiece.

Mouthpieces and ligatures
You will hear various views on ligatures. My advice is get one that fits the mouthpiece and holds the reed because yes they do make a difference, but not as much as the rest of the setup. Pete has a section in TTS where he tries out different mouthpieces. But it’s limited. Instead go to neffmusic to hear hundreds of different mouthpieces, old and new, played by the same player on the same sax in the same circumstances. Perhaps the easiest place to start on neffmusic is to listen to a Selmer Soloist then a New York metal Otto link. As you travel around neffmusic you’ll discover that a mouthpiece does not create the sound, it moves the sound created by your core embroucher in this direction or that. Now go and try out mouthpieces, some will be unplayable for your core embroucher and others an ugly combination. What you’re looking for is your voice. When you find it, buy it.

Choosing a Saxophone
Once you’ve found your mouthpiece, it’s time to pick a proper sax. Look at Stephen Howard’s site. He is a tech and a fine player. He points out the mechanical strengths and weaknesses of various saxophones. Pay attention to his views but don’t replace them with trying the sax out yourself. When buying take along your mouthpiece and a few reeds. Do your normal practice session. Play long notes 2-3 times on every semitone across the entire range of the instrument. Don’t play from top to bottom. Jump around. And slur them. In particular play octave jumps with no tonguing the reed. Try out scales, chord patterns, loud, soft. Take your time, you’re creating, it’s important to be bloody minded. Take your phone along and record yourself. Then leave, get a coffee, listen to the recording. Maybe you’re ready to buy, maybe not.

Thoughts on buying a saxophone
Buying in a shop. It can be intimidating to have a more experienced player in a nearby booth, but ignore it. Record yourself playing a few saxophones you liked. Then leave the shop and go and get a coffee and sit down and listen to your recordings. Now you might be ready to buy. Buying secondhand from classifieds and eBay can be a lottery. That ramshackle, dented partly unplayable Martin for £300 with £300 spent on a quality overhaul with a few tone holes needing soldering, can become the best sax you ever own and your voice for £600. Or that yts62 that sounded great but needed an overhaul could be beyond help. You won’t know until you’ve spent on a tech overhaul.

Secondhand v new
This is a finding your voice matter. There is no doubt that new is easier and quicker and comes at a premium. Secondhand, especially from classifieds, can be a money pit. For me I’ve had disasters and stunning success. The safest buy is new from a main dealer. For secondhand, a shop or well known dealer, but you won’t have so much choice. Last is the classifieds. Like a car, go and play it. Expect to see invoices for overhauls, and check for dents and twists, etc. But most of all, if you can play and take the time to put the sax thru a practice session, you have minimised the risk.

The vintage sax fixation
It’s true that an sba or mk VI or 10m tenor can be the best sounding tenor saxophone ever built. The Martin altos from the 30s likewise. The beuscher 400 Alto can be stunning. But some aren’t. Some of them have a note so out of tune they are a liability. So take a tuner and check every note. If it’s a 1/2 semitone out, it’s too much. There is only so much note bending one can do. New saxes have a fluidity that is delicious, a delightful tonal perfection. For me these quantities have taken away the cracks and sighs and gasps, the imperfections, that give a sax voice emotion, make it human.

Summary and personal preference
From selmer’s references to the Andy Sheppard autograph, every professional instrument made today, I don’t like any of them. With this ending you’ll understand why I have ignored all my own advice and bought buy big eyed bashed about saxs that need overhauling.
 

StageFright

Member
Messages
114
Here is just a quick example of one way to do it. Please feel free to copy and edit this version to make it your own. :)

First Steps
For a beginner, get a secondhand student sax and a Yamaha 4 or 5 c mouthpiece, three of each 1 1/2 reeds, 2, 2 1/2, 3. Go to Taming the saxophone, get the video and first 3 books. Start working thru them. Practice for at least 1 hr per day for 5 days a week. Have a few lessons. Put on some music and play along. There is a secret to improvising, practice keys and cords and long notes everyday, and learn to read music...................

Excellent example. Thank you!
 

sizzzzler

Member
Messages
230
Thanks JBT.
I think I under sold the positives and advantages of buying a new sax. There is an awful lot to be said for the notes being in tune, the quality of the sound being even across the instrument, and a guarantee if there is a problem.
 

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
Subscriber
Messages
1,458
@jbtsax , that someone with your wealth of knowledge and experience in so many aspects of sax playing contributes so actively to the cafe makes it very special and very valuable. My thanks for this. I've learned so much.

Mike

Here is just a quick example of one way to do it. Please feel free to copy and edit this version to make it your own. :)
...
 

sizzzzler

Member
Messages
230
The main points I want to get across to newbies is finding ones natural embroucher is easy, and the what we hear is not what the listener hears so record yourself every now and again while practicing.
 
Top Bottom