Breathy Saxophone – Too Much Air, Not Enough Saxophone.
Recently, one of our Awesome Members, Yomari from USA asked a really good question in our Members Forums about their breathy saxophone sound:
I get the sound that I’m just pushing air through. I’m not sure if that was clear, but how can I overcome this?
Thanks for the great question Yomari !!
This is a fairly common issue for new to the saxophone beginners. The breathy saxophone sounds coming out of their sax can be more “air” and less “music”.
In short, beginner saxophone players can sound breathy or airy. The breathy saxophone sound made by professionals is not the same thing as when a beginners saxophone sounds breathy or airy.
It is not their fault. No-one has done anything wrong. It is not a problem and a breathy saxophone is easily fixed !
As a result, I wanted to share my response to Yomari because it will help others who are just starting out on their saxophone journey !
Hi Yomari ,
Great question !
A couple of suggestions:
What strength reed are you using ?
If the reed size is too big and the reed is too hard, it can make the sound appear to be “more air” and “less music”. Do you have some size 1.5 or maybe size 2 reeds ?
Similar to 1 above, the mouthpiece itself can have the same effect. A large bore mouthpiece can also produce an airy or breathy sound. This is why I recommend the two mouthpieces mentioned on the Saxophone Resources page – especially the Yamaha 4C mouthpiece for beginners.
Having a weak seal with your mouth around the mouthpiece can also make the sound appear to be “more air” and “less music”.
Your mouth muscles – lips and cheeks – around the saxophone mouthpiece are collectively known as your embouchure.
These muscles, like all muscles in the human body, take a bit of time and need some consistent effort to make them stronger. When you are playing your sax, deliberately and consciously keep your embouchure (mouth muscles) strong.
Warning – this can be a bit like Goldilocks….not too tight, not too loose, but juuuuuust right 🙂
A strong and tightly sealed embouchure can reduce the breathy saxophone sounds.
It could also be that the reed is incorrectly placed on the mouthpiece – perhaps with too big a gap between the top of the reed and the top of the mouthpiece.
If you hold up the mouthpiece with the reed attached and facing you at eye level, there should only be a hairs width of mouthpiece visible behind the reed. The tip of the reed should be set about a hairs width (ie a tiny bit) below the tip of the mouthpiece.
Have fun, play saxophone, be awesome, repeat. With an emphasis on the “repeat”.
I am presuming that the saxophone is fairly new to you. Sometimes the breathy saxophone air sound can simply be from a lack of experience.
Please don’t let this stop you – this is not a bad thing !
When riding a bike for the first time, the rider often wobbles. This is normal. It’s the same with learning how to play the saxophone.
You will get better as time goes on !!
This will happen very quickly if you play for 5 or more minutes every day, rather than once a week.
The airy or breathy saxophone sounds experienced by beginners can disappear immediately upon fixing the reed issues mentioned above. If your saxophone sounds breathy or airy, it could also be a case of strengthening your embouchure, which happens as you play your saxophone more over time.
Does this help ? Please let me know 🙂
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I don’t get what i’m doing wrong, i’m not an inexperienced player and my reed strength is just fine but my notes start out airy and continue to be airy as a I continue to play,
Sometimes breathy and airy sounds can be caused by too big a gap between the top of the reed and the top of the mouthpiece.
If the reed is set too far down on the mouthpiece, then it can be harder make a strong, full sound.
Put your reed on to your mouthpiece as you normally would. Then hold your mouthpiece up to your eye level with the reed facing you.
You should be able to see just a hairs width of the mouthpiece above the tip of the reed….any more than this and the reed is probably set too low on the face of the mouthpiece, which can result in airy sounds.
I hope this helps,
Thanks for visiting HowToPlayTheSax.com 🙂