Saxophone Low Notes
Playing low notes on your saxophone can be difficult. There are things to think about – your mouth, your face, your jaw, your fingers, your breath, not to mention your saxophone – that for some people the saxophone low notes don’t work as expected. But this can be fixed easily.
The low notes can sound a bit wonky. They can sound higher – up an octave – than they should be. They can warble and honk and squeak.
There are a few “moving parts” in your throat and mouth that all need to be co-ordinated together at the same time….and if these do not all fall into place then the low notes can not quite sound correctly, and low.
So: how can you get your low notes to sound good on your saxophone ?
May I make a few suggestions.
1. You need a big lung full of air. If you don’t have lots of air going into your saxophone, then it makes things difficult, especially the low notes. And especially on Tenor or Bari saxophones.
2. You need to adjust your mouth and face muscles (known as your embouchure) for the lower notes. If you can loosen and relax your embouchure a little for the low notes, then this will make them easier to play correctly. We are talking a very small loosening here, millimetres, tiny movement.
3. Constant air is required. If the air coming out of your lungs and mouth varies in its consistency (which is different to its volume) then this makes the low notes difficult to play.
4. Open your throat, consciously and deliberately. Try to stifle a yawn, and/or drop your Adams Apple. A big open throat makes the very low notes and the very high notes play more easily and sound more warm with a better tone.
5. Play a long note – say a G. Once you are happy with how it sounds and feels, go down and play a long F. Then a long E. Keep going down the scale, long notes each time. This is excellent – keep doing it ! Take a big breath between each note. Then play a long D. Then add your right pinky for a long low C. Then add your left pinky for a long low B. As you go down the scale, slowly, consciously and deliberately loosen your mouth and lower jaw a tiny little bit – and open your throat. Slow and steady, you will feel your saxophone and your body adjust to the notes as they get lower.
6. Take a huge breath, then play your low notes softly to get the right sound, and slowly increase the volume of air that you are exhaling to make them louder. Start soft, then get louder. If the note changes and appears to go up the octave, notice what your face was doing at the time – your mouth, your cheeks, your lower jaw, your lower lip. Try again, but make minor and micro adjustments – this will help you, your body and your saxophone all work together.
Think of it like riding a push bike, from a standing start. The rider needs to exert different muscles and hold his/her body in a different way as they start their bike moving to when they achieve a coasting speed. They need to make slight adjustments with their legs when they change gears, ride up or down a hill, or cruise along slowly on the flats, as opposed to cruising along the flats at a higher speed.
It’s the same for saxophones – particularly the low notes and the high notes. Subtle body adjustments – mainly the embouchure but also the lungs and volume of consistent air – are required.
Put it all together and this should help you with your saxophone long notes 🙂
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