How to improve your sound on saxophone (Hint: It's not the mouthpiece) | Foolish Frankie | Skillshare

How to improve your sound on saxophone (Hint: It's not the mouthpiece)

Foolish Frankie, Saxophonist/Content Creator

How to improve your sound on saxophone (Hint: It's not the mouthpiece)

Foolish Frankie, Saxophonist/Content Creator

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8 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Lesson #1 - Low Bb

    • 3. Lesson #2 - Ha-Ta-Ta

    • 4. Lesson #3 - Mouthpiece Exercises

    • 5. Lesson #4 - Overtone Basics

    • 6. Lesson #5 - Overtone Matching

    • 7. Lesson #6 - Overtone Melodies

    • 8. Outro

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About This Class

If you're tired of trying one mouthpiece after another without any real improvement to your sound, then this class is for you. The reality is, there's only one way to get a good sound on saxophone; Sound exercises.

In this class I explain how I approach sound on the saxophone and teach some of my favorite exercises that will help you improve yours. The exercises you'll learn in this class are:

1) Low Bb and the importance of it

2) The Ha-Ta-Ta exercise

3) Mouthpiece exercises

4) Overtone basics

5) Overtone matching (my favorite!)

6) Overtone melodies

These are exercises I personally do everyday (and have been doing for years). To get the most out of these exercises, make them apart of your daily practice routine. See you in the lessons!

*PDFs are in the "Projects & Resources" tab*

Meet Your Teacher

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Foolish Frankie

Saxophonist/Content Creator


Sound came before paper

Check out my YouTube/Instagram to hear more of my playing! @FoolishFrankie

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1. Intro: Hey, welcome to my first skill share Glass. The primary purpose of this class is to explain how I approached sound on the saxophone and to give you daily exercises to help improve yours. I always get comments from people asking what sound exercises I do and what they can do to improve their sound. So I've compiled a few of my favorite ones that I've worked on over the years for this class, all these exercises are ones that I've gathered from different teachers and books. I've adapted some, but a lot are exactly as I learned them. Most of the exercises don't necessarily sound good, but they aren't really supposed to. So don't worry about that. I also want to preface this class by saying I'm by no means perfect and I'm continuously working on my own sound to improve sound is something that takes years to develop. But the trick is to consistently work on every day, even if it's only for a short period of time, That's really the best way to get results and see improvement in your sounds. So just be patient while practicing all of these exercises, you should try to pay attention to your breath support how relax you are, your posture and help focus your sound is trying to think about all of these things may seem overwhelming at first, but eventually this will become subconscious. The reason why we want to spend so much time intentionally practicing our sound is so that when we're playing other things, our muscle memory will take over. One final thing I want to mention is that PDFs of all of these exercises will be in the description of each lesson. I'll be playing all of these on alto, but the exercises are approached the same way across all saxophones. So with all that being said, let's jump into the first exercise. 2. Lesson #1 - Low Bb: The first exercise is really simple. All we're going to be doing is playing low B flat. The purpose of this exercise is to relax your throat and get air moving through the horn. A lot of saxophonist that I've talked to approach the entire range of the instrument as if they're playing low B flat. So in other words, their throat position and all mushroom remains relatively unchanged from the position it's in will playing this exercise, this helps keep you pushing air through the entire instrument and open up your sound. Will practice starting the note both by tonguing it and with only air, focus on breathing into your diaphragm and pushing there all the way through the bottom of the instrument. And and typically play this exercise for at least a few minutes whenever I first pull up my horn, then throughout the day, I'll come back to it to check and see how much my voicing is change. If you're having trouble getting low B flat to respond, you can try starting at a higher note like f and kind of walking down to it, really focused on relaxing your armature and making sure you aren't pinching. You can't seem to get any of the notes out in the bottom Register, the saxophone, it's possible that your instrument can be leaking. And this basically just means that the keys aren't closing evenly, which makes it harder to get low notes out because air is escaping. If you suspect that there is a mechanical issue with your instrument, you can take it to a repair shop and they'll be able to tell you what's going on. Anyways, that's pretty much it for the first exercise. So now we'll move on to Exercise number two. 3. Lesson #2 - Ha-Ta-Ta: The second exercise is called Hotpot. Ah, this is a long tone exercise that I learned from Bradley Lee, who's the Jazz Studies professor at University of North Texas. It's named after the articulation that you use when starting each note. So what you're gonna do is put the metronome on 60 beats per minute, breathe in for four beats, and then play three whole notes on middle C. You'll start the first note using air only. So ha, and then Tang the second two. It should sound like this. Once you do that, you repeat the same thing going down in half steps all the way to low B flat. I'll demonstrate the first few notes so you can hear what it sounds like. You want to try and focus your sound kind of like a laser and less like a floodlight. Also, I like to switch between dynamics for this exercise. So usually I'll play it once with a lot of air and full volume. And then again, extremely softly, I find that when I start to get to the bottom of the Horne, I'm not able to finish all 12 beats without running out of air. So I typically will breathe around before of the second measure. Here's what that sounds like just for reference. One other variation of this exercise, it's good to know where you're going to do is press down the octave key, but still play in the lower octave. So you'll finger high C with the octave key, but try to get middle C to sound. You'll probably find that initially the note wants to jump up the octave, and this is normal. If this happens, try to pull it back down by loosening your publisher and opening new throat. You'll keep the octave key down throughout the entire exercise, all the way to low B flat. This is going to take a lot of air. So instead of playing three whole notes, you'll play three half-lives still with the same articulation and still breathing in for four beats. It sounds more complex and it is. So here's a demonstration. This variation can be kind of challenging, but it's really great. So that's it for the hot Tatar exercise. Don't forget the PDFs of all of these variations are in the description and I'll see you in exercise number three. 4. Lesson #3 - Mouthpiece Exercises: So exercise number three is going to use only the mouthpiece so you can go ahead and take that off your horn. By the way, this one really doesn't sound good, so don't be alarmed anyways, if you're playing on an alto mouthpiece like me, you're going to try and play a concert. A, if you're playing on a tenor mouthpiece, you'll try to play a concert G. Since I'm demonstrating on an alto mouthpiece, the notes will be a whole step off if you're playing on tenor, but the concept is the same. You can either use a piano or a tuner to find the pitch. First, just practice only playing that note and tried to be relaxed and study. Next you're going to try to bend that note down a half step to concert G-sharp, and then back up to try to do this by opening a throw and lowering your tongue position, you're almost, you're really shouldn't change much. Here's what it should sound like. You really want to focus on controlling the pitch with your tongue and throat and not your Amish are a good way to relate to what this should feel like is whistling or humming. Tried whistling and moving the pitch really high and really low. Pay attention to what your tongue and throat feels like. If you can't whistle, try humming different pitches and feel your throat is doing. These are the same muscles that we're moving for this exercise. Now we're going to try and continue to walk down chromatically. So we'll go a G sharp a. To use photos which do nutrition. You may only be we should push, which would reconverge returned to screw. You choose where to go to, which we will use resources. Mr. really doesn't change much because I'm mainly moving at the back of my tongue up and down. Being able to manipulate your muscles like this is super important and will help open up your sound and give you more control. And exercise. Number four, we're going to be doing something similar but with a mouthpiece back on the instruments. So I'll see you there. 5. Lesson #4 - Overtone Basics: Exercise four involves what's known as the overtone or harmonic series. I'm not going to explain the science behind the overtone series in this class, but I'll link a great YouTube video for those who are curious about how they work. Essentially, what we're doing is producing multiple notes or overtones from one single note called a fundamental. To get started, try playing a middle B-flat, and then without stopping your air, switch to the low B-flat fingering, but keep that middle B flat sounding. Once you've slurred to the overtone, try to hold it out. Pay attention to what your voicing feels like. Try changing your tongue position and air stream to see if you can make the note clearer and more focused. Here's what it should sound like. Once you're able to successfully get that first overtone out by switching fingerings. Try starting on that note with the low B-flat fingering. You want to try to use only your breath to start the note. But if you're having trouble, you can experiment with articulating using the CPU or cross out that you don't put your tongue in the right direction, but you really have to experiment to see what works best for you. Once you're able to do that, we're going to start moving up the B flat major scale using overtones. So play the B flat overtone and then lift your pinky to get the first overtone of the low sea fundamental. We're going to continue moving up from here. So remember to stay relaxed and focused on adjusting your tongue position and not your armature. Once you get to f, you're gonna switch the low B-flat fingering because f is the second overtone of the B-flat fundamental. Here's without should sound like. After you're able to play F by walking up to it, try starting on it using the low B-flat fingering. Now we're going to continue going up the scale until we get to high B flat, which is the third overtone of the B-flat fundamental. So you'll walk up the same way you've been doing, but once you get to high b-flat, you'll switch to the low reflecting green. Once you get up to B flat, try holding out as long as you can, men just like before, try starting on that high b-flat using your breath to start the note. If you're having trouble getting the overtone to come out, try singing the note right before playing it. Being able to hear the note in your head before you play, it really can help because a lot of times your brain will almost tell your body how to change to get the note to come out. And the other thing to check is to make sure that your armature isn't too tight. Sometimes I'll practice reasoning my top teeth often mouthpiece slightly just to make sure I'm not pinching and restricting a read from vibrating. Also, a lot of times starting on high B flat can be difficult. So a little trick you can try is opening and closing your CQI To get the B-flat to pop out. You don't really want to rely on this, but it can be helpful to get the sound in your head. Remember to support your airstream with your diaphragm and relax your armature continues only going to make things more difficult once you feel comfortable here, I'll see you in the next lesson for some more advanced overtone exercises. 6. Lesson #5 - Overtone Matching: The main way that I practice overtones is called overtone matching. If I had to pick one exercise out of this class, that's the most important. I think it would be this one. I do this one pretty much every day. Basically, what I do is play each note of the overtone series using the overtone fingering and then match the regular fingering to that node. And the reason why this is beneficial is because the overtone fingering is typically the most pure sounding since it's using the entire length of the instrument, it almost forces all of the harmonics above it to written. Essentially, I'm trying to match the richness of the sound of the overtone fingering to the regular fingering, I typically will work from three fundamentals, B-flat, B, and C, although C-sharp is good to work too, and some people even continue to go up the register and use higher nodes as fundamentals. But for the purpose of this class, we'll just use B-Flat for examples. And then you can do the same exact exercises using b and c as the fundamentals. So I'll start by playing the first overtone, In this case B-flat. And after holding the note out for a few seconds, I'll switch to the regular fingering without stopping my air or rearticulating. I'll do that once with allowed dynamic, breathe and then repeat with the soft dynamic. Then I move on to the next overtone in the series. I'll keep repeating this until I get to el mismo B-flat and then repeat the process descending. So I'll start on autism OB flush. It may be pretty difficult to get up that high at first. So just go as high as you can comfortably and work on refining your sound. Okay? Okay. There are a few variations of this exercise that I wrote in my practice routine. I have to variations written out in the PDFs, but I'll briefly explain them here too. And the first one, I just stopped my air in-between the overtone and regular fingering. I'm basically trying to retain how my voicing fields without immediately jumping to the regular note. Sometimes I'll even take my mouth often off piece before trying to play the matched fingering just to see how close I can get once I start again. Second variation that will start the overtone extremely soft crescendo to a full volume and then decrescendo back down to EndNote. I try to match that with the regular fingering and repeat the process for the next overtone in the series. Mission is the same as the second, but the dynamics are flipped. So I'll start with the loud dynamic decrescendo and then crescendo. These are just a few variations that I like to do, but I think it's important to practice the entire dynamic range because the necessary voicing changes blasting this class I'm going to show you are some overtone melodies, so I'll see you there. 7. Lesson #6 - Overtone Melodies: So there were a few different melodies I like to practice using the overtone fingerings. These all move between notes of the overtone series to the really great for learning how to change your voicing quickly. All these can be pleased starting on different fundamental split. Again, for the purpose of demonstration, we'll just use before the first one you might recognize, cuz it's a popular bugle call. Here's what it sounds like. The next one I found from an Instagram post that a saxophonist named Alex Laurie made in his post, he talks about never using articulation for this exercise, but I tend to alternate between going through the exercise with and without articulation. It's basically skipping around the overtone series, so I'll just demonstrate it. Third exercise is basically an extension of the first lesson in this class, which was essentially playing a scale using only overtone fingerings or middle B flat with the overtone fingering and try to play the entire scale, I'll tell to single B-flat while using as many overtone fingerings as possible. So that sounds like the last exercise is more of a party trick. I guess. I don't really know if this is the right name, but I called an autosomal glissandos. Essentially, what you're doing is sliding up from the normal register of the horn into an autism note using overtone fingerings. I'll use the no, a is an example, but already it out for a few different nodes. For a, you'll sort on the normal a fingering with the octave key. Then you go up a half step to a sharp, but using the D short fundamental from there, you just play a chromatic scale up to C sharp, which will be sounding out his emoji sharp and then switch to your Altis HMO, a fingering. You do this fairly quickly to give the effect of bending up to the note. This one can be kind of tricky. So here's what it sounds like. I'll often do this exercise with autism. Oh gee, and sometimes BY what? I think you can do it with most altus, more notes, you just have to start on higher fundamentals. Either way, I'll write out a few variations and put the PDFs in the description of this video. That's pretty much all of the melody exercises that I have put. If you're looking for more, try learning a song with only overtone fingerings. Even if it's super simple, It'll be beneficial. So that's all for this video, but I'll see you in the last lesson for some final words. 8. Outro: So congrats, if you made it to the end, I really think you now have all the exercises you need to develop a great sound. The hardest part about this is staying consistent and patient. Like I said before, sound takes a lifetime to develop. So it's all about working on it over years and years overtones especially take a long time, you get a feel for, I think it took me almost a year to be able to get the third overtone out without opening a sidekick. But once I did everything kind of clicked. So stay patient. Make a few of these exercises part of your daily practice routine and you'll begin to see the improvement that you want. Also, if you have any questions about any of the exercises in this class, feel free to just shoot me a message and ask. I'd love to clarify anything and help in any way that I can. If you want to see some bonus videos or if there's anything else that you want me to make a class on, just let me know. Otherwise, that's all I have for now. So thanks for checking out my skill pseudo-class on saxophone sound.