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Jazz Sax Lessons: Producing a Great Sound

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All righty,
now we're gonna work on creating
the best sound you can get.
Really what I always think about
when I'm thinking about my sound,
when I'm teaching about how to
get the best sound possible for
my students,
what I wanna work on with you here.
Is the fact that everything
we're gonna talk about has to do
with having the reed vibrate,
vibrating, vibrating, vibrating.
The more the reed can vibrate,
the more sound you're going to produce.
So the three elements that are important
as far as making sure your reed is
vibrating correctly is your embouchure,
your throat, and your diaphragm.
So let's work on some
embouchure ideas first okay.
So, first of all again,
let me keep stressing that be aware,
that you always want to make
sure your reed is vibrating.
So if you've got too much
pressure going on here
with your embouchure you're choking
off the vibration of the reed.
Also if your bottom lip Is too,
what would you say, too pillowy, too soft.
You're cushioning the reed too much and
you're not allowing it to
vibrate to its full potential.
So as far at that latter point is
concerned, just simply make sure that
your bottom lip is pressing
against your bottom teeth.
There's nothing that has to do
with playing that is extreme or
just where you're flexing your muscles,
or in this case your lip extremely,
you want it to be
a comfortable feeling but
you wanna make sure that
your bottom lip simply is.
Press down on your bottom teeth so
that you're not doing this and
you're not pillowing too much of the reed.
So, here's an exercise you can
do to make sure you're using the right
amount of pressure when you play.
First of all, I want you to play,
no matter what saxophone you're playing,
I want you to play a G a low G
without the octave key back here.
So, I'm gonna play my G now.
So if you have your horn I want
you to do this along with me.
If you don't have your horn,
take notes and get your horn and
watch this lesson again.
But this is important.
It's good to have this give and
take, okay?
So, I'm going to play a minor G and
you play it, also with me.
Just a straight long tone.
[SOUND] Okay now I want
you to play by yourself.
You got five seconds go.
Okay, couldn't quite hear you.
[LAUGH] But I will on your video exchange.
So now what I want you to
do is play that same note.
What we're going to do is make sure
that we're not using too much pressure.
Perhaps we're not using enough,
you're not using enough I should say,
but the idea is now I want
you to play that note.
And I want you as you're playing
the note to drop your lower
jaw your whole lower structure,
slowly, slowly, slowly so
that the sound opens up, and
then starts going flat and then goes away,
it sounds kinda funky and then goes away
entirely like this awful sound, ready?
[SOUND] Again.
So, do that.
When you do it.
I want to make sure that that arch is nice
and slow so you can hear the difference.
Don't just go [NOISE].
That's not the point of the exercise.
That's not gonna do you any good.
Okay, so
do what I just did on the long arch.
Got five seconds, ready, go.
Do it again.
Follow my hand if you can.
Ready, go.
Okay, good.
[LAUGH] All right, so the next thing
you wanna do is center your sound.
So basically you're gonna
find the pressure point.
The amount of pressure in your bottom lip
that is optimum for a good open sound.
I can guarantee you right
now that it's a very slight
difference from where your playing.
Now, it's not gonna be as if you're
suddenly gonna feel like you're bottom jaw
is touching your chest or on the ground,
it's a real subtle difference okay.
So as you play what I want you to do
is play your note where you are, and
then relax your bottom lip, and allow
the sound to dip a little bit and listen.
You're gonna hear the sound open up.
And then perhaps it's gonna go,
well if you go far enough you're gonna
eventually go past the optimum sound,
and get into like you know,
the distorted sound just before it started
dipping down and then center it back in.
Center it back, use your ear, and
find that spot where your
sound sounds the best.
Ready, here we go.
[SOUND] [SOUND] Okay so
where I stopped I was doing
this to indicate that I had either
gone too far or I come back too much.
So find, again use your ear and
find the spot where you feel
like the sound has opened up.
The most without, again, going too far.
I'm gonna do it one more time.
Check it out.
Once I've found that spot,
I'm gonna lock it in,
make sure I'm using plenty
of air to support it.
Okay, so again,
it's gonna be a subtle difference
from where you are right now.
But everybody no matter beginning player,
intermediate player,
advance player, pro player is gonna.
We're always sort of
finding that optimum place.
So do it, go for it.
I'm gonna give you seven
seconds this time.
Well, got tons of time.
Go, play, dip.
Find that place.
Lock it in.
Okay, so did one more time.
Start off, bring it down,
bring it back up, lock it in.
Go, play, down, find that spot.
Good, okay.
So once you found your spot it's
a good idea to make sure that you're
playing in tune, because invariably
you're using less pressure here and
your pitch may be a little different.
Maybe not, maybe so.
But use a tuner to lock in,
to make sure that where you
feel your sound sounds the best is
also a good spot intonationally.
I'm gonna say it again,
last time, but again,
it's gonna be a really subtle difference.
So I wanna talk
about air next, okay?
Throat's important, and
throat has its own lesson, so
you're gonna see throat position in
my curriculum a little farther down.
But, and we're gonna talk about it here,
but it's so
important that it's got its very own a,
So, air.
Simply put,
you just wanna make sure with your air
that your sound is moving forward.
We're playing a woodwind instrument,
wood wind instrument and so
the wind is very very,
very important part of the instrument,
so much so that it's part of the name.
So you just wanna make sure that
you're pushing your air forward,
that you're always
moving your air forward.
So I like to imagine that
I'm supporting this wall.
There's a wall in front of me over here.
And it might come down and crash on me.
And I don't want that to
happen cuz I like being alive.
So I'm using my air and
just pushing it forward.
It's not taking much, you know?
It's not like I've got to hold
it up with a huge amount of air.
But I, you know,
just gotta keep a hand on it right, so.
[SOUND] [SOUND] By using
that visualization,
I've got my air just
constantly flowing forward.
So, also understand that
when you play louder or
softer you're not backing
down the amount of air here.
The amount of air that we use
creates the sound quality.
It's the speed of that air,
that we put through our horn,
that determines our volume.
So the, again,
the amount of the air is
what's creating our sound.
So I'm always feeling
some pressure down here.
I'm an avid believer in exercise.
I get up in the morning and
do my run, I do my sit ups,
and you know staying healthy,
that's an important part of playing too.
But you know just, it's having
a good flow of air is important.
So again, making sure that
you're always kind of not so
tense that you're going to have
a stomach-ache after ten minutes.
But enough pressure down here so
that you're always supporting,
you're always sort of flexed, so to speak.
Okay, so just moving that air forward.
Again, it's just making sure not only
that the horn is playing correctly,
but in particular,
the reed Is vibrating well.
So you wanna think about moving
the air forward to the wall.
You also wanna be thinking to
make sure that your air is going
through the mouthpiece.
And actually,
you're kind of visualizing the reed, and
you're vibrating that reed with the air.
So be thinking about those two sort
of projection points if you will.
The other thing about the air too is that,
man if you're not using enough air, if
you're not using a good stream of air, you
don't stand a chance of playing in tune.
Conversely, If you use plenty of air,
again, a nice, open amount of air.
It's gonna allow all the notes to
play the way they were designed and
you stand a much better
chance of playing in tune.
If you're playing in a band,
if you're in school for instance,
or you're playing in another band,
you're playing with somebody else and
you feel like you're intonation is.
You're playing a note with somebody and
it's out of tune.
The first thing I do when I'm
in that situation is I just
push a little bit more.
You can push your air.
You can push the support of the air more,
without getting any louder like
Hopefully you couldn't really hear much
of a difference, but it felt different.
I can feel it like in the mouthpiece
just pushing against the reed,
just to solidify it and very often it
doesn't matter if you're sharp or flat,
very often if you're a little bit high,
it just means that you're embouchure is
taking over the majority of the support,
and so you're not locking it in.
So by pushing the air forward, it counters
the pressure of your embouchure and
it brings the pitch down.
Conversely, very often,
sometimes your sound might be flat.
Because again,
you're not being supportive enough.
As you're playing,
as you're adjusting your embouchure and
set it with your long tones, using your
tuner to make sure you're spot on.
Just keep that air moving froward.
The third element in creating
a good sound is your throat and
again there's another lesson
dedicated to the exact things that
we can do exercises that we can do to make
sure our throat's in the right place.
But just for now as a little heads up.
Just make sure your throat is open.
If you're using plenty of air.
And the air is coming through your throat.
If your throat is closed off,
it's not going to
matter how much air you create down
here if your throat isn't open.
So check out that throat position lesson
to go through some exercises there,
So those three factors are gonna be things
that you can do to improve your sound.
You know, in other lessons
I've talked about reeds and
making sure your reed
strength is up to par.
You don't want to have a the reed
obviously is a huge part of your sound.
And it affects, your air is affecting
the reed and kind of visa versa.
If your reed is too soft,
you're gonna have too thin a sound.
If your reed is too hard,
it's gonna be hard just to get
a sound to come out at all.
And so you want your resistance there, but
you also want it to be easy to play.
So there are some points for
you on how to get a good sound.
If I missed anything or
if you have any questions whatsoever,
please shoot me a message on the forum and
if you want to be great,
when I was giving you some time to play
I'm sure you're doing a great job, but
I'm not totally sure because I wasn't
able to actually watch you and hear you.
Being able to see you is really important,
As important frankly,
as being able to hear you, too.
That's why the the video exchanges are so
fantastic, so shoot me a video if you can
of what you're doing when you're
developing your sound and
making it better, hopefully a lot better,
and shoot me that video, and
I'll I'll shoot you a video right back and
let you know what I think and
how perhaps you might be able to improve,
or give a big thumbs up.
All right.
Have fun with that and good luck.