Saxophone Forum


by Musicians Friend
(2 posts)
4 months ago

NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

All,

I had my first alto saxophone lesson last night with results that were, well, less than spectacular.  I was following the directions of my instructor to a tee but could not, for the most part, get any sound out of the horn.  At one point, I did play a perfect B; however, inconsistency was the star of the show.  Even when I was able to produce sound, either the pitch was off or the sound was of an undesirable nature.

As far as the sax is concerned (Yamaha 23), my teacher was able to play it with no issues.

One disclaimer: I do wear dentures; however, the research I have done indicates that such a condition should not impact my playing.

Any and all recommendations will be appreciated.  I play a number of instruments but have never delved into the world of the reed.  Please send your wisdom my way!

Thanks!!!

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  1. by mijderf
    (131 posts)

    4 months ago

    Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

    You sound a bit discouraged.  Please don't be.  What you are describing sounds like embouchure issues.  I don't know what reed strength you are using, but I assume that your teacher would start you out on something soft like a 2 strength reed.  

    Squeeking and squealing are often signs of biting down too hard and closing the reed against the mouthpiece rails.  In order to make a tone, the reed needs to vibate freely, so too much pressure on the reed makes it hard to get the proper tone.  There are many good youtube videos on setting a proper embouchure.  You might want to check a few out.  If you do you will note that light pressure on the top teeth, and then just supporting the reed with the lower lip is the recommended approach.

    You also express concern about the pitch being off.  Do not worry about that at this point.  Once you can get notes out in a decent manner, then you can adjust the location of the mouthpiece and or your embouchure to help get the proper pitch.

    Try just playing the open (no fingers used) middle C# to reduce variables, and work on developing a good basic embouchure.  Once you get the C# to play consistently, then start using your fingers to get other notes.

    Good luck! 

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  2. by GFC
    (716 posts)

    4 months ago

    Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

    If you want to work up to getting a decent sound out of your instrument you can start by just blowing through the mouthpiece like it's a duck call.  The best part is that you can keep the mouthpiece handy wherever you are and practice any time the opportunity arises.  it also helps if you have no inhibitions about looking weird.  It also might help to just blow through the mouthpiece and neck without the rest of the horn.

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  3. by RobertD
    (44 posts)

    4 months ago

    Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

    It was only your first lesson! Don't be discouraged. Keep practicing. Think of how good it's going to feel when your hard work and perseverance pay off. Practice. Don't give up. Your tone will come sooner than you think.

     

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    1. by Musicians Friend
      (2 posts)

      4 months ago

      Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

      Thanks to all of you!

      First and foremost, your encouragement is well received.  I am and will remain excited and focused on this new and wonderful challenge.  I retraced my steps leading up to my lesson and realized the following:

      1.  I used my mouth to moisterize the reed.  My mouth, however was dry and, I believe the reed was not as moist as it should be.

      2.  The reeds selected by my instructgor were your stand Rico 2.5s.  What do you all think of me going down to a softer reed like a 2.0 or 1.5?

      3.  Are there any other hardware components that, as a beginner, I should be using as a best practice?

      It is important to note that I understand it is the player, not the hardware that requires work.  For example, my instructor put his mouthpiece on my sax and made it sing.  I believe putting in the hours and focusing on my embouchur, breathing, etcetera will produce the results desired.  After all, when studying the trombone, embouchur, airflow, and tone were the keys to playing well.  Thanks again to all of you.  I am glad to have found this group - it is like home.

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      1. by bjroosevelt
        (47 posts)

        3 months ago

        Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

        Have you been able to minimize the squeaking in the last few week?

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      2. by RobertD
        (44 posts)

        4 months ago

        Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

        I always soak my reeds in clean water for five minutes before playing.

        I went from 2.5 to 2.0 Vandorens ZZ reeds and it made things easier. I'll go up to stiffer reeds later after I develop more stamina and control.

        Brasswinds require a firm yet relaxed embouchure with as little pressure as needed. I found that, compared with brasswinds, woodwinds require an even more relaxed but firm embouchure, and, as with brasswinds, as little pressure as possible. Don't bite! Air stream control from the oral cavity and a relaxed throat are very important.

        It's good to hear you're focusing on the new challenge. Now stick with it and PRACTICE! :)

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      3. by bjroosevelt
        (47 posts)

        4 months ago

        Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

        I am an old flute player who stated with the sax about a year ago.  Squeaking was severe for a  week or two.  I think what you are describing a perfectly normal, ‘My mouth is getting used to to the sax” scenario.

        1). Soaking reeds in water for 5 minutes before playing is just about mandatory.  I bring a big jar of water to community band practice.  No one else does.  I’m not sure how they get their instruments to work properly.

        2). At this stage of the game, what reed you use is going to be based on the tip-opening of your sax.  A Rico 2.5 is a pretty soft reed (equivalent to a Vandoren 2).  I used a Rico 2.0 for the first two weeks of my sax playing life, after a 30 year hiatus from playing the flute.  I quickly graduated to a Rico 2.5.  The reason I changed is that the softer reeds are more apt to squeak.....so I don’t think moving to a softer reed will help you in the squeaking arena, but it might help you get a better tone out initially.  However, if you do not have a beginners tip opening on your mouthpiece, you may have to go to a softer reed To get a sound out.  I think that beginning mouthpieces usually have a tip opening between 40 and 60.  (Experts, please chime in).

        3). If you try to practice on your reed and mouthpiece without the sax attached, please make sure to stick your finger partially into the air exit hole on the mouthpiece......as the sound that would come out otherwise can be quite shrill for your family/neighbors.

        4). I have been told that you shouldn’t bother trying to be in tune on the sax for at least a year...it takes that long for a good embouchure to develop.   I am 10 months in, and I think that that advice was correct.  I play an hour a day.

        5). You didn’t pick the easiest reed instrument to start with......moving from brass is not easy on the mouth.

         

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        1. by GFC
          (716 posts)

          4 months ago

          Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

          The Yamaha 4c and 5c mouthpieces are very common beginner pieces.  You could check to see what size tip openings they have.  Tip openings are measured in thousandths of an inch.

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        2. by RobertD
          (44 posts)

          4 months ago

          Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

          Thousandths of an inch!

          Brasswind players focus on rim circumference, width, and shape, rim "bite", cup depth and shape, throat and backbore dimensions - but sax mouthpieces are far more OCD than any brass mouthpiece I've ever seen - windows, tables, rims, rails, throat, baffles, etc. - and that's not even mentioning the reeds and ligature!

          What a wonderfully complex instrument.

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        3. by GFC
          (716 posts)

          4 months ago

          Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

          The design interval of tips is 5 thousandths, so you only need to get one fifth as excited.  

          Yes, we saxophone players live in a complex, fiddly, and expensive world compared to brass.  Could be worse, though. At least it's not like with flutes, oboes, or bassoons!

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        4. by RobertD
          (44 posts)

          4 months ago

          Re: NEW Sax Player - Nothing but squealing and air!

          A fifth usually gets me more excited. ;)

          A pro tuba can get pretty expensive. I got an email from Elderly Instruments today about a guitar made from "The Tree" (a mythical 100 foot mahogany tree that was cut years ago but fell into a ravine and couldn't be recovered, until now) - price - around $10K. Here's the link:

          https://www.elderly.com/catalog/product/view/id/145881/s/breedlove-concerto-showstopper-acoustic-guitar-and-case/

          I've heard bassoons can go up to $30K. Just a bit less than our first house back in 1977!

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