- Do you puff your cheeks when you play saxophone?
- Is that OK to do?
- Is there a negative side to this?
Our Answer to That
This is a topic that attracts many opinions, especially on the internet. Some people suggest that you should do whatever it takes to produce a good tone. So, if you sound better puffing out your cheeks, then go ahead and puff out your cheeks.
Here’s the problem with that- it may work at the moment, but what happens when you want to play altissimo notes? Will puffing out the cheeks work with these high notes? If playing altissimo notes is more difficult to execute when puffing out your cheeks, then you may need to change your embouchure while you’re playing, or learn a completely new embouchure (by the way, changing your embouchure as you play would be a nightmare- especially at fast tempos). Why double your practice time in the long run, when you can apply a method that will work now, and in the future?
Playing with certain approaches (such as puffing out cheeks) does not make the saxophone player successful. Just because someone can play altissimo with puffed out cheeks, it doesn’t mean everyone should. We want to use a method that will help you progress quickly, and set a foundation for success in the future.
Our Approach to the Embouchure
In the free lessons we share a step by step process for forming our foundational embouchure. We’ve discussed our reasons for this method over the past few blog posts too. You can read them here:
Coin Purse or Draw Sting Bag?
In our approach to the embouchure, we teach that the corners go in, to form a circular seal around the mouthpiece. The beginner seems to have a natural tendency to clamp down on the mouthpiece, the way a coin purse closes. This can produce a thin or squeaky tone. All we need to do to avoid the “coin purse” approach is bring the corners of our mouth in. We call this the draw string bag approach. The video below shows a draw string bag closing. Notice how the corners move toward the center, in order to create a circular shape.
What’s the Benefit?
It stabilizes and focuses the tone; exactly what the beginner needs. This will help you sound better sooner, and make it easier to blend with others in a group setting.
What Does Puffing Out the Cheeks Do?
When we puff out our cheeks, it pulls the corners of our mouth out, in the opposite direction that we want. When this happens we loose stability and focus in our tone. And that’s the simple answer. It will make the saxophone harder to control, and producing a solid tone will be more challenging.
If you keep your cheeks in, applying the “corners in” or “draw string bag” approach in your practice, you will notice a difference in your tone, and the saxophone will respond with greater ease. You won’t need to shift your embouchure as you play, and you won’t need to drastically change your embouchure in the future. You’ll be set! If you have any questions about this approach, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or ask a question in the comment section below.
Question For You!
Do you puff out your cheeks? If you try bringing the cheeks and corners in, does it make a difference? Please share in the comment section!
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