Eliminate that Spitty Sound!

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Have you ever sat down to play the saxophone and discovered that your tone doesn’t sound as good as it did yesterday? Or maybe, your tone has never been exactly what you’ve hoped it could be. And sometimes, we get a sound in our tone (that originates in the mouthpiece) that sounds like there’s moisture trapped inside the mouthpiece.

Today we’re going to discuss how to clear up that “spitty” tone, but if you want to improve your tone in other ways, we can help with that too.

What’s That Spitty Sound?

Every saxophonist deals with the “spitty” sound. This sound comes from excessive moisture in the mouthpiece, and when it attaches itself to the inside of the mp or reed, it can be difficult to remove. It’s a sound that you can hear, and your audience can hear as well. We definitely need to get rid of it.

Method 1

Add pressure to the reed (more than you would when playing) and suck it out. If this is something that sounds a little gross to you, you’ll have to make a choice: do I really want this “spitty” sound to continue?

You can also think about it in a different way: think of the moisture as condensation rather than actual saliva. This helps some people.

This step is not a quiet step, so feel free to really take in a lot of air. It should do the trick.

Method 2

Sometimes in performance situations you need to remove the excess moisture, but you can’t apply method 1 because that will make too much noise and detract from the performance. Instead, cut off the reed completely (the reed is pushed all the way up against the mp) and then create a vacuum.

Because the reed is cut off it will feel like you’re doing a lot of work with no result. Even though air is not traveling like in method 1, it still is. But this method does not produce any sound; it’s silent. Even though this method is not as effective as method 1, it will still remove enough of the excess moisture to remove the “spitty” sound. It doesn’t seem like it will work, but it does! Then, when the performance is done, you can apply method 1 to really get things out.

Method 3

This is a multi-step process, but it will reduce the overall chances of getting that “spitty” sound as you play.

Step 1

Before you put the reed on your mp, make sure you wipe off all excess moisture. Yes, the reed needs to be moist, but not overdone. Wipe off the excess moisture on a rag before you attach it to your mp.

Step 2

Make sure the mp is completely dry on the outside and inside. Take a swab and clean out the inside and outside if there is any moisture on it.

Step 3

Remove excess moisture from your mouth before you play. If you do this, there’s less of an opportunity for the moisture to travel into the mp, which causes the “spitty” sound.

First, remove the moisture from your cheeks and up into your gum line, and lastly, clean off the tongue. This step proves very effective!

Step 4

After all this prep work, don’t lick your reed and put all the moisture back on the reed before you start playing. If you’ve prepared the reed in your mouth or a cup of water before applying these steps, it won’t need any extra moisture.

Later on you may need to add more moisture to the reed, but once you’ve done so, make sure you take your thumb and remove the excess moisture from the reed (while it’s on your mp).

Eliminating the “Spitty” Sound

The key point to removing the “spitty” sound is to remove all excessive moisture. Yes, the reed needs moisture but it doesn’t need all you have! You’ll find that by following these steps, your tone will clear up and will sound crystal clear.

Do you have a “spitty” sound? How did you get rid of it? Or, try out these steps and let us know your experience. We’re confident that things will be better. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to ask in the comment section!

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Comments 7

  1. Good advice on this awful issue… It happens to me from time to time, apparently for no reason… or maybe it’s a matter of weather, that allows more condensation to build up, or myself producing more saliva than usually… who knows…
    I used to get rid of it with a quick blowing over the tip opening from an inch away. I’ll try the “suck” method next time.

    Thanks and all the best!

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      No problem Marc. It seems to be an issue that we all have to deal with. Some days it’s never an issue, and others, it’s constantly present. Let me know how things work out!

  2. Pingback: Favorite blog posts, March 2017 | Bret Pimentel, woodwinds

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  3. This is a constant problem for me and can be very disheartening. I’ve tried everything in your list apart from step 3. But how on earth do you go about removing the moisture from your cheeks and up into your gum line and cleaning off your tongue? Chew on a sponge?!

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      Hi Ged, thanks for the question. When removing excess moisture from your cheeks and gum line, these parts do not need to be dry, but just the excess moisture should be removed, or attempted to be removed. Just run your tongue over your gum line (like you cleaning your teeth or trying to get something our of your teeth with suction) and then create a suction like your cleaning out your mouth (in general). I hope this description makes more sense. Basically, were trying to remove as much moisture as possible from all parts of the mouth. Let me know how it goes!

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