There are many opinions concerning the embouchure, suggesting that the lip should be out, or at least not over the bottom teeth when playing jazz or pop music. It’s true that there are great jazz saxophone players who play with their bottom lip out, or at least not over the bottom teeth. Is this the only way to do things?
The “Classical” Bottom Lip
It’s believed by some, that placing the bottom lip over the bottom teeth is for the “classical” saxophone player (click here for our opinion). However, the placement of the bottom lip is not the most important aspect of producing a jazz tone. In fact, you can get a jazz tone with the bottom lip in or out!
Our approach to the embouchure (whether playing classical, pop, or jazz) can be found in the free lessons. We’ll use this embouchure as our foundation and then make the necessary adjustments to produce a jazz tone. But first, I want to talk about something that is more important than lip placement in regards to obtaining a jazz tone.
The 2 Most Important Tips
If I could only provide 2 tips to help you produce an authentic jazz tone, I wouldn’t talk about the embouchure or the bottom lip at all. I would make the following suggestions:
- Immerse yourself by listening
- Copy what you hear
The majority of jazz musicians would agree that applying these 2 tips is essential for learning the jazz style. All aspects of jazz can be learned through these 2 tips. Why? Because jazz is like a language, and learning jazz is very similar to learning a language.
My daughter is in a French immersion school. This means that as a kindergartner (her first year in school) her teachers didn’t speak any English, only French. By the fourth month of school, all these 5 year old children could speak fluently within a kindergarten setting. I was shocked! Part of the reason this occurred was for the fact that they heard and spoke French 7-8 hours a day.
I Failed My French Class
I took French in high school for 2 years. OK, I didn’t actually receive an “F”, but I don’t speak French. Why did I fail at this language? I heard the French language about 3 hours a week and was assigned homework out of a book. You see, I was never immersed in the French language and that is one reason I failed.
How do you immerse yourself in the jazz language? Listen to jazz all the time…or as much as you can. Listen while you’re getting ready in the morning, listen while going to work or school, and listen at work if you can. The more you listen, the more you’ll pick up. Eventually, your tone will gravitate toward the sound you want, even subconsciously. It’s almost like a magic formula for obtaining the jazz tone you want. But it’s a process that takes some time, so you’ll need to be patient. Just like picking up on a dialect or accent in language, by listening to jazz you’ll pick up on your preferred tone and nuances.
Now that you’re listening and getting the style in your ear, start copying what you hear. Copy what you hear and play it on your saxophone. You can simply take the basic idea of what you hear and try to copy it, or even better, take a solo (or part of a solo) from a professional recording and copy everything. For our purpose, focus on the tone and try to copy that sound.
Next Week- The Steps for a Jazz Embouchure
These 2 tips will be the key to your success for obtaining the jazz saxophone tone you want. Have patience as you apply these tips, and over time you’ll see the results. Next week, we’ll go over the step by step process for our “lip in” approach for playing jazz.
Who are your favorite saxophone artists? Let us know in the comment section below!