8 Articulation Patterns Used by Pros!

Recently, we’ve covered exercises that will bring clarity and speed to articulation. Next, we'll add variety.

Why Variety

In our previous exercises we’ve been articulating every note. The purpose for this approach is to spend time working on form and a basic pattern. Once we’ve done this, we can add patterns, which will allow us to become comfortable with common articulations.

No Surprises

If we practice every articulation pattern we can think of, will we be be surprised by any patterns we find in music? The chances are slim. Once you’ve been exposed to various articulation patterns, the more comfortable you’ll be with reading music, even when you're sight reading.

8 Different Patterns

Pattern 1

The first pattern does not required articulation at all (except for the first note). This may sound strange for an articulation exercise, but it’s to help lock in your time with the metronome. When we add articulation pattern 2, we want to make sure our time is already locked in, and this is the purpose of pattern 1. In this pattern, you'll slur all notes, accept the first (even though it shows every 5th note in the example below).

Pattern 2

This next pattern requires articulation on the first note and the third note.

Pattern 3

This next pattern requires articulation on the first, third, and fourth notes.

Pattern 4

The next pattern requires articulation on the first, second, and third note. Another way to think of this is to articulate every note by the fourth.

Pattern 5

This next pattern requires articulation on the first and second note, slurring the third and fourth.

Pattern 6

This next pattern requires articulation on the first and fourth notes, slurring the second and third.

Pattern 7

This next pattern requires articulation on the first, second and fourth notes. This one can be a little tricky, but slow repetition will resolve this issue.

Pattern 8

Articulate every note. This one is simple in theory, but can be one of the more difficult patterns at fast tempos.

An Approach to the Patterns

Start at a tempo that is slow (let’s say ♩= 60), allowing time to think as you play. This tempo should be slow enough so you can play all the patterns the first time. Don’t be concerned with speed right now. We’re interested in playing correctly and having good habits. This will allow for faster articulation capabilities in the future. Be patient, and articulation will be one of your strengths.


When beginning these patterns, play all of them at the same tempo (♩=60). If you can play 7 patterns at 60, and the last pattern is not quite there, that’s okay. Remember, your tongue is a muscle and it will strengthen and become faster every day.

On the next day, start at the same tempo where you left off (♩=60 for our example). You may find that you can play all the patterns at this tempo. If not, a few more days at ♩=60 will get that last pattern to where it needs to be. Play every pattern everyday until all 8 patterns can be played at ♩=60.

Once you hit ♩=60 on all the patterns, then click up to ♩=63 on the same day. If you can play all patterns at ♩=63, then try ♩=66. Let's say that you can't play all the patterns at ♩=66, but you were able to play all of them at ♩=63. What tempo should you start at tomorrow?

Starting Tempo

The next day, begin at ♩=66. With speeding up scales, we always began at ♩=60, but with articulation, you’ll begin where you left off from the day before. Some days you'll stay at the same metronome marking, and others you may increase a few clicks. Whatever tempo you were not able to play, start at that tempo the next day.

Pro Tip

This is one of the approaches that pros use to improve their articulation. By the way, the best saxophone players are not always just naturally gifted, but many times they apply the right instruction to help them develop the necessary skills. This approach provides the instruction to articulate well. If you're diligent, you may become better than you thought was possible.

Give it a Try

Give this method a try and let us know how it goes. If there are any questions about the description provided, please let us know in the comment section below. Thanks, and we look forward to your progress!

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Comments 2

  1. Jeff am following all your valuable instructions since the day I bought Alto sax. Meanwhile you shifted to Arizona so I could not meet you at Kansas a couple of years back. Now I think you are back at Kansas. I indeed love all your teachings. You only explained me the basis of vibrato. I am into it now. Would like to takeskype classes from you. Please advise me to proceed further. Thznks…. SABNAVIS

    1. Post

      Thank you Sabnavis, I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying the content and lessons. I’m glad to hear that your vibrato is coming along, too. Concerning the other items, I have emailed you directly. Thanks for writing in!

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