How Teeth Improve Tone

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Improving tone is the goal of all saxophone players. Some adjustments take years to really make a difference and others are immediate. In this post we’ll discuss how one quick adjustment can make a difference in your next practice session.

The Teeth

When I visit schools to assist with their saxophone sections, many times there’s one student who is missing an important step to obtaining the best tone possible. Luckily, it’s a quick fix. I find that some students do not place their top teeth on top of the mouthpiece.

It may seem like a small thing, but the results are noticeable. In fact, when I find a student who is not applying this approach, they, and their fellow students, can immediately discern the difference between their previous tone and the improved tone. When a slight adjustment is made, and the tone improves, it’s extremely motivating to continue to apply that technique.

I share this last point because it can be difficult to break bad habits and establish new ones. However, if immediate results are heard, it’s much easier to consistently apply the new approach.

How it Helps

Once you place your top teeth on top of the mouthpiece, stability is the result. If you are playing the saxophone, and the mouthpiece constantly moves in your mouth, it will be difficult to obtain a good tone. Mouthpiece stability will help your tone improve and accelerate your ability to improve your articulation.

It’s easy to see how an unstable mouthpiece would make the learning process slower. For example, if your mouthpiece continually moves around, it will consistently change the air stream and point of contact for articulation. Allowing your top teeth to rest on top of your mouthpiece will not only improve your tone, but it will assist with other aspects of your playing.

Potential Issues

Even though placing your teeth on top of the mouthpiece is an easy fix, there may be an issue that pops up. Some beginning saxophone students don’t place their teeth on top of the mouthpiece by a conscious choice. The reason is the feel.

Because the reed is vibrating, it sends vibrations through the mouthpiece and into the top teeth. Generally, this is not an issue and is not even noticeable. For others, it’s such an annoyance that they are unable to ignore the vibrations and eliminate the contact between the top teeth and the mouthpiece. The annoying vibrations are eliminated but their tone suffers.

There is good news for those who suffer from this issue, and it’s another quick fix. If the vibrations from the mouthpiece drive you bonkers, you can invest in a mouthpiece pad. They are under $10 for multiple pads and can eliminate the vibrations completely, or at least make it manageable.

One More Tip

Just to make sure we don’t exaggerate the point of contact with the top teeth and mouthpiece, please make sure you are not pushing your teeth down onto the top the mouthpiece. Instead, simply rest your teeth on the top of the mouthpiece, which is enough to see the benefits.

Sharing the Results

Go ahead and give this tip a try. Let us know how it goes in the comment section below. We look forward to hearing the results!


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