Improve Your Tone, Now!

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It’s been nearly two years since our last blog post, and I wanted to choose a topic that would make significant impact on the beginning saxophone player. To kick us off, I have chosen something that will help any beginner progress faster. However, it’s not just one item, it’s multiple tips that I’ll be sharing over the next few weeks.


I recently had a student who was having a difficult time producing a good tone. He had been playing for a while, and he was comfortable playing the saxophone. But one day, his tone became worse and he could not figure out why. He no longer was able to play some of the notes that he could previously play. This was not only with some of the notes in the mid-range on the saxophone, but especially low notes.

There's Always an Answer

When we spend time practicing, and we get worse, it can be disheartening. Sometimes we may come to the conclusion that we are not meant to play the saxophone, because of the difficulty we are having. This is simply not true. I believe anyone can learn to play the saxophone, and if there’s an issue, there’s a resolution. In the case of my student, it was not him, but it was the saxophone.

It's the Saxophone's Fault!

It turned out that my student’s saxophone was no longer in proper functioning order. The issue with the saxophone occurred instantly, and came out of nowhere. Here was the issue: The keys on the saxophone seal with leather pads. If the pads warp and no longer seal properly, the saxophone will not play as it was intended. This is something that occurs with all saxophones, and the pads must be replaced periodically. If the pads are not functioning properly, the saxophone can become more difficult to play, or stop working all together.

Bad Pads Can Ruin Your Tone

If you’re playing a saxophone that has been sitting around for years, there’s a good chance the pads may not be functioning properly and repair may be required. If you purchased a brand new saxophone online, the pads may not be functioning either. Just because it’s new, it does not mean it’s ready to go. If you buy locally, or rent, many places will provide repair for a certain amount of time. By the way, if we try to play through the issues on the saxophone, this could make the embouchure worse and create bad habits, which can be difficult to fix down the road. Our advice is to take your saxophone to a shop and make sure everything is in proper working order. You’ll be happy that you did.

Is it You or the Saxophone?

Here’s another reason why it’s so important to make sure your saxophone is in proper working order. As a beginner, it can be difficult to know if the issue is you, or the saxophone. If we don’t know where the problem lies, the issue can be difficult to fix. So, we must eliminate the guessing game and take care of the saxophone first. Once the necessary repairs have been made, and you know the saxophone is working properly, then you can have confidence in knowing where the problem is. Once we know this, progression on the saxophone in much faster.

Our Suggestion

Whether you’re just starting out, or getting back into the instrument, take the time to have your saxophone inspected. Most band and orchestra music stores will have someone in house who can fix a saxophone. Have the repair tech take a look, and make sure everything is in order. Once everything is in proper order, you'll be set. You will definitely progress faster, you’ll be less frustrated, and you’ll have a lot more fun.

Have you ever had an experience similar to my student? What happened when you had your saxophone repaired? What difference did it make in your playing? We would love to hear about your experiences. Please feel free to share in the comment section below.

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