One Thing to Know: The First Note


We all know how important it is to make a good first impression. Well, music is the same. For example, when I’m judging a competition, it only takes a few seconds to see who is playing at a high level and who is not.

Sure, we can tell from correct and incorrect notes, but everyone can usually play the notes correctly. Attention to detail is what separates a musician from the pack. Those who excel want to get the details right, and when they do, their level of playing accelerates.

In this post, we’re going to talk about something you can apply today, that will help you separate yourself from the pack. 

The First Note

The first thing someone is going to hear when you play is…of course…the first note. Often, students don’t worry about this note because it’s not a concern, or, they’ll “get it later”. We’ll share how to make the beginning of the first note sound great, with an exercise below.

The Problem

As a beginner, it can take a few moments, after starting a note, to settle in and get the saxophone to play the way it should. This is normal and will improve over time. However, there’s a way to fix this faster, and it’s not too difficult.

The Goal

We’ll focus on making the note sound correct from the very beginning; no need to ease into a good tone or wait for this issue to resolve naturally. It will take some daily work, but soon you’ll have a skill that will assist in maturing your tone.

The Practice Approach

I don’t want you to solve this issue in one day (that’s a lot of pressure and can be frustrating- not what we want), but allow yourself some time to become comfortable with the technique of starting the first note correctly. Over time, it will begin to become part of your playing, and not something that you need to think about. But for right now, it will take some concentration. Here we go!

The Exercise

  1. Set your embouchure
  2. Take a deep breath through your nose
  3. Place the tip of the tongue on the tip of the reed
  4. Push air through the saxophone while keeping your tongue on the reed (because you have set your embouchure, very little air will go through the mouthpiece)
  5. When ready, simply remove your tongue from the reed
  6. Tone will sound (it’s okay if it’s loud, or squeaks. You’ll learn refinement soon)
  7. Repeat 10 times a day

Warnings

It’s going to be tempting to do a couple things here; the main one is to move your jaw. Look in a mirror as you work on this exercise, just to make sure you’re not moving.

Once you are comfortable starting the note, begin to focus on keeping your jaw steady as the note continues.

Awkward

Yes, this exercise may feel awkward at first, but it will begin to feel more comfortable over time. Just attempt the exercise 10 times a day and you’ll notice a difference in just a few days.

Repetition

It’s easier to meet your goal when the goal is to play the exercise 10 times, rather than having a goal to fix the issue in one day. If you complete this exercise 10 times a day, you’ll meet your goal on a daily basis, simultaneously moving toward your real goal, which will be obtained over time. Just think of a child learning to walk. They get 10 steps here, and 10 there, but after daily practice, they eventually get it. And, they have fun, too.

Give it a Try

Let us know how this exercise goes. If you succeed (which everybody can) you’ll have an important skill under your belt, which is required for a good tone. Of course, if you want additional assistance, you can check out our free lessons that go over the embouchure.

Feedback for Free

Want some feedback on your first note? Send me a 5-10 second recording. I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.


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