Should I Play on the Side or Center?

When a professional saxophonist is sitting down and playing, have you seen them:

  • Hold the saxophone on the side
  • Hold the saxophone in the center

Which is the right way? The answer: both- but not always.

Clearing It Up

OK, I won’t leave you hanging with a vague answer such as that. But there are multiple answers which we’ll go over. But first, let me clarify what I mean by “side” and “center”.

Clarifying the Side and Center

Playing on the side simply means that when sitting down, you hold the saxophone on the outside of the right leg. Playing in the center means holding the saxophone in the middle, right down the front/center of the body. Want more detail on proper posture? You can check out our posture video on YouTube. Now, let’s talk about the placement for each saxophone.

Soprano

This one is probably easy enough to figure out. This saxophone would feel awkward if you attempted to play on the side. The soprano is not long enough to rest on the side of the leg, but it’s much more comfortable holding this saxophone in the front/center of the body.

Alto

You can choose either option for the alto saxophone. Whatever method you find most comfortable will work fine. However, I do recommend that younger students hold the saxophone on the side, as the saxophone will fit better for those who are shorter in height. In fact, playing on the side can be a good place for all beginners to start. This approach tends to be more stable, which means there’s one less thing to juggle at the beginning.

Tenor

I mentioned that the alto saxophone is more comfortable for kids when placed on the side. Well, the same is true for the tenor in relation to both children and adults. If you try playing the tenor in the center, you’ll know what I mean. Playing on the side is a much better fit and will aid in a relaxed playing approach.

Baritone

The baritone gets the same recommendation as the tenor. Playing a bari in the center (while sitting down) is awkward and would present extra challenges in your playing. You’ll find that playing on the side is the way to go.

Standing Up

Things can change a little when you get up from the chair and stand. Here’s what I recommend:

  • The soprano will be centered
  • The alto will be in the center or slightly to the right side
  • The tenor and bari will hang more (than the alto) to the right side
  • Be comfortable and relaxed

Choose the Best Tone

If you’re playing alto, choose the version that produces the best tone. By moving the saxophone from the center to the side, there’s a slight difference in how the saxophone enters the mouth. What does that mean? Your tone may be slightly different when playing on the side than it was when playing in the center. Choose the version that is the most comfortable and produces the best tone.

Some people make their choice based on way they’ve seen others do, or what they think looks cool. Even though we often reach success by copying others (in music), this one is up to you. Experiment and figure out which version is more comfortable and which one produces the best tone.

More Details

If you want more details on this topic, or want to make sure you’re holding the saxophone correctly (holding the saxophone correctly improves tone, and it’s easy to do), you can check out our free lesson series or watch our posture video on YouTube.

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Comments 2

  1. About the tenor, I played both alto and tenors, both can be played in the center or the side. most people play to the side, but really it matters what your tone quality sounds, I saw those that play in the center, have a really good tone quality, but when played to the side, you want to slouch and be lazy, which does cause you to lose your air capacity, tone quality and bunch more. but that’s if you are playing it and not sitting straight. I actually prefer playing in the center for tenor and alto, because I find it more comfortable for me, and I sound way better and play better. I would recommend that you look at what type of player you want to be, and choose the playing style you prefer. Don’t be the cringe alto players at my school that plays to the side, and bends over. That’s pretty bad to see and hear.

    1. Post
      Author

      I agree, posture and finding a comfortable playing position are essential for tone and longevity of your playing career. However, I would suggest playing tenor on the side even if the tone is not as good as when playing in the center. The ergonomics can be off (when playing in the center) and can limit what can be accomplished technically. Additionally, I’m confident that the tone can be improved when playing on the side to match that of playing in the center. Thanks for your thoughts Cody!

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