Should You Move Your Jaw?

Question of The Day

When should you move your jaw when playing the saxophone?

If you said, “it depends on the situation” (or something close to that), you’re right! Let’s go over when it’s OK to move the jaw, so you can get your best tone.

A Fun Post

Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book series? A little while back I wrote a post, inspired by the series, on moving the jaw. Click here to see if you can answer the question correctly. It’s important information for getting a good tone, and it’s fun to see if you’ve got the saxophone skill to make it out of the dangerous alley alive. Give the adventure  a try– it’s fun!

From the Choose You’re Own Adventure post, we understand that we should not move our jaw when playing saxophone. This is the method we use in our Free, Silver, and Gold Lessons Series.  Why? Because the embouchure we teach is more likely to help you succeed, and will help you improve faster, at the beginner level.

When to Move the Jaw

Since we already discussed this in a previous post, I’ll provide the answer and we’ll move on. When we are playing in a jazz or pop style, we move the jaw. This allows us to get the subtone, “openness”, and the flexibility we desire. Click here to find out how you can get a jazz tone.

Where Do These Rumors Come From?

Whenever I teach a saxophone clinic or masterclass, I like to briefly go over the steps for a correct embouchure (they can be found in the free lessons). I usually ask the following question:

“What should you do with your embouchure as you ascend up a scale on the saxophone?”

  1. Loosen the embouchure
  2. Keep it the same
  3. Tighten up

When speaking to high school students (who have been playing for at least 3 years) or 1st year college students, the answers often come in this order:

  1. Tighten up
  2. Loosen
  3. Keep it the same

It’s interesting that the correct answer comes in at #3, and the wrong answers come in at #1 and #2! I’ve always wondered who started these rumors?

When we keep the jaw stationary, the tone will immediately improve, and the student will see positive results. When I visit these students and help them make the correct changes, their tone improves nearly 100% of the time!

By the way, what will adding more pressure do? It will make the higher notes squeak or sound very thin. Either way, the saxophone becomes more difficult to play, and sometimes the high notes won’t even respond.

How to Tell

How can you tell if you’re adding enough pressure to the reed? Follow this test (it’s half way down the page), and when you discover the right amount of pressure, add the same amount of pressure (or a little less) through all the notes of the saxophone. You’ll be set. The test is a fun challenge too!

Challenge of the Week!

Once you’ve set the correct amount of pressure to the reed, play a D major scale (see scale below). Keep the jaw still, and listen for the results. If you normally move your jaw, try not to. I know this may be difficult, so think of it this way: the goal of this exercise is not about tone, it’s about keeping the jaw steady.

Tell your self it doesn’t matter what comes out of the saxophone (I know that will be a challenge on its own). By doing this, you’ll remove the pressure we set on ourselves of always needing to produce our best tone. In this exercise, it doesn’t matter if you squeak or if the tone is bad; just don’t move the jaw.

I’m confident (if done correctly) that your tone will be better than it was before. Remember, this exercise is based off our foundational embouchure, which can be found in the free lessons.

d major saxophone scale

The Results

Let us know how you did! You can share your results in the comment section below. I can’t wait to hear how you did!

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Have fun playing!

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