Swallowing a Golf Ball

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What do you think of this title? Every time I picture this, and imagine what it would feel like, I feel uncomfortable. It’s funny how easy it is to imagine this scenario, even though it would be a difficult (and unhealthy task) to do.

Even though I would never suggest swallowing a golf ball in a real life setting, imagining this scenario has its benefits when playing saxophone.

Here are some benefits:

  1. Low notes will respond easier
  2. Jumping between low notes and high notes will be easier to accomplish
  3. Your tone will improve

These are just a few benefits that you can gain as you imagine swallowing a golf ball as you play.

What Does This Really Mean?

If you pretend to swallow a golf ball, what does the inside of your throat feel like? It should feel open. When our throat is open we tend to produce warm air rather than cool air.

Warm Air vs Cool Air

You can experiment with warm air and cool by doing the following. You can feel the temperature of the air change as you blow into your hand.

  1. Imagine taking a bite of really good food. However, this food is really hot. What do you do? You start producing puffs of air that sound like “huh”. Notice how open the throat is when you do this. It feels similar to our golf ball scenario. This open throat produces warm air.
  2. Imagine it’s your birthday. People are singing Happy Birthday to you as they bring out a cake with all the candles. What does your air feel like as you blow out the candles? It’s a cooler air. Notice what your throat feels like as you produce cool air. It’s not open like the warm air.

Air Speed

As we create warm air and cold air, the speed of the air changes. With warm air, the air speed is slow, and with colder air the speed is much faster. This makes a difference when playing saxophone. Which air do you think you should have as you play?

Warm Air

The saxophone loves warm air. Whether we are playing the lowest notes or the highest notes, the air needs to be warm. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Play a low D
  2. Stabilize the tone
  3. When you have a good tone, memorize what the air feels like.
  4. Play with “low D air” up and down the whole range of the saxophone

Sounds Crazy!

The idea of playing with low air (all the time) may sound crazy, but it works. In fact, it may be a little tricky to accomplish at first because you end up telling yourself- “that’s impossible! That note won’t come out if I play with low air.”

Signs of Cool Air

The saxophone will respond very well if we play with warm air. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell (as you’re playing) what type of air you’re actually putting into the saxophone. Here’s how you can tell if your air is too cool.

When you go to play a lower note and the saxophone makes a gurgling sound, then your air is too cool. That “gurgling” sound is the saxophone trying to leap up an octave. To eliminate the “gurgling” sound, open up your throat by warming up your air.


The point of this post is simple. The saxophone likes warm air, and it will respond at its best when warm is air is applied. To get the feel of the warm air, remember to open your throat. You can do this by imagining the following:

  1. You have hot foot in your mouth that you’re trying to cool (“huh”)
  2. Think slower air speed
  3. Imagine how open your throat would be when swallowing a golf ball

Important Info
Keep in mind that the analogies are used to provide a general feel of the “open throat”. Feel free to make adjustments as you experiment.

If you apply this, not only will the saxophone respond better, but all notes will be easier to play and your tone will improve. Give it a try and let us know how it goes. Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section. Have fun playing!

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