Monday, December 10, 2012

3 Elements of Saxophone Success


Superior saxophone skill requires the successful development of three areas of playing. Without these three basic components you will have limited success in developing your playing style and overall performance ability.
Wayne Land - Saxphone Instructor, The ZOEN

TONAL QUALITY is simply the character of the basic sound itself. A beautiful tonal quality is apparent when you play a single note as well as when you are performing entire tunes. Even if your ultimate goal is to play with a “smoky” sound or an expressive “raspy” quality, begin by striving for a clear tone without air, buzziness or other distortion. Then build your individuality or preferred tone on top of that ability to play with a perfectly clear sound. Developing control is the key to becoming a truly masterful player.


Developing control is the key to becoming a truly masterful player.

INTONATION refers to executing the correct pitch of each note you play in relation to all the other notes you play. Only the very finest saxophones are built so all the notes play at the correct pitch relative to each other without the player making any adjustments. Saxophones don’t “automatically” play in tune with themselves. Adjustments must be made by using more or less lip and jaw pressure on the reed and mouthpiece. Practicing with a tuning device is helpful but the ultimate goal is to hear the difference yourself and develop the necessary adjustments until they are second nature. Eventually, you don’t want to be consciously thinking about correct pitch all the time you’re playing but in the early stages of development, it is crucial.

Practicing with a tuning device is helpful but the ultimate goal is to hear the difference yourself...

TECHNIQUE refers to the precision and fluidity of fingers, tongue and facial muscles while executing the notes. Technique is important all the time, not only when you play fast or “technically difficult” passages. Technique is not an ends but a means: having the control of technical proficiency is what enables us to play with communication, expression, musicality. Too often technique is denounced as the antithesis of musicality. Technique is the means to be more musical--they are inseparable.


Technique is important all the time...

Everything you do when practicing should be designed to promote better Tonal Quality, Intonation, and Technique simultaneously. These skills are not something we take turns developing - rather, they must be attained as a whole because not one of them can be mastered in isolation from the other two.  

Check back for the second part of this post where we address 5 Tips to Improve Your Sax Skills.



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