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Saxophone Tone Exercises

Taming The Saxophone vol 1 - tone without tears

Taming The Saxophone Vol I – Tone Without Tears. All the tone exercises on the site and lots more

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Exercises for Tone & Sound

Most saxophone players aim for a sound that is either what is accepted as a good sound for a particular style, or else a unique and personal sound, sometimes with a combination of the two. Assuming that you have the right instrument and mouthpiece for the sound you are aiming for, the most important part of developing a good tone is to practice long notes. This sounds very boring, but it will pay off whether you are after a particular sound.

In all the following exercises the sound should be started and stopped by the tip of the tongue on the tip if the reed, the throat should be open (as if yawning) so that there is always air pressure in the mouth and throat – see Diaphragm Breathing. When the tongue is released from the reed you should imagine a clean start to the note, as if singing either a “tu” or “du”. When the note is stopped with the tongue, it should be a clean precise stop. Neither the start nor end should be louder or quieter than the rest of the note. Imagine the sound as a long straight horizontal cylinder with a vertical disc at the beginning and end



Tone exercises are not the most exciting things to play, and it’s important that you concentrate on the sound you are making, so it’s a good idea to take a break or practice something else once your mind starts wandering.

Once you have got a decent core sound, you will benefit from the more advanced saxophone tone control exercises, which will help you with getting more flexibility and expression into your sound.

  • Basic Long Notes: Try to keep the note as straight and steady as possible, no wobbles, hiccups or vibrato. Use a keyboard or tuner to check intonation if you like.
    1. Play a B (1st finger left hand lower register) and hold as long as possible without losing the note or getting out of breath
    2. Repeat on the next note down chromatically until you get to low Bb (or the lowest note you have learnt)
    3. Go back to the B and repeat the process up to top F (or the highest note you have learnt), or higher if to practice altissimo.

    If you have not yet learnt all the fingerings for the chromatic scale you can use a major or minor scale. If you don’t have enough time on your practice session you can use a whole tone scale, in which case the next time you practice start on a Bb.

  • Long Notes with dynamics This is the same as above except that the notes start quietly, increase in loudness then decrease, or else you can start loud, get quiet, then loud again. If you like, use a slow count to make sure that the crescendo and decrescendo are even.It’s important to concentrate on the tuning; there is a tendency to blow flat as you get louder.
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