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From The Story of the Saxophone

From The Story of the Saxophone

I have designed and developed all the online saxophone exercises, tutorials and lessons in this section over many years both as a professional recording musician and as a teacher at Southampton University, and have used these exercises as part of a regular practice routine.

The exercises are aimed towards jazz and blues playing, but are still very useful for other styles, whether it’s free jazz, smooth jazz, classical, funk, pop, rock & roll and r ’n’ b. The tone and effects section is useful for all styles. I hope you find these lessons and tutorials useful.

We look at almost every conceivable area of learning the saxophone, if I’ve missed anything out please feel free to let me know – I’m always open to suggestions.

You don’t need to work through these in any order, though absolute beginners should probably start with the beginners tutorials. There is a lot of crossover between some of the lessons, and between those in this section and the jazz section – e.g. you will also find plenty of useful jazz & blues licks and phrases on the jazz & blues theory pages.

Beginners

In the first section we start right at the beginning, from learning how to assemble the saxophone, mouthpiece and reed right through to learning tunes, a little music theory and essential scales and other exercises. We look at different styles of music, organising your practice time and how to deal with stage fright.

In the beginners section

  • Saxophone Studies

    The Taming The Saxophone Series of Studies Taming the Saxophone is a series of saxophone tutorials (there are more books, videos and DVDs planned). When you buy Taming The Saxophone Volume 2 you will also get special membership to private pages, extra resources ... Read more…
  • Learn to Play Saxophone

    This article tells you what you need to know to get started – fingering a few notes, making a sound and playing your first tune, along with a page of FAQs. Everything (almost) you need to know. Read more…
  • First Steps on the Saxophone

    For Absolute Beginners In this section we look specifically at useful stuff for beginners, but don’t be scared of delving into the other pages. Some may be a bit advanced but others can be very useful – especially the tone section. Extract from ... Read more…
  • Fingering Charts

    First we have a couple of very basic fingering charts which show you the saxophone fingerings for the lower and upper register in the key of C. These are ideal for absolute beginners who don’t want to be overwhelmed by ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Transposition

    Why am I in a different key to the rest of the band? This is a very common question, especially from anyone who has just bought a saxophone, taught themselves a little bit and then decides to play along with some ... Read more…
  • Beginners Instruction DVD

    In this program, Pete introduces beginners to the alto saxophone: the parts of the saxophone and how to assemble them, fitting the reed, posture and breathing, saxophone embouchure, holding and blowing into the saxophone, tuning, fingering, notes and intervals, tonguing ... Read more…
  • Find A Saxophone Teacher

    The best one for you Is the teacher a great player? A good teacher is not necessarily a great player, and conversely a great player could be a lousy teacher. The important thing is not just that the teacher can communicate, but ... Read more…
  • Rhythm & Blues Saxophone

    What is R&B Saxophone? I really didn’t want to define rhythm & blues but I was sort of forced to do it when putting the vast page of R&B players together. Maybe it would have been easier to make it a list of ... Read more…
  • Rock & Roll Saxophone

    How to Play a Great Rockin’ Solo Many jazz saxophonists think that it’s easy to knock off a rock and roll solo, and then wonder why nobody likes it: neither a jazz audience nor a rock audience. However the concept behind ... Read more…
  • How to Organise Your Practice Schedule

    As a teacher I used to devise a different practice schedule for each student as different people have different requirements when practising the saxophone, so the following is quite general and may not suit everyone. However there is one key ... Read more…
  • Stage Fright & Performance Nerves

    Scared To Go On Stage? There’s Nothing Wrong with a Bit of Fear We’ve all had stage fright at some time. Some of the very best performers have it all the time, but learn to cope with it or even use it ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Video Lessons

    Pete’s video lessons To leave comments on the Youtube channel please click on the Youtube icon at the bottom RH corner of each video. Or visit the TamingTheSaxophone Youtube Channel for more.  Video Overview of Beginners Instruction DVD: This should give you a good idea ... Read more…

Saxophone Instruction DVD for Beginners

This DVD is produced by Amity TV for Virgin Vision and presented by Pete Thomas as part of the Jools Holland Music makers series. It has sold over 20,000 worldwide and is described by Phill Straker of sax.co.uk as “basically, the best one out there…”

£11.95 Add to cart

Preview Video

Tone

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

£14.95 Add to cart

Tone and sound are crucial for being able to play expressively, so we take an in-depth look at the techniques involved. Tone production exercises have always been thought of as especially boring – even if you dedicate a lot of time to long notes, unless your mind is focussed on what you are doing then much of the practise time is wasted. We look at how to keep the tone practise efficient and interesting.

The important thing is not so much exercises that are suppose to give you a good sound, as that is not only very subjective, but also something best done when there is a real teacher present. Yes, I accept the limitations of online lessons and tutorials, however what I do find most useful in this context is learning how to control the sound so that is one of our main focuses.

The full set of these is included in the book  Taming The Saxophone Vol I – Tone without Tears

In the Tone Section

  • Intonation & Tuning

    Which of these is more “in tune”? Listen to these two files, then check the video. Example 1 Example 2   First of all please try this little experiment. The two audiofiles on the right are two different versions of the first few notes of ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Tone Exercises

    How to get the best sound out of your saxophone, whether you want a jazzy, bluesy, pop, rock sound. How to sound like your favourite player or get your own unique sound Read more…
  • Saxophone Articulation & Tonguing

    How to tongue quickly or slowly and evenly. High r or Heavy. Articulation is the first part of the sound and so possibly the most important way to enhance your tone. Read more…
  • Saxophone Vibrato

    How to do vibrato Database This involves moving the jaw down and up repeatedly to create oscillations in the pitch of the note, as if saying “yah yah yah yah yah….” This is different to flute which involves diaphragm vibrato, in which ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Tone Control

    Improving your saxophone sound for more expression I am often asked what is the best way to get a good tone (or sound) on the saxophone. The usual answer is “practise lots of long notes“. Some people find long note playing so ... Read more…
  • Mouthpiece Exercises

    Improve your saxophone tone and expression There is one well established exercise which some people refer to it as The Mouthpiece Exercise, however it’s definitely not the only one as we shall see. All of the mouthpiece exercises referred to here are covered in ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Harmonics (Overtones)

    Why is practising overtones so useful? In order to play the overtones you need to think about your embouchure, especially the shape of your oral cavity and tongue position. You need to be able to imagine the sound of the note before ... Read more…
  • Altissimo

    The altissimo range of the saxophone consists of many notes higher than the “standard” range that is taught in elementary and intermediate stages of learning (up to F or F# with instruments that have that key). The fingerings for these ... Read more…
  • Subtone

    Another Kind of Blue Harlem Nocturne Imperial (Midnight in the Naked City) Slinky Polkadots & Moonbeams See: Midnight in the Naked City CD Subtone could just as easily have come under the Effects section, as it can be considered  as it is no longer as common as ... Read more…
  • Visualising the Sound

    There’s no doubt about it. Practising long notes can be boring. Bored practice is wasted practice so if you find that your mind is wandering then that is a good time to either take a break from practising or move onto some ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Embouchure

    “Correct” Embouchure Embouchure means what you do with your mouth. There is more than one correctsaxophone embouchure. The pictures on the right are from a very good book by Ben Davis (published by Henri Selmer no less) which is now sadly out ... Read more…
  • Breathing Exercises & Breath Control

    Breathing Exercises Diaphragm Breathing   Good breathing and breath control when playing the saxophone is important for two reasons: Playing extended phrases without running out of breath Having good breath support from your lungs The second of these is probably the most important as ... Read more…
  • Diaphragm Breathing

    Breathing Exercises Diaphragm Breathing This question comes up a lot, and it can be quite a difficult one to answer. People tend to use various analogies rather than a pure physiological analysis of what happens. You may have heard people ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Circular Breathing

    What is circular breathing? It means breathing in while still blowing a note or notes on the saxophone. It sounds much harder than it really is. When you use circular breathing, you are still breathing in and out of your lungs as ... Read more…
  • Bright Sound or Dark Sound

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about how we describe sound. It seems many people these days want what they call a dark sound, but when I delve deeper into what they mean, I realise it may not ... Read more…

Taming The Saxophone vol 3

110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section

“Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – I sure wish I’d had the book fifteen years ago!” – Dan Forshaw

Taming The Saxophone – a great book, I use it every day to keep the chops in order” – Bobby Wellins

£14.95 Add to cart

Fingering Exercises

This section of the site includes many online extracts from the book Taming The Saxophone vol III. These are mostly the exercises that I have been practising every day since I became a professional player. Some come from books but most are things shown me by other players, i.e. they are the most useful things to practise to get your fingers around the horn and to get an understanding of how scales, chords and other aspects of music theory fit into your playing and help with general technique as well as improvising.

The full set of these exercises, in all keys where appropriate,  is included in the book  Taming The Saxophone Vol III

In the Fingering Exercises Section

  • Intro: Fingering Exercises (Vol 3)

    You can get full versions of the exercises in this section inour book Taming The Saxophone Vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Warmup

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • Dexterity & Technique

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • Cycle of Fifths

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • 2 5 1 Progressions

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • Chromatic Scale Exercises

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • Studies in 4ths

    Using the interval of a 4th The interval of a 4th is very useful for contemporary styles of jazz improvisation Ex 6.01 As an alternative, instead of stepping up a semitone between each 4th arpeggio as shown here, try using a whole tone. Taming ... Read more…
  • Diminished Patterns and Licks

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • Whole Tone Scale Exercises

    Taming The Saxophone vol 3 110 pages of exercises, patterns, scales, licks etc.  for intermediate to advanced players. Check out the examples in this section “Thanks for your Taming the Saxophone book. Lots of great stuff  for both myself and my students – ... Read more…
  • Alternate Saxophone Fingerings

    Alternate or Alternative? The fingerings we are looking at here, and shown in the chart below, are alternative fingerings, either for ease of fingering or preferred sound. These are different to “false” fingering which actually alternate from one to the other and ... Read more…

Effects

The saxophone is capable of so many special effects, it’s vital to include them in your repertoire. This help to express music as well as keep it interesting and sometimes humourous. We cover most effects from note bending, the growl, fluttertongue and how to make the saxophone laugh.

In the Saxophone Effects section

  • Saxophone Growl

    How to Growl on the saxophone and get that really dirty, raw, gruff tone – it’s not as difficult as you think if you follow these guidelines. We start off listening to how some of the saxophone greats use the ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Note Bending

    Bending Notes Bending notes on the saxophone usually involves starting the note at the correct pitch and bending it downwards, or starting at a lower pitch and bending it upwards. (This is the opposite of the guitar which bends a note ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Wobble

    AKA Bb Wobble or Texas Shake This is a stunning effect used by many of the greats including Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, Earl Bostic, Arnett Cobb to name but a few. It is really very simple if you know the fingering: basically you ... Read more…
  • Slaptongue & Smacktongue

    Smacktongue (non-pitched) Example: Smacktongue The slaptongue effect can be categorised as two different types, pitched and non-pitched. I think the best term for the more percussive non-pitched variety that has more of an indefinite pitch like a smack or clap is smacktongue.  This ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Dooden Tonguing

    AKA “Ghost Tonguing”, “La-la Tonguing” or “Half Tonguing” Example: Dooden Tonguing I have also heard this referred to as doodle tonguing, however I believe that is incorrect as this is a trombone and trumpet technique very similar to legato tonguing. This technique has ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Laugh

    First try to laugh This means laughing for real. Obviously you do it spontaneously when something funny happens, but can you do a convincing laugh as if you are an actor having to react even though you’ve heard the joke many ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Fluttertongue

    aka Flutter-Tongue This effect has been in use for all woodwinds and brass instruments for centuries. It involves vibrating the tongue while blowing a note as if rolling the syllable “r” – “rrrrrr”. It was initially a classical effect which has not been used ... Read more…
  • The Adderley Trill

    How to do it The Adderley Trill I’m not sure if this is the official term for this effect – it could just as easily have been called the Curtis tremolo – it was used by the great bebop and soul alto ... Read more…
  • False Fingerings

    AKA. Fake Fingerings or Double Densities Example 1 It’s easy to confuse these with alternate or alternative fingerings. For alternative fingerings see the alternative saxophone fingering chart Alternative An “alternative” fingering is a different fingering for the same note – the player can choose which ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Multiphonics

    Multiphonics (Playing more than one note at once) It is not possible to play a complete set of chords on the saxophone, but there are a few fingerings that you can use to play more than one note at once. These ... Read more…

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