Sax School Live #9 17th September 2018

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Show Notes

This week on Sax School Live Nigel shared his top tips for the perfect practice space. Download our FREE Checklist to make sure you have a great set-up, everything you need and no distractions!

Plus we discuss choosing reeds, fixing a sharp middle D, gurgling mouthpieces, and more!

Did you know the answer to our Rolling Stones Quiz Question?


News from Sax School

Nigel has been filming a new lesson on major scales for the “Five Minute Workout” series inside Sax School – so watch out for that!

Over in the members’ Facebook Group there’s been lots of discussion this week about backing tracks, upgrading your sax, and lots of members sharing videos of their playing.


Setting up your perfect practice space

How you practice is just as important as choosing your saxophone – it’s key to your success! You can apply these ideas wherever you practice.

Other suggestions in the chat:

  • Highlighter to highlight repeat signs, codas etc.
  • A stand or your case to ensure your instrument is safe when it’s not in use.
  • Keep the distractions out of your practice space – too much clutter can stop you focussing.
  • Keep all the things you need together – even if it’s in a bag – so you can get down to practice quickly.

Grab the download for Nigel’s tips.

Get more tips on getting the best out of your practice time with our ebook “The Ultimate Guide to Practicing Saxophone” – here:


Your Questions:


Tone Goals

How can I get a better tone with low C and B

  • Problems with these low notes could be a technical problem – you might need to make an adjustment to your mechanism.
  • Fingering – our lefthand ring finger is one of our least coordinated fingers so it’s easy for it to come off the key.
  • Try relaxing the embouchure and using a bit more mouthpiece – or even try a softer reed.

Check out the videos on our YouTube channel on repair tips for dealing with mechanism problems with your sax.


Reed Sizes

How do I know what is the correct reed size for me?

When you are starting out it’s good to be systematic. Start with a reed size 1 and 1/2 or a 2. When you’re starting out you need to develop your embouchure. So if you can play comfortably for 1 minute without your mouth getting sore and tired, you’re probably using the right reed. If you are struggling to get a sound out of the instrument, then the muscles in your embouchure will be working so hard that you won’t be able to control the sound. This means the reed is too hard. If the reed is too soft you will hardly need to use any effort to get a sound out, but the notes will be uncontrolled and raucous. The best thing to do is to experiment with different reed sizes and brands to find what works for you.


Tuning Trepidations

I bought a Rico B5 mouthpiece but found that my A, B and C notes were out of key. I tried everything, embouchure loosening etc, but it didn’t help so I went back to the original mouthpiece which came with my sax, and now it’s all in tune. Why is this please?

Mouthpieces can be very different. If you move from a mouthpiece with a very small tip opening to one with a very large tip opening, they will perform in a very different way. If you swap for a mouthpiece which is quite similar, the quality of the sound might be different but the way they perform for you might be very similar. So this could be why the new mouthpiece caused you a problem in your middle range. Try experimenting with different reed sizes on the new mouthpiece.


Bubbles and Squeaks

How do I get rid of bubbly sounds in my mouthpiece?

This is a common problem when you start playing. The mouthpiece fills up with saliva and condensation and causes the bubbling sound. If you are in a cold environment, blowing warm air into a cold sax will cause a lot of condensation to form. More commonly it is caused by your mouth getting used to having the mouthpiece in it. Our bodies naturally respond to something in the mouth by producing saliva because it thinks you are eating! In time the problem usually sorts itself out. You can help by:

  • Keeping your mouth clean- drink lots of water. Brush your teeth before practising.
  • Clean your sax after every practice session, using a swab on a string which you pull through the instrument.

There is more in this blog article on why you need to keep your mouthpiece super-clean.



Get Nigel’s Sax Practice Room Checklist here.

Nigel McGill

After 25 years touring, performing all over the world, I setup Sax School to share what I have learned. Today thousands of players in more than 70 countries use the huge library of online saxophone lessons in Sax School. Find out how it can help you too!

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