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Putting your saxophone together

Putting your saxophone together

The first thing to learn is how to put together your saxophone. There are three main parts to all saxophones, the body, the neck and the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece has three parts, the reed, the ligature and the mouthpiece itself. If you are not sure about mouthpieces or reed choices, check out our saxophone mouthpiece and saxophone reed pages for more information.

In putting together your saxophone, the first thing to do is get our your neck strap and put it around your neck. Some people like to use soft stretchy neck straps, I prefer one that doesn’t give as I like the feeling of the horn not being able to move away from me.

After you get your neck strap around your neck, grab the horn by the bell as shown in the image. This is the best way to pick up your horn. If you pick it up at the top, you are likely to bend the rods that are responsible for working the keys which will damage or break the horn. Always use the bell to pick the horn up.

It is important to treat the horn with respect and to care for it. You will find that playing a saxophone that works properly is a lot easier than one that has leaks and bent rods and keys that are not covering the holes properly. Learn to pick the horn up correctly from the very beginning and you will never run into expensive repairs that can result from the damage that occurs when you pick up the horn incorrectly.

The next thing to do is to put on the neck. You should position the neck so that the octave rod that sticks up at the top of the neck is in the middle of the round rod that is on the back of the saxophone neck. If you are playing tenor and you want it to be positioned beside you, adjust the neck accordingly after you are seated and have gotten comfortable.

Sometimes the octave pin can become bent in travel, and some horns require a protective plug for the end of the saxophone. Make sure you replace this plug after every use as it is another item that protects the horn. Not all saxophones require this plug as they do not have the octave bar extend past the top of the horn so if your horn doesn’t come with one, don’t panic, it may not be neccessary. Check with a store or a professional to get some advice or just go out and buy one, they are good to have.

Next you should put your reed on your mouthpiece. Saxophones you buy new or rent come with very low quality mouthpieces. While it is not important to have a really good horn, one that works will suffice, it is important to have a good mouthpiece. This will make your playing experience so much more enjoyable. I would have to say that 80% of the sound quality a saxophonist is able to produce is a direct result of his choice of reed and mouthpiece. Check out the saxophone mouthpiece and saxophone reed pages for more information.

Put your reed in your mouth. You want to get it moist but not soaking wet. Careful when it is between your teeth, it is fragile. Pick up your mouthpiece and your ligature. The ligature is the item with the screws on it. Always put on your ligature before your reed. If you do it the other way around, you will break way more reeds than necessary. After you have gotten the ligature to slide as far onto the mouthpiece as possible, place the reed inside the ligature with the top of the reed even with the top of the mouthpiece as shown in the images here.

To make sure that the top of the reed is not too far past the top of the mouthpiece, push on the main part of the reed with your thumb to see where the top of the reed appears. If it is perfectly lined up with the curve of the mouthpiece, then it is properly positioned. Continue to adjust it till it is just right and then tighten down the screws of the ligature till they are tight.

When you have a fresh reed, it should be easy to play. If you find it is difficult to get a sound easily, you may be using a reed that is too hard. After a reed gets older, it has a tendency to soften up. You should change your reeds regularly. If they develop cracks or breaks you should replace them. Try not to have only one reed to play with. A box of ten should last months if you are careful with them. Use a new reed for performances and then keep them to use for rehearsals later.

Now that you have your reed on your mouthpiece, try blowing into it. If you can get a sound, this is good, even if it sounds like a duck call. Keep trying to get a sound until you can make a good, long tone without any wavering of the sound. This is the first step to being a good saxophonist. It takes strength in your mouth to be able to play and in the beginning of learning the horn, the most difficult thing will be to avoid developing bad habits regarding the placement of your mouth and tongue, known as the embouchure. More information about the embouchure can be found in our next lesson.

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