“Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.” – Charlie Parker
Playing a woodwind instrument requires deep breathing, steady air flow and appropriate pressure on the reed. If any of these are lacking, your air flow will be impaired, which will have a negative impact on your performance. By paying attention to your breathing, posture and embouchure, you can ensure quality air flow.
If you want to be able to sustain notes or play with a decent amount of volume, you have to make sure your lungs are as strong as they can be. If you smoke, stop. Not only does this habit cause cancer and other respiratory diseases, but it also damages your lungs, preventing you from taking deep breaths. Singing and blowing up balloons increases your lung capacity, as does aerobic exercise.
When you breathe, try to breathe in from your stomach. Push your stomach out as you breathe in and imagine that you’re forcing all the air into your stomach. This breathing method, called diaphragmatic breathing, helps you fill your lungs up more and will help you control the release of air.
Posture plays a large role in controlling and maintaining air flow. Slouching restricts the diaphragm, thereby inhibiting your ability to take full, deep breaths. When playing your instrument, it’s important to remember to sit up straight in your chair and roll your hips forward slightly. This allows your diaphragm to fully expand, making diaphragmatic breathing possible.
Proper embouchure has already been discussed in a previous article, so I won’t rehash details. Whether you use single or double-lip embouchure, you can restrict or increase air flow by applying (or releasing) pressure on the reed. The looser your embouchure, the more air is allowed into the mouthpiece, and vice versa. Too much pressure can result in the dreaded squeak, but regular practice will strengthen the muscles in your lips, thus paving the way for a well-formed embouchure.
As you can see, improving air flow is pretty basic. With a little practice, you will be a pro in no time.
Oh, and by the way…a shout out to Doron for hitting the one year mark on this awesome blog. This truly is the Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever.