6 Reasons Why Your Saxophone Players Are Squeaking!



I was on week 3 of teaching a new batch of saxophone players and all of a sudden, my students began struggling to make a decent sound.
On week 2 they had sounded great. Yes, we had a long weekend, but that doesn't explain why so many of them are squeaking.

What the heck happened?!




Why are my saxophone players squeaking?!

and how do I stop it?



Here's the checklist I go through when I hear a student squeaking. 

The list is written in order from most likely the reason why they are squeaking to least likely the reason why they are squeaking. 

To fix each one of these issues, scroll down!
  1. Student's bottom teeth are touching the reed.
  2. Reed is not wet enough.
  3. Student is playing on a broken reed. Reed must be replaced.
  4. Embouchure is too tight, not allowing the reed to vibrate properly.
  5. Too much of the mouthpiece is in the student's mouth.
  6. Student is playing on a new reed.
To fix each one of these issues, scroll down!





1. Student's bottom teeth are touching the reed.

Sometimes students bite both sides of the mouthpiece. 
When students' teeth touch the reed, the mouthpiece will squeak!

How to fix this issue:


Proper embouchure: 
  • Bottom teeth are covered by the bottom lip
  • About 1/3 of the mouthpiece should be in the mouth
  • Top teeth rest on on the top of the mouthpiece




2. Reed is not wet enough

This is a beginner's mistake!
Beginners to the saxophone may not have the air strength to produce sound through a dry reed, so they need to moisten it.

One of my better saxophone players had a very squeaky saxophone and it dumbfounded everyone in the room. We could not figure out why this student was squeaking so much. After going checking his embouchure, I removed the mouthpiece and saw a very dry-looking reed.

How to fix this issue:

We filled a cup with water and dunked the reed in there for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, voila! We had a squeak-free sound!

After everyone cheered for this student, I reminded all of my saxophone players to soak their reeds in their mouths even longer when they have a new reed.






3.  Student is playing on a broken reed. Reed must be replaced

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Broken reeds also pose a threat to lip splinters. OUCH!

How to fix this issue:

Have the student buy a new reed or have a friend give them a new reed.

Alternative fix:
if your student breaks reeds too often, consider recommending a synthetic reed. Click here to read more about synthetic reeds and to listen to a few saxophone recordings using synthetic reeds. 






4. Embouchure is too tight, not allowing the reed to vibrate properly.

If a student's lips and teeth are holding the mouthpiece too tightly, the reed will squeak. This simulates the mistake that students make in mistake 1 (student's bottom teeth are touching the reed).

Students must relax their embouchure and not work so hard. Students who have a tight embouchure work really hard to produce a sound, which makes playing the saxophone less rewarding for them.

How to fix this issue:

Ask your student to relax the embouchure, relax their bite, and try again.

This usually fixes the sound. Students may go back to squeaking, so remind them to relax.




5. Too much of the mouthpiece is in the student's mouth.



When a student's mouth is taking up too much of the mouthpiece, the student's tone sounds like a territorial goose to me.

If this is the case, have the student remove the mouthpiece from the saxophone, and look at the mouthpiece sideways, as pictured below (this is a good exercise for all of your saxophone players, by the way).

How to fix this issue:

Ask your student to find the point where the reed and the mouthpiece meet.



This is the point where your student's bottom lip should be on the mouthpiece.

The part of the reed that does not touch the mouthpiece is the part of the reed that vibrates and produces the sound! If the mouthpiece is too far in or too far out, the reed is not allowed to vibrate to its fullest potential.





6. Student is playing on a new reed.

This one was an unexpected one for me.

In my student handbook I informed the students that they were expected to change reeds every two weeks. What I didn't expect was for them to actually do it on their own.

So there were were, week 3 of band rehearsal, and half of my saxophone players had a weak, airy tone. Other students had squeaky reeds. I could NOT figure out what the problem was.

After looking at everyone's reeds, I realized that all of my students had changed to new reeds. One student remembered reading that instruction on the guide book and reminded the others. They all moved to new reeds and were a bit disappointed that their sound was different.

I took a break to elaborate on Mistake 2. Reed is not wet enough and recommended that students wet their reed during the break time before band rehearsal. While I spoke, the students soaked their reeds in their mouths. After the "soaking session" the students produced a much better tone.











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