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How To Play Brighter (Without Changing Mouthpiece)

Apr 07, 2024

In this latest video tutorial, join Jeremy as he delves deep into the nuances of saxophone tone control. Ever wondered how to achieve that bright, edgy sound without changing your mouthpiece setup? Jeremy has the answers! Discover the secrets behind manipulating your embouchure and utilizing your tongue to create a wide range of tones, from dark and rounded to bright and piercing. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out on your saxophone journey, Jeremy's got something for everyone. Plus, don't miss out on our free masterclass for intermediate players looking to take their skills to the next level. Let's dive in!




As you’ll probably be aware, the equipment we use on saxophone - specifically our mouthpiece and reed combination - can have a big impact on our tone, transforming our tone from a dark, rounded tone, to an edgy, bright tone, or anything in between.

 But what I’ve found from my experience, and from the many sax players I’ve spoken to over the years, is that despite owning several mouthpieces - most players will simply end up using one for everything.

 In other words, if they have a pop gig on Friday, a big band gig on Saturday, and a jazz combo on Sunday - they’re unlikely to be switching mouthpieces for every situation - despite the different tonal demands of these genres.

 That’s because as sax players we have an incredible amount of control over our tone just by making small changes to our embouchure, and it’s possible to really dial up the brightness on the fly when we need to, so we can go from this [demonstrate] to this [demonstrate].

 How did I do it? In this video, you’ll find out!

 But first - if you’re an intermediate level sax player looking to break out of the intermediate trap and take your jazz, blues and R&B playing to the next level - check out my free masterclass on mastering your practice strategy - you’ll get free PDFs, with exercises, songs and a pre-made routine which you can adapt to your needs and time, you’ll even get mp3 backing tracks and more to help you on your journey and start sounding like the sax player you wanna be

 To check it out, head on over to

 In order to play brighter on the saxophone, without changing anything about our setup - we need to first understand one basic principle.

 Bright mouthpieces utilise smaller chambers and feature baffles that compress the air we blow into the mouthpiece into a fast moving jet.

 To visualise this, simply imagine putting your thumb on the end of a garden hose.

 With the same amount of water pressure - you can suddenly get the water to travel further and faster.

 This is the effect we’re going to be creating with our embouchure, and it’s actually the tongue that will act as the baffle.

 We want our tongue high and wide in our mouth, in order to channel the air up and over our tongue, narrowing the width of the airstream and increasing the velocity of the air - and this of course, is before it even reaches our mouthpiece.

 To get your tongue in the correct position, simply say the syllable eeeeeeeee and notice how your tongue stretches out to gently touch the sides of your molars - these are your back teeth, and this is where your tongue will be anchored when you play the saxophone.

 Now with your tongue in this position, I want you to blow air against your hand, and I want you to see if you can direct that jet of air straight forward, you may find you need to subtly raise the rest of your tongue in order to aim the air.

 Without a mouthpiece in your mouth, you’ll find that you won’t be able to sustain that jet of air for very long - but don’t worry - that’s completely normal.

 Now you can start to see that we’re doing half the job of a bright mouthpiece ourselves, just by using our tongue to channel the air.

 But there’s one more thing we need to do to really dial up that brightness, and that’s to bring out our bottom jaw.

 So I want you to move your bottom jaw forward so that you have a very subtle underbite - it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for you to hold this position.

 If you already have a pronounced overbite naturally - you might just want to bring out bottom jaw to a point that comfortable for you, in line with top teeth if possible.

 What this is actually doing is it’s reclaiming a few precious millimetres of the reed, which will now be able to vibrate more freely, and result in us just subtly dialling up the edginess of our sound.

 So - keeping in mind our tongue position - and our new jaw position - let’s see what we can do!


 Now for a quick Q&A

 “Can I play like this all the time?”

 Yes, you can! In fact many famous saxophone pedagogues like Joe Allard (who taught the likes of Michael Brecker, Bob Berg, Eddie Daniels and many more) really emphasised the importance of keeping your tongue high and wide in your mouth as you play. This tongue position also helps you to articulate when you play.

 “If I want to play darker, do I just do the opposite?”

 In simple terms yes, but you’ll want to be careful not to back off too much with your tongue and jaw, otherwise you may create other tonal problems for yourself. In general, I’ve found it far easier to add brightness, than to take brightness away, if that makes sense.

 “If we can add brightness whenever we need to, what’s the point of a bright mouthpiece?”

 As you’ll quickly find out, there is a limit to the amount of brightness we can add with our embouchure alone. If you want a really bright, piercing tone, you’ll need to couple this technique with the likes of a Dukoff mouthpiece, a Jody Jazz Super Jet or something similar.

 “What kind of mouthpiece setup gives you the best results when using this technique?”

 Put simply, this technique will work for any setup - but as I usually play in the jazz and contemporary world, I like to play on jazz mouthpieces that are slightly on the brighter side anyway - for alto I’m currently using a Beechler Diamond Inlay 6S - that’s S for small chamber, and on tenor I’m using the very bougie Jody Jazz Hand Hand Hammered 8*

 Before I wrap up this video, I want to include a quick note - if you’re still in the very early stages of playing - I wouldn’t be concerned with the brightness or darkness quality of your tone just yet.

 In fact, the best thing you could do is to just focus on your embouchure fundamentals - if you want a recap, make sure to check out Lesson 1 of the Beginner Series right here on YouTube (link below), and the earlier tone tips videos in this series.

 For the rest of you watching, how’d you go?

 I’d love to hear what difference this made for you - or if you have any other tips or questions you’d like to share - make sure to leave them in the comments section below.

 Thanks to all our subscribers for supporting this channel, make sure to hit Subscribe and tap the bell icon so you don’t miss any more great saxophone content - and of course, I’ll see you all again soon!

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