Introduction: How to Play the Alto Saxophone

Music is a gateway to great life experiences and enjoyment. Playing music is a good outlet of one’s creative talents and emotions. Specifically the alto saxophone is a very expressive and vocal, especially compared to the other woodwinds. The saxophone was created by a Belgian inventor named Aldophe Sax in 1846. Of the saxophone family, alto saxophone is the middle child. Alto saxophones are set in the key of Eb. The saxophone is most usually affiliated with jazz and classical music, although it does make many appearances in other genres such as rock or pop.

Step 1: How to Put Together an Alto Saxophone

The alto saxophone is made up of four main parts. The big conical piece with a flared up bell is the body of the saxophone. This brass part is where the full sound of the saxophone is given and how notes, the buttons throughout the horn, can be changed. The second piece is the neck, which connects the mouthpiece to the body and also affects the sound of the horn. The third main piece is the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is usually made up of fiberglass or some sort of hard rubber. This connects to the reed, which I will talk about in a second, and creates the sound. The final piece is the reed. The reed is made out of reed cane and shaped to be used as the vibrating part of the instrument. This part vibrates very quickly, creating a pitch/note to be made and then transferred through the horn and into music.
You put the instrument together by attaching the wide part of the neck and inserting it into the smaller hole in the main body at the top and screw the neck screw hand tight. Second, the reed must be attached to the mouthpiece via a ligature, which is the circular metal or strap piece, by placing the thicker flat section reed on the flat part of the mouthpiece and lining up the thinner tip of the reed with the tip of the mouthpiece. Use the ligature to hand tighten the two pieces together. Once you have put together the mouthpiece and the reed into one part, attach the entire mouthpiece to the neck. The hole in the mouthpiece should be able to fit to the corked side of the neck easily. If it is hard to get on, use some cork grease as a lubricant. After you attach the neck strap to the saxophone and yourself, you have a put together saxophone, but this is only half the battle.

Step 2: Play the Alto Sax

The way the sound is created is by applying pressure from your lungs to make the reed vibrate. The first step is to put you bottom lip over your bottom teeth. This creates a cushion between the reed and your teeth. Then make a too mouth gesture while using your cheek bone muscles to rise towards your eyes. Although over time you will find your own embouchure (an embouchure is the muscles surrounding the mouth) style, this helps to force you not to put too much pressure on the mouthpiece. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth about where the reed and the mouthpiece meet. Let the reed and mouthpiece gently rest on your lower lip and let your top teeth rest on the top of the mouthpiece. Create the seal with the top lip and corners of your mouth. Equal pressure should be placed around the mouthpiece. Blow into the mouthpiece with a decent but consistent amount of air pressure. Avoid biting on the mouthpiece, this will not get you the right sound and may hurt you. When you blow into the mouthpiece, you want to have good air support by breathing from your diaphragm. You can breathe from your diaphragm by imagining you are breathing from your feet. Your belly should bulge out on the breathe in. Make sure you are not letting your cheeks puff out.  As you get used to playing and using the air more and more, you will want to have a more precise start by using your tongue to engage the reed. One can do this by putting your tongue on the reed and pushing air pressure behind the tongue and then releasing your tongue. This will give you a more precise and clear sound over time. The key elements of a good sound are proper breathe support and good embouchure. Different notes can be achieved by pressing down on the keys. The saxophone is set into two octaves, one with the octave key and the other without the octave key. Refer to the key chart for all of the notes.

Step 3: Disassembly

When disassembling a saxophone, just do the reverse of how you put it back together. One warning though, do not touch the tip of the reed, it is very easy to break. You can clean out the saxophone by using swaps that run through the body and neck pieces. You can either leave the reed on the mouthpiece while loosening the ligature or put it in a reed case.

Step 4: The Future

If you are serious about playing, you should get an instructor and take lessons. Being active in a band will also help. Read as much music as you can. Most of all have fun and enjoy yourself.