The Saxophone Embouchure
- Corners of mouth are firm and pulled back
- Bottom lip is rolled in
- Top lip is relaxed, with teeth resting on mouthpiece
- Chin is flat and pointed down (like you are whistling)
- Center of mouth is rounded and sealed around mouthpiece
- No biting!
The term embouchure refers to the muscles around your mouth and the shape your mouth and jaw must take to produce a good sound on your instrument. Forming a good embouchure takes time and practice, and you’ll find your mouth getting tired while playing until you’ve strengthened your embouchure muscles more. Below are the first steps to forming a good embouchure.
- Moisten your lips.
- Roll your bottom lip in so it is just barely covering your teeth.
- Your chin should be flat, pointed down, and somewhat relaxed. Don’t scrunch it up.
- Center the mouthpiece in your mouth and let it rest gently on your bottom lip with the reed facing down.
- Place the mouthpiece about a 1/2 an inch or less into your mouth. It’s usually better to start with less mouthpiece rather than more.
- Your upper teeth will rest on the mouthpiece. Do not bite down! Your upper teeth are just resting while your bottom teeth form a cushion for the mouthpiece.
- Keep your mouth closed around the mouthpiece and say “ee”. The muscles on the corner of your mouth will become engaged; keep these muscles engaged and use them to support the mouthpiece. You can also imagine your lips tightening as if stretching a rubbing band.
- Keeping the corners engaged, say “oo” to round your mouth slightly. You want to avoid puckering your lips.
This is simply a starting point. Over time you will find an embouchure that works right for you.
If you're struggling to produce a good tone, try making subtle adjustments to the following things:
- Adjust the firmness of your lips around the mouthpiece. The corners of your mouth provide the majority of support, so try changing the shape and tightness of those muscles and see how it changes the sound. Imagine saying “ee” as a way to engage these muscles. Avoid smiling, and never bite the mouthpiece.
- Adjust how much mouthpiece is in your mouth.
- Point your jaw downwards and relax or tighten it to various degrees.
- As a rule of thumb, if your sound seems too loud, honky, and out-of-control, your embouchure is too loose. If it sounds thin and pinched, you are too tight.