Tips on Finding Your Voice
(0:44) One of the things that I'm big on with the saxophone is how the saxophone is really an expansion of your voice. I'm a big believer in this for a number of reasons. One: I love helping students find their voice on the instrument and often if we can just channel what they're doing in their oral cavity and with breathing, we can often help them get a very unique and very personal voice on the instrument.
There's a number of different exercises for this - hundreds - that I have a lot of my students do over their years at the University of Michigan. One of the big ones that I love to do is have my students play the mouthpiece alone. What this does is (for those of you who are already in music school or for those that are headed to music school) I'm sure that you're going to hear that voice people are really annoying. But we're going to send it right back to them because they walk down the hallway and they do things like Awww and AWWWwww. What they're doing with a lot of that is manipulating aspects of their tongue position. One of the things I like to have a lot of my students do are a lot of the vocal exercises here on the mouthpiece alone. This makes that really annoying voice person in the practice room. Be careful, I ended up marrying one of them. But what you can do is steal one of their exercises.
I like to do voice exercises on the mouthpiece alone. This is accomplished through tongue position. If you say the words tip and boot, it'll give you a sense of where the tongue is in your oral cavity, and you can manipulate the pitch just on the mouthpiece without moving your embouchure.
(3:22) That's one particular exercise. I sometimes call it "the trombone" because it bends down. Again, largely done by the tongue position and oral cavity and not by moving the embouchure.
Some people ask me what pitch do you start on? Go ahead and play what pitch comes out naturally and that can be your benchmark. Often on Tenor, I use G as a general, baseline place but who knows. Based on the size of your mouthpiece and other factors, I tend to not worry about that and let students find their comfort zone.
Another exercise I like to do is something you would hear a voice person do.
(4:40) If you begin to do some of that. It might mean is that all you get is a half-step and you might have to spend 1 month- 2 months- 3 months to even get a whole step - maybe a minor 3rd. That's OK. Patience is very important when you're doing this kind of activity, what I sometimes call "saxophone yoga." You would never take your arm and stretch it beyond your ability. Remember, the tongue is a muscle and what we're learning is the micro movements of tongue motion.