Jazz Band: Essentials for Your Sax Section

with Denis DiBlasio

Date Posted: May 20, 2016

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1. Mouthpieces

Everyone wants to find a mouthpiece and reed set-up that they can control, gives a good sound, feels good and plays in tune. Don't let students fall into the game of playing a specific mouthpiece because someone else they like plays it. Everyone hears and feels mouthpieces differently. I’m playing the Vandoren V16 B9 with the blue box Traditional reeds strength 2.5. I love this mouthpiece: it blows really free, it takes all the air you can give it, it’s focused, you can whisper on it, you can roar on it, and it’s very comfortable and easy to control. I teach a lot of students and I have them try out a bunch of different mouthpieces without pushing anything specific on them. I find they always really enjoy these Vandoren mouthpieces, especially the V16 series, and they’re sold at a price that younger students can actually afford.

Jazz Mix Alto1

2. Reeds

All of the Vandoren reeds give you a completely different sound. If you try each of the Vandoren reeds with your mouthpiece, you’re actually able to change the sound of your mouthpiece with each different cut. The Vandoren jazz mix cards are a great way for students to try out all the different reeds and find the sound that works for them.

3. Articulation

You need to remember that certain types of articulation live in certain styles and certain tempos - no one articulates one way and that’s it. Fall in love with a player and listen to how they do it. I always tell my students to find a player, fall in love with them, listen to them for three months, six months, a year, two years, to really start phrasing and articulating the way they do in certain styles.

4. Time

Being able to control your time while improvising or playing in the section can really make or break anything you do. Whatever scales, triads, superimposed changes you’re using - if your time is not good you can’t make any of that stuff work. I have my students look at time as a target and aim whatever they play at the beats. Always keep one ear on the time to make sure you're lining up with it.

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