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I am amateur self taught musician and I am new to reed instruments. I decided to try out saxophone, but the problem is, it is way too loud. Each time I try to practice I need to blow very hard to obtain sound.

I know it is possible to play gently and quietly and I am aware it's question of practice the embouchure and handling the reed with a mouth. I know the whole "color", all characteristics of saxophone sound come from how we handle the reed with our mouth. The problem is I cannot find any tips on how to start.

Nearly every single tutorial I found on the internet doesn't say a word about volume control, and for me it is essential, because I live in an apartment and need to be able to practice without bothering my neighbors, so I prefer to learn first controlling volume.

I'd like to add, please don't say anything like "go find a teacher" et cetera, I will not mark this kind of answer as solution, because this is not useful for me neither for many others self taught musicians who will read this post hoping to find some tips.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Playing quietly through a sax is all about having a sufficient embouchure (mouth position/tension), to create a sound when pushing less air through.

It's very normal to initially be playing loud when first learning the sax, and your embouchure is less developed - unfortunately this develops mainly through sustained (loud) practice. I wouldn't say there's a particular secret to playing quietly - only exactly what you'd expect - blowing less.

Let's knock out the basics, to ensure you're not making a simple mistake which is making things harder. As a beginner, you should be using a low strength reed (1.5), and a 'basic, no-frills' mouthpiece. (You probably have one of these, just be aware there are mouthpieces specifically designed to make a big sound, which won't be suitable for learning on - if you've brought second hand.) At the moment, I imagine when you blow less, you make no sound, and if you start to blow harder, you get a bit of a honk.

That unfortunately, is somewhat the nature of learning sax, your mouth adjusts almost 'subconciously' to make things easier for you. Your best way to practice playing quieter I would say is to simple attempt to make a respectable sound be blowing less, and adjusting your mouth to do the hard work, rather than blowing more to get a sound out, as I image you currently would do.

Sax Mutes

If your problem is practising indoors, "Saxophone mutes" are available. There are simple £25 ones, which involve shoving a few things inside your sax, and more extravagant £400 ones, which essentially are a container for the entire sax. I personally have never tried one, and they have mixed reviews, but you may be interested in taking a look. Don't expect the same results are brass instrument mutes of course, as the sound is formed in an entirely different way!


I would completely recommend getting a couple of lessons to start off with, to make sure you are approaching things in the right way. Embouchure technique is something most definitely best taught by someone who can see what you're doing with the sax, and advise. I respect however, that you've noted this is not an option you're interested in - however I wouldn't want to post my answer without reference to it!

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Thank you, this is a very good answer. So to make sure I understand it correctly, it is all question of correct mouth position, right? And my reed is "2 - medium soft" and my mouthpiece is "Rico Royal Weril W5". I suppose it is not "basic, no frills" one.. – Marek Jul 7 '14 at 18:53
I'm sorry, I can't find anything about the W5 mouthpiece online! Perhaps take it into a music store, they may know more, and be able to advise on something suitable. A softer reed will help when you are just starting out - again, if you have a local shop, it may be worth dropping in to pick up a couple and ask for their recommendations at the same time - I generally find prices aren't much more online. (At least in the UK!) – Chris Jul 7 '14 at 21:23
Thanks Chris. Actually after reading your answer I tryed yesterday to play more gently, more precicesly, by arriving at the moment when reed starts to vibrate and trying to maintain it and actually after about one hour of practice I was able to create a gentle soft sound and maintain it for few seconds (but for now only for about three or four notes), it is a progress. I'm very greatfull for your tips. Thank you. – Marek Jul 8 '14 at 7:04
Great, that sounds exactly the right way to go about it! Good luck! – Chris Jul 8 '14 at 12:08

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