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.

7 Answers 7


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, 2014 at 18:53
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    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, 2014 at 21:23
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    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, 2014 at 7:04
  • Great, that sounds exactly the right way to go about it! Good luck!
    – Chris
    Jul 8, 2014 at 12:08

Normally people that are new to a saxophone would go for a 1.5 reed but I was also having the same problems. My band instructor then gave me a 2.5 reed, when I still couldn't control my volume, he gave me a 3 to 3.5 reed. I then started playing bari sax and that helped control my air more. Im down to I think a 2.5 reed since then and I can control my air so much better, but Im still known as the loudest but worst sax player in the band.


The best way to learn to play softly is to play each note from the very softest you can to the loudest and back to the softest. If you're worried about your neighbors perhaps don't go to the loudest, go to medium instead. You can also do this by playing quarter notes going from soft to loud and back again. You will find over time you will get more control and you will be able to play softer as you get better. I also recommend getting musician earplugs to protect your ears when practicing for long sessions as Sax is loud in general and you want to protect your hearing.


A very common issue is only being able to play loud because your mouthpiece is way too far in your mouth.

You can find a position which is good for playing loud as well as soft and at the same time producing the most pleasant sound by first trying the extremes and their effect:

Mouthpiece too far in. sound is quacky, only loud playing possible.

Too less mouthpiece in the mouth: stuffy, very soft sound to no sound at all because the reed completely closes the opening.

By moving from one extreme to the other you will be able to find an intermediate position where the sound is the most pleasant, with a good balance of harmonics and being able to play loud and soft.

The bottom lip, which rests between reed and teeth should be also in an intermediate position, neither too far in nor too far out. This is usually the position of your bottom lip when you pronounce the letter V.

As important as the embouchure is a good breathing control (through the diaphragm).

Learning an instrument is a continuous challenge where self-observation (sound, feel, movement, optic) as important is as absorbing (listening to good players, reading, getting advice).

There are surely many good players around who never had a lesson and I know you don't want to hear this but finding a good teacher would be a good way to avoid a lot of trouble and learn much faster eliminating a whole deal of guesswork and leaving more time for making music!


okay, so I am a student learning how to play the sax for a year now or so I think. What Id try to do now is, put the mouthpiece less in my mouth and blow less just like the writer said . I think It would also help if you sat up straight so the air flows more easily and also so you can breathe properly, Make sure you can see just a sliver of the mouthpiece when you put your reed. And, when you put the mouthpiece onto the sax, try seeing that it is in the middle a bit almost reaching the end of the cork but not quite.


I am also a self-taught alto sax player and agree with the above. I had to hold my saxophone further away from my chest. By loosening the neck strap a bit, I could hold less of the mouthpiece between my lips and play more quietly. In my case, it wasn't about the strength of the reed, but only about the neck strap


Im self taught on alto sax (having played the piano, oboe briefly and bagpipes). I went for one lesson after I reached a point where I wanted more out of my sax (feeling to the music). The teacher, rightly so, politely informed me I nearly gave him ear bleed when it was supposed to be mf (medium loud). I then realised I had a similar problem of just playing too loud and hense the lack of feeling to the music. I totally agree it is how far you have your mouthpiece in your mouth. It does take a while to get it so it becomes second nature but try to enjoy all of the trials. I found it quite amazing how to bend notes and also enhancing the sound you can produce just by altering your mouth whilst playing. Good luck and enjoy

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