I'm trying to learn to play the saxophone with the mouthpiece upside down because of nerve damage in my lower lip and roots of my lower teeth. Tonguing is difficult. What are some suggestions? Are there different ways of articulating?

  • 1
    Having to tongue with the upper jaw no doubt takes some getting used to....
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 21, 2018 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


First, I strongly recommend that you find a teacher who has experience working with people with physical ailments like this. This is highly nonstandard and trying to make recommendations based on written descriptions is going to have limited value. Anything a qualified teacher says should override anything I or anyone else says here.

That being said, I have played like this as a joke. There was a music video that made the rounds a few years ago where someone was miming playing a soprano sax with the mouthpiece upside down, and I demonstrated playing this way to show that it wasn't actually impossible like many people thought. I even got pretty good tone and articulation. The main problems I ran into were:

  • I had to hold the instrument tipped way up for the reed to enter my mouth at a good angle. A custom neck could solve this problem.
  • The vibration of the reed tickled my upper lip horribly, to the point that I couldn't bear to hold a note for more than a fraction of a second.

Articulating the proper way (with the tongue hitting the reed) is basically impossible, but you can instead tongue against the roof of the mouth right behind the reed. This effectively makes every note an air attack, but this type of tonguing serves to build up pressure behind the tongue which mitigates that negative effect. This is akin to how brass players tongue, and it's very possible to get clean, strong attacks on those instruments, so I feel like it should be viable on single reeds with some practice.

  • Do you know who makes custom necks for tenor saxophone?
    – William
    Aug 22, 2018 at 17:27

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