Helpful Tips On How To Be More Soulful And Expressive During Saxophone Lessons


The sound of the saxophone conjures a myriad of emotions.  It is popularly dubbed as the sexiest sounding instrument.   It is often compared to the human voice in terms of its soulful and expressive sound qualities.  Hence, during saxophone lessons, it is important to integrate heart and soul while playing the saxophone.


Here are factors that could motivate or trigger emotions as you play the saxophone.


  1. Easy on the scooping of your notes.  ‘Over scooping’ your notes would make you sound amateurish.  Yes, it adds flavor to your sound, but use it sparingly.


  1. Be conscious of your vibratos.  Similarly, vibratos should be used as needed.  It adds a soulful dimension to your sound when used in the right places.


  1. Determine your dynamics.  Dynamics basically refer to the loudness or softness of a note.  The sound of emotions vary.  For instance, anger is blatantly loud and piercing.  While the sound of joy is light and bouncy.  Sadness sounds low and heavy.  Dynamics is a tool to express and add depth and drama to the overall sound of your sax playing.


  1. The art of releasing notes.  The way you ‘attack’ the first note and how you release your last note could manifest different levels of emotions. You could start-off with a whisper and end with a scream; or go the other way around.  Find your way through the ebbs and flows of the melody. Connecting the music to your emotions could help you attack and release those notes.


  1. Just a sprinkle of sound effects.  Once you’ve learned the basics in saxophone lessons, you may level-up those techniques with various sound effects.  In time, your teacher may introduce these terms and techniques to you:  ‘growling’, ‘glissando’, ‘multiphonics’, ‘overtones’, ‘slap tonguing’, ‘flutter-tonguing’. And yes, these effects could give a new layer or texture to the emotion that you want to convey.


  1. Study the lyrics.  For tunes that were written with vocals, it would help you know and tell the story of the song if you understand the lyrics.  The lyrics itself could help you determine how to approach each word, phrase, or stanza with particular dynamics, vibrato, or sound effects.  For instrumental music, it helps to know the story behind the tune.  What emotions would the songwriter want to conjure from his listener?


  1. Practice emulating the singer’s voice with your saxophone.  Pick a particular song phrase.  Play the same notes with your saxophone, attempting to get as close as you can to the vocal expression.  You may use release, attack, vibratos, dynamics, or effects.  Do your best in sounding like the singer.


  1.  Get in ‘the zone’ while you play.  Focus on the single emotion you want to convey. Distraction can snap you out of the heart of that moment.


  1. Get inspiration and stimulation from everywhere.  Absorb as much feeling and experience you can from a plethora of activities.  Reading, movies, food, ..these could spark thoughts, ideas, inspiration.  As you play the sax, these could fuel your soul into an outburst of emotions.


Expression or ‘soul’ cannot be taught per se, during saxophone lessons.  This is something that should come from within.  Yet technique and emotions go hand-in-hand.  Both are essential in the art of playing the saxophone.