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Top Tips: Baritone Sax Playing

5th January 2022

The Baritone Saxophone can be an unruly beast of an instrument, but that’s the fun of it! We asked top UK sax professional Simon Bates to share some tips and tricks for getting the most out of a Bari Sax…

1. Don’t Play it like Alto or Tenor!

This might sound really obvious BUT a lot of the trouble we see people having with Baritone Sax is when they play it like an Alto or a Tenor Sax. You can’t do that – it’s another instrument entirely. The body and bore are much bigger, they require a lot more air to fill and to make the instrument speak.

The instrument requires more physical effort and arguably even more exaggerated support and embouchure adjustments to really make it sing.

2. Breathing & Air Support

Because of the internal dimensions the Baritone Sax really does need a bucket load of air going through it. And most importantly (for tone quality) is that the air flow is supported fully. This will enable you to get the full rich tone of the lower notes, but also a quality tone at the top of the instrument.

3. Intonation & Range

Talking of the upper notes – these can easily sound quite weak and this will often result in bad intonation. The top notes require the same amount of air support as the low notes. Practice working up higher and higher and pay attention to the quality of tone. Small manipulations of your embouchure and position on the reed will help/

4. Relevant Set-Up

We’ve mentioned that everything is exaggerated on Bari Sax, and this is true of your set-up. If you’re not using the right reed/mouthpiece combo for you then the results will suffer. The range of Baritone Sax mouthpieces covers everything from classical to jazz – and it’s quite difficult to find just one mouthpiece that will do it all satisfactorily.

Try out a range (use our 14 day approval system) and think about what are the main musical uses for your Baritone (ie. Jazz Band, Classical etc) and then choose a couple of relevant mouthpieces to test out for that style. If in doubt, ask one of our team for their expert help and advice. We help thousands of people every year choose the right reed/mouthpiece combo for their particular requirements.

5. Enjoy It!

Once you’ve bought a nice Baritone Sax from our range the next thing is to get out and enjoy it! Playing Baritone is seriously fun and let’s face it, all the other Sax players you know will be jealous. Thumping out a Low A at ff is a physical experience that wobbles your eyes and shakes your body to the core…in a good way!