5 Common Problems Faced by Beginning Saxophone Students

Overcome these 5 problems with simple and practical solutions

In this blog post, we will discuss five common problems that often arise for beginner and intermediate saxophone students. By identifying these issues and providing tips to overcome them, we hope to help aspiring saxophonists improve their skills and enjoy their musical journey to the fullest.

1. Tight Embouchure

One of the most common issues beginners face is having a tight embouchure. The embouchure refers to the position and tension of the facial muscles around the mouthpiece. When the embouchure is too tight, it restricts airflow and affects the quality of sound produced. On the other hand, if it’s too loose, the pitch and tone suffer. Finding the right balance is crucial.

To overcome this problem, it’s essential to retrain your facial muscles to relax. Start by practicing the “ocean sound” or the “ha sound” without the saxophone. This exercise helps relax your facial muscles and shoulders. Always ensure your embouchure starts from a relaxed state. For more detailed guidance on the ocean sound technique, refer to the video provided.

2. Tonguing Technique

Another issue that many saxophonists face, especially when transitioning from slurring to tonguing, is relying too heavily on the tongue. Remember that the saxophone is primarily a wind instrument, and the air is the driving force behind its sound. Overemphasizing the tongue can lead to sound distortion and hinder overall progress.

To improve your tonguing technique, it’s beneficial to focus on slurring exercises initially. By playing slow melodies and concentrating on the air support and the beauty of the line, you can build a solid foundation. When you eventually reintroduce tonguing, ensure that the notes are closely linked and avoid gaps between them. Practicing this way will refine your tonguing technique and make it easier to perform shorter tonguing patterns.

3. Flying Fingers

Flying fingers are a common problem for saxophonists at all levels. When your fingers come down forcefully on the keys, it slows down your playing speed and can lead to inaccuracies. To overcome this issue, aim to shadow the keys with your fingers, keeping them low but not pressing them excessively.

Maintaining a low finger position allows for smoother and faster finger movements. Additionally, pay attention to your thumb position and avoid excessive motion. Keeping your thumb relatively stationary helps facilitate smooth transitions between registers and ensures better overall control.

4. Learning Solely on YouTube

While YouTube is an excellent resource for learning new skills, relying solely on it for saxophone instruction can have limitations. Having a knowledgeable teacher to guide and provide personalized feedback is invaluable, especially when establishing foundational techniques.

Consider seeking the guidance of a saxophone teacher who can assess your progress, correct any mistakes, and provide a structured learning plan. At the London Saxophone School, we offer in-person and online lessons, ensuring you have professional guidance throughout your saxophone journey.

5. Expecting Immediate Results

Patience is key when learning the saxophone, and expecting immediate results can lead to frustration. It takes time for your brain to process new information and for muscle memory to develop. Instead of rushing through new concepts or pieces, focus on consistent and repetitive practice.

Devote several consecutive days to practicing the same material, allowing your brain and muscles to assimilate the information. After a few days of consistent practice, you can start making small adjustments and improvements. Remember, progress is a gradual process, and each practice session contributes to your overall growth as a saxophonist.


Being aware of these common mistakes can help you enjoy your saxophone journey to the fullest. Keep these things in mind during your practice sessions, and be sure to practice carefully and consistently.

Improve your saxophone playing with our online saxophone courses, with our in-person lessons and courses for kids and adults.