In this tutorial, I talk about how to immediately make your sax playing sound better by avoiding the three biggest sax gear mistakes. If you are constantly shifting sax gear or playing sax gear that is not appropriate for your playing level, you will never be able to zero in on your personal sax sound. So, check out this tutorial for some tips and tricks on how to take your sax playing to the next level.


  • Using sax gear that is not meant for your playing level. Specifically in regards to mouthpiece type and reed size.
  • Buying sax gear to make you sound like someone else.
  • When it comes to your sax sound you have 3 main variables: breath support, language, and gear.
  • Changing your gear all of the time.
  • When you change your sax gear on a regular basis it becomes very difficult to get your air moving correctly through the sax as you are consantly changing the path that it needs to follow.

YouTube video link.


Inside the Sax School, I give you tons of tips and advice on how you should be thinking about your saxophone setup and how to perfect your tone with strong breath support. A major part of every Pathway Course is dedicated to producing a great saxophone sound. In the Sax School, I take the guesswork out of what to practice, how to practice, and what to practice next which will be guaranteed to help take your saxophone playing to the next level.

A full-text transcription is available by clicking the accordion below. The timestamps line up with the video’s timeline.



0:00:13.6 Scott Paddock: What's up, everybody? My name is Scott Paddock, and today we are gonna talk about the three biggest gear mistakes.


0:00:25.9 SP: My inbox and comments are filled with people asking me questions about gear, everything from tip size, opening, to reed strength, to mouthpiece type, and everything else in between. So today, I am gonna tell you the three biggest mistakes to avoid when picking out your gear.

Before we start talking about gear, if you enjoy my content, I would really appreciate it if you would give me a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel.


0:00:52.0 SP: Alright, let's talk about the three biggest gear mistakes, now these are not in any certain order, these are all really big mistakes, so, and one is not bigger than the other.

The first is, using gear that is not meant for your playing level. Using gear that is not meant for your playing level. And that mostly has to do with mouthpieces and reed size, so when you are starting off, you want a mouthpiece that's just user-friendly, kinda general, run of the mill, sounds good, pretty much no matter how you put the air through the saxophone.

That's what you're looking for, until you get into your late intermediate sound, when you really know how to control your air, and you know how to move the air faster and slower and get it in a tight air stream, and you really know the sound that you're looking for. So the reason for this is, the super high-end professional mouthpieces are built for a very specific job, and if you don't know how to control your air to make the mouthpiece speak in that very specific way, it's not gonna sound good, so you wanna make sure that you are getting a mouthpiece that is suited for your playing level.

0:01:56.4 SP: Now, when it comes to reeds, reeds they're not like super high-end professional reeds, reeds are kinda reeds, there are some that are better than others, and some that people prefer way more than others, so it all comes down to their reed strength.

Now, when you're a beginner, you might think that a size three or a size three and a half means that you're a better saxophone player than if you use a two and a half or a 2.25, and that's just not true, reed strength has a lot to do with the rest of your equipment and the way you're putting air through the saxophone and of course the sound that you want.

But when you are a beginner or an early intermediate saxophone player, you should be using a softer reed like a, I have my students start on a 2.25 Légère Signature, or if you're playing a cane reed, maybe start on a 2.5, just something that's a lot more user-friendly. So you haven't really developed the embouchure muscles yet, so you're gonna wanna a reed that vibrates a little bit easier, so you don't wanna start off with a three or definitely a three and a half or something like that, start off with a two and half or a 2.25, see how it feels, and don't move away from that unless you feel like you're not getting the sound that you want, or you feel like the reed is giving out on you.

0:03:06.1 SP: I use a 2.25 Légère Signature on my alto, and a 3.25 on my tenor, when I'm playing concerts. So there's a huge range in there, and that's all dependent on the gear that I'm using. So one size isn't better than the other.


The second really big mistake is buying gear thinking that it's gonna make you sound like someone else, it will not make you sound like someone else, it will give you some characteristics that they have, but it will not make you sound like them. So if you buy my mouthpiece, my mouthpiece gives you a bright, powerful sound, and if you're able to control my mouthpiece, if you're a solid intermediate, early advanced, saxophone player and you're able to control this mouthpiece and you play it, you will get a brighter and more powerful sound, but it won't sound like my brighter or more powerful sound

There are three main things that go into the way someone sounds, like if you really, really boil it down. One is their gear, and that's the least important when it comes to sound, it's the most important when it comes to really perfecting your sound, but it's the least important when it comes to just a general sound, so the most important is, the way you put air through the saxophone. So if I pick up my saxophone, I'm gonna sound like me. If I pick up someone else's saxophone with their mouthpiece and their reed, I'm gonna sound like me, maybe a little different version of me, but no matter what I play, I'm gonna sound like me.

0:04:24.9 SP: The third thing, and this is a really broad category, is the language that you use. So the language meaning like your dynamics, your articulations, the notes you play, what style you play with, all that kind of stuff, we'll put that all in one category of language, and then, of course, you have your air, and then the last is your gear.

Now, like I said, if you wanna sound like me and you get a bright powerful mouthpiece, you're gonna be in that category, but to sound just like me, you're gonna have to move the air the same as me, and you're gonna have to phrase and articulate close to the way I articulate, so don't think that just buying the exact same gear as another saxophone player is gonna make you sound like that saxophone player.

Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy the same gear as a saxophone player that you really like their sound, that might help you get closer to it, I'm just telling you that when you buy that new mouthpiece, it's not gonna make you sound exactly like that saxophone player. So don't get it and be like, "Oh, I thought it was gonna make me sound like saxophone player X, Y, Z, and it didn't." That's because there's a lot of other things that go into the sound.


0:05:29.8 SP: And the last big mistake that we're gonna talk about is changing your gear all the time. Changing your gear all the time. This happens with a lot of my students, when I first get them, they come in and they have three or four different mouthpieces, two or three different kinds of reeds, a couple of different ligatures, all kinds of stuff, and one week they play on this mouthpiece, and the next week they play on the next mouthpiece, and then they use this size reed and then this kind of reed, and then the ligature changes.

The more often you change your gear, the harder it's gonna be to find your sound and to get a really good sound, because every time you change something, you're changing one of the variables, if you change your reed strength, everything is gonna feel different, if you change your mouthpiece, everything is gonna feel different, if you're constantly changing things, you're never gonna figure out how to get to air through your saxophone and get a really good solid tone.

0:06:18.3 SP: So what I tell my students to do is, spend a week or two, find your favorite combination, find your favorite combination of reed, ligature, and mouthpiece, and then commit to it for at least six months, play that for six months, and then after six months, if you decide you wanna make a change, feel free to tweak it for a little bit, take two or three weeks, tweak it, and then commit to that setup for six months.

You need to commit to your setup if you wanna get a really good sound, if you're constantly changing your gear, you're never gonna be able to really develop your sound because you're not gonna be able to control your air because you're always changing variables, so pick what you like and commit to it.


0:06:56.6 SP: And those are the three biggest gear mistakes. Number one, don't try to buy super pro gear, if you're still trying to figure out how to get the air through the saxophone, you shouldn't be going onto the super pro gear until you're a solid intermediate or early advanced.

Second, no matter what gear you buy, it's not gonna make you sound like somebody else, it might put you in the same realm or the same category, but if you wanna sound like someone else, which I always tell people they should try to sound like themselves, but if there's a saxophone player and you love their sound, study their articulation, study their dynamics, study the notes they played, where they play, and time, like on the beat, behind the beat, all that kind of stuff, and try to figure out what they're doing to get their sound, what are they doing with their air? Is their are moving really fast? Is it slower? Is it spread out? Is it focused? Think about what their breath stream is, then try and pair that with your equipment and the language that they're using.

And third, commit to your gear, if you're constantly changing the variables, meaning your reed, your ligature, or your mouthpiece, you're never gonna be able to figure out.

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