Saxophone/cheeks puffing out while playing sax
My 16 yr old has been playing alto sax since 5th grade and has recently started puffing out his cheeks when he plays. I noticed that it started last year when he played a bari sax for the show choir. He said that it was because he had to play very loudly most of the time. Now I have noticed that he is also doing it on his alto. When I commented on it to him, he said that it was just when he plays more loudly and that there is nothing wrong with doing so. I have always heard that puffing cheeks is not good and is a sign of poor embouchure. Is this a problem that he should work on stopping? Can it affect his tone? Or is it not a problem,like he says?
Hi Pam - Great question! While there may be more than one way to 'skin a cat', puffing the cheeks is generally relegated to beginning students who in time, develop enough muscle tone in their embouchure to make the necessary corrections.
Puffing the cheeks usually leads to a thin tone quality and flat pitch (especially in the upper register). I currently have a young student battling this syndrome - I simply remind him at each lesson to "keep those corners back" or "smile a little more" and in my experience with enough coaxing and patience, students are usually able to work it out in time. (By the way - it puffing the cheeks does not equal volume - volume comes from filling your tank (tummy and lungs) with air to create a solid support system for the correct embouchure.)
I've taught some great players who were 'puffy' as beginners. Steve Lehman is a noted avant-garde composer and sax player who I started about a 100 years ago lol.
) He used to puff his cheeks a bit and often took several seconds to set his embouchure... after each breath. He's plays beautifully now - so it can be fixed!
May I suggest visiting www.dlpmusicmusicprogram.com and creating a FREE Theory membership for your son. Then go to the 'resources' tab and look at the videos for alto saxophone. You may even see me in a few lol. Here is a direct link to the sax page:
Good luck and keep me posted - I hope your son continues to play and enjoy the horn!