During our current Canada/US tour we gave a masterclass to the students of saxophone professor Tristan Deborba in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. It was a pleasure to exchange information with this enthusiastic saxophone class, and they all attended our concert the next day.
We adressed three general aspects of playing the saxophone which we find important.
1) How do you know how much mouthpiece to take in your mouth?
As a starting point we use this: look where the reed leaves the table of the mouthpiece. That is where the lower teeth should be. If you take too little mouthpiece the reed cannot vibrate freely because you are pressing it on the table. If you take too much mouthpiece you do not have sufficient control and the sound becomes too open and even squeeky. Experiment with this: try to find both extremes and look for the soft spot.
2) When are you supposed to use 2/TC and TA/P (side/front C and (side/front) Bb)?
The basic rules are very simple, but we do think they are extremely important for a flawless technique (Please note: in the end, please use whatever is more practical for you. These are just basic guidelines):
Bb: Usually with petit, except before or after a B or a C. Although in certain cases you do use P (petit or bis key) before or after a C, like the second note of the famous Creston Sonate. In this case it's easier to use P because of the G after.
C: Use TC (side C) before or after a B.
Note: Do not use TC before or after a Bb played with P, the intonation of C with 1 P TC is unacceptibly low (try this). (Do not tell anyone: we do use this fingering sometimes (!) the runs are so fast that you cannot hear that it's out of tune.)
Note: Olivier does not agree with the above totally. He believes it is more practical to use TA just before or after a C. For example, he plays the F major scale with P.
Please let uw know what you think is more practical on our Facebook page!
3) About the independence of air pressure and technique.
One of the hardest things of playing the sax, or any other wind instrument, is disconnecting the breath from the rest of your technique. When you move your fingers, the air and the air column shouldn't change. It should feel like someone else presses the keys of your horn. In fact, you could practice it like this: ask a friend to finger a difficult register change standing behind you, while you blow. For example, tre the register change from C# to middle D, which is one of the hardest register changes. Also try not the change embouchure while doing this, it also changes the airflow.
In the end, saxophone playing is about doing less. The air pressure should be constant, even when playing staccato. But everything else works best when relaxed.