Beginner’s Corner #2
Posture and Horn Position
By Paul Coats
Another young player wrote:
“Hi. I play saxophone and I was wondering whether you should place it in between your legs or on the side of you. I play on the side, but other people say it goes between your legs. That doesn’t seem right to me.
Thanks for writing. This is a good question… and I hope I can answer to your satisfaction. For tenor and baritone saxophone, there is only one correct sitting position… on the side! There is no way you can have a proper right hand position with these larger saxophones held between your legs. Also, these two saxes, if played in front, would have an improper mouthpiece angle… too horizontal. There needs to be a slight upward angle.
I know band directors tell you to sit on the edge of the chair, and that is fine for clarinet, flute, and trumpet players. But when supporting the weight of a baritone sax, it is best to sit all the way back, and allow the back of the chair to help support the weight and relieve your back somewhat.
Now, the alto sax is of such a size that the answer is more clouded. For a tall person, or long waisted person (such as myself), the alto can be played more in front. In fact, the bottom of the alto clears my thighs by several inches. So, it is more in front, but not between my legs. For young students, many ladies, and small men, if the alto sax is held between the legs, to reach the right hand keys would require them to bend their wrists awkwardly. No, wrong! So, for smaller people, again, hold the alto sax on the side.
When I hold my alto more or less in front of me, the body of the alto still is angled toward my right thigh. Also, it is normal for the bell of modern alto saxes to point slightly to the left. This is due to the bell pads being on the right side, the rods connecting them being protected between the bell and the body of the sax, etc. Let the sax, supported by the neck strap and the two thumbs, seek the proper direction of the bell. Ignore the neck and mouthpiece for now. You will feel where the keys seem to fit your hands most comfortably. Now, twist the neck of the sax to come straight to your upright head. DO NOT lean the head over, but sit in a natural, upright posture. Adjust the sax to fit YOU. So, with the alto on the side, the body of the sax feeling natural to the hands, adjust the neckstrap and neck of the sax to come straight up to your face. (A good quality, easy to adjust neckstrap is very important.) Then adjust the mouthpiece so that it is level in your mouth. The mouthpiece will not be square to the direction of the body tube of the sax.
So, remember: (1) Good posture, and (2) Adjust the neck strap, neck, and mouthpiece to fit YOU; do not bend your body to fit the sax.
And I can show you plenty of pictures of pros playing with the alto sax on the side.