Fix spitty sound on saxophone - easy step-by-step guide

Fixing a Spitty Saxophone Sound the easy way

Written by Greger Hillman, Saxophone teacher and music educator

If you're a saxophone player, you've probably experienced the frustrating sound of a spitty saxophone.

That unpleasant, wet sound can be caused by a variety of factors, including the positioning and texture of the reed, moisture buildup near the mouthpiece or neck, and even dehydration on the player's end.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to fix a spitty saxophone and get back to playing with a clear, crisp sound.

Quick fix to a Spitty Saxophone Sound

Stop spitty saxpophone sound fast.

One of the first things to check is the position of the reed. Make sure it's dead center on the mouthpiece, as perfect reed placement is super important in order to get the best possible sound from your saxophone.

Having a bad reed placement will cause a variation of issues, so you should always make sure that you have this locked down first. That way you have the best chance of getting a good saxophone sound.

Next, make sure your throat is open as wide as possible when you play. This will make the air flow more easily into the mouthpiece through your mouth and lips, reducing the likelihood of a spitty sound.

It's not uncommon among saxophone beginners to have too much of the mouthpiece in the mouth.

This will cause a spitty sound and can be easily fixed by adjusting the embouchure, which is a fancy word for how you position the mouthpiece in your mouth and the amount of jaw pressure you apply to it.

If you're still experiencing a spitty saxophone sound, try inhaling sharply through your saxophone to “suck” any fluid out, or swab the mouthpiece. If the problem goes away and stays away after removing it, then you've solved your problem.

Understanding the reason for a Spitty Saxophone Sound

If your saxophone sounds spitty, it can be frustrating and unpleasant to listen to. This sometimes can sound almost like a bubbly sound too. Fortunately, there are several reasons why this might be happening, and many of them are relatively easy to fix.

Why do you get a Spitty Sound on a Saxophone?

There are a few different things that can cause a spitty sound on a saxophone. One of the most common is moisture buildup inside the mouthpiece.

When you blow warm air through your saxophone, condensation from your breath start to collect inside the mouthpiece and saxophone neck.

This excessive moisture can create a spitty sound that is both unpleasant and difficult to control.

Another common issue, especially among beginners, is the misplacement of the mouthpiece which has to do with using a poor embouchure. This will result in instant decrease in tone quality and needs to be addressed.

It could also be that the mouthpiece is starting to get blocked by moisture. This occurs when moisture collects inside the mouthpiece and blocks the airflow, leading to a spitty, unpleasant sound.

That's also why you should always make time clean your saxophone properly so that residue and moisture cannot build up inside the mouthpiece and neck, which lead to a range of problems including spitty sounds.

Tonguing notes

In my 20+ years of teaching sax, I've seen tons of beginners struggle with a kind of “spitty” sound when they're first trying to get the hang of tonguing notes.

This usually happens when the air flow and the tongue aren't really working together just right, and sometimes there's too much spit in the mouthpiece or sax neck, which doesn't help. Don't sweat it though, it's super common. It's just a part of getting to know the sax and how to play it.

So, if you are a saxophone beginner I recommend that you stick with it, keep practicing and you'll get the hang of tonguing notes on your saxophone.

The tricky part is usually when you want to start tonguing every single note.

Playing with staccato tonguing (short notes separated by the tongue) takes some getting used to, but it's part of learning how to tongue on sax and becoming a better sax player.

Tonguing on Alto and Tenor Saxophone is all the same. However, if you are a beginner I recommend you start with an alto saxophone and focus on getting rid of the spitty sax sound playing that instrument first.

That way you will have no issues moving to the Tenor Saxophone or even the Soprano or Bari sax. When you know how to work your embouchure it works the same on all saxophones.

There are small nuances of the embouchure moving between the different saxophones, but getting Alto Sax embouchure right will help you speed up the process on other saxes too.

Check out this guide to learn the basics of tonguing on sax

Why is a Spitty Sound on a Saxophone a Problem?

A spitty sound on a saxophone can be a problem for several reasons. First and foremost, it can be incredibly unpleasant to listen to.

Whether you're practicing alone or performing in front of an audience, a spitty sound can detract from the overall quality of your playing and make it difficult to achieve the sound you're looking for.

In addition, a spitty sound can also make it more difficult to control your saxophone.

When you're dealing with excess moisture or blockages inside the instrument, it can be challenging to get the sound you want and play with precision and accuracy.

It can also make your mouthpiece feel slippery which makes it harder to control your embouchure. That's all bad news when you want a good sax sound which require a great deal of control.

Overall, a spitty sound on a saxophone is a problem that should be addressed as soon as possible.

By understanding the causes of this issue and taking steps to fix it, you can improve your playing and enjoy a more enjoyable, satisfying experience with your saxophone.

Identifying the Source of the Spitty Sound

If you're experiencing a spitty sound when playing your saxophone, the first step is to identify the source of the issue.

There are a few things that could be causing the problem, including moisture buildup in the mouthpiece or reed, your embouchure dehydration, or even mold or bacteria growth.

Checking the Saxophone and Mouthpiece for Moisture

One of the most common causes of a spitty saxophone sound is moisture buildup in the mouthpiece or saxophone itself.

To check for moisture, take a look at the mouthpiece and the cane reed. If you see any visible moisture, use a swab to remove it. You can also try inhaling sharply through your saxophone to “suck” the fluid out.

Another place to check for moisture is the tone holes. If they appear to be oversaturated, you may need to clean them out with a cloth or swab.

Additionally, check the water key to see if it is leaking. If it is, you may need to have it repaired.

Cleaning guide: Watch this comprehensive guide to cleaning the saxophone, complete with a step-by-step video

Checking the Reed for Moisture

Another potential source of a spitty sound is moisture buildup on the reed. To check for this, remove the reed from the mouthpiece and inspect it for visible moisture. If you see any, use a cloth or swab to remove it.

It's also important to check the hardness of your reed. If it is too soft, it may be causing the spitty and squeaking sound on your saxophone. Consider using a harder reed to see if it improves the situation.

Hydration and Air Support

Dehydration can also cause a spitty sound when playing the saxophone. Make sure you are properly hydrated before playing.

Additionally, make sure you are using proper air support when playing. Without enough air pressure, the airstream can become too weak and cause a spitty sound.

This all ties into having a good posture and good embouchure when you play the sax.

Mold and Bacteria Growth

Mold and bacteria growth can also cause a spitty sound as it can build up inside the mouthpiece and neck on the saxophone. To prevent this, make sure you are properly cleaning your saxophone and mouthpiece after each use.

Use a tooth brush or cloth and rinse the mouthpiece in water if you are able too.

By checking for moisture buildup, using proper hydration and air support, and preventing mold and bacteria growth, you can eliminate the spitty sound from your saxophone playing.

Preventing Spitty Saxophone Sound

If you're experiencing a spitty saxophone sound, there are a few things you can do to prevent it. Using the proper embouchure, a good cane or synthetic reed as well as cleaning the mouthpiece after each practice session will all help prevent a spitty saxophone sound.

Proper Saxophone Maintenance

This is the basics of keeping your sax in good playing condition. It will help to prevent moisture buildup and condensation in your instrument. Here are a few things you can do to maintain your saxophone:

  • Keep your saxophone dry: After each use, wipe down your saxophone with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture. This will prevent moisture buildup and condensation in your instrument.
  • Check for leaks: Check your saxophone regularly for leaks. Leaks can cause excess moisture buildup and result in a spitty saxophone sound.
  • Store your saxophone properly: Store your saxophone in the saxophone case. It will keep your sax safe and prevent the pads and corks from drying up at the same time.

Effective Saxophone Cleaning Techniques

Effective saxophone cleaning techniques can also help prevent a spitty saxophone sound. Here are a few things you can do to clean your saxophone:

  • Clean your mouthpiece: Use a mouthpiece brush to clean your mouthpiece regularly. This will prevent excess saliva buildup and help prevent a spitty saxophone sound.
  • Clean your neck: Use a neck swab to clean your saxophone neck regularly. This will prevent moisture buildup and condensation in your instrument.
  • Clean your saxophone: Use a saxophone swab to clean your saxophone regularly. This will remove excess moisture and prevent condensation in your instrument.

VIDEO: Watch me go through how to cleaning the saxophone

Playing Techniques to Prevent a Spitty Saxophone Sound

If you get the foundation right it will, in most cases, eliminate that spitty sound. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Use proper embouchure: Use proper embouchure techniques to prevent excess saliva buildup and ensure a tight seal around the mouthpiece.
  • Swallow excess saliva: Swallow excess saliva before playing to prevent a spitty saxophone sound.
  • Use proper pressure: Use proper pressure when playing to prevent squeaking and spitty sounds.
  • Use proper finger technique: Use proper finger technique when playing to prevent leaks and give you a better and larger sound on your saxophone instantly

Remember, while these techniques can help prevent a spitty saxophone sound as well as help you produce a more distinctive sound on your sax. All good things but they are not a guaranteed solution.

If you're still having issues with a spitting sound you could reach out to a saxophone teacher that can help guide you through the process.

That's usually the fastest way to get help with your sax sound when you need more personalized sax tips and advice.

Spitty sound comes with all wind and Brass instruments

It doesn't really matter if you play a woodwind or a brass instrument. You will run into the same issue with a spitty sound sooner or later.

On Brass instruments like the trumpet and trombone there's a Spit valve that you use to remove spit from the curved brass tube.

However, with woodwinds like the flute, clarinet and saxophone there's no real spit valve like that even if there are some techniques to remove spit from the saxophone as well.

Conclusion

Being an experienced player and teacher myself, I've helped hundreds of beginners deal with the “spitty sax sound” issue. It's fair to say I know a lot about this and how it hurts your saxophone tone.

It can be frustrating and distracting, but fortunately, it's usually an easy fix…

By checking the reed's position, your embouchures and removing moisture buildup as well as making sure the saxophone is clean and dry, you can usually eliminate the spitty sound by yourself.

Taking good care of your saxophone by cleaning it regularly will help prevent many sound issues such as a spitty sound on your sax.

If you're still struggling with a spitty saxophone, consider taking a lesson with a saxophone teacher who can help and guide you through the process of getting rid of it.

And remember to be patient and kind to yourself. Even professional saxophone players can run into this issue from time to time. I know I do and I bet your favorite players experience the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my saxophone sound raspy?

If your saxophone sounds raspy, it could be due to a few reasons. One of the most common reasons is that the reed is too hard.

That will also make it harder to play. If you are using a cane reed you can try softening it by gently pressing down gently on in the middle of the reed where your bottom lip rests. You can also try using a softer reed to see if that helps.

Another reason could be that there is a buildup of moisture in the mouthpiece. Make sure to swab out the mouthpiece after each use to prevent this issue.

Why does my saxophone sound fuzzy?

A fuzzy sound on the saxophone could be due to a few reasons. One reason could be that the reed is too soft. You can try using a harder reed to see if that helps.

Another reason could be that there is too much resistance in the mouthpiece. Try using a mouthpiece with a larger opening to see if that helps.

How to make your saxophone not sound spitty?

If you want to make your saxophone not sound spitty, there are a few things you can do. First, make sure to swab out the mouthpiece after each use to keep it clean.

That removes any buildups of moisture which can be the root of the issue. You can also try adjusting your embouchure to create a tighter seal around the mouthpiece. Finally, make sure to use a reed that is appropriate for your skill level.

Why does my saxophone sound bad?

During my 20+ years as a saxophone teacher I've helped hundreds of students improving their saxophone sound and it always comes down to a few core issues that needs to be addressed.

In my experience it's usually due to improper technique, a poor quality mouthpiece or cane reed, or even a damaged saxophone. If you are having trouble identifying the issue

I'd recommend that you contact a professional saxophonist or music teacher who can help you find the root of the issue.

How do I get a clear sound on the saxophone?

To get a clear sound on the saxophone you need to use the proper embouchure and breathing technique as well as a saxophone in good playing condition.

That includes a mouthpiece and reed which is suitable for your playing level and age.

Keeping a good practice routine working on breathing techniques and developing a strong embouchure will make a huge difference for your saxophone sound.

What is the popping sound on the saxophone?

The popping sound on the saxophone could simply be the key pads being pressed down.

However, it could also be caused by a leak or dent on the instrument. This can happen if the pads are not sealing properly or if there is damage to the instrument.

I recommend that you take your saxophone to the shop to have it looked over by a sax technician. They know how to find and fix those types of issues and it normally doesn't cost you much if it's a small issue.

Saxophone teacher online Greger Hillman

Written by Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher with +36 years of experience playing saxophone. 

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learn saxophone teacher Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher and musician from Sweden.

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