Saxophone Tone Resources

Throughout my educational experience there's always been this looming question: How do I improve my tone?  Now, this can mean a myriad of things for many different people.  For the beginner, it can mean "How can I project more?", "How do I get better intonation?", "How can I stop squeaking?", etc.  For the seasoned veteran, many times it's "How do I imitate the tone of one player or another?" and the even more daring task of getting your own sound.  I've come into contact with a great number of books and videos, and while many of these you've probably heard of, I thought I'd share those with you here and see if you guys had any gems to add:
  • Dave Liebman's, "Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound" - Video & Book
  • Sigurd M. Rascher, Top Tones
  • Dave Liebman Master Class DVD (Roberto's Woodwinds)

I wanted to include, or at least make you aware of the video/book set titled Joe Allard: The Master Speaks.  I believe it has been retitled Master Teacher: DVD's for Music Education presents NBC Artist Joe Allard, Clarinet & Sax Principles - Techniques That Work.  (Jeez!!)  Beware in purchasing this however.  While Joe Allard was (and vicariously still is) the absolute source for production of tone on saxophone, this set was made when Joe was in his last bouts with Alzheimer's.  Joe's concepts are incredible, but some don't really come across in the video.  I suggest pairing it with the other books mentioned here.  (Also, sax gossip: I'm told that the 'former student' that filmed the video took with Joe for a short period of time, quit because of personal difficulties with Joe, had some fairly 'not nice' things to say about him for a while after that, and then went back when Joe was fairly ill - some might say taking advantage - to film this video.)

The following is some stuff I found from, got from my teachers, and some resources I've used in the past and present.

Great Books on Altissimo:

  • Robert Luckey, Saxophone Altissimo: High Note Development for the Contemporary Player
  • Rosemary Lang, Beginning Studies in the Altissimo Register (available here)
    • The blog Bassic Sax talks about it here
  • Eugene Rousseau, Saxophone High Tones
  • Jean-Marie Londeix, Tablature des doigtes compares harmoniques
  • Jean-Marie Londeix, Intonation Exercises
  • Ted Nash, Ted Nash's Studies in High Harmonics
  • Donald Sinta & Denise Dabney, Voicing: An Approach to the Saxophone's Third Register
  • Daniel Higgins & Rheuben Allen Advanced Concepts for the Altissimo
  • the previous book Top Tones also deals somewhat with altissimo

It's been my experience that these books are really great for a direction in the fingerings.  I've worked with the Rosemary Lang book myself, which is fortunately BACK IN PRINT.

While I'm sure each of these books has it's own individual approach to the matter, be aware that every horn and person's body type/embouchure/set up is different and so the fingerings they present are not set in stone and change between different saxophones (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bari, etc.).  I have a range up to what I call "altissimo double D" which would be in the saxophone's 5th octave basically by taking their suggestions and then making up the last few fingerings.  You can, like most things, do a fairly quick Google search and find any number of altissimo fingerings.  The best thing I did for my altissimo range was to not just do scales and patterns in the altissimo range ONLY.  I took melodies, or bits of melodies (Star Eyes, Softly, Stella, etc.), children's songs (Frere Jacques, Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc.) and started them low enough so that only the top note was in the altissimo range and then kept working it up chromatically from key to key.  One of the other things I did was take my Ferling 48 Etudes and read down most of the etudes in the altissimo register trying to maintain as much of the written material as I could (dynamics, articulations, tempo, etc.).

The most important thing that each of these books deal with extensively are the subject of over tones.  A more in depth post on that later, but just wanted to throw that out there.

Books on other extended techniques:

Circular Breathing:

  • Trent Kynaston, Circular Breathing for the Wind Performer


  • Daniel Kientzy, Les Sons Multiples aux Saxophones
  • Ken Dorn, Saxophone Technique - Volume I, Multiphonics
  • John Gross, Multiphonics for the Saxophone

There are tons of online resources on this subject.  Many people have entire sites dedicated to this subject, so if you simply google "multiphonics saxophone" you'll get a good starting point with fingerings.  Much like altissimo, these fingerings are very subjective.  Even though you're getting a concrete fingering, it may not work or not work as well on your horn.  When I first went looking for multiphonic info, I actually found some great fingerings out of a book of Michael Brecker transcriptions by Hal Leonard titled "The Michael Brecker Collection".

Other than that, I've used my teachers as resources, YouTube videos of known artists are always helpful, and chatting with fellow musicians.  I know we're all always looking for a way to get one step closer to 'our' tone  so I hope these resources help.  Since these are not the only things out there, if anyone else out there has other resources they'd like to add leave your suggestions in the comment box below.