Today we are going to talk about perfect saxophone reed placement.
Stick around to find out how to put a reed on your saxophone mouthpiece
the proper way.
With beginners, 99% of the time there is a problem with the saxophone
sound, it is either a bad reed or bad reed placement.
And this is a super easy fix.
So today I’m going to go in-depth on perfect reed placement on your
saxophone. But first a quick summary:
Looking straight up your reed and mouthpiece, you want to see a thin
black line outlining the tip of your mouthpiece behind the reed. That
means that where the reed hits your mouthpiece, you should see a very
small sliver of the mouthpiece. If you see a lot of the mouthpiece, it
will be way harder to blow and if you see no mouthpiece the reed is up
too high and you’ll squeak a lot.
Now, let’s go a little bit more in-depth into how you get this.
How to Put a Reed on a Saxophone Mouthpiece
Perfect reed placement is at the dead center with the very tip of the
mouthpiece showing above the reed. With perfect reed placement, you
should get a full, easy sound that comes with a nice and clean
If you get a razor-thin black line, that will give you the best sound no
matter what reed you have on.
What Causes Squeaking on Saxophone? / What Causes the Saxophone to Sound Muffled?
Mistake #1 — The Reed is Placed too High Up (or Too Far Out)
If you are squeaking on the saxophone there is a very good chance that
you are making one of the biggest mistakes in reed placement—putting
your reed too high up (far out) on the mouthpiece.
If your reed goes above the tip of the mouthpiece, when you tongue the
reed, it does not close properly up against the tip. That causes the
air not to go into the mouthpiece correctly and catch it at the right
That’s how you end up with all kinds of crazy squeaks.
For new students, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get some
squeaks when the reed is over the mouthpiece. For experienced players,
however, the tone sounds muffled even if you don’t get any squeaks.
It won’t be nearly as clean, especially when you tongue because the air
is getting cut off in a weird way.
What normally happens when you tongue, your tongue comes up and closes
up the reed. If your reed is lightly below the mouthpiece, it does it
Mistake #2 — The Reed is Not Centered
The second mistake you can make with reed placement that will cause
your reed to squeak is the reed not being centered.
That means you have some extra space on the left-hand side or the
right-hand side of the reed destroying your airflow.
This makes the air not be evenly separated and not to travel evenly
throughout the reed.
Again, that completely messes up your sound, you end up with a fuzzy,
buzzy squeaky sound. And you get the feeling that air struggles to get
through the saxophone.
What Causes Your Saxophone to Sound Airy, Spitty or Breathy?
Mistake #3 — The Reed is Placed Too Low (or Far In)
If your saxophone sounds airy, you will have a thick black line if you
look straight up your reed and mouthpiece because your reed is too low.
This mistake is more common than the previous one we looked at (your
reed being too high on the mouthpiece).
When a reed is too low, it allows more air into the mouthpiece which
isn’t necessarily a good thing. Obviously, we want a lot of air going
into the mouthpiece but we want controlled air.
The bigger the black line, the less control you’ll have over the
So the thinner the black line, the more control you have over your tone
and the more you’re going to be able to tongue really easily.
When you cannot tongue easily, you don’t have nearly as much control.
You’ll lose the center of your sound—your tone is not going to have a
fat round sound to it.
It will sound flat and dull or airy and it will feel really hard to
put air through it. Not flat as in out-of-tune but flat as in the note
is not round, and it doesn’t have a full body to it.
That is why you can’t have a giant thick black line, air does not like
Top 2 Essential Tips for Proper Saxophone Reed Placement
Here are the tips you need to keep in mind when placing your reeds on
Tip #1 — Ligature Position Affects Reed Placement
Ligature position (placement) is pretty important for proper reed
You want to have your ligature sitting on the fattest barrel part of
the mouthpiece. If the ligature has a line on it, you want to have the
ligature below the line.
If you position the ligature too far out, the reed doesn’t vibrate
enough. And if you have it too far in, then you have too much of the
Have it right at the center of the fattest part of the barrel if there
is not marking to guide you.
Tip #2 — Is it a Cane or Synthetic Reed?
What we’ve covered so far is pretty much all you have to worry about,
but if you are using a cane reed, there are several other things to
It doesn’t matter how well you place your reed. If you get one of the
following wrong, it still won’t sound right.
Is the Reed Good or Bad (Is it Warped)?
A reed could sound bad just because it is a bad reed whether or not
you place it properly.
It could just be that your problem is not bad placement, it is a bad
Because once you wet cane reeds you never let them dry, in how to store
saxophone reeds, I showed you how to
store your cane reeds to make sure that they never warped or damaged.
Have a look at that if you haven’t.
Is the Reed Properly Wet?
If you have a synthetic reed you can skip this part because they don’t
Assuming that you have a good cane reed, you need to make sure that
you are soaking the cane reed properly.
In step #2 of how to break in new saxophone
reeds, I showed you how to soak
your cane reeds instead of wetting them with saliva, and went over a few
reasons why you want to go with soaking instead of wetting.
Have a look at that too if you haven’t.
If you don’t wet a cane reed, no matter how well you place it, you
will not get a good sound.
And that’s pretty much it.
For perfect reed placement, you want you reed dead center on your
mouthpiece and you want to be able to see a thin black line of the
mouthpiece above the tip of the reed. That’s how you get your best
I hope that helps.