Sax FAQ: Why is My Saxophone Squeaking?

Updated: Jun 12

The most common reasons for saxophone squeaking include a broken or misaligned reed, playing with too much tension in the mouth, improper/high tongue position inside your mouth, or saxophone disrepair. Read more on each of these possible causes of saxophone squeaking below.


NOTE- If your saxophone is squeaking on G specifically (with the octave key), we answer that later in the article here.


Reasons Why Your Saxophone May Be Squeaking

The most likely reasons for squeaks are listed below, in order of most likely to least likely.

1. You are playing with a lot of tension

This is one of the most common reasons for getting those annoying squeaks. Especially for beginner saxophonists, there tends to be a lot of playing tension in the mouth. Facial and mouth tension while playing the saxophone presents itself as pinching, squeezing, or tight feeling, so be sure to check yourself for any of those bad habits. Below are a few exercises to reduce tension:


Saxophone Exercises to Reduce Playing Tension

  • Be sure you are forming proper saxophone embouchure as outlined in this video here.

  • Stretch/relax your lips by saying or mouthing "Eeeee" "Ooooo" repeatedly (Ooo is the shape we use for saxophone embouchure).

  • Do some simple shoulder and arm stretches, like the ones we have in our 2-minute warm-up stretches here. Often that tension moves to our lips and mouth too, so take care of that tension at the source.

  • Practice playing a note with the most relaxed facial muscles possible.

Read more here about reducing playing tension on the saxophone.

2. The tongue position inside your mouth is too high

This reason is almost as common as number one, and it's a tricky one because neither you nor your teacher can see your tongue position inside your mouth. We have students correct this by relaxing their throat and letting their tongue simply rest in the bottom of their mouth.

3. Your reed is broken or not aligned correctly on the mouthpiece

Check to make sure your reed isn't chipped or broken. If you don't see any visible chips or cracks right away, there are a couple of other things that could be wrong with the reed:

  • There is a hairline crack (not easily visible) - Test this by gently pressing the flat side of the tip of the reed against the soft part of your thumb to see if there is a tiny crack anywhere (they would be along the grain of the reed).

  • The reed is warped (or looks wavy at the tip) - This happens when your reed goes through a lot of moisture changes. It could happen when it goes from being very, very dry to being wet with saliva, especially if you live in a dry climate. It can also happen with sudden weather changes, especially if reeds are not stored properly.

  • The reed is not creating a seal - To work properly, the reed must fully create a seal with the mouthpiece. The reed may not create a seal if it is broken or cracked, or if it is not aligned properly on the mouthpiece.

  • Test the seal by pressing the bottom of a fully-assembled mouthpiece into the palm of your hand (in the center). Then, put your mouth on the mouthpiece like you're going to play, but instead suck air in. After about a second, you should hear a "pop" sound. If you hear the pop sound, your reed is sealing. If not, your reed is not sealing properly.

  • There are some instances where your mouthpiece is the culprit for not getting a seal. If you try multiple reeds and multiple ligatures and you are never, or rarely, able to get a "pop" (a seal), it could be your mouthpiece.

4. Your Saxophone is broken and leaking air

This is the least likely reason for getting squeaks. Typically if one of the tone holes isn't being properly sealed and air is leaking out, you won't get a high-pitched squeak; although, in some cases, you might. Usually, a leaking tone hole makes more of a honking sound, or the note just doesn't come out at all.


If you are playing on a saxophone that was previously (or currently) being stored in an attic, basement, closet, etc., consider having a local music store's repair shop check to be sure it's in working condition and not the culprit for your squeaking.


It's always best to store instruments in a temperature-controlled environment to keep in working in top condition.



Need further help? Submit a playing video for professional teacher feedback

To get further guidance in preventing saxophone squeaking, you can submit a playing video and get personalized feedback as to why you might be getting those squeaks, and some ideas to try. Get a 5-day free trial (up to one free video submission).



 

*If your saxophone is squeaking on G specifically:

For squeaks, "gargling" sounds, or a wavering sound happening on G specifically (G with the octave key), check yourself for tension in your mouth and oral cavity, as we talked about in point #1 in this article, AND, make sure you're blowing a strong enough airstream through the saxophone as if trying to blow a piece of paper off a table (try that too without the sax).


G with the octave key is somewhat of a transition point into the upper range and can sometimes gargle or squeak if you aren't pushing enough air through the horn with a relaxed embouchure.


Watch our YouTube video here on how to properly produce a sound on the saxophone. Checking against these steps might help troubleshoot your squeaking G.


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We hope you found this article answering "why is my saxophone squeaking" to be helpful! If you have any more questions, ask us here.

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