Some saxophone & clarinet students have difficulty with jazz articulation, because they have not learned to tongue properly. They begin each note with a constriction in the throat, which sounds as if the student were humming into the mouthpiece. The beginning of the note is fuzzy and indistinct.Proper articulation of accented notes should begin with the tongue touching the reed. Classical teachers describe this as “tip to tip”: the tip of the tongue touches the tip of the reed, sometimes in “double lip” position. This results in a pleasant, light articulation, such as one would expect to hear in Mozart. For more aggressive jazz and rock styles, it is possible to rest the tip of the tongue on the lower lip, so that a point on the top of the tongue slightly back from the tongue tip touches a point on the reed slightly back from the reed tip. I refer to this technique as “top to top”: the top of the tongue touches the top of the reed.
The following exercise will help you develop a more expressive, accented articulation. Play along with the audio track provided here, while reading the chart shown below. (if the chart is too small or unclear, right-click inside the chart and save the graphic to your desktop.) Bb instruments begin playing at bar 1. Concert key instruments start on the third line (bar 9), and take the d.c. Eb instruments begin at the last line (bar 45), and take the d.c. The clarinet is on the left, the alto saxophone on the right. To hear both, set your balance in the center.