Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound by Dave Liebman

Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound by Dave Liebman

Last updated on April 4, 2023

Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound by Dave Liebman is the book which changed my life regarding saxophone playing, or I could easily say it saved my career as a saxophone player.

I got this book in December 1996 and started reading thoroughly sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. At that time I already had a degree in classical saxophone from the Zagreb Music Academy and played professionally for four years in the Croatian Army Wind Orchestra, Big Band and in some jazz combos and pop bands.

My embouchure and approach were based on French school classical saxophone playing (heavily influenced by Claude Delangle) and when I played jazz I just tried to be more relaxed (now I see that really wasn’t possible). But I realized that this approach really did not work for me regarding sound and flexibility, and I constantly had a sore lower lip, so I couldn’t go on like this anymore and I had to change.

I was kind of afraid to do it, but I decided to sound and feel comfortable when I play or I would abandon playing so I had to do it and I began to change my entire approach to the instrument based upon this book. I can’t say that everything was wrong: my tongue position, breathing and vibrato were more or less fine, but my embouchure was definitely wrong. Also I have to admit that studying classical helped me to understand sound focus, precise and clear execution needed for classical playing and musical thinking from the classical aesthetic point of view. Anyway, I will not go into details, but from the first day I felt like I released the car handbrake, although it took me a year to get rid of the bad habits and the evil spirits sometimes even reappeared years after. I had to do it on the move because I had to play in a band and had no time to take a break until it settled, but I made it.

Years later I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with Dave, during his visit to Zagreb, talking about all that stuff and music in general in a relaxed and pleasant conversation, and tell him how much his book helped me.

Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound is based on the Joe Allard school of saxophone playing and I have tried to find useful information about this school whenever I have the chance and also from watching this video The Master Speaks – Joe AllardThe opinions other people have about the book read on SOTW forum. Another great books I use as a supplement are Saxophone High Tones (Eugene Rousseau), Top-Tones for the Saxophone (Sigurd Rascher) and Saxophone Altissimo (Robert H. Luckey)

In Croatia that (contemporary) French school of classical saxophone playing is exclusively official approach to teaching saxophone in music schools and Music Academy, but there are a few of my colleagues and students who have become interested in the Joe Allard school, after having similar problems as I had.

Finally I have to say that with Joe Allard school I feel comfortable in classical, jazz or any other style, I just have to change the sound imagination and mouthpiece to facilitate this.