Bad Posture

Bad posture is a bad habit that one should avoid from the beginning of study. Good posture is encouraged for the benefits of comfort, lack of tension, good breathing, and allowing of free technique. The young sax student defends bad posture—though he won’t call it that—as the means to a relaxed state. By sitting or positioning himself a certain way, tension IS avoided and therefore will lead to better playing. This may be the case…at least in the short term.

Consider the game of American baseball. Study the pre-pitch position of the batter: He is balanced with feet shoulder width apart, slight bend at the knees, back rolled a little forward, rear arm and shoulder higher than the front, and in a state of readiness. Bad posture...not allowed. This is a “fundamental” any Little League dad/coach would agree to profess.

Why is it unacceptable for the batter to stand with feet nearly together, knees locked, favoring the rear hip, leaning back, the bat resting entirely on the rear shoulder? Because a posture like this will prohibit the batter from being an effective player. Proper batting technique cannot be executed from this position.

And so the exact same can be said of the saxophonist.


The following are examples of common elements of bad or poor posture.

Bad posture saxophone slouching


Rear end on the front of the chair, back pressed against the back of the chair, armpit is even over the corner of the chair back. Good breathing is impossible in this position. The right arm is rendered immobile. Mental alertness can’t be very high in this state. Additional insult would be to cross the leg over the knee as well. Yuck. How many high school band directors see this kind of bad posture?

bad posture saxophone neck strap adjusted too low

This is symptomatic of 1 or 2 problems: a neckstrap adjusted too low, and/or a music stand that must be raised.

This position puts too much pressure on the neck from the saxophone. Soreness and fatigue will set in quickly.

It does not send the airstream straight into the neck, but rather down to the bottom of the mouthpiece.

And the embouchure has unequal pressure on the lips. Together they cause a stuffy, uncontrolled tone.

bad posture saxophone neck strap hicked up too high

And here is the opposite position: Neckstrap hiked up too high. The head, being raised, will cause soreness and fatigue in the neck.

The embouchure will be too “heavy” in the lower lip, and squawking will be the result. The airstream is directed at the top of the mouthpiece, instead of straight down the neck as it should be.

The neckstrap simply needs to be lowered. The music stand might be raised too high as well.

Sometimes this position is taken by young clarinetists learning sax.

The clarinet embouchure is normally like this. That is to say, the mouthpiece takes more of a downward angle than on saxophone, so the player unconsciously recreates the same feel as when he is playing clarinet. A new “feel” needs to be taught.

bad posture saxophone head cocked to the left

Head is cocked to the left. This results when the mouthpiece is not twisted as it should be to the right. This is hard on the neck and upper back, and does not allow for good breathing.

Believe it or not, it also can cause eye strain. The eyes are not level with the lines of music on the page, and must compensate. Try sitting in your favorite chair and read a book while holding it at a 45 degree angle. See how long you last…

bad posture alto saxophone

Okay, here’s where I get in trouble with alto players. Notice the horn is between the legs. But the sax was designed to be played on the right side of the body.

What’s the proof? Look at the keys on the lower stack. Are they in front like a clarinet, or ON THE SIDE? We don’t allow clarinet students to hold their instruments on the side of their body, do we? No.

If the player is tall enough, this isn’t such a big deal. But when the student is smaller, additional problems develop due to this position.

They are addressed in the next paragraph.

bad posture saxophone between legs

I’m demonstrating playing the sax between the legs. Granted, it’s a tenor; but if I were a 10 year old kid an alto would seem as big.

Notice my right (lower) arm: it’s resting on the right thigh. We don’t allow our clarinetists to do this, do we? Why not? Because it limits the mobility and freedom of the right hand. Free technique cannot be achieved.

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