Excess Moisture

Music Essays

Sax Zen

Clean your Sax

Dealing with excessive moisture

Optimal Reed Installation

Légère Reeds

Writing Intros

Beginning Improvisation

Akai EWI4000s Links

My Favorite Music

Introduction to MMA

MMA Grooves

Practice with MMA

So, here you are: playing a wonderful tune! And, then the water starts to drip from the mouthpiece all over your hands, music and clothing. Yuck!!!! I'll try to address the problem and a few possible solutions.

First off, please note that all this “moisture” is perfectly normal. Our sisters and brothers playing trumpet and other brass instruments even have “spit” valves on their horns (and they disgustingly dump that out on the floor in front of them. More yuck!). This moisture is just a natural by-product of breathing. Air goes though the lungs and picks up moisture and expels it. We all do it. Next this moisture condenses on the cooler metal parts of our instruments. Not too much we can do to stop that ... it's just physics. And, it's not “spit” that we are blowing out! Repeat after me “it is moisture”.

For most sax players, this moisture or condensation is not an issue. It goes though the mouthpiece and slowly condenses on the inside of the horn where it dribbles down the inside and gathers in the bell. And, if you play a nice straight soprano, it just goes out into the big wide world never to be seen again. But, sometimes it's not all love and kisses. Sometimes it becomes an complete and ugly pain ... the dreaded case of excess moisture! It dribbles out of the mouthpiece or, worse, the sides of the player's mouth. What to do?

In my playing I've found a few partial solutions.

  • Before playing rinse your mouth with a mouthwash containing alcohol. The alcohol has an tendency to dry out the mouth.

  • Keep your reed wet. I have no idea why this works, but I've found that when I play with a dry reed I produce (and dribble) more moisture than if my reed has been pre-conditioned.

  • Mouth Breathe. This is probably the number one solution! When you open your mouth to breathe, the incoming air dries out your mouth. Breathing though your nose might be quicker when you have lots of notes, but you'll be expelling lots more moisture.

  • Posture. Make sure you are holding the saxophone in a good position. Pay particular attention to the angle at which the mouthpiece enters your mouth. Lots of images on the web for this, but the bottom line is that you need a comfortable position without needing to twist your neck.

  • Swallow! As you play you'll probably feel moisture accumulating in your mouth. Make it habit to swallow! If you don't, guess where that water is going?

  • Biting too hard. You are not trying to prevent someone from stealing your horn! Just use enough pressure to keep a seal.

  • Fix any dental issues. If you have a loose, infected or uneven tooth, especially where you grab the mouthpiece, you may be creating lots of problems. See a dentist and have it looked after. Life is too damn short to live with dental problems!

  • Have a doctor check your saliva glands. Excessive mouth moisture could be a sign of other problems. Get yourself checked!
Got another solution? Let me know.
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