How to Make an Alto Sax Growl

Learning to growl on the alto sax is a technique that all jazz sax players should learn. A jazz alto sax player that doesn't know how to growl will likely not have the same job opportunities as a proficient growler. The technique itself can be completed fairly simple. However, as with all things, you can become an expert at this technique and improve the tone quality and dynamic level with consistent practice.

Step 1 Play a D in the middle of the staff on the alto saxophone and hold the pitch out. This will be your drone pitch that you set against another pitch to growl with.

Step 2 Sing a pitch, while simultaneously playing, that is very close to the D while playing. This takes some practice, which is why you are starting on a lower, easier note. Avoid the tendency to hum instead of sing. Humming will not provide the strength of tone necessary to create a growl.

Step 3 Experiment with the pitch of the sung tone until you get a nice clash between the two notes that sounds like a growl. If you know how to sing and you have a good ear, try and sing a half step above the note played. If not, use your judgment and listen to the tone to decide what pitches work best.

Step 4 Growl on a high D to get used to growling in the higher registers. This is more complicated since you have to use your falsetto register if you are a man to sing this high. If you are a woman, you will be using your whistle register. To reach this register you must practice singing with a small amount of air in the highest register. This will make the vocal cords vibrate only on the outside edges and produce a higher pitch.


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