Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Alto Saxophone / Free blowing alto

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User ID: 9481773
Nov 16th 2:27 PM
If you were to assign the attribute "free blowing horn" to an alto, which would it be? Are Yanis "free blowing"?
Sherry Nov 16th 3:04 PM
I think "free blowing" and alto combined make an oxymoron. It seems to be the nature of alto that it is more resistant than tenor.
User ID: 0011434
Nov 16th 3:28 PM
But within the altos, some horns are more free-blowing than others. I think that's what Claus is getting at. In this forum, horns that are praised for being free-blowing include Yanis, Mark 6 and certain Mark 7 Selmers, Cannonball, and some vintage horns like the Super-20. I don't usually hear free-blowing used to describe most Yamaha, JK and late-model Selmers (not sure about the new ref series though). Do others out there agree?
Sherry Nov 16th 4:24 PM
I have a Silver Yamaha Custom Alto, and I love the sound, but it is very resistant. To make it worse I added a Karsten Gloger neck which makes the sound more focused and which resolves some intonation issues that I had - however, it makes it even more resistant.

I used to have a YAS 52, and it was a lot more freeblowing. I've tried several of the Selmer Series II horns and I think they feel similar to the Yamaha Custom. I've tried the Selmer Series III and find it extremely resistant.

There are, as yet, no reference series Selmers. I have found the Reference Series Tenors to be very freeblowing. Similarly, my Silver Yamaha Custom Tenor is extremely freeblowing but as I said the alto is quite resistant.
Gary Hartle
User ID: 1529574
Nov 16th 4:42 PM
Selmer 'Omega' alto model 162 from the early 80s.
User ID: 9990163
Nov 16th 5:38 PM
bill kasper
User ID: 9092003
Nov 16th 5:47 PM
that's interesting, freshsax...i have a 1926 conn chu with a fresh overhaul and a 1943 king zephyr with a fresh overhaul. the chu has far more resistance than the zephyr, which i find to be very easy blowing.
User ID: 9990163
Nov 16th 5:54 PM
Reason is that I haven't tried zephyr yet. My gold plated Chu is the best free blowing I've tried.
User ID: 0317884
Nov 16th 6:01 PM
My chu is more free blowing than my yani and several selmers, yamahas I have tried. Can't comment on other horns, but the keilwerth st90s are pretty free blowing on tenor, so I figure alto too?
User ID: 7705853
Nov 16th 6:05 PM
selmer signet or buescher400 (3rd generation) suprizingly this is the most responseive and free blowing alto i ever played
Rich H
User ID: 1676554
Nov 16th 10:39 PM
Thank you Claus for bringing up this subject.

I've seen this term "free blowing" thrown around a lot, often in the context of describing a desirable quality in a horn.

I would pose the question are the free blowing horns the most desirable or is there some advantage to having some resistance to the air flow?

I have a YAS 61 and there is a definite feeling of ressistance compared to my other horns. I don't see it as a negative feature however. It affords me a certain level of greater control and focus particularly when pushed in the higher register. I would use as an analogy the idea of a weighted line in a fly rod allowing one to whip and arc with precision, or maybe the edge of a ski carving it's way through snow or water. You need just the right amount of resistance to get in the groove.

My Conn 6M on the other hand seems to have very little resistance. The feel can be described as very smooth, slippery, silky or buttery. It plays particulary easy in the low register and maintains good tone color when played softly. It's wonderful for ballads,has luscious tone, but I can't manhandle it like the yamaha.

I think maybe free blowing vs resistance may share the same kind of dichotomy that "dark" and "bright" do. Where you choose to be on the spectrum is a matter of individual taste and musical style.
User ID: 9481773
Nov 17th 8:24 AM

thanks for this new thought. So far, I had thought of the term "free blowing" as something desirable in a horn. My problem is that I have little chance of comparing different horns.

Actually, I was looking for something that fits your description of your Conn 6M, but maybe a little more resistance can have its advantages, too.
User ID: 0784604
Nov 17th 9:40 AM
I don't think "free blowing" is always desirable. I do think it can feel good to play a freeblowing horn. But I know that my Yamaha alto is less freeblowing and more resistant with the new Karsten Gloger neck than it was with the Yamaha neck, but it has more focus and better intonation too. I'm willing to live with the trade off (although I don't think focus or intonation are necessarily lost when a horn is more freeblowing).

I've read a lot of discussion on a flute mailing list. Many people there feel that freeblowing is a good quality for a beginner, but advanced flute players often seek out a headjoint or mouth riser cut that will be more resistant.

I also think that mouthpiece has a lot to do with it. I've been playing alto with an SR Legend that was similar to a Meyer 6. Recent I switched to an SR L 85 which is more like a Meyer 7 and it is more freeblowing with that mouthpiece. (When I was a beginner more open mouthpieces seemed to create more resistance but as my embouchure has strengthened they seem to allow for more air to easily enter the horn and feel more "freeblowing".)
Randy M. Nov 17th 4:06 PM
Add to the resistance discussion, that finding a balance of horn/mps/reed that plays the whole horn (all registers) with a pretty even resistance is certainly enjoyable, but tricky to find and maintain.
Mike R.
User ID: 0944964
Nov 17th 10:04 PM
The King Super 20s were very free-blowing, both alto and tenor.
Rich H
User ID: 1676554
Nov 18th 3:39 AM
The most free blowing horns I've owned or played include a variety of pre war conns (actually the best of the bunch was a pre Chu Conn from the early 1920's) , both King Zephyr and King Super 20 , and probably the best ever was a gold plated Martin Handcraft 1920's vintage (tenor).

I used to own a Yani 880. It was a nice playing horn, but I wouldn't describe it as particularly free blowing .
User ID: 0784604
Nov 28th 10:55 AM
I just got a used Yani 991, and it's very freeblowing - which surprised me since I tend to think altos are resistant. Also, I recently tried a Pierre Maure that looks to be a Keilwerth stencil and it was also quite freeblowing.

I took the 991 to play in a stage band where I normally play my Yamaha custom. The weird thing is that even though the 991 seemed really easy to play, and the freeblowing quality seemed great in my living room, I felt that the custom was "easier" to play in the band. The reason seemed to me to be that the resistance made it easier for me to play at a range of volumes and to blend easier. On the Yani I was having a hard time playing softer volumes and also had a tendancy to wail too hard on the high notes. My thinking though is that it's a subtle matter of adjusting to the horn. I'm not planning to replace the custom, I was looking for a less expensive backup.

So here's an example of my experiencing as horn as free blowing (which feeling I liked) but that quality not necessarily being a good thing.
User ID: 9077913
Nov 28th 6:55 PM
When my son started playing I bought him an inexpensive beginner horn, a Belmonte, specifically because it was very free blowing. He started fairly young, at 8, and he has asthma. IHestarted him out doing mouthpiece exercises, then got him the Belmonte, which he had no trouble playing. Periodically I let him try my YAS-875 and he has difficulty playing this horn because it has much greater resistance.
User ID: 9077913
Nov 28th 6:56 PM
When my son started playing I bought him an inexpensive beginner horn, a Belmonte, specifically because it was very free blowing. He started fairly young, at 8, and he has asthma. I started him out doing mouthpiece exercises, then got him the Belmonte, which he had no trouble playing. Periodically I let him try my YAS-875 and he has difficulty playing this horn because it has much greater resistance.
User ID: 0617234
Nov 29th 8:06 AM
I'm agreeing with what I hear Rich, Sherry saying (and of course Randy). Resistance is neither good nor bad, but personal. More important, as Randy said, is the fact that resistance is consistant through the whole horn. For my taste, some resistance is good. The feeling of a little back pressure in the instrument helps in maintaining control over tone voicing, and particularly vibrato as well.

I also had a similar experience to Sherry's. When I was waiting for my YAS 875 silver alto to come in (oredered overseas), during the delay I purchased a 62 that I could later resell so I would not be without a good alto. I loved the 62. I even considered keeping it instead of the 875. It was 'free blowing' and responded so very quickly. But than after taking it to a real live performance situation, there was no question to me about the limitations of the less resistant horn, dynamically speaking. It would 'limit out' on the air volume it would accept, much quicker. All of this Im sure can be compensated for to some degree with time, airstream, practice, getting used to, mouthpiece / reed combination, etc. But I was very glad when my 875 arrived, and had a little resistance back. More dimensions to the expressivity, IMHO.

Dont forget though, that resistance is only one component among so many characteristics that ALL play together. Its very hard to single out just one component, and discuss its value individually, without knowing how it relates to all the rest.
Cheers, Brian
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