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Hi there,

I started playing saxophone last year as an adult. The one thing that I find really hard is to get used to my mouthpiece. I have a beautiful Martin Alto which came with a Martin * (one star) mouthpiece. After struggling tremendously with it I got myself a Rico Graftonite B5 mouthpiece. At first it didn't seem to work because the Martin ligature couldn't hold the reed properly. I then got myself a Rovner ligature, which works better. But I'm still finding it hard to hit the high notes in the 3rd register (D#, E, F). I'm not even trying altisimmo.

By pure luck I got myself a tenor, almost by accident. It was so cheap, I couldn't resist. The octave key was not properly hooked in and the guy sold it thinking it was no good. A 3 minute fix got it playing. But this added to my struggles (I think). It came with a brand-less mouthpiece, which I believe is usually crap. But it's so easy to blow. I can hit those same high notes without really trying hard. But I seem to overblow the low notes and have to adjust to blowing softly into it. And after playing tenor I find it hard to go back to Alto.

Could it perhaps be that I got so used to have to blow the hell out of the instrument that I'm overblowing when I get to the tenor? What I really want to know, should the 2 instruments be so different? And is there an easy solution like buying a different mouthpiece for the one which will feel closer to the other?

Thanks for the time to answer.

Amanda
 

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Hi Amanda,
Here is my 2 cents and sorry if you all ready know this stuff....

First of all, given your limited experience, expectations of Altissimo are way too early. Unless you are a natural you will not achieve good altissimo for a long time regardless of your mouthpiece. Consider it a study once you have mastered bottom Bb to high F sharp being able to pick any note at ease.

Second, regarding the alto mouthpieces. You don't need to spend a whole load of money getting a mouthpiece that will allow you to navigate the whole range of the instrument and at risk of being opinionated I do think there are better pieces for you at your stage. I'm not talking boutique, just something less quirky in design or in the case of the martin, tip opening.
A few from my own journey path are Yamaha 5C, Meyer medium chamber in a 5 or 6 tip opening and Vandoren Java A45. These and many others are quite standard pieces that will go from bottom Bb to decent altissimo notes but more importantly no quirky bells and whistles about them so they offer some kind of user friendliness in a neutral sort of way (hope you understand what i'm trying to say there?).
A good fitting ligature regardless of design should really not do much more than simply hold the reed on securely. It should not be a key fact in what notes you can achieve. Sure there are preferences to be considered later on down the line but you got to get a foot hold before you bother about such things.
Finding a consistant way to set the reed up on the table in relation to side rails and tip where it works for you should be the goal here.

Thirdly, swapping between Alto and Tenor is quite a massive thing at first and it doesn't sound like its helping you too much at all.
The difference between the two instruments becomes less challenging in time but your problems shooting between them are natural and common in early days.

All in all I'd say concentrate on only one or the other until you are satisfied you have got past the unpredictable issues such as notes not sounding or squeaks if you are getting them and that you have a fairly even command though out the range. Only then try to apply and transfer this to the other horn/set up.

Same thing applies with a mouthpiece on tenor, only probably more difficult to choose. Less branded? so what if you are getting on with it OK? I'd only stress you don't go to extremes to start with (maybe a 6 or 7 tip opening with a roll over baffle is a nice starting place).

I take it your reed strength isn't making things too hard? maybe 2 but initially no higher than 2.5 in most makes?
Tenor pieces is a minefield but plenty of good ones without breaking the bank.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi Saxlicker,

Thanks so much for the help. I understand what you are saying.

I do love my alto, but was puzzled at why the tenor is so much easier to blow and was questioning my alto setup. I will stick with alto for a good while and will try to get an Yamaha 5C at some stage as you've suggested.

As far as reeds go, I play 2, but have an 1.5 and a few 2.5's. I've tried those with the Rico mpc, but found the 2 the best for me at this stage. The 1.5 seems to soft (I'm squeezing it too easily creating the squeaks you've mentioned). The 2.5 is too hard to blow even for the middle range notes.

Only reason I got the Rovner ligature is because the Martin one did not hold the reed properly in place on the Rico mpc. It couldn't go any smaller to properly grasp the reed. I'm quite happy with the Rovner though. Easy to use and doesn't scratch the mpc.

I have one further question though. You said "in the case of the Martin, tip opening". Why is this? What makes the Martin different? Is it really a good horn to start off with? I have a 1959 model, which wasn't the best of years for Martin back in the day. I love it though. It's in an excellent condition. If you were to ask me, I think someone bought it back then, tried it, gave up on it and left it at the back of the closet for 50+ years. I'm not really keen on getting something else. I'm just wondering about your statement.

Thanks again for the help.
 

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He's talking about the tip opening on the Martin mouthpiece, not the horn. A bigger mouthpiece tip opening gives a more spread, flexible sound, but is not recommended for beginners. My $.02 is the tenor mpc seems to be working for you, mostly, for whatever reason. Getting the bottom notes to sound on tenor is probably a matter of air support, based on what you wrote. The challenge is to find the same setup on alto, one that stays out of your way and lets you play with relative ease. Forget about brand names. Find an easy blower and then focus on your relationship to the instrument, to gear. ANd, yes, pick one horn and focus on that at first. The one you find easiest to play and sound best on. Good luck.
 

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He's talking about the tip opening on the Martin mouthpiece, not the horn.
Yes thats right.
I am not familiar with the Martin numbering for tip sizes but I surmised a 1* to be very small.
Rovners are fine and clearly you needed something different for the Rico piece.
Good to see you are answering your own questions on reed strength.
 
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