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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry if this has been posted elsewhere but I have searched the forum to no avail. If anyone can redirect me I would be appreciative.
I’m currently playing on a Berg 100/0 HR piece. I use Legere sigs predominantly. Toying around with different strength reeds, playing a 2 to 2 1/4 reed gives me great control down low - very little resistance (gliss is quite easy)- but when I want to get up into the higher notes, and louder playing, mostly the reed seems to close off. Altissimo is achievable, but there is a pay off. Playing with a harder reed 3 - 3 1/2, the reverse is true. I don’t get reed close off in the higher registers, but I would love to have that free blowing, easy low note blowing control plus high note ease using a soft reed. I reckon I’ve got good diaphragm control and can really put some air through the horn when needed. Is it a biting issue? Does going larger in tip opening solve anything? Would love the best of both worlds, is it achievable using a soft reed on this size m/p?
Would love your thoughts, Thanks
 

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A teacher of mine had this axiom, "the more work you do with the air, the less work you have to do with your embouchure". I found this mostly true in my playing. Using "breath support" which I like to call "pressurized air" and a faster air stream in the higher register makes "biting" unnecessary to make the notes speak the way you want them to. At least that is what works for me. As far as reed strength goes for me it has always been a compromise. I look for a reed soft enough to be responsive in the low register and firm enough to produce a nice sound up high.
 

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Try adjusting your neckstrap so that the horn is higher than you normally play. Find what I call the "Sweet Spot" where the horn is centered best for both low register and high register without unnecessary embouchure adjustment. Experiment adjusting the neckstap. When you get the sweet spot you can easily play low-middle-high and altissimo Bb without too much embouchure adjustment. All other notes should be no problem. Some players have comfortable high notes and then have to physically adjust to play low notes. Some players have comfortable low notes and tense up for high notes. The sweet spot keeps things more even. If your high notes need help you might be positioned for low and middle register. Bring the horn up and see if that helps. For some players a higher horn opens up the airway and lessons the contact of the reed on the lower lip closing up on high notes. In my book I call this tip "The Magic of the Neckstrap". This tip helps many sax players.
 

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You're absolutely right. There's always a trade-off between the perfect reed for high notes and the perfect reed for low notes. As you've discovered, the trick is finding that sweet spot - something that doesn't close up on high notes or is too hard to play low notes. I think using synthetics will make this effort much more difficult, as will larger openings. Larger openings are harder to play and control. Synthetic reeds are also harder to play and control. I think you should keep the mouthpiece you've got and build up your chops using real cane reeds, starting with a 2.5. Cane and practice is what it's going to take.

As you play in different ranges, there are a thousand unconscious adjustments that happen with your air, embouchure, throat, and bite. You achieve control via feedback from what you feel and hear as you play and make these adjustments to produce your ideal sound. If you play slowly and over and over, these adjustments become automatic, and you can seamlessly play any note at any moment. Start by playing long tones on each note until it is perfect. Then start doing intervals, small then work your way up to larger ones so you develop the muscle memory required to produce the perfect tone on every note without conscious effort. After you achieve good control through the full range of the horn on cane, then you can experiment with synthetics and larger openings as this will take yet another level of control to develop.
 

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Agree with mdavej. You have a reed issue, not an embouchure issue. What you are experiencing is normal. I use Legere Sigs and need to use a 2.5 to get a consistent quality tone above high C. I play a 110 mpc/D’Addario D8M. If I have to play pianissimo around low Bb or low C, I can’t do it on that set up.....I move to a different mouthpiece. Mezzo forte on the D’Addario in the low range is not a problem for me. (Of course, my mf on the sax might be someone else’s mp.)

I often (not always and not usually) play with all of my teeth off of the mouthpieces. I don’t think biting is causing me the problem.....though I could never truly rule anything out.

Only other thing that has helped me with the problem is moving to a different neck strap. The JazzLab SaxHolder helps me get a better horn position vis-a-vis air flow.

Good luck.
 

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I think we all go through a stage of working out the best reed strength and mouthpiece facing for high notes vs low notes and versatility of sound.

I started out using very hard (#4) reeds on a wide mouthpiece. My low notes sucked.

Someone suggested I try softer reeds and persevere with them by working solidly on air support, and I never looked back.

It's kind of opposite of received wisdom, people say you have to "work up to" hard reeds, well I had to "work down to" softer reeds. Honestly, people think you are bonkers but it is actually harder to get soft reeds to sound good at high pitches and levels, but the effort is worth it.

At the same as working on air support I did a lot of embouchure work, e.g. working on taking in less mouthpiece. All good stuff for huge range and dynamics.
 

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Biting is fine as long as you are only biting with the top teeth down. A lot of players anchor their teeth on the top of the mouthpiece and use a mouthpiece patch to counteract the act of biting on the effect of the condition of the mouthpiece.

Many players bite through their mouthpieces when not using a mouthpiece patch.

What you want to avoid is biting with the bottom teeth upwards. By creating more pressure with the top teeth I've found it much easier to play with a loose embouchure and get a big bright sound.

I take pride in having a very good control of my ranges. For me, learning to start notes from air sound (no actual sound except the air sound from your breath) and working into the note (a la George Garzone) has been a huge game changer in my tone and playing. This is harder to do in the low range of the horn and should require (I guess for most people) the most attention.
 

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What you want to avoid is biting with the bottom teeth upwards. By creating more pressure with the top teeth I've found it much easier to play with a loose embouchure and get a big bright sound.

I take pride in having a very good control of my ranges. For me, learning to start notes from air sound (no actual sound except the air sound from your breath) and working into the note (a la George Garzone) has been a huge game changer in my tone and playing. This is harder to do in the low range of the horn and should require (I guess for most people) the most attention.
yes, you do have good control and a very nice sound from what I've heard.

But maybe I'm basically misunderstanding because I don't see how you can bite down with your top teeth (or not). They are static in your head, only the lower teeth can actually apply force (or not) via the jaw hinge and muscles. There are then equal and opposite forces so the bite is from bot directions at once.

Or am I barking up the wrong end of the stick?
 

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yes, you do have good control and a very nice sound from what I've heard.

But maybe I'm basically misunderstanding because I don't see how you can bite down with your top teeth (or not). They are static in your head, only the lower teeth can actually apply force (or not) via the jaw hinge and muscles. There are then equal and opposite forces so the bite is from bot directions at once.

Or am I barking up the wrong end of the stick?
No, that's a good observation to take into account.

What I mean is that I use a mouthpiece patch. And I exert enough force on it to bite through it every couple of months. Before I did that I was biting from the bottom up. For me the act of biting down creates less of tendency to bite up with the bottom teeth.

When I play without exerting any force with my top teeth I need to exert force with my bottom teeth (which is bad)

Does that make sense?

And I'm always relaxed unless I don't want to be... But I am consciously making a downward pressure with my top teeth (connected to my skull) because for me it relieves the pressure of the bottom teeth from having to exert as much force on the lower lip and then I can use more air.

I'm repeating myself.

I don't play what most people would consider a light set up. But for me it plays really easily.
 

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I’m currently playing on a Berg 100/0 HR piece. I use Legere sigs predominantly. Toying around with different strength reeds, playing a 2 to 2 1/4 reed gives me great control down low - very little resistance (gliss is quite easy)- but when I want to get up into the higher notes, and louder playing, mostly the reed seems to close off. Altissimo is achievable, but there is a pay off. Playing with a harder reed 3 - 3 1/2, the reverse is true.
Try a 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 size reed. Or try some cane reeds (maybe the Legere isn't the best reed for you). But yes, it's possible you are biting when going into the upper register if the reed is closing off, so you might want to work on relaxing your embouchure a bit.

As to tip size, I don't think that is the issue in terms of the reed closing off. If you're happy with the sound you are getting on that mpc, then I wouldn't change it. However a 100 tip on a '0' baffle (highest baffle on a Berg) would likely tend toward a very bright, possibly thin, tone. Of course this is a different issue entirely than what you're asking, but I'd want at least a 120 tip with that baffle, but that's just me. ymmv
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you all for your sound advice. I've found the middle ground for me on this Berg MP is 2.5 Legeres. When I'm playing, I'm teaching myself to be aware of keeping the embouchure relatively looser upon approaching the higher register, also I've found if I take in a tiny bit more mouthpiece on these notes it appears to work for me. I understand that trying cane reeds could also benefit my situation, however I'm totally sold on the ease of slapping on a reed, then wiping it dry and back in the reed holder when its done, ready for the next time. Oh, and the consistency. Thats why I love Legeres.
 

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A teacher of mine had this axiom, "the more work you do with the air, the less work you have to do with your embouchure". I found this mostly true in my playing. Using "breath support" which I like to call "pressurized air" and a faster air stream in the higher register makes "biting" unnecessary to make the notes speak the way you want them to. At least that is what works for me. As far as reed strength goes for me it has always been a compromise. I look for a reed soft enough to be responsive in the low register and firm enough to produce a nice sound up high.
+1.

I there's a happy medium when playing.

But also I believe you should be expelling as much air as you can afford no matter what the dynamic or range.

But finding a set up that lets you do that can take a long time.
 

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One other element to consider is lip vs. jaw pressure. Jaw pressure is way more likely to close up a reed than pressure exerted by lip muscles alone (your jaw has a lot force), so you can practice high notes with a double lip embouchure. This forces you to work on those notes with only air (voicing and support) and lip muscles. You'll find practicing like that at length will help open up your upper register’s sound and improve intonation when playing normally with a single lip embouchure.
 
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