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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out tip opening/reed strength that will be compatible from horn to horn, particularly alto/tenor since I spend about an equal amount of time playing both. I’ve found it to be kind of a challenge, curious what others have found. I have a couple of mpcs for tenor that I would likely play all the time if I only played tenor, but they put you into a zone with how you have to voice/direct the airstream that going to or coming from alto feels jarring. It’s been trial and error to find a solution. What’s your take?
 

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Yeah, I think my setups on clar, sop, alto and tenor are pretty "compatible". I play an old Brilhart Artie Shaw model clarinet 'piece opened up to a .065 (pretty huge for clarinet standards) and a Legere Classic 3. Sop. is a HR Link 7* with LaVoz Hard. Alto, a Theo Wanne NY Bros 7 with LaVoz Hard and tenor is a Sakshama "Shorty" (Dukoff Stubby copy) 7* (.105) with LaVoz Hard. I believe in putting a lot of air through the horn and these setups allow me to do so. I think you can find some comfort/comparison between different horns with the combination of slightly different reed hardness combinations just as much as changing mouthpiece sizes. Just yesterday I broke out a couple of new tenor reeds and as usual, they vary quite a bit (too much sometimes) in stiffness, even from the same damn box! While I like the feel of the slightly softer ones (probably more in the Med Hard range), I tend to close them off quite easily and they simply don't give me the resistance I like. I clipped both of them just the smallest bit and found the sweet spot for me. Not too stiff/hard/stuffy, yet retain the edge and brightness as well as the resistance I want. It's all about experimenting.......yet incredibly frustrating because that experimenting sometimes leads to more questions than answers! So never mind what I just typed. ;-)

John
 

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In my view you have to give each instrument what it wants without regard to mouthpiece size, shape or facing. What happens is you get used to each one with a particular mouthpiece, so even when doubling everything feels/plays as expected. For example, I will go from a Guardala on tenor to a Level Air on baritone to a hard rubber 'Missing Link' on soprano - the embouchure is very flexible. The different reed instruments are so different in playing characteristics that attempting to 'equalize' them in some fashion is not practical or even possible, so you go with what makes each one work for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
In my view you have to give each instrument what it wants without regard to mouthpiece size, shape or facing. What happens is you get used to each one with a particular mouthpiece, so even when doubling everything feels/plays as expected. For example, I will go from a Guardala on tenor to a Level Air on baritone to a hard rubber 'Missing Link' on soprano - the embouchure is very flexible. The different reed instruments are so different in playing characteristics that attempting to 'equalize' them in some fashion is not practical or even possible, so you go with what makes each one work for you.

I agree! It does seem this way for me as well.
 

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In my view you have to give each instrument what it wants without regard to mouthpiece size, shape or facing. What happens is you get used to each one with a particular mouthpiece, so even when doubling everything feels/plays as expected. For example, I will go from a Guardala on tenor to a Level Air on baritone to a hard rubber 'Missing Link' on soprano - the embouchure is very flexible. The different reed instruments are so different in playing characteristics that attempting to 'equalize' them in some fashion is not practical or even possible, so you go with what makes each one work for you.
I don't have any kind of "philosophy" or overarching principle in selecting mouthpieces, so I could have ended up like the above, but what has actually happened is that I like a lot of similar things on all saxophones; so I have ended up playing Meyer 7 on alto, Meyer 8 on tenor and Meyer 8 (with a small wedge) on baritone. I didn't set out for this to happen, but after playing a lot of mouthpieces on each, these are the ones I have ended up settling on as my main pieces.

I also use mouthpieces on soprano and bass that aren't drastically all that different.

So, because you are the constant in all this (keeping in mind that what 1saxman says is true, the embouchure and your brain are highly flexible), you might very well end up with similar preferences on multiple horns, whether or not you expect that result.
 

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My take on this is, treat each horn like you want it to sound and it doesn’t matter about tip openings, reed sizes etc, being similar with the two.

You may like a Paul Desmond vibe on alto and prefer a small tip opening to get that vibe, but on tenor you may love Lockjaw and prefer a big tip opening to help get that vibe.

I find that the guys who really want very similar set ups are usually guys who play in the pits and are switching off from one instrument to the other quite often. They want something that feels similar in the mouth and feels similar with the blow.
 

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Yeah, I match the mouthpiece to the horn and don't keep boundaries on same whether it's from soprano to alto to tenor, or even tenor to tenor. Like when I was going back and forth between two tenors; a Conn and a King. I used different mouthpieces for each one, favoring a rollover baffle for the Conn and a high baffle for the King. And not surprisingly, I sounded like me on both.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
My show playing has informed my choices, for sure. But that ends up being a show by show basis anyhow for what mouthpiece works best. I thought it was interesting on Bob Reynold's vlog where he mentioned his alto set up is a small tip with hard reeds, but his tenor is a pretty open link (9?) with also harder reeds. Good example of just finding something that gives you the sound and resistance feel you are looking for. For me, I think its a little more open tip on tenor but slightly smaller on alto, contrary to what I had thought for quite a while, which was open tip on tenor=open tip on alto....
There is a physical shape thing too, I do find it a little easier to switch back to tenor after playing alto with a smaller profile mouthpiece on tenor . Or when doubling on each horn on the same gig.
 

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out tip opening/reed strength that will be compatible from horn to horn, particularly alto/tenor since I spend about an equal amount of time playing both. I’ve found it to be kind of a challenge, curious what others have found. I have a couple of mpcs for tenor that I would likely play all the time if I only played tenor, but they put you into a zone with how you have to voice/direct the airstream that going to or coming from alto feels jarring. It’s been trial and error to find a solution. What’s your take?
I said something in another mouthpiece thread (https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?231812-Vandoren-Optimum-SL5) that is directly applicable here: "I do like the sound of the SL5, but I'll probably end up selling mine. The feel of its short facing is just too much of an outlier for me. Out of all the setups I use on alto, tenor, soprano, and clarinet, only the SL5 (with virtually any reed) generates this kind of resistance. If I played soprano exclusively, I might put in the time to make it work, but as a doubler I want to be able to move from one horn to another seamlessly."
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Also, I have found even though I have wanted to play all the same brand mpc on every horn, I have found my favorites to be different brand/model on each horn. But I still think in my head that it should work the other way! Ha.
 

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I am in the camp of making each horn work its best, rather than trying to make all the same.

If you are talking pit work, or ensemble doubling, what do you do when you address the clarinet or flute families? Do you try to extend the sameness concept to all your instruments? Do you even want your flute to feel the same as your sop? How does that influence the character of sound that you get with each horn?

I WANT each horn to be its own voice, else why switch horns?
 

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The different reed instruments are so different in playing characteristics that attempting to 'equalize' them in some fashion is not practical or even possible, so you go with what makes each one work for you.
+1. That's the bottom line. You have to treat them almost as different instruments.

I rarely play my alto anymore, mostly because I prefer the tenor and have no good reason to switch back and forth. So I don't have to worry about it now. But when I played more alto I didn't try to use a mpc that somehow matched the tenor mpc I was using. Even if you could somehow do that, which I doubt, there would still be a significant adjustment to make going from one to the other.
 

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By your definition, no my pieces are not "compatible."

But they're different horns, they're going to take a *bit* of time to adjust to. I did not seek similar mpcs on all my horns, I sought pieces that I liked on each. But It always throws me to a loop for a bit when I switch...because they're different.

Find something you like on the horn, then practice switching. No need to try to make everything the same. Enjoy the differences!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I am in the camp of making each horn work its best, rather than trying to make all the same.

If you are talking pit work, or ensemble doubling, what do you do when you address the clarinet or flute families? Do you try to extend the sameness concept to all your instruments? Do you even want your flute to feel the same as your sop? How does that influence the character of sound that you get with each horn?


I WANT each horn to be its own voice, else why switch horns?


I think you might be taking this point a bit too far, indeed each horn has its own voice. I talking compatible meaning in feel and ease of play, in fact kind of my point was that this means they aren’t similar in specs but the result is the best to come back easily to. On the doubles for shows, it’s obvious what parameters I’m dealing with; I want the flute to sound like a flute and clarinet like a clarinet! Whatever gets me to that point!
 

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I love my Ted Klum Focustone Acoustimax on alto, so after getting my first tenor, bought a discounted Ted Klum Focustone Acoustimer at my LMS, and it's great too. But for some tunes or moods, I'll swap out a Selmer Super Session (alto), Metalite (alto), or Berg (tenor).
 

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If you are trying to have the same facility on each instrument there is nothing more important. All of my saxophone mouthpieces respond generally the same. I run through a series of exercises that exploit how well my setup moves from large to small intervals including altissimo. I check flexibility and intonation. I can live with a piece that may not be sonically exactly what I'm looking for if it responds how I'd like it to. If I can't execute the same thing on each instrument it's back to the work bench. Keeps me employable as a saxophonist.
 

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Yeah, I get that, but it means you have to start at step one for each horn and try possibly dozens of combinations looking for what works for you. An expensive proposition. I think we all wish there was a way to take what works on an alto for us and at least approximate what we should try on tenor, soprano or bari. Narrow it down at least.
 

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I agree with 1Saxman -- just try out different setups on each horn until it feels right. Having said that, I've found that Berg Larsen Stainless mpc. stay fairly consistent over the spectrum, though you do have to find the right facing for your needs. The nice thing about bergs is that they go up and down in very small increments, so if you can find a place to demo them, you can really focus in on what feels best. There are some companies that let you put up to 3 mpc at a time on a card, try them for a month, and send back the ones that didn't work. I knew someone who went through that process for well over 9 months, but the result was a very happy sax player.

I use a Berg 90/3 on alto, a Berg 115/3 on tenor, and Berg 130/3 on bari. The #3 chamber allows me to use a much softer reed and still get some darkness and partials in my tone, due to the turbulence created in the larger chamber. I typically play with a Rico Plasticover 1.5, and a Rovner Lite ligature.
 
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