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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone,

Sorry to ask a question so soon after signing up, but I really need the help! I've been reading the forum for a long time and have always found it very helpful.

I've been playing for 8 years with some success, mostly semi professionally. A couple of years I stopped playing and switched instruments since I'm also a basssist. I'd really like to get back to sax playing but there is one big problem that keeps getting in the way.

I had some shoddy dental work done when I was a kid and it has left me with front teeth that are not completely centred with my lips. It's not particularly obvious to an observer but it does mean that the mouthpiece doesn't enter into the centre of my mouth, and hence the tongue does not evenly make contact with the reed. Coupled with that the one front tooth is imperceptibly longer than the other, which results in the mouthpiece entering at a slightly oblique angle. In summary: off centre and not horizontal.

This may seem a bit obsessional but the reason I mention this is that even though I'm happy with my playing in all areas, the thing that has always stung me is tonguing and articulation. However much I practice it I just can't tongue accurate swung eighths, which makes a lot of jazz playing very difficult, especially at higher tempos. So when I play faster tunes it ends up sounding a legato mess because my tongue can't keep up.

Another thing that maybe relevant is the choice of mouthpiece - I've been playing a meyer 5 since I started and have gradually moved up reed strengths until now I play 3.5/4. Would my problems be alleviated by a different mouthpiece? I was thinking a Selmer Super Session F with thinner reeds?

Any advice would be really highly appreciated!

Thanks,

John
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I should probably add that I play alto (Series III, with the Meyer 5 mp) and Soprano (Yanigisawa S991 with stock mouthpiece 5).

Thanks in advance for any advice!
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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There is not a need to tongue swung 8ths. Just play them legato and work on the accuracy of the timing.

HOWEVER bebop tonguing involves tonguing the notes on the "&". Is that what you mean? You will find that using bebop tonguing, it can sound "swung" even if the notes are even.

Ideally just practise at slower tempos, you tongue woill set the maximum tempo at which you can tongue evenly, and only play faster than this as you find you are are able. keep at that comfortable tempo and work really hard on the evenness of the timing. Then gradually try to do it df=faster, but never so fast that you trip up with timing.

I would recommend trying softer reeds and also not taking so much mouthpiece in. It's impossible to say whether either of those are causing a problem, but there's a very good chance the reeds are too hard.

Taking in less mouthpiece gives you more room in your mouth for your tongue to move and so can facilitate articulation.

Also have a look here:

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-articulation-tonguing.html

as well as the tone control exercise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you very much for your reply!

Sorry I was talking about Bebop tonguing, I can play legato swung 8ths. I have also been playing exercises similar to the ones you describe on your site in a structured way for a long time now, they have been part of my daily routine along with long tones, scales with different articulations etc. For example, I have been working on the exercises in the Liebman Developing Saxophone Sound book every day for about four years. My problem is essentially that I have no problem playing, for example, Confirmation at 200bpm legato, the technique and tone is there, it's just that tonguing the notes at that sort of speed has been impossible despite years of practice. That is why I have been led to the conclusion that it is either an mp problem or an essential problem with the physiognomy of the mouth.

Do you think that changing mps is going to help at all? I have always stubbornly stuck to my Meyer because I was so pleased with my tone and projection, but trying to play in the sort of well defined rhythmic style of modern altoists like Kenny Garrett and Steve Coleman is not open to me, and I have noticed that they all use more open mouthpieces. At the moment I sound like James Spaulding on the 60s Blue Note Wayne Shorter records, playing long legato lines, but in my case rather than being a stylistic choice it is a technical limitation.

Thanks again for your reply, its much appreciated.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Do you think that changing mps is going to help at all?
No, the Meyer by itself won't hinder tonguing. The thing is to get the tonguing lighter and so you need to work on legato tonguing. But, as I ssaid, there's a great chance lighter reeds and less mouthpiece taken in could help a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks very much for your reply

I was hoping that a more open mouthpiece would allow me to play lighter reeds without sacrificing the tone or general control and by extension make tonguing easier. At the moment the reeds I'm using don't seem to respond very well to light tonguing, but anything lighter and I lose tone and richness. I'm quite sure I take the correct amount of mouthpiece in, I have worked a lot on perfecting that using "The art of saxophone playing" and the Liebman book.

Nonetheless thank you very much for your advice, it's much appreciated.
 
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