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I'm in high school, and it's my first year playing the sax. That might be why. I got a new mouthpiece (Rico alto 3c) and ligature (Rovner dark 1rl). I'm having more issues than I used to, and I can make low notes with a rolled lower lip. The problem is, when I use the lower lip embouchure, my cheeks start feeling like death after a few bars. The reason I chose the Rico mpc instead of a Yamaha 4c, which is a good beginner piece, is that I play Rico reeds. The reeds and mouthpiece are the same brand, so I thought they'd match up well. I guess not. If it helps, I use a Selmer AS400 Alto.
 

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The reason I chose the Rico mpc instead of a Yamaha 4c, which is a good beginner piece, is that I play Rico reeds. The reeds and mouthpiece are the same brand, so I thought they'd match up well. I guess not. If it helps, I use a Selmer AS400 Alto.
Sorry, it doesn't work like that. My guess as to why your cheeks hurt is that you have switched from a mouthpiece with a .063" tip opening to one with a .070" tip opening. Reeds that played comfortably on the Yamaha are going to feel harder and have more resistance on the Rico. My advice would be to stick with the Yamaha 4C for a while until your tone production is more established. A good exercise that helps to play the low notes is to play a G with a big full tone, and quickly slur down to low C without relaxing the embouchure. When the low C sounds, hold it as a long tone for as long as you can. Do this repeatedly. Once you have learned the "taste" of a low C, then practice starting on that note. Keeping the throat open (like the first part of a yawn) and blowing lots of air helps. The attached file contains an article by Bruce Pearson that has some information that may be helpful.
 

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You are saying the Rico 3C mouthpiece is a .070 and the Yamaha 4C is a .063? Doesn't that seem backwards?
 

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I'm in high school, and it's my first year playing the sax. That might be why. I got a new mouthpiece (Rico alto 3c) and ligature (Rovner dark 1rl). I'm having more issues than I used to, and I can make low notes with a rolled lower lip. The problem is, when I use the lower lip embouchure, my cheeks start feeling like death after a few bars. The reason I chose the Rico mpc instead of a Yamaha 4c, which is a good beginner piece, is that I play Rico reeds. The reeds and mouthpiece are the same brand, so I thought they'd match up well. I guess not. If it helps, I use a Selmer AS400 Alto.
Nick. I think that this is normal stuff for a beginner. I’ve been playing for nearly 3 years at 60 to 90 minutes per day, and my embouchure is still developing. A few notes for the future.

1) Assuming Saxoclese specifications are correct, the 0.070 tip opening on on the Rico is going to most likely help you play louder. That will probably be helpful in the future, so it was probably a good purchase if you plan to stay with band.

2). Changing mouthpieces to a larger tip opening is always hard on your mouth. Not much you can do but play it every day. In a couple of weeks you will get used to it. (You will feel better if you go back to the 4C, but you won’t get used to the new mouthpiece unless you play the RICO).

3). Changing ligatures can also a big deal, not just the mouthpiece. I ended up switching to a Rovner when I was fairly new. I recall it taking a lot more lip control to have it function well. (I needed to develop better air support too!). This could be causing embouchure pain, not just the new mouthpiece. In the end the Rovner mellowed out the sound of the mouthpieces. (Helps control brightness.....which can be an issue on beginner mouthpieces). I seem to remember it taking men 4 to 6 weeks to get used to my Rovner when I first got.....and I did not change mouthpieces simultaneously.

You might want to take the interim step of playing the Rico 3C mouthpiece with your old ligature....and then after you get used to that, add the Rovner.....take the adjustments one at a time, rather than all at once.

Good Luck!
 

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I dont think a larger tip is necessarily louder. Those old legends playing in the 30s and 40s on what are now 3 or 4 size tip openings didnt lack in volume to fill a ballroom without amplification

Besides, louder isnt necessarily better anyway. How often does a band director say "Now saxes, if you could only play that ff section a bit louder"? NEVER HAPPENS. Always its "Could you guys blend a bit softer in the background" isnt it;)

As others have said here, if the original poster has stepped up from a 0.063 to a 0.070 tip on the same reeds, then there is going to be a period of adjustment and reflection. Its weird that the dAdarrio / Rico website gives no clues of its own of the facings on their pieces.

Im not sure what advantage there is if any of a Graftonite over a 4C, but Im not sure we actally know what AltoNick was playing before the graftonite. Chances are though that it was smaller than 0.070"

In any case a simple short term fix is go down a reed strength, or sand your existing reeds a little to help them deal with the larger tip opening. (The ATG reed adjustment system is a great tool for this sort of thing)
 

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Not being able to produce low notes well seems a normal part of being a beginner to me. But playing the saxophone shouldn't normally be painful. It wouldn't be a bad idea to check in with your teacher about this and to make sure you're not doing something wrong with your embouchure. Assuming that's not the case, I would be inclined to do whatever you need to do--return to your old mouthpiece, or go down a size or two in reeds--in order to lessen the pain and allow you to continue playing. The more you practice, the better ability you will have to play in the lowest (and highest) range of the instrument, and hopefully, the discomfort will go away as the muscles in your embouchure get stronger.
 

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I'm in high school, and it's my first year playing the sax. That might be why. I got a new mouthpiece (Rico alto 3c) and ligature (Rovner dark 1rl). I'm having more issues than I used to, and I can make low notes with a rolled lower lip. The problem is, when I use the lower lip embouchure, my cheeks start feeling like death after a few bars. The reason I chose the Rico mpc instead of a Yamaha 4c, which is a good beginner piece, is that I play Rico reeds. The reeds and mouthpiece are the same brand, so I thought they'd match up well. I guess not. If it helps, I use a Selmer AS400 Alto.
I don't see that anyone has addressed this yet: Are your cheeks puffed out like a balloon?

If so, that is likely causing the discomfort - it is also fighting your embouchure. See a woodwind (not brasswind) teacher that plays single reeds (not just flute, oboe, or bassoon) to get a fundamental lesson regarding embouchure and air support.
 

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I don't see that anyone has addressed this yet: Are your cheeks puffed out like a balloon?

If so, that is likely causing the discomfort - it is also fighting your embouchure. See a woodwind (not brasswind) teacher that plays single reeds (not just flute, oboe, or bassoon) to get a fundamental lesson regarding embouchure and air support.
Good point. It is challenging for even experienced teachers and players to offer meaningful advice and suggestions without actually seeing and hearing a student play the instrument. Perhaps the best response would be: "Post a video with sound showing a closeup side view of your embouchure as you play and we'll get back to you". ;)
 

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I suspect that the reason it wasnt addressed was that the discomfort appears to be a new thing that has coincided with the change to the new mouthpiece...
 

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As others have said here, if the original poster has stepped up from a 0.063 to a 0.070 tip on the same reeds, then there is going to be a period of adjustment and reflection. Its weird that the dAdarrio / Rico website gives no clues of its own of the facings on their pieces.
D'Addario's website is terrible. Unlimited bandwidth for providing product details and specifications, but they serve up mostly white space.
 

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D'Addario's website is terrible. Unlimited bandwidth for providing product details and specifications, but they serve up mostly white space.
Its possible that if they gave specs for tip openings, consumers may have some expectation that the supplied product might meet them. This is apparently an ongoing issue for Selmer and Babbitt , so maybe d'Addario are onto something here:)
(I have no idea how consistent (or otherwise) Grafronites are, but no one is talking them up for consistency in the way that Yamaha 4Cs and various VanDorens are on the "interwebs")
 

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Over the many years I've been playing the sax, I've experimented with a wide variety of reeds & mpcs, some more difficult to play than others. But in all those years I've never, ever had any hint of pain in the sides of my cheeks. Even on occasions where I've played several long gigs over a short period of time. So I doubt very much this is an equipment issue (it's certainly not the ligature!!); more likely an embouchure problem. Something odd is going on and I would suggest discussing this with your teacher if you have one. If you don't, try to find a teacher who can deal with it in person.

By the way, what do you mean by a "lower lip embouchure?"
 

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I'm in high school, and it's my first year playing the sax. That might be why. I got a new mouthpiece (Rico alto 3c) and ligature (Rovner dark 1rl). I'm having more issues than I used to, and I can make low notes with a rolled lower lip. The problem is, when I use the lower lip embouchure, my cheeks start feeling like death after a few bars. The reason I chose the Rico mpc instead of a Yamaha 4c, which is a good beginner piece, is that I play Rico reeds. The reeds and mouthpiece are the same brand, so I thought they'd match up well. I guess not. If it helps, I use a Selmer AS400 Alto.
I suspect that the reason it wasnt addressed was that the discomfort appears to be a new thing that has coincided with the change to the new mouthpiece...
We don't know how long he was on the original mouthpiece. Given this is the first year of playing the sax in school, and that we're only ~5 months into the school year, that's not a lot of experience.
 

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1) Drop the reed strength on the RICO by at least .5. Maybe loosen up the embouchure a touch, and make sure to push the air all the way through the horn. Support is vital for low notes.

2) Make sure the neck strap is adjusted so that the mouthpiece goes straight into your mouth. No excessive pressure on the top teeth, no lifting up with the thumb.

3) If all else fails, get the horn checked by a reputable tech. And maybe a few lessons with a saxophone specific instructor.
 

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Okay, I guess I'll address the elephant in the room. To the O/P......are you taking lessons from a COMPETENT saxophone player? If not, do so......NOW.
 

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OP, are you playing a Rico Graftonite 3C mouthpiece? Not really a beginner mouthpiece. Not only is the tip size bigger as everyone has pointed out, but it has what is called a high baffle to give it a brighter sound, which can be harder to control. Go back to the Yamaha 4C and get good at that first.

I'm surprised your band director hasn't noticed that your sound doesn't blend with anyone else using that Graftonite C3.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks all, a few more details: I chose the 3C because it's supposed to be a bit quieter than other mouthpieces and the saxophone section is VERY loud. I don't puff my cheeks out and I can't afford private lessons, however I was taught by an excellent player in my band. I didn't have a Yamaha 4C, I had a low-quality stock piece. The lig is darker and the mpc is better than stock for sure. I'll take all into consideration, thanks for all your help.
 
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