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Discussion Starter #1
Hey -

I've been wondering - is there a correlation between how much mouthpiece you take in and the pitch (intonation)? I've been trying to take in more mouthpiece the last week or two. It seems like If I take in more, I'm sharper, and if I take less, the pitch is flatter. I'm wondering if this is normal, or maybe I'm imagining it? Or maybe I'm doing something different when I take in more, which is making it a bit sharper, like adding some pressure or perhaps a different tongue position or something.

Thoughts?
 

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You're the one to know. Do what works for you.
 

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I'm no expert but usually it is the other way around, when taking less mpc some players tend to "bite" more as you can exerce more pressure on the reed easily (and then playing sharper).
 

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I'm no expert but usually it is the other way around, when taking less mpc some players tend to "bite" more as you can exerce more pressure on the reed easily (and then playing sharper).
Yes, This is what usually happens.
When you take in enough mouthpiece you can’t really bite it closed (sharper) because you’re past the break in the curve. Plus it causes the embouchure to loosen naturally because of the more open/ relaxed jaw position. You know, eventually, when you decide if you need to go down a reed size now that you’re not biting a size off your tip opening.
 

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Essentially anything you change with the mouthpiece, reed or embouchure affects pitch. It is for this reason that you see many pro players with the mouthpiece pushed way in - they are using a looser embouchure with more lower lip out so the tendency is to go more flat. I have tended to take less mouthpiece in the last 30 years and no longer wonder why or how to fix it. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
thanks. yeah i decided to go down to 2.5 java greens. seems to be working better with more mouthpiece than a harder reed and less mouthpiece. still adjusting though.

i actually am usually flat, even w the mouthpiece pushed all the way in. i think i need to use some lip pressure to bring it up to pitch. it seems to be better w more mouthpiece though. not really sure whats going on haha.
 

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You can get a better idea of this by playing on the mouthpiece alone. It then becomes quite apparent what affect on pitch different types of embouchure will have. What I found for myself was that changes in lip pressure or how much mouthpiece taken in only resulted in a small change in pitch. But I could get wider changes in pitch by changes in tongue and especially the larynx (voice box).
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks. I think it may be more of the other things I'm changing that go along with the change in how much mouthpiece I'm taking in that are causing the change in pitch, such as voicing changes and airstream angle.

I could get wider changes in pitch by changes in tongue and especially the larynx (voice box).
ok - so this may be a different topic, but when you say larynx - are you talking about opening and closing the laryngeal cavity (pharynx), or doing something with the actual larynx (voice box) such as moving it up and down or opening and closing it (changing the size of the glottis)? I'm still trying to figure out how this all fits together.
 

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I think you just have to experiment for yourself. Dave Liebman wrote a book "Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound" that has good explanations and some exercises.
 

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When you take in enough mouthpiece you can’t really bite it closed (sharper) because you’re past the break in the curve.

Surely "enough mouthpiece" is different for everyone, so you can't really say you are past the break in the curve. Although I'm not sure what break in the curve is, does that mean where the facing curve starts?

If so then that is way outside where my lips/teeth usually are on a mouthpiece as a default position (except maybe on soprano).

In my experience the amount of mouthpiece doesn't change pitch, but certainly can change the tone.
 

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On the oboe taking more reed into the mouth raises the pitch, taking less reed into the mouth lowers the pitch. Perhaps there is a correlation with single reed conical instruments. Changing the "effective volume" of a mouthpiece does have an effect on the pitch, but the partials are effected more than the fundamental. The "effective volume" of a mouthpiece is its geometrical volume being used plus the volume added by the movement of the reed and the player's oral cavity.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Changing the "effective volume" of a mouthpiece does have an effect on the pitch, but the partials are effected more than the fundamental. The "effective volume" of a mouthpiece is its geometrical volume being used plus the volume added by the movement of the reed and the player's oral cavity.
Interesting. I'm not sure I understand the concept of "effective volume." Would this change with how much of the oral cavity is filled by the tongue?
 

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Interesting. I'm not sure I understand the concept of "effective volume." Would this change with how much of the oral cavity is filled by the tongue?
I'm not sure how to answer that. Most of the effect of adding to the geometrical volume of the mouthpiece is done by the up and down movement of the reed. The effect in front of the reed and mouthpiece "upstream" as they call it is comparatively small. Studies have found that changes in the shape of the oral cavity can have an effect upon the timbre of the note being played. A2 and above the oral cavity can also change the pitch.
 

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I'd immediately say that it shouldn't matter. But I agree with JL (how many times have I said that?) that you should do what works for you. If you find it has an effect then I guess it does.

I will throw in that I find a brand new reed out of the box that is a little stiff (how I like em out of the box), the mouthpiece needs to be on a little further. as the reed breaks in and gets closer to the facing I find that I pull the mouthpiece out a tad. But really we're talking about 1/8th of an inch.
 

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Interesting. I'm not sure I understand the concept of "effective volume." Would this change with how much of the oral cavity is filled by the tongue?
The volume and internal shape of a a mouthpiece can have a large effect. The volume and shape etc of the oral cavity has nil effect.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
i guess effective volume explains why larger tip openings play a bit flatter? hrm. what about placing the reed so it extends a bit past the tip?
 

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Surely "enough mouthpiece" is different for everyone, so you can't really say you are past the break in the curve. Although I'm not sure what break in the curve is, does that mean where the facing curve starts?

If so then that is way outside where my lips/teeth usually are on a mouthpiece as a default position (except maybe on soprano).

In my experience the amount of mouthpiece doesn't change pitch, but certainly can change the tone.
Break is where the reed separates from the mpc
 

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In what I've read about adjusting reeds the different parts of the reed relate to different frequency ranges (eg for problems with lower pitches you might shave the thicker part of the reed further from the tip rather than the whole vamp). I find myself changing mouthpiece position for different frequency ranges, varying with different mouthpiece/reed combinations) and assumed that I was (at least in part) focusing on different areas of the reed to bring those notes out.
Perhaps that dovetails with some of the other issues raised above.
 

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The volume and internal shape of a a mouthpiece can have a large effect. The volume and shape etc of the oral cavity has nil effect.
Since you have called it to my attention a while back, I have had the opportunity to read Dr. Ed Pillinger's excellent doctoral thesis in which he used an "artificial embouchure" to produce a tone on a clarinet as a part of his study of clarinet mouthpieces. He stated in his abstract:

"The excellent tone produced by the artificial embouchure suggested that the effect on timbre from vocal tract resonance was minimal, and that tone was controlled by a player's subtle adjustment to lip pressure, lip position and variation of air pressure alone."
However, here are some more recent findings more specific to the saxophone by Dr. Gary Scavone and Antoine Lefebvre in their study entitled "Measurement of vocal-tract influence during saxophone performance":

Playing experiments explored vocal-tract influence over the full range of the saxophone, as well as when performing special effects such as pitch bending, multiphonics, and “bugling.” The results show that, under certain conditions, players can create an upstream windway resonance that is strong enough to override the downstream system in controlling reed vibrations. This can occur when the downstream air column provides only weak support of a given note or effect, especially for notes with fundamental frequencies an octave below the air column cutoff frequency and higher. Vocal-tract influence is clearly demonstrated when pitchbending notes high in the traditional range of the alto saxophone and when playing in the saxophone’s extended register. Subtle timbre variations via tongue position changes are possible for most notes in the saxophone’s traditional range and can affect spectral content from at least 800–2000 Hz.
The clarinet solo at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue should be ample proof that the shape and volume of the oral cavity (including the throat) does have an effect upon the sound produced. :) The "cutoff frequency" of the saxophone is in the vicinity of G3, so what Dr. Scavone is saying is that pitch bending using the oral cavity is possible on notes an octave below that, G2 and above.
 

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The clarinet solo at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue should be ample proof that the shape and volume of the oral cavity (including the throat) does have an effect upon the sound produced. :) The "cutoff frequency" of the saxophone is in the vicinity of G3, so what Dr. Scavone is saying is that pitch bending using the oral cavity is possible on notes an octave below that, G2 and above.
I wouldn't argue that the vocal tract has an influence, but I (and Dr. Pillinger) were talking about the oral cavity. Two different things Surely? (or is it Shirley?)
 
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