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Hi. I play tenor saxophone since many years now and I still have a lot of problem to have a freeblowing sound. Actually it is not that my sound is not good but it is not the sound I want. I do not have a freeblowing sound especially in the medium register which is too dark with really not enought projection or brightness. It is as if I was struggling to produce a sound that is not fit to the natural sound of my instrument. Sometimes I wonder If Dexter Gordon, John coltrane and the other tenor sax giants played on a tenor sax. What I search is a light sound that I could really decide by myself. Currently I have the impression that the instrument and my setup dictate my sound. And that affect a lot my playing because as I have not a freeblowing sound my articulation and so on are dictate by the sound that is produced by the instrument. For information I use a selmer mark VII with an Otto link NY metal 8 and rico royal reed 3. I have the feeling that the opening of my mouthpiece or maybe its too large chamber are the reason for that dark sound. But Dexter Gordon and even Coltrane had a large chamber mouthpiece and they also had a great projection. All the tips you could give me will be great.
 

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Is your toung in the "keee" position so that you have fast air speed? Use this tounge position for all notes on the horn.
 

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Concerning Gordon and Coltrane, I would say: maybe it's because they used to work 7 hours a day!
 

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A Rico Royal 3 on a Link 8 is a pretty stiff setup. If you didn't have to work so hard to get a sound, you'd probably sound a lot lighter. Coltrane played a 6* (.095) on a Link that may have had a considerably better facing than yours. Try something like a 7* with a 2.5 reed.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yes so I am not the only one. You have to struggle a lot to get a freeblowing sound especially on a tenor sax.(I have not the same feeling about other saxophone) I feel like tenor sax is naturally too dark mostly in the medium register and you have to change it and give it some brightness by yourself. But maybe some tips or maybe even setup could really make that easier. I would have loved to take lesson from Coltrane and mostly Dexter Gordon who have such a great sound.
 

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Softer set up like Dr. G says will brighten up your sound but it won't do any good if you don't have the correct tounge position. Just say Keeeeeeee when you play all notes on the horn. You may want to search Phil Barone and work on his tone production exercises.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
DR G you think that my setup could be the reason of my dark sound. Yes I feel it is hard for me to get a bright sound with the setup I have. I will try this week a less opening mouthpiece. Thank you for your advice. Often people said opened mouthpiece=brightness but when I realised coltrane and Gordon have relatively medium opened mouthpiece I wondered if my setup was the good one. Especially when I read an interview of Dexter Gordon where he say that he played with a medium opening mouthpiece because it is very freeblowing for him and allow him to project the sound he wants.
 

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I've never heard the term "freeblowing" when applied to sound unless it was referring to mouthpiece characteristics.

I would say to listen to a lot of Coltrane and Dex (if that's who you want to sound like), play along with their recordings, work on long tone exercises out of "Top Tones For Saxophone", and possibly use a smaller tipped mouthpiece.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I will also try the "keeeee" thing. I already knew that method but by a trompetist. It will be interesting to put that on sax. So you say I just have to say "keeee" with my tongue when playing the note. Maybe I am already applying this method without being conscious of that. I admit It has been a long time since I had any serious and regular sax lesson. Actually for the Dex sound I manage to produce his kind of sound but without having his freeblowing articulation and so on. It is a dex sound but less light less freeblowing. This term perfeclty fit for me the sound I search and what I want to improve in my sound and articulation.
 

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It may be the mouthpiece. I am not saying go spend alot of money buying the perfect mouthpiece. However, metal is usually brassier than Hard Rubber. I would recomend a Selmer C**, they can be picked up cheaply on Ebay, a reed of your choice. Try that. It may give you a lighter sound.
Though if you don't want to spend the money getting a new Mouthpiece. Try a softer reed on the link as stated above, and Maybe a different ligature. As I am sure you probably know the ligature controls how much the reed vibrates. It could easily be that. Though it is hard to know for sure...
If you want to improve your articulation I would recomend tonguning I belive the tip of the reed, and blowing fast air. Not to much air at once, but a nice CONTROLLED Air stream, might do it. Also you might try recording your self, and seeing if it improves.
 

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Dexter taught my teacher to put the tounge in the keeee position and my teacher taught me. When in this position, the air speed is high (think airplane wing) and really makes the reed vibrate. Focus your air towards the tip of the mouthpiece and feel the pressure on your mouth where it contacts the tip of the mouthpiece. You should go down in reed strength and mpc tip opening. Use a 2 1/2 and a 7 or 7* opening. I use this set up and I've been playing for 50 years so far.
 

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"Free-blowing" refers not so much to tone quality, but to response. The opposite of free-blowing is "resistant." All other things being equal, increasing the hardness of the reed increases resistance. The same is true for increasing the size of the tip opening. An Otto Link STM NY 8 with a 3 reed is a relatively resistant setup and requires a very strong embouchre to play well. You don't necessarilly need a new mouthpiece. Just get some 2.5 reeds and try those on the STM and you will get a brighter sound and a more free-blowing response. But in the end you might need to try a smaller tip opening. Try to be systematic as you alter your setup or you will be shooting in the dark. Once you get the best sound you can out of your STM 8 (as I suggested, using softer reeds), you cand decide whether you want to try a smaller tip opening or a different type of mouthpiece all together. And be careful about copying the setups of your favorite players like Trane and Dex. Their setups are unlikely to be the ideal setup for you. Instead, focus on improving your tone and use their sounds as goals to work towards. Trane, after all, is reported to have used a 5 reed. I doubt you can put in the requisite 6-7 hours of practice a day (as Trane did) to play that setup properly.
 

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It's a little difficult to ascertain the sound you are looking for. As others have already mentioned, "freeblowing" refers to response more than any particular sound. Definitely try a softer reed on that mpc. You are using a relative hard reed for the tip size and such a combination will be very resistant, not freeblowing.

Regarding a brighter sound, again a softer reed will help. But when you mention Dexter & Trane in this regard, I'd say Dexter had a fairly dark sound, while Trane had a brighter sound. So which are you aiming for?
 

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I tried a few things for muscle fatigue and intonation but they also opened up the sound and made the sax free blowing so here they are.

1. Follow the two excellent threads by Phil Barone for developing your sound. Gradually take in more mouthpiece until you find the right amount but be patient with it. This will give you a free blowing sound with good projection as well as open up your throat and aural cavity.

2. Balance and trim your reeds. There are several good books on this subject. If you fully balance a 3 it will probably come out at about a 2 1/2 which will improve the response and bighten up your sound.

3. Practice long tones in front of a reflective surface (wall etc.) so you can hear the sound you are making. Have the sound you want in your head. Become one with the sound and the sound will become one with you.

Whatever advice you take give it time to work. Remember different things work for different people.
 

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MojoBari said:
It seems to me this "keeee" concept would close your oral cavity a bunch. But I do think it is good to explore playing with all the vowel sounds. Aaaahhh, Eeeee, Oooohhh, etc. If gives you some colors.
I use "Daaaaaa" in tonguing. My airflow used to be quite limited, resulting in a lack of sound volume. I rectified that by using "Daaaaaa", plus simply putting more mouthpiece into my mouth. I also changed to a softer reed as my lips didn't have so much leverage available because of the changed mouthpiece/mouth position. I've now got a big fat tone. I've also practised using my vocal chords in a very subtle way to roughen up the tone slightly. Not so much growling which would make a REALLY rough tone, but more of a minute modulation by the voice which after some practise is scarcely a conscious effort now.
 

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If you want to go CHEAP - Simply get a #2 and #2 1/2 reed - try the V16 or ZZ. Voicing or Throat position (Ah Ee) Stuff is pretty cool once you get into it but at this point a softer reed might help with the brilliance.
 

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One other thing - I'm not sure how the Metal links work but I play a Tenney Tone Edge - I played many stock tone edges and they were dull and stuffy. I never got the whole LINK THING until I purchase a quality face Slant Tenney Tone Edge - so a refacing my be in order. If the facing isn't right on a Link it not very LINKISH is tone quality.
 

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I play a link 8 and definately understand your question.

Try a Rico Jazz Select 2H. You will notice a significantly faster response and a brighter tone.

I recently PM'ed a handful of the link experts on this board asking which reed they find responds best on a link and, to my surprise they all agreed on Rico Jazz Select. I tried a box and switched immediately. I use RJS 3s on my link 8. I definately find Rico Royals dark.
 
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