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Discussion Starter #1
This probably has been covered elsewhere, is probably something a good teacher could deal with, plus I'm not even sure it's useful to ask here, given the individual differences in mouth structure and even the way people hold their horns.

Although I am quite happy with the sound and control I've got, I've been told (by someone across country, working on a mouthpiece of mine) that the bite marks on my toothpatch indicate I am not taking in enough of the mouthpiece beak when I play.

For reference, I play a tenor sax usually with a metal Link STM 7 (or Link variant) with a Hemke 3 reed. More importantly, perhaps, I've never had a teacher, just self-taught going on about 6 years now. Also, I have a relatively small mouth/jaw set for my overall body (head) size. Although I have noticed I can get a fuller, ringing sound to the bell notes when I take in more of the beak, in general I have better control of the reed with my usual, shallow embouchure. I suspect I'd need a much softer reed if I were going to swallow more of the mouthpiece when I play.

I measured the location of MY toothmarks, and they are typically around a quarter-inch in from the mouthpiece tip. I have seen plenty of other, used pieces, and would say that on average, the toothmarks on those indicate a player who took in perhaps twice as much beak as I do.
 

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And I agree with Barone.

Taking in more mouthpiece is, at first, very difficult, it seems unnatural and uncomfortable. Your sound gets spread and out of control, and obviously this isn't an immdediately desired result, so you'll tend to shy away from taking that much mouthpiece.

However, if you learn how to control the sound while taking lots of mouthpiece, your sound will get much more full, powerful, and flexible; you'll be able to play as softly or loudly as you want, you'll be able to sound more like your heroes, you'll approach having a good jazz saxophone sound-- which is a rare thing, let's face it.

And you won't need a softer reed. In my experience, it's the opposite: if you can control lots of mouthpiece, you'll be able to control a harder reed, which will further improve your sound. It's not something that happens overnight, but if you stick with it, it'll yield great results.
 

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And Uncle Phil knows what he's talking about on this one.

Just like you, I'm mostly self taught and play a metal Link. Things had gone about as far as they could go until I read Phil's suggestions and practise tips. He IS the man. And now there's a whole new world of tone for me to explore.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks ya'll, saxxman I'm reading that thread now, but it's like a damn book (22 pages....). And of course I will give the recommendations a workout and see where things go. There's a lot there.....

In the meantime, because we're all physically different, I'd still like to know something: How far from the tip of YOUR mouthpiece to the toothmarks on your toothpatch? Take out a ruler, post what you find.

A quarter-inch, a half-inch, or more?

I'm not certain that the location of the toothmarks is always a good indicator of how much mouthpiece one is taking in. I see where they are on my Link, but I know (okay, feel) I'm taking in a lot more beak than that....
 

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It took me 15 years of playing to get indentations on my main mouthpiece. On alto, they are a little more than a 1/2 inch in.
 

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This thread by Bruce Pearson gives a good system to find a starting point for how much mouthpiece to take into the mouth. Please note that his directions are for a typical classical setup---not for an advanced jazz player trying to be the loudest sax player who ever lived.
http://www.brucepearsonmusic.com/article/SaxEmbouchure.htm

What his article demonstrates is that the placement of the bottom lip on the reed is the determining factor of where the top teeth should be placed. On my classical and jazz tenor mouthpieces the top teeth are 5/8" back from the tip. Which I think is about average. People with a large overbite who don't move the jaw forward when they play may put the top teeth on the mouthpiece farther. Those who have an under bite will probably have the top teeth on the mouthpiece a shorter distance from the tip. The angle of the mouthpiece can also have an effect. If you play with the mouthpiece tilted down slightly, the top teeth may be a shorter distance from the tip. Conversely, if you play with the mouthpiece tilted up slightly, the top teeth may be farther on to the mouthpiece.

The portion of the reed that is free to vibrate is that part that is past where the reed and mouthpiece table come together. If the bottom lip touches closer to the tip of the reed, there is more control, but less tone and volume. If the bottom lip were to touch totally in front of where the reed vibrates, there would be virtually no control of the tone (by the lip) but the maximum sound would be produced. The trick then is to find that ideal spot for the lower lip that produces the biggest sound without sacrificing control of the tone altogether. Phil Barone's saying that "You can't take too much of the mouthpiece in the mouth" can be easily disproved by putting the mouthpiece in the mouth till the lips hit the ligature and blowing real hard. (Before you Barone fans start pelting me...I do know what he means by this statement, but taken literally it is silly to say the least.)

To answer the original question, I would suggest finding where you put your bottom lip on the reed when you play, and if this is the spot that works the best for your tone production, then don't worry about where the top teeth end up.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks jbtsax, I did feel that bottom lip placement should also be taken into consideration. In my case I think I'm taking more beak into my mouth than the toothmarks on the top of my piece alone would indicate. All this extra food for thought, will take me awhile to digest and much longer to assimilate through practice. I was quite oblivious .....
 

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I understand what Phil meant. Going past the reed to facing break, to where one can't affect the reed is where too much begins and beyond is just being silly.

Most people when learning start where its easy to put leverage on the reed, at the tip, but gain no oral cavity response and a weak air stream.

As much as you can take in and still affect the reed sensibly and learn and develop the embouchure at that point will give you a bigger sound as your oral cavity will then affect your playing from your throat and not the front of your mouth. You then will be able to feel your throat affect the tone and be able to use it.

Phil was speaking, I am sure metophoricaly and not physically swallowing up to the ligature and losing control.
 

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When I play my modern Link 8, I try to take in as much as I can. Right now, the bite marks on the tooth patch are right near the end of the bite plate, right before the metal. Of course, I've been working on this a lot lately, so there are bites all over the little rubber pad.
 

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I eat Super Tone Masters :D

If I can keep my mind on it I have my teet at the end of the bite plate. Since I find I do that I put a mpc patch on backwards and have it follow the shape of the beak as it starts to curve upwards. I dont like to run out of biteplate!
 

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On an STM or similar you want to be at least halfway up the bite plate, 2/3 or so is better, I play around 3/4" in most of the time on tenor, for reasons mentioned above. You do, however, want to be comfortable playing farther out and in than that as it is just one more tool you can add to your belt, ie playing more on the tip to subtone down low, etc...

Ideally, you want your bottom teeth just shy of the point where the reed breaks away from the mouthpiece facing (hold it sideways up to light to determine this point). This gives you a nice thick section of reed to play and allows the most possible reed to vibrate in your oral cavity (which many say is a much more important resonating chamber than your horn) and should give you a nice full complex sound.
 

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With the reed on the mouthpiece, look at the set-up from the side. You should be able to to see daylight between the reed and the mouthpiece itself up to a certain point. That point is where you should anchor your TOP teeth.

This works for any mouthpiece on any size of saxophone, and will give you close to, if not the best sound and control of the instrument.
 

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You know, despite initial appearances, this is actually kind of an interesting thread. I mean, on tenor with my SMS Berg metal my teeth marks can be almost off the edge of the biteplate towards the edge nearest the lig . Perhaps I'm actually taking too much mouthpiece at times... Hmmm.. Could you (or someone else) expand on what you mean by that "limits your ability to shape the sound" remark, Grumps?

The bite plate thing is actually kind of interesting because i think we have to assume that the plate is placed "centrally for the average player" as far as the manufacturers are concerned. Or not?
 

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RootyTootoot said:
Could you (or someone else) expand on what you mean by that "limits your ability to shape the sound" remark, Grumps?
First off, I'm not looking for that one true classical type sound. Folks have often said the saxophone is a most appealing instrument as it comes closest to the human voice. There are all sorts of ways you can blow to convey emotion. You can howl, scream or whisper. You can laugh, cry or shout with boldness. You can bend notes and transcend fingerings. And all this is much easier with less mouthpiece in the mouth. I mean... just open up your mouth without even touching the horn. Put the horn down. Just open up your mouth as if you're taking more piece in. Now alter the shape of your lips and play a bit expanding your oral cavity. Okay, now pretend your taking less mouthpiece in and close your mouth a bit accordingly. Now see what kind of flexibility you have with your lips, jaw, etc. That's what I'm talking about.
 

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Wouldn't it be difficult to determine the optimum "bite" just by looking at tooth marks and not actually seeing and hearing someone play? What about overbites/underbites and just the normal variation of different people's mouths? I sold my old tenor to a kid with a severe underbite, even though his teeth were out on the tip of the mouthpiece he had a lot of lower lip on the reed. He was able to get a big sound even though if you looked at the tooth marks you would think that he wasn't taking in enough mouthpiece.
 
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