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Discussion Starter #1
Been playing for many years, mainly alto but some tenor and soprano. One thing that holds me back is that sometimes I am not totally in control of its tension, especially when playing from C above the staff and higher including altissimo up to B. Symptoms can include the following: Sharpness when I come back down from playing high back to the second G. Altissimo F# and G becomes squeaky or don't respond. Using a softer reed and when coming back down after playing a high note, the reed can feel soft and close off.

I would like to go to a more relaxed and comfortable embouchure, one that is more in control. I have been voicing more with tongue position rather than embouchure tension which is helping.

I think I am making progress thinking things through, patience, practice and lessons with a local embouchure guru. But if anyone can suggestion specific exercises, it would be appreciated. One thing I will is try is to expand my range while playing a very soft reed. Currently on Java Red 2.5-3, Java Green 3 or Jazz Select 3S on a Meyer 6. Thanks.
 

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I think one of my videos goes through the harmonic series to warm up. Get the throat and oral cavity on board so its easy to play high and low. K
 

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Agree with Keith (above) regarding throat/oral cavity. I'd add that regarding those things, keep your throat as OPEN and relaxed as possible (mouth/oral cavity as well). Along with that, I strongly feel airstream....more specially, airstream speed is essential as well. I'll also add that I think you're making things more difficult on yourself regarding playing in the range(s) you're talking about by playing a "very soft reed". The air and embouchure demands of playing in the upper natural range and into altissimo pretty much also require a reed strength that will handle those things and not shut down. Not sure why you seem determined to do all of this on a much softer reed, but I'd advise you to reconsider that. If you get those things more in line, I think you'll be well on your way.
 

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The air and embouchure demands of playing in the upper natural range and into altissimo pretty much also require a reed strength that will handle those things and not shut down. Not sure why you seem determined to do all of this on a much softer reed, but I'd advise you to reconsider that.
I gotta disagree with this part. 2 1/2 on a 6 is within the normally usable range, even on tenor. Some of the best sounding players I've worked with are on softer setups than this.

The only way you 'need' a stiffer setup is if you want a less edgy sound and more resistance than you get from the softer setup. If it's closing up you're using too much jaw pressure. That said, many guys do get away with more than optimal pressure.

OP, keep working on voicing the instrument properly. It sounds like you have probably properly identified a problem in your embouchure tension and maybe air support. Retraining muscle memory doesn't happen very fast. Work on stuff like mouthpie only exercises (scale exercises over a 9th on mouthpiece alone), overtones, breathing exercises, etc.. Do a bit every day, take a break for a day or two here and there, be patient.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the replies. Just to clarify things:

1. The softer reed thing is something I may go back to as a training tool. In many cases, such as playing forte in a big band, a certain amount of reed strength is required. But I don't want my embouchure to be counter-productive and clamp down much firmer than necessary. But I have to say years ago I studied with a guy who took from Allard who could play very LOUD on a close legit (A27?) Vandoren piece using a medium soft reed. Wish I could do that.

2. I do overtones, usually daily. I can usually hit the 5th harmonic fingering low Bb and B, not always fingering low C and Db (sounding palm D,Eb,E and F respectively.) I am trying to keep the amount of mouthpiece in the mouth constant and smoothly ascend the overtone series. So far I have had a difficult time getting to the 6th (sounding 2 octaves + a fifth higher) though sometimes can get much higher. This is with my Mk VI alto. High overtones seem easier on tenor even though I practice it less.

3. I also do the mouthpiece scale thing, say every other practice session. Any suggestions as to what pitch range to shoot for on an alto mouthpiece? In other words concert G1 to concert A2 or concert C1 to concert D2 or?? Should it be done more with oral cavity/tongue voicing and less with embouchure tension?

4. I also sometimes try bending pitches on the horn. For example with the alt high E and F, bend them down as much as possible. Also play an arpeggio, finger the the top note a half step higher but voice it down to the octave. Ex: finger G1/B1/D2/G#2 but sound G2. But I suppose this could train one to blow flat?
 

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I gotta disagree with this part. 2 1/2 on a 6 is within the normally usable range, even on tenor. Some of the best sounding players I've worked with are on softer setups than this.

The only way you 'need' a stiffer setup is if you want a less edgy sound and more resistance than you get from the softer setup. If it's closing up you're using too much jaw pressure. That said, many guys do get away with more than optimal pressure.

OP, keep working on voicing the instrument properly. It sounds like you have probably properly identified a problem in your embouchure tension and maybe air support. Retraining muscle memory doesn't happen very fast. Work on stuff like mouthpie only exercises (scale exercises over a 9th on mouthpiece alone), overtones, breathing exercises, etc.. Do a bit every day, take a break for a day or two here and there, be patient.
I hear what you're saying Morgan, but maybe I'm misunderstanding the OP. How I read it, he's saying he's currently on a 2.5-3, but wants to go softer? If that's so, I think that would be a mistake as in my world, that's already fairly soft and the reed would only shut down! Maybe clarification is needed.
 

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Maybe clarification is needed.
Probably. I'm a bit confused also, but I think MM is talking about going to a softer reed than he's using now (?)

I wouldn't call a 2.5 - 3 reed soft. I'd call that middle of the road, not real soft or hard.

Anyway, nothing wrong with experimenting with a softer reed, which would require more control, a relaxed embouchure, and might help gain more flexibility. But, MM, since you're using a medium reed right now, why not get everything in order on that reed before introducing another factor?
 

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Thanks for the replies. Just to clarify things:

1. The softer reed thing is something I may go back to as a training tool. In many cases, such as playing forte in a big band, a certain amount of reed strength is required. But I don't want my embouchure to be counter-productive and clamp down much firmer than necessary. But I have to say years ago I studied with a guy who took from Allard who could play very LOUD on a close legit (A27?) Vandoren piece using a medium soft reed. Wish I could do that.

2. I do overtones, usually daily. I can usually hit the 5th harmonic fingering low Bb and B, not always fingering low C and Db (sounding palm D,Eb,E and F respectively.) I am trying to keep the amount of mouthpiece in the mouth constant and smoothly ascend the overtone series. So far I have had a difficult time getting to the 6th (sounding 2 octaves + a fifth higher) though sometimes can get much higher. This is with my Mk VI alto. High overtones seem easier on tenor even though I practice it less.

3. I also do the mouthpiece scale thing, say every other practice session. Any suggestions as to what pitch range to shoot for on an alto mouthpiece? In other words concert G1 to concert A2 or concert C1 to concert D2 or?? Should it be done more with oral cavity/tongue voicing and less with embouchure tension?

4. I also sometimes try bending pitches on the horn. For example with the alt high E and F, bend them down as much as possible. Also play an arpeggio, finger the the top note a half step higher but voice it down to the octave. Ex: finger G1/B1/D2/G#2 but sound G2. But I suppose this could train one to blow flat?
Mpc only exercises, doesn't matter what pitch. Everybody I've ever seen that can't do it can only play the high part of the range though. Do work on it with only voicing and constantly loose embouchure. Jaw pressure changes should be minimal to none. But I'm not sure there is a wrong way to do this that does it. The point is to be in control of the instrument. How you control it is less important than that you control it. That said, I'm not sure there is a way to be fully in control without voicing accurately (ie. correct vocal cavity impedance).

Bending notes down is another good one, go up from B above the staff and bend each note down as far as you can. No octave key. Playing lower octave with octsbe key open and upper octave with octave key closed is another.
 

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I hear what you're saying Morgan, but maybe I'm misunderstanding the OP. How I read it, he's saying he's currently on a 2.5-3, but wants to go softer?
Oh OK yeah I missed that. Still, a lot of truly great sounding (and loud) players are on softer than 'conventional' setups. Harder makes it easier to use more jaw pressure to control the reed though, which is super common and not really the end of the world even though it is probably suboptimal.
 

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Oh OK yeah I missed that. Still, a lot of truly great sounding (and loud) players are on softer than 'conventional' setups. Harder makes it easier to use more jaw pressure to control the reed though, which is super common and not really the end of the world even though it is probably suboptimal.
That's okay.......I forgive you, Morgan. ;-)

Of course you're right regarding some alto players sounding great on more softer setups. I'm just not one of them!

John
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A Java green 2.5 is a bit too soft for me to me totally comfortable on the Meyer 6, whereas a Java red 2.5 tends to play well fresh but within a small number of playing sessions becomes too soft to play loudly. I thought I was making that clear in my OP when I said my current setup is Java green 3 and Java red 2.5-3 but I guess not.

I would like to become more tolerant of playing on a softening cane reed. I believe I have a bad habit of overexerting my embouchure muscles when I am pushing hard on the air in order to play loudly. It is self-defeating. Some additional embouchure pressure is needed to avoid going flat but perhaps not as much as I tend to use.
 
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