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SOTW Columnist and Forum Contributor 2015-2016
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I had a player recently say something that caused me to stop and ponder, and I'm curious what other people think.

He stated that there's an inverse relationship between skill and equipment. The better you can play, the less equipment will make a perceptible difference to an audience, but can make a very large difference to your own ear.

On the flip side, the beginning player will have a much larger perceptible difference to an audience from equipment changes while not being able to hear it as much themself.

Agree? Disagree?
 

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Tenor: Eastman 52nd St, Alto: P. Mauriat 67RDK, Soprano: Eastern Music Curvy
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Partially agree? I feel like a beginner on a pro horn w/ pro mouthpieces would sound the same as a beginner on a student model with a student mouthpieces AS LONG AS the horns are both set up well and the mouthpiece is in good shape. The problem is, lots of students (myself back in the day) played horns poorly maintained and out of regulation on a beat up mouthpiece with nicks and chips. A beginner on a well set upYAS-23 w/ a perfectly faced Yamaha 4C will probably sound the same as that same beginner on a well set up Mark VI and a Hand faced mouthpiece.

Now the middle ground after the beginner is progressing and feeling more comfortable playing the horn's full range, things get a bit weirder. Where students begin to realize the equipment can help, and it makes a difference to them as they play it, but they aren't fully capable of getting everything out of it.- I'd say this is where someone can classify as Intermediate player. This is the stage where I believe it's most beneficial to try MPCs and experiment with new gear, as it can make development easier.
 

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Selmer SII Tenor, Kessler Custom N.S. Tenor, 1950s Buescher Aristocrat
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I think there's something to this but IMO one statement is more accurate than the other.

Regarding beginners I'd say it's moderately accurate. Back when I was teaching beginners in public school when those kiddos switched to step up or even pro model horns during their first year there was almost always a significant improvement in tone and intonation. Lots of factors at play though, increased practice time, confidence, placebo effect, etc. I never did a deep dive study into it but the improvement was noticeable. That being said, the beginner's ear isn't normally developed enough to discern the some of the subtleties of equipment changes. Reed strength? Sure. Reed cut? Probably not. Horn change? Maybe, if it's a big step up in quality/setup. But a blind test between a top end Selmer and Yamaha? Probably not.

For the higher end players IMO that statement is a lot more accurate. I've heard amazing players sound amazing on amazing equipment, and damn near equally amazing on sub par equipment. I wouldn't classify myself as "high end" but there are times I'll get excited about a particularly good reed or a new mouthpiece that's opened up new worlds from my PoV, only to have my wife or a friend in the audience tell me, "It still sounds the same to me". :ROFLMAO:
 

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On the flip side, the beginning player will have a much larger perceptible difference to an audience from equipment changes while not being able to hear it as much themself.
Too simplistic. Sure, there may be a difference for a beginner transitioning from utter garbage to a decent instrument, but the changes after that are much more subtle. My son did get a kick out of playing my Leblanc Concerto II in contrast to his beginner clarinet, but that didn't fix his timing, articulation, phrasing, or anything else that matters. My daughter sounds equally good on her Yamaha beginner-series flute and my Bruce Bailey or John Lehner flutes. Bottom line: Beginners need a decent instrument, and then it's on them to improve (same as the rest of us).
 

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From the subject line I thought this thread was going to be about whether there is an inverse relationship between the player's equipment and their ability. Obviously not amongst pro players, but with amateur/hobby players, I have noticed that the folks who show up with brand new shiny expensive top of the line pro horns often can't play them worth beans.
 

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Vito Leblanc Alto -Spectrum mp, Eastar soprano- 4c , Eastrock tenor
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I can attest to the fact that I sounded just as crappy on my Selmer super action 80 as I do on my Vito Leblanc, it was pearls before a swine for sure.
 

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From the subject line I thought this thread was going to be about whether there is an inverse relationship between the player's equipment and their ability. Obviously not amongst pro players, but with amateur/hobby players, I have noticed that the folks who show up with brand new shiny expensive top of the line pro horns often can't play them worth beans.
Pros like shiny horns too. I recall some of our trumpet players that used to show up with new horns all the time. That’s where I first heard of Inderbinden.
 

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Agree? Disagree?
I agree for a specific reason. Back when I used to teach lessons I realized something that seems obvious, but that too many beginners don't realize: a bad setup/instrument dramatically impedes progress. Multiple times, I saw players who were really struggling get a better instrument or mouthpiece or even just new reeds and suddenly sound much better. And it wasn't that the new equipment made them better; it was that the "beginner" equipment was holding them back.

As you progress, you learn to overcome bad equipment but that's really hard to do when you're new. So yes, totally agree.
 

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Years ago as a beginner in my 50's, I was horrible on my Selmer SA80 series II tenor. Self teaching, I found SOTW and soon bought a 10M, then an Vito alto and a Selmer Bundy Bari. I found a vintage Holton tenor and then a King Cleveland. I had a Morgan Jazz mouthpiece I really liked and I still regret trading my Holton sax for an Otto Link Master Link. I gave up on sax cause I still wasn't any good.
I am playing again now and playing much better with a Chinese alto and Yamaha plastic 6c and Jay Metcalf 's courses.
The gear was fun but its nothing to do with skill.
 

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Pros like shiny horns too. I recall some of our trumpet players that used to show up with new horns all the time. That’s where I first heard of Inderbinden.
Some band leaders like shiny horns because it looks "better", many players not as much.
 

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Some band leaders like shiny horns because it looks "better", many players not as much.
I am thankful that I’ve never encountered that. I feel sorry for the musicians in that situation - especially if they cannot afford a shiny horn to suit the director. If you want me to play some trendy, flashy horn, you’ll have to buy one for me.
 

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I agree for a specific reason. Back when I used to teach lessons I realized something that seems obvious, but that too many beginners don't realize: a bad setup/instrument dramatically impedes progress. Multiple times, I saw players who were really struggling get a better instrument or mouthpiece or even just new reeds and suddenly sound much better. And it wasn't that the new equipment made them better; it was that the "beginner" equipment was holding them back.

As you progress, you learn to overcome bad equipment but that's really hard to do when you're new. So yes, totally agree.
This was my point for sure! Poor setup is more common on lots of beginner instruments. So immediate improvement can be had simply because the new pro horn is well set up and has a better faced mouthpiece that isn't a struggle to play on. (or even something as small as a good new reed, or proper fitting ligature, etc.)
 

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I thought the idea was that better players have fewer horns. Or, the more horns you have, the higher is the likelihood that you suck.
 

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I can tell you that in places in the US, some territories, like large encampments in Florida that beholden to themselves but may have stations all over the world (the kind with castles), they tend to care about lacquer on instruments.

On another note, I don’t completely agree because I don’t think beginning players would know what good equipment is. That being said there is a marginal difference for equipment but it is a not a requirement. There is a bigger difference in well taken care of or properly serviced equipment and I think that has to be noted. There is a bar for equipment too… unless you like your blue or pink saxophones of unknown child labor origins from Amazon.
 

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I thought the idea was that better players have fewer horns. Or, the more horns you have, the higher is the likelihood that you suck.
Well if this were the case… I only have one of each at the moment, Soprano, Alto, and Tenor… I’m an ok player but I don’t play as many gigs as I used to. I think depends on the player and how much need you have of backups.
 
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