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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I'm in the market for a new alto piece that I will use primarily for jazz. My current setup is a modern Soloist C** with Rico Jazz 3H reeds. Its the only mouthpiece I've been using for the past 6 months for all the idioms I play in (jazz, rock, concert band, solo work) and I can usually find a suitable sound with it just by changing reeds.

Lately however, I've been finding my sound to be too dull in certain situations, especially big band. So, I want a mouthpiece that will provide me with a little more brightness, edge, and projection than my Soloist allows. I will be keeping the Soloist for concert band and solos, but its just not cutting it in the other settings.

I would like a mouthpiece that is versatile enough to be used for lead alto work, small combo settings, and also the oldies rock band that I play in. What would you suggest I order for a trial? I've been considering:

Drake (not sure which model)
JodyJazz (HR? DVNY?)
Various Vandorens
Phil-Tone Custom Meyer

Going to a store to try things isn't an option for me right now. I'm sort of marooned on campus until the semester ends. So, I figured I'd order things on trial...I'd rather it be something I can get sooner rather than later, which is why RPC isn't on the list.

Oh, I'd also like advice on what tip opening to get. I'd like to move up a bit, but I'm not sure by how far an increment.

I'd appreciate any advice you all can give me.
Thanks!
 

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Here is a chart that may help you with tip openings. http://www.jodyjazz.com/facings.altosax.html

Since you have been playing the C*, it might be good to move up into the green or lower end of the orange when you choose some mouthpieces to try. When in college, I found the Meyer 7M to be a good companion to the S80 C** I was using for classical playing. I could move much more air through the mouthpiece and still was able to control it at all quiet dynamic levels. It served me well for about 20 years after too. You may want to try some softer reeds with the more open mouthpieces. A couple of different cuts or brands too.

The buzziness of jazz mouthpieces may bother you at first, but a little funk in your tone might be a good thing too!


Do you have any friends who can let you try their mouthpieces at school? A couple of samples to try would be nice before you order a bunch of stuff. If you don't go too radical, you should be able to find something fairly neutral in tonal coloring that will enable you to develop your personal sound as a player.
 

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The Selmer S-80 mouthpieces have a great reputation for big band lead alto work. And especially solo work. These things are very powerful and can cut through a section with ease. I have a S-80 "E" tip opening and it is really terrific. And it won't break the bank...I think I paid somewhere around $100 to $115.
I tested it a few days ago, and with the neck off the horn, and did a seal test where you close off either the mouthpiece or the neck and octave key with your hands and suck the air out of the mouthpiece. The reed should seal against the facing for a few seconds. Mine stayed closed for about 10 seconds. I could not believe it.

There are a lot of mouthpieces for different situations, but whatever mouthpiece you choose, stay with that mouthpiece. Don't have one for Rock, one for Jazz, and one for classical. Pick one and stay with it. What ever you end up with, it should play from the bottom of the horn to the top with ease. You should not have to fight your mouthpiece.

Here is a cheap idea...go to any flower shop and buy some florist clay. It is a non-toxic clay they use for arranging flowers. It comes in a block about 3 inches by 7 inches, usually costs $10 bucks...you will need a piece about the size of a quarter. Cut off a piece about the size of a pencil eraser and roll out so it so it is about the inside width of the roof of your mouthpiece. Now here is the tricky part...cut it in half, and throw half away, and the other half place about 3/4" down the inside of the mouthpiece, and make your own baffel. I used this method for decades...one of the studio muscians in LA showed me this trick. It does not have to be a perfect baffle starting below the tip, and going down to the bore. That will get you a BUZZY sound. But just enough to give the air stream a little bump. Experiment with the location...and the size of the clay. Remember you just need a little bump to disturb the air. Some guys I have seen, drill a hole right through the baffel and put a screw up through the hole and put a tiny nut on the outside of the mouthpiece to hold it in place. It just disturbs the air flow, and make the sound a little brighter and makes it a little louder. THat method is a little drastic for my tastes. Besides, that is a good way to completly screw up a good mouthpiece. LESS IS MORE.

I know it does not have the instant gratification of say buying a $400 to $500 mouthpiece, but think about all the nice ladies you could take out to dinner for $500 bucks? Sure beats sitting at the dorm, playing melodic minor scales on a shiny new mouthpiece. Eh?

Selmer makes one of the best mouthpieces around. I know this is not glamorous, but just try bumping the reed hardness up a couple of notches. If you are having problems with cutting through the section on a solo, it is not your problem. Just remind the band, that when someone is soloing, they are supposed to play softer and support the soloist. You should not have to overblow the whole band to be heard, and if they don't know, tell them.

Remember LOUD IS LOUSY.

Peace,
Charlie
 

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Discussion Starter #4
@kfoster: I have tried a stock Meyer piece. I found it stuffy, but if I recall correctly it was a closed tip and a large chamber. Maybe a tweaked Meyer would be closer to what I'm looking for. Unfortunately, I go to a pretty small school so most of my peers either use whatever came with their horn or an S80 C*. My professor uses a V16 when he plays alto, so he might let me give that a go.

@Charlinhos: I've played both S80s and S90s. Didn't like either of them much. I plan on having two mouthpieces: one for classical (my Soloist) and one for jazz (whatever I choose to get). I'm not having problems being heard while taking solos, I just want more brightness than I can get out of what I have.

And don't worry about money. I have enough to get a new piece and take my girlfriend on a few fancy dates.

Thanks to both of you for the advice!
 

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Lots of people used to use the Meyer 5's. I found them too closed too. If you can afford it, put Morgans on your short list. I love my current jazz mouthpiece, a Morgan Excalibur 7. The piece is brighter than the my old Meyer but still has warmth in the sound. Response is outstanding. It projects very well in all situations and is quite flexible. Pitch is great too. Really great!

I agree with you on your choice to use a different mouthpiece for classical playing and jazz/commercial work. The disciplines really require a different approach. Classical playing requires a very uniform sound from the top to the bottom of the horn. That is not always the case in other forms of music where the person may want to shape and shade notes quite differently on purpose. A good jazz mouthpiece will give you a broader color palette to work with.

Have fun with the search and don't get get too caught up in chasing mouthpieces. :)
 
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