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I mean... there is some validity to the setup being possibly too much but, more so because of the different embouchure. I played alto more exclusively for years (thought went back and forth; and in high school was more with tenor than alto). What is your alto setup? Note that a lot of alto players play more close tips and hard reeds while tenor is mostly the opposite until you develop the control while loose. Another thing is, unless the leak is too bad, you can blow past it. As in, if you have enough air and diaphragm support. If you are used to the smaller alto tip you will not be able to “fill up” the tenor chamber the same way as there is a difference in making the reed vibrate and filling the mouthpiece/horn. I do think you should get the horn checked out but, I would easily say, even if you stick with the .105, move to a lower strength reed. At the moment, with some experience of alto, I generally suggest no more than a .095 or link style 6* and a 2.5 reed. Technically if you like LaVoz you could try both MS an M reeds and see which you like better but, it would be better to overblow than only reach the minimum required for tone otherwise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Well, first thing I echo everyone else, check for leaks. If you don't know how to do this, it's worth this once taking it to the shop.

I will say that a .105" mouthpiece with a #3 reed is a pretty open setup for someone who's never played tenor. I've been playing tenor (and other voices) for 43 years now and I play most of the time on about a .090" piece with a 2.5 reed. Why do you think you need to work so hard?

If you're biting and pinching, using a big open hard-reed setup won't fix that problem. If you learn how to play tenor with a tenor embouchure, tenor-sized breaths, and a tenor-supported airstream, you'll have no trouble with a smaller softer setup and getting good volume out of it.

To finish up, are you on 4th tenor? If you're on that chair, for sure you want to go with an easy-playing setup, as most of the time you're playing low and soft. Personally in big bands I tend to use my old standby Meyer 8 (about .090 or so) on the jazz tenor chair and an old Brilhart Ebolin (I guess about .080?) for 4th tenor. I have a grass-killer Dukoff but only need it for rock and roll.
Hi, I'm first tenor. I've done jazz on my alto so musical wise I am very proficient. High octaves even altissimo arent a problem for me on tenor. I find my setup to be pretty free blowing. Like I said I was a top alto player in the state in high school so I knew that there would be a learning curve to tenor and I would need to adjust but I just cant play low notes soft and consistently no matter what I try. If a change from alto to tenor is really that big of a difference then ill just have to practice and adjust. I'll have it checked for mechanical issues and go from there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I mean... there is some validity to the setup being possibly too much but, more so because of the different embouchure. I played alto more exclusively for years (thought went back and forth; and in high school was more with tenor than alto). What is your alto setup? Note that a lot of alto players play more close tips and hard reeds while tenor is mostly the opposite until you develop the control while loose. Another thing is, unless the leak is too bad, you can blow past it. As in, if you have enough air and diaphragm support. If you are used to the smaller alto tip you will not be able to “fill up” the tenor chamber the same way as there is a difference in making the reed vibrate and filling the mouthpiece/horn. I do think you should get the horn checked out but, I would easily say, even if you stick with the .105, move to a lower strength reed. At the moment, with some experience of alto, I generally suggest no more than a .095 or link style 6* and a 2.5 reed. Technically if you like LaVoz you could try both MS an M reeds and see which you like better but, it would be better to overblow than only reach the minimum required for tone otherwise.
For jazz it was an A35 jumbo java with a size 2.25 legere signature. For classical it was a selmer concept with legere signature 2.5.

I switched from a Meyer 5 with a rico 2.5 to my current setup and I find playing low notes to be easier.

I want to emphasize that if I play low notes loud I have no problem doing that. Its when I play soft trying to blend with the sax section is when the notes play an octave high.

Perhaps I am underestimating the difference between tenor and alto and I just need to adjust.
 

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Get a 6 or 6* mouthpiece. Also this - coming from alto, I found that a metal (Link) mouthpiece worked better for me because it was a similar size to the hard rubber alto mouthpiece. So the adaptation was easier. I do have a narrow mouth, so that is probably part of the issue for me, but still it's worth a thought. For many years I doubled on alto and tenor in the same shows, so this was a consideration.

I echo the comments of "tenor-sized" breath support and embouchure - this takes a while.
 

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I want to emphasize that if I play low notes loud I have no problem doing that. Its when I play soft trying to blend with the sax section is when the notes play an octave high.
You still have to push plenty of air down low when playing softly. So relax, and use a lot more air. Get a softer reed first. Then learn how to subtone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
You still have to push plenty of air down low when playing softly. So relax, and use a lot more air. Get a softer reed first. Then learn how to subtone.
Would going from a 3S to a 2H be a big enough of a difference? or should I go softer?
 

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I would start softer until it's easy to play, then work your way back up as you build your chops and technique. Or you may not ever need to go back up to harder reeds. Whatever works best for you in all registers at all dynamics.

Keep in mind, this it just a shortcut to instant results, not a long term solution. Chops and technique are the long term solution.
 

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Hi, I'm first tenor. I've done jazz on my alto so musical wise I am very proficient. High octaves even altissimo arent a problem for me on tenor. I find my setup to be pretty free blowing. Like I said I was a top alto player in the state in high school so I knew that there would be a learning curve to tenor and I would need to adjust but I just cant play low notes soft and consistently no matter what I try. If a change from alto to tenor is really that big of a difference then ill just have to practice and adjust. I'll have it checked for mechanical issues and go from there.
Still sounds like leaks are the proximate cause. Have you tried someone else's horn to see if the problem can be localized to your horn?

But a player with a well developed tenor technique will be able to play right on through leaks. I'm still going to bet that a significant part of your difficulty comes from a tight embouchure. While all voices from soprano on down will benefit from a generally looser concept, tenor on down through bass really require this. I think of it as the airstream and diaphragm doing all the work and the embouchure just lightly steers the reed and does some fine adjustment. If you can get that concept you will find you can get lots of volume and projection from a moderate setup, while at the same time being able to play low on the horn at all dynamic levels.

Sorry to say, but I see a fair number of young players, especially with a lot of classical background and competition background, who haven't really developed that habit of playing from the gut. It can take a lot of work to loosen up and get used to blowing through the thing instead of at it. My usual recommendation for tone development, especially on the larger horns, is lots of long tones (from pppp to ffff back to pppp) outdoors, without any walls or other reflective structures nearby - so you can build a big rich compelling sound on your own. A couple years on the bandstand, playing for dancers for money, will do this, of course, but that's not as easily available as it was in my young days. All-State isn't the real world of the bandstand. Sorry.
 

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That may depend on your type of big band. I have played both dance/swing bands and contemporary jazz big bands. Rather than adopting a low and soft attitude, I'd say listen to the lead players, balance with the corresponding trumpet and trombone parts, and ask the director about the blend of the section. Playing soft may be interpreted as meek and insecure - even if that is not your intention. Rather than just practicing playing soft, focus on playing with control at every dynamic.
Well, most big bands, especially school bands, everything's way too damn loud anyway. 4th tenor is an interior voice 99% of the time.

OP is actually playing the Sax 2 ("first tenor" nowadays) chair, but that voice is generally an interior voice too - lead alto and baritone set up the section and the other three fall in between those two. Back to setups, I've never had any trouble being heard with my Meyer 8 (about .090") in a big band for section playing, and I've played in some pretty loud ones. Yeah, in the loud bands solos are a lot easier with a bit of microphone. Frankly I'd rather push harder with a smaller setup for the few minutes a gig of my tenor solos, than spend all night fighting a big loud rock and roll setup to try to keep it down below the level of the lead and baritone players.

OP, playing soft can sound meek and insecure or it can sound powerful and controlled. It's up to you.
 

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For jazz it was an A35 jumbo java with a size 2.25 legere signature. For classical it was a selmer concept with legere signature 2.5.

I switched from a Meyer 5 with a rico 2.5 to my current setup and I find playing low notes to be easier.

I want to emphasize that if I play low notes loud I have no problem doing that. Its when I play soft trying to blend with the sax section is when the notes play an octave high.

Perhaps I am underestimating the difference between tenor and alto and I just need to adjust.
Interesting, when I went to college on alto, I played a 62 in a similar tip but the A35 is a small chamber. I was playing on a Morgan Excalibur 7EL; which is larger but I played it with 4.5 and 5s. The reason I point this out is that baffles and small chambers can hide breath support deficiencies. I still think there is likely a leak but, I would definitely say look at the smaller tip (link style mouthpiece) and a softer reed.

On a related but technical difference note, there is something I call “fast” and “slow” air. Most of the time we sort of practice this when we do long tones or play ballads. Really it working with how “fast” focused air is needed to go to make the reed speak, or break the pitch or even overblow specifically while maintaining a seal but with no pressure. There is no gauge for this aside from feeling. It’s even relevant to the pitch if you are loose. The simple exercise is like the warmup wherein you start the note with air with no tongue on reed. You need to focus on the speeding up the air until the reed speaks though. Before that you should just hear the warm air going through the horn. Find the point that is fast enough on any note in the middle of the horn. It should not require too much more as you move down in half steps. When it does, there is your leak. Additionally, swell the air “Speeding it up” to find the other points like over blowing and closing the reed off. Continue focusing on the looseness and the quality of each note. This also a good place to bring out the tuner so you can visualize what the air and looseness does to the pitch center. Also work on jaw position and tongue position this way. Those can lead toward harmonics and whatnot but that is for later.
 

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Well, most big bands, especially school bands, everything's way too damn loud anyway. 4th tenor is an interior voice 99% of the time.
That’s not to say that an ”interior voice” doesn’t play at the same volume as the rest of the section. I agree that a lot of bands are too loud, but you’re not going to turn down the volume from the front row.

I'd rather push harder with a smaller setup for the few minutes a gig of my tenor solos, than spend all night fighting a big loud rock and roll setup to try to keep it down below the level of the lead and baritone players.
I take the Goldilocks approach - 0.105 with medium large chamber and not-so-much baffle (Phil-Tone “Intrepid”). A rock-and-roll setup has no place on my horns.

It’s great to hear from another big band tenor player. Keep it up!




Tenor - It’s all that matters.
 

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I'd agree with getting the leaks taken out first. That might solve all your problems right away. If it doesn't, though, try a softer reed.

My experience was coming from the clarinet, not the alto, but when I started on tenor, I couldn't play a soft setup since I just had no concept of a steady embouchure without a lot of force on the reed. I could pick up an alto and play just fine, since the firmer embouchure was more comfortable to me, but my tenor sound was always pinched and the lower register never spoke well, especially since I insisted on starting with a .110" mouthpiece and 3 or even 3.5 reeds. My friends were all alto players, so the only way to play in the big band with them was to become a tenor player.

Eventually I had to force myself to go to a really soft reed (Java Red #2) and just spend time with it until I could get the upper register to feel stable. It felt like crap initially, like it was a kazoo, but that got better as I got used to it. 15 years later and I am still on reeds in the #2-2.5 range, always with medium open 7* (.105") mouthpieces. Even on more closed mouthpieces, like a Morgan 6C, I rarely go above a 3 and will usually go down to a 2.5 if I want to get a little bit of bite and edge out of it. I'm not playing with a big band these days, but I am definitely a lot louder now on these more conservative setups than I was biting sound out of that bigger tip, harder reed setup.

When I try a harder reed, I definitely don't feel louder these days. Just less controlled. It feels inefficient to me and somehow quieter. Like I'm losing sound to biting.

I have discovered in my adulthood that, once you've got your embouchure fundamentals down, the most advanced embouchure skill is learning to do it with less force. I'll be working on that for the rest of my life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
I'd agree with getting the leaks taken out first. That might solve all your problems right away. If it doesn't, though, try a softer reed.

My experience was coming from the clarinet, not the alto, but when I started on tenor, I couldn't play a soft setup since I just had no concept of a steady embouchure without a lot of force on the reed. I could pick up an alto and play just fine, since the firmer embouchure was more comfortable to me, but my tenor sound was always pinched and the lower register never spoke well, especially since I insisted on starting with a .110" mouthpiece and 3 or even 3.5 reeds. My friends were all alto players, so the only way to play in the big band with them was to become a tenor player.

Eventually I had to force myself to go to a really soft reed (Java Red #2) and just spend time with it until I could get the upper register to feel stable. It felt like crap initially, like it was a kazoo, but that got better as I got used to it. 15 years later and I am still on reeds in the #2-2.5 range, always with medium open 7* (.105") mouthpieces. Even on more closed mouthpieces, like a Morgan 6C, I rarely go above a 3 and will usually go down to a 2.5 if I want to get a little bit of bite and edge out of it. I'm not playing with a big band these days, but I am definitely a lot louder now on these more conservative setups than I was biting sound out of that bigger tip, harder reed setup.

When I try a harder reed, I definitely don't feel louder these days. Just less controlled. It feels inefficient to me and somehow quieter. Like I'm losing sound to biting.

I have discovered in my adulthood that, once you've got your embouchure fundamentals down, the most advanced embouchure skill is learning to do it with less force. I'll be working on that for the rest of my life.
I appreciate the input!
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Interesting, when I went to college on alto, I played a 62 in a similar tip but the A35 is a small chamber. I was playing on a Morgan Excalibur 7EL; which is larger but I played it with 4.5 and 5s. The reason I point this out is that baffles and small chambers can hide breath support deficiencies. I still think there is likely a leak but, I would definitely say look at the smaller tip (link style mouthpiece) and a softer reed.

On a related but technical difference note, there is something I call “fast” and “slow” air. Most of the time we sort of practice this when we do long tones or play ballads. Really it working with how “fast” focused air is needed to go to make the reed speak, or break the pitch or even overblow specifically while maintaining a seal but with no pressure. There is no gauge for this aside from feeling. It’s even relevant to the pitch if you are loose. The simple exercise is like the warmup wherein you start the note with air with no tongue on reed. You need to focus on the speeding up the air until the reed speaks though. Before that you should just hear the warm air going through the horn. Find the point that is fast enough on any note in the middle of the horn. It should not require too much more as you move down in half steps. When it does, there is your leak. Additionally, swell the air “Speeding it up” to find the other points like over blowing and closing the reed off. Continue focusing on the looseness and the quality of each note. This also a good place to bring out the tuner so you can visualize what the air and looseness does to the pitch center. Also work on jaw position and tongue position this way. Those can lead toward harmonics and whatnot but that is for later.
Thank you for the advice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Still sounds like leaks are the proximate cause. Have you tried someone else's horn to see if the problem can be localized to your horn?

But a player with a well developed tenor technique will be able to play right on through leaks. I'm still going to bet that a significant part of your difficulty comes from a tight embouchure. While all voices from soprano on down will benefit from a generally looser concept, tenor on down through bass really require this. I think of it as the airstream and diaphragm doing all the work and the embouchure just lightly steers the reed and does some fine adjustment. If you can get that concept you will find you can get lots of volume and projection from a moderate setup, while at the same time being able to play low on the horn at all dynamic levels.

Sorry to say, but I see a fair number of young players, especially with a lot of classical background and competition background, who haven't really developed that habit of playing from the gut. It can take a lot of work to loosen up and get used to blowing through the thing instead of at it. My usual recommendation for tone development, especially on the larger horns, is lots of long tones (from pppp to ffff back to pppp) outdoors, without any walls or other reflective structures nearby - so you can build a big rich compelling sound on your own. A couple years on the bandstand, playing for dancers for money, will do this, of course, but that's not as easily available as it was in my young days. All-State isn't the real world of the bandstand. Sorry.
Ok thanks for the input!
 

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...It’s great to hear from another big band tenor player. Keep it up!
Tenor - It’s all that matters.
I'm not REALLY a tenor player; I'm REALLY a baritone player with a minor in lead alto; but over the last 40+ years, I've played a lot of tenor in big bands too. I used to play with a guy who played tenor. Period. No clarinet, no flute, no soprano, no alto, nope nada zilch kein alter instrumenten. "I play tenor." I always kind of admired that sort of single minded concentration, but then someone calls me for a gig playing alto/flute/soprano/piccolo/ bass sax and I cave in and take it.
 

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The 7M is .105". A #3 would probably be ok for an experienced tenor player, but may be too hard for someone new to tenor.
Combo of open facing and somewhat hard reed - totally inappropriate for a new tenor player. And not appropriate for many players, period, although it's the fashion of the day. Joe Henderson played on a Selmer D, that's a .080" facing, with a soft reed. Choose what feels right and works for you.
Worth mentioning also that you can scrape the bottom of the vamp if a reed is hard-blowing, usually one can feel that resistance start with the low D. I would add also that reeds are not often cut symmetrically, and when one side is thicker at the bottom of the vamp, the low register will be harder.
Agree with everyone that a leak somewhere up the stack could be a problem. Also the articulated G# may need adjustment - that's a very common cause of this problem.
 

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The 7M is .105". A #3 would probably be ok for an experienced tenor player, but may be too hard for someone new to tenor. I'd start softer and see if that helps you with the low register. If there are no leaks, then you're obviously biting too hard and probably have other embouchure and technique issues.

I hate to be negative, but I'd stick with alto if tenor isn't coming naturally to you. It's going to take a while for you to become a tenor player, and you probably don't have the luxury of time in the jazz band to come up to speed. If your teachers can't help you, maybe the other tenor player could work with you a little to get you on the right track.
I always taught my students that the lower you want to play, the "hotter" the air you have to blow. Think of the difference of how you blow on a bowl of hot soup to cool it down (cold air) and how you blow on your hands on a cold day to warm them up (hot air). Cold air is for higher notes and cold air is for lower notes. I also started on Alto, but play them all and mostly play Tenor. My favorite is whatever the gig needs, but Bari is most fun!
 

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Hi guys, I am a sophomore in college and i am in the jazz band. My whole life I was an alto sax player. I was pretty good. I was an all state alto player throughout my high school years. For jazz band this year I decided to switch it up and play tenor. For some reason. When i play any note from about middle g and below, the notes always want to play an octave above and it sounds airy. I gotta play the notes relatively loud for the notes to come out properly but I have to play softly with the section. Almost every time I articulate one of these low notes it plays an octave above. I never had these issues playing alto. Is this something I just have to adjust to because it's a tenor? Or is it a problem with the horn itself? Im using a daddario select jazz mouthpiece, m/o lig, select jazz 3S, super action tenor.

I also add that my alto is a YAS 62

Thanks!
Assuming you have had the horn checked for leaks, whose tenor is it? was is a loaner, or used when you got it? Has it ever been damaged? Sometimes if the horn was damaged/bent the fix makes the horn a slight amount shorter at the damage area thus causing the harmonics to get messed up in the lower register. that can cause the issue you mention. I have a Selmer MKVI which a bar tender dropped of the stage while I was not around, and I sent it to Selmer to fix. Well when it came back completed rebuilt the lower register never spoke cleanly again no matter which mouthpiece I used. A great repair person told me how they fix these bent horns and they actually cut the horn at the bend, then resolder it back together. Unfortunately it often messed up the hole spacing. It can be fixed properly but that can be very expensive and very few repair people even try to do it. Anyway first leaks, then possibly this. I also have a King super 20 tenor which to make the bottom end speak better decades ago we added lead to the bottom curve of the bell by melting it into the bell. That dampened the too bright harmonics thus making the horn be "gentler" down at the bottom. All these things though were done well after a complete inspection and basically are customizations to my horns. Good luck.
 

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Assuming you have had the horn checked for leaks, whose tenor is it? was is a loaner, or used when you got it? Has it ever been damaged? Sometimes if the horn was damaged/bent the fix makes the horn a slight amount shorter at the damage area thus causing the harmonics to get messed up in the lower register. that can cause the issue you mention. I have a Selmer MKVI which a bar tender dropped of the stage while I was not around, and I sent it to Selmer to fix. Well when it came back completed rebuilt the lower register never spoke cleanly again no matter which mouthpiece I used. A great repair person told me how they fix these bent horns and they actually cut the horn at the bend, then resolder it back together. Unfortunately it often messed up the hole spacing. It can be fixed properly but that can be very expensive and very few repair people even try to do it. Anyway first leaks, then possibly this. I also have a King super 20 tenor which to make the bottom end speak better decades ago we added lead to the bottom curve of the bell by melting it into the bell. That dampened the too bright harmonics thus making the horn be "gentler" down at the bottom. All these things though were done well after a complete inspection and basically are customizations to my horns. Good luck.
Anyway from a reread of your issue it most definitely is a leak.
 
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