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I've been working really hard at trying to just play one mouthpiece over the last couple of weeks. It's made me start thinking about something....when I was younger I played on a Couf alto and a Beechler HR mouthpiece. I got the mouthpiece from a music store. I tried a few and it was the best for me. I remember going through a stage where I was trying to get the Sanborn sound. I worked for hours trying to get that sound. Adjusting my bottom lip, changing my air, changing my tongue position.....It was hard but I think I did well trying to get that sound. Years later, I played a Couf tenor with a Sugal Super Gonz I and I remember practicing for hours trying to get that bright Brecker sound out of it. The point is I worked on my sound and became flexible with one piece to cover different styles and sound different with the same piece. As I have been playing one piece lately I have found myself thinking the piece is too dark, or too bright or not loud enough or not appropriate for R&B......and I want to switch to a different piece to get the result I want. I'm not spending the time I used to on one piece really becoming a master of all I can do with it. If it's not bright enough instead of fighting with it and changing the way I play I just slap on a piece with a higher baffle and go. I use to spend a lot of time finding reeds that were what I wanted to. If I needed a brighter sound I would go through 20 reeds ;looking for that brighter reed. My point is, I wonder if some of the younger guys on here will learn the art of mastering their horn or mouthpiece. Of being versatile, of deepening their tone......... I had a student ask me the other day if they should get a different mouthpiece to get that Sanborn sound and it hit me that the easy answer probabloy isn't the best. The harder answer "stick with you Meyer and learn how to change your sound" in the long run will be better for this student. I heard a player a number of years ago playing a Ponzol M2 that had a fat dark sound. Very old school jazz. I was amazed that he could play that piece like that. the fact is he played what he had and made it sound like he wanted. The great players in the past for the most part spent a lot of time on one setup and worked so that their individual voice would come out of their horn. If we're always switching and changing is it possible to develop your individual voice? Is it possible to become a master? Or are we slaves?:?
 

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Nefertiti said:
If we're always switching and changing is it possible to develop your individual voice? Is it possible to become a master? Or are we slaves?:?
Ouch! That could lead to some harsh introspection, Steve. ;)

I have wielded that same thought on students and friends that spend (in my mind) too much time playing the gear game - several horns of each size, multiple mouthpieces for each horn. My usual recommendation is "Pick one horn and one mouthpiece and use it exclusively for a week."

Of course, your timing is killing me. I've two Lambersons in the mail. Is it OK if I just play them a little? Wait, I can answer that... "No." I need to play each a lot and then commit to one.

I do think your question has a lot of merit and is one that many of us needs to ponder. A lot of people may have to answer "slave to gear" rather than "master of horn" if they are truthful. This could make a good poll.
 

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I've been fortunate enough to be poor for most of my life. Except for my neckstrap my setup has been the same for the last 15 years.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
G,
To be honest, I know I am a slave more than a master. I can play any of the pieces I have and do a gig and sound good. The fact is though if I think back to when I played that Super Gonz I for 7 years I don't consider myself as good on any of those pieces as I was on the SG I. It wasn't the mouthpiece. Trust me. It was the time and effort spent on it. I felt like I could play anything on that piece because I worked on everything with it and if I couldn't do it I would work harder and longer. If I didn't do that and everytime I ran into a road block I switched where would I be now? I hit plenty of road blocks with that piece. Not bright enough, not loud enough,altissimo was harder........I remember working for hours through lots of frustration on all those things. Actually, not just hours but years. Even though I was frustrated a lot I also loved my sound when I got it. I mean I loved it. Still to this day when I play a piece it I think I still compare it to that ideal sound I attained through playing that SG I( again I say it wasn't the piece it was because of the time I spent with it.....) I have no doubt that any of the pieces I have I could achieve the same thing with if I spend the time with it(or maybe I do because it's very hard to sell any of them!) The fact is that every piece has plusses and minus. If it's dark sometimes it won't be bright enough. If it's bright sometimes won't be as dark as you want or need it to be. If it has a fat huge sound sometimes it will get lost in the mix because it's not focused enough. It is focused sometimes you will wish it were fatter sounding. If it can play really loud sometimes it will sound to harsh when played soft............Those things need to be accepted and overcome through playing.
 

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It's funny I'm reading a book called " MASTERY". I highly reccomend this to everyone.

I want to MASTER "MY" SOUND. I do dislike when I fall prey to thinking that a new mpc will get me closer. I know for me it won't. I recently changed mpcs again , even though I was reluctant to believe that it would make a difference.

I felt this time it did make a difference and decided to switch.

The LAST thing I want to do right now is try anything else. I feel it can be a curiosity factor more than anything sometimes. I hope when a few years go by I can say that I'm still playing the mpc I'm playing now.

There are SO many things that can improve my playing. Changing mpcs is one of the least effective things I could do right now. It's time to seek Mastery, whats really cool is you can't get there from here.:) Read the book.
 

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Ive always been a big fan of the path of least resistance.

Sure, I could cut my half acre lawn with nail scissors, but why suffer when I have a lawn tractor in the garage. I could practice till I'm blue in the face to get a particular sound concept, but why bother if I can buy a piece with a big baffle. Im just not that "zen" I guess. Im never going to play for a living, I just do it for a bit of fun, and I dont have hours and hours to dedicate to working around my equipment to get where I want to be. If theres a shortcut to take to play some actual music, rather than practice for practices sake, then I'll take it:)

Maybe in the past the acoustic principals of the mouthpieces were not as well understood, or the choice of pieces as great, so maybe there was no choice but to sweat it out. But I hate to suffer if I dont have to, and for that (and many other reasons) Im never going to be a master of this thing, I just want to have fun.
 

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I can empathize with this on many levels. I had played the asem setup for over 10 years at one point and was really cooking up something. Then, I took ill and had to switch to something that was a little freer. After I started feeling better I tried to go back to the old setup and it wasn't working the same. Dropped the piece by accident had it repaired and that still didn't work for me. Then I changed horns and the chaos began. I was looking for something and couldn't quite put the finger on it. I feel I have a great combo now and that's all I use. I know a lot of guys who use different pieces for different gigs. I just can't do that. I have one setup that works and I'm very happy. I've noticed my playing is coming back into better focus.

Even if you try to sound like someone (or somethin) else. It's still going to sound like you trying to sound like someone of something else. It just comes down to what feels right. If I try to change my setup for every gig then I will have to readjust (especially for altissimo). I don't have that much time in my day.
 

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There's nothing wrong with experimentation, but eventually, I think we're better served by finding the right equipment for the right horn and then sticking with it. Three or four years ago I was all over the trade board, and one might have considered me fickle for doing so. But I had been playing some very limiting pieces for many, many years, and trying different options not only made some horns play better, but made them more enjoyable as well. However, some folks are never going to be satisfied and the search becomes the goal rather than just being the means to get there.
 

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Hi Steve!

Your argument makes good sense. Another angle: I have a HR set up and a metal set up which I tend to alternate--my thinking has been that working out with different mouthpieces--ie. a fat one and a slim one--would be a good way of strengthening my embouchure control and flexibility?

Rory
 

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I see your original point and tend to agree. I used a Dukoff D7 for at least 10 years and was able to get any sound I wanted, believe it or not, from Stan Getz (a very good likeness on Girl From Ipanema) a great breathy Ben Webster, a light Lester Young and a wailin' Jr. Walker/King Curtis thing-all with a high baffle piece. I learned to manipulate air and embouchure and different reeds to achieve all the different tones I wanted. Then I started buying other mouthpieces. I still have that Dukoff and always carry it as an extra on gigs.
 

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I must say that when I was on my last GAS spree I had a fairly braod idea of what I wanted "my sound" to be like and more impotantly, feel right. As I went on my spree that concept really became focused. Getting the right one was the goal. I know that there are great qualities to many pieces. But the most important thing to me is how it feels to me. The piece I have now is great in rock, blues, jazz, Eastern European folk, avante garde, and everything else I do and like to do. That's the way it feels to me.
 

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I played a Sugal Super Gonz for several years also! I finally decided to try some other mpcs and went through several (JJ, Runyons, Ponzol). But I've never liked changing mpcs, for all the reasons Nefertiti states here. It takes me several weeks to really get used to a mpc, and even longer to really get it working at all levels, so to speak. I finally settled on an RPC a couple years ago, then got another one, figuring one of them would be a backup. I only play one of them now, all the time.

It's funny because even though I usually can settle on one mpc, having three tenors creates a similar problem to the multiple mpc issue. I have to readjust every time I go from the Buescher to the VI and vice versa. I'm trying to settle on one horn for awhile. I really think equipment changes can get in the way. If you are making an upgrade or changing to something that definitely works better for you, that's a good thing. But then it's time to settle in and get all you can out of the present setup.
 

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Nef-

You're going to get a lot of "buzz" around this one....most of us that frequent SOTW Forum seem to fall more into the "slave to equipment" rather than the "master of our equipment" category.

There's no question that trying out different mouthpieces, horns, reeds, etc. is fun, but I've learned that that fun comes at a cost, particularly for those of us that don't do this for a living. Speaking for myself, I have a limited time to play/practice each week. The time that I spend "screwing around" with different mouthpieces is time that I'm not working on the material that Arnie Krakowsky has given me to work on. Under those circumstances my "practice" time is not actually helping me to become a better sax player and musician. Grumps put it well...the search became the goal.

Several weeks ago I made a decision to stop the experimenting, stick with a Link or Link-type design (round chamber, small baffle) and concentrate on playing. I'm convinced it will be a much better use of my time and is already beginning to bear fruit.

BTW, I think the book Mike is referring to is "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner.
 

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I got an RPC 90R alto in college that I use for all my non-classical playing. Playing lead alto, I could go from sounding like Johnny Hodges or Marshall Royal to Cannonball to Phil Woods to Vincent Herring. At leas as far as tone. I hooked up with a funk cove/wedding/party band this year and some stuff requires a contemporary/smooth jazz style and tone. I played the part along with the recording and after a few minutes I went HOLY CRAP! I can get a bright smooth jazz tone out of this thing. I lend more towards a darker tone and I have no desire to have a smooth jazz tone unless I absolutely have to use it. It totally shocked me that I was able to get that tone out of the same mouthpiece that gets a great Johnny Hodges sound too.
 

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Agent27 said:
I got an RPC 90R alto in college that I use for all my non-classical playing. Playing lead alto, I could go from sounding like Johnny Hodges or Marshall Royal to Cannonball to Phil Woods to Vincent Herring. At leas as far as tone. I hooked up with a funk cove/wedding/party band this year and some stuff requires a contemporary/smooth jazz style and tone. I played the part along with the recording and after a few minutes I went HOLY CRAP! I can get a bright smooth jazz tone out of this thing. I lend more towards a darker tone and I have no desire to have a smooth jazz tone unless I absolutely have to use it. It totally shocked me that I was able to get that tone out of the same mouthpiece that gets a great Johnny Hodges sound too.
I play in a little big band, and I have to go from Fletcher Henderson, to Duke, to Nestico, to 70s funk, to smooth jazz. I had been playing on a slant, and could get everything but the funk and smooth jazz. I switched to an RPC 90R--and you're right--I can play just about any style on it (well, I wouldn't try classical).
 

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Swampcabbage said:
Or, it may be Mastery by George Leonard. Also a very good book.

Yes it's the George Leonard book I am reading now.That is the one I was refering to but I have read the Werner book as well.
 
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