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Forum Contributor 2017
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Discussion Starter #1
After playing tenor in a jazz/rock band for about three years, where I've gotten used to competing with the guitars for sound space, I've joined a large community band with the goal of improving my reading skills and learning to play in a section. This band plays classical pieces and jazz suite arrangements. Suffice it to say that the first two rehearsals have been quite, quite humbling.

The conductor has asked our section leader to talk to me and the other tenor about our mouthpieces--she says we're not blending. I'm using a hard rubber Vandoren V16 with a Legere reed; the other tenor uses a vintage NY Otto Link. I can't tell, at this point, if the problem is me, the other tenor, or both. My questions are:

1. Is the V16 inappropriate for section playing, and if so, what are some mouthpieces that would be better?

2. Is the problem less likely the mouthpiece, and more likely that I'm just used to blowing too hard?

3. I have a hard rubber Yani that came with my horn, but the #5 tip has always been too small for me. Would that work better, in terms of tone and volume control?

Thanks for any help.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013
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most likely the synthetic reed is the problem. You may not hear it but they're very harsh.
 

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Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor 2012-2015
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1. NO!
2. More likely.
4. No need to. The V16 is fine.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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Do you actively listen to the rest of the section when you are playing?

The issue of not blending with the section may have nothing to do with your gear.

FWIW, my main mouthpiece is a V-16 T9 (Alexander DC reeds) - I can (and do) blend with a classical quartet or big band.
 

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most likely the synthetic reed is the problem. You may not hear it but they're very harsh.
Yes, that could be another important factor. But above all, as Dr G said, listening is the key.
 

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I agree with all of these posts. I think the mouthpiece is fine and also suspect the synthetic reed may be a bit harsh. I've heard some people get a "less edgy" tone with Legeres but more often I hear people with a bit of a harsh edge to the sound. Personally, my favourite mouthpiece for this sort of thing is a JJHR 7* and I like the way it allows me to match the sound of others. Still, the piece you have should be fine. Listen to the others and try to match everything (tone, articulation, vibrato, breathing, the works!) you hear from your section leader. Also, forming a saxophone quartet will help your reading and your skills in blending. It can also be a lot of fun. As a conductor, I really encourage members of a band to form small ensembles within the group.
 

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Forum Contributor 2017
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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for all the replies. Good to hear that it's not the mouthpiece. Actually, I use this setup with a small jazz combo and get a nice, warm sound, so I'm inclined to think it's not the reed, but myself that's the problem. I'll definitesly try to listen to the section (although I concentrate so hard on the score that it's hard to glance at the conductor), and especially try to be aware of my volume in relation to the section.

How I envy the people who can do this well! Although my section leader said she envies people who can improvise.
 

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I concentrate so hard on the score that it's hard to glance at the conductor...
Reading your score and glancing to your conductor is the job for your eyes (try to set your music stand so the conductor is within your periphery and you don't have to redirect your eyes to know what's going on). What are your ears doing?

It's not just about volume. Where's the time? Phrasing? Center of pitch? Then you can start to listen to the timbre of the various parts and how they complement other sections of the band. Is your part doubled by one of the trumpets or trombones? Etc.

Listen to some GOOD big band music and try to determine what makes it work so well. If you don't already have a good library at home, check YouTube for Maria Schneider Orchestra or Gordon Goodwin's Phat Band for example. (There are many others, of course.)
 

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most likely the synthetic reed is the problem. You may not hear it but they're very harsh.
Says someone who plays cane! I have played on my BARI synthetic reeds from everything from string orchestra "classical" to hard driving Rock and R&B. I simply change my mouthpiece, and my approach, and bam! different tone!
 

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Thanks for all the replies. Good to hear that it's not the mouthpiece. Actually, I use this setup with a small jazz combo and get a nice, warm sound, so I'm inclined to think it's not the reed, but myself that's the problem. I'll definitesly try to listen to the section (although I concentrate so hard on the score that it's hard to glance at the conductor), and especially try to be aware of my volume in relation to the section.

How I envy the people who can do this well! Although my section leader said she envies people who can improvise.
That's the fun of doing both well! Practice is all it takes :) . Besides, the grass is always greener on the other side ;) .
 

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If you still find it hard to blend after following all the advice on this thread, I suggest getting a classical mouthpiece. Classical mouthpieces blend quite a bit better than jazz mouthpieces. Here are several great blenders: vandoren TL3, selmer s80, selmer s90, rousseau NC4.
 

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Another choice for blending well in a concert situation is an Otto Link Tone Edge in a moderate tip opening.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for these replies. Dr. G--Thanks for the good advice. Raising the stand to include the conductor now seems obvious, but I was so nervous that it didn't occur to me. I've also started playing at low volume during my practice sessions (if I play low enough, maybe they won't hear all my mistakes!).
 

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Legeres are very warm sounding synthetic reeds. Those who spoke ill of them probably have not tried them.

A lot of community band players tend to honk on the low notes. If you can not subtone these or play them softly, I would work on that. Make sure there are no leaks in your sax and drop reed strength until you can play long tones softly.

Mouthpiece tone color is more of an issue at loud volumes. At soft volumes, there are less overtones in the sound and mouthpieces sound more similar.

The conductor may not know where to start with the section and just decided to pick on what she could see. Metal vs hard rubber. This is rarely the issue IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks Mojo. I really like the Legere's and would rather not have to mess with cane in this setting if I can help it. Someone else mentioned that the problem could have been one of the two baritones (one of whom has switched to bass clarinet); but I'm assuming that the conductor, who's associated with a fairly prestigious music school, knows her stuff. I'm just going to try to keep my ears open and try to be very aware of my pitch and volume in relation to the rest of the section. This kind of playing is very new to me, so it's very interesting and intimidating at the same time.
 

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Fred, I too recently joined a local community band. I had to go back to my original white King mouthpiece (.077) with a Legere Signature 2.75. Works great for me and the director is very pleased with my sound now. I can whisper low notes very easily. Getting back in the swing of counting rests was a challenge, especially during one 22 bar rest section. It is a small band but, I am thoroughly enjoying myself and even got the T-Shirt to prove it. :)

http://www.lufkinmusic.com/
 

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I'm sure you can work with that mouthpiece and probably different reed combos to find the sound you want.

In addition to everything above, one idea would be to take a "bright" reed you really like and a "darker" reed you really like and record yourself. Hear what you sound like. Ultimately, section playing is about listening, blending, matching the phrasing of the lead, etc.

Basically, everyone is kind of giving similar advice. Working on long tones, overtones, and varying dynamics alway helps...

Shawn
 
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