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Discussion Starter #1
Hey Guyz,

I have been reading a lot in here – great forum. I don’t post very often, because everything seems to have been discussed before, usually several times :(

However, I have some questions that I have not found to be answered, or at least my surfing in the forum has not clarified things enough for me to understand. English is my second language, so I hope I’m able to explain myself. I apologize for the length of the post ;)

I have often read, that mouthpieces with the correct embouchure are supposed to play at a certain pitch. For instance tenor mouthpieces are supposed to play a G. Alto mouthpieces are supposed to play an A and so on. I think it is called mouthpiece tuning. The idea is, that it is a way for you to check the pressure of your lips and make sure that the pitch your mouthpiece generates and blows into your horn is correct.

One of the threads explaining this:
http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=25698&highlight=mouthpiece+tuning+test

Now, I don’t seem to understand the test. In fact, I think it is irrelevant at best. In the following, please consider the embouchure pressure applied to be the same at all times. To me the length of the mouthpiece shank will determine the tuning of the mouthpiece, and because of that, different mouthpieces are not supposed to play the same pitch (at least not if their shanks have different lengths).

Also, in regard to the interior design of mouthpieces, I have seen people on this forum measuring the interior size by pouring water into the piece. I suppose they seal of the end of the piece where the reed goes, and pour in water from where the neck goes. In these experiments it is concluded, that the chamber of a mouthpiece that will carry 25ml is smaller than a mouthpiece that will carry 29 ml inside. To me this kind of measuring cannot be very useful, since the length of the shank of the mouthpiece in many cases will have a bigger influence on the amount of water the piece can hold, than the size of the chamber itself.

One of the threads explaining this (post no. 9):
http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=9808&highlight=jody

For instance, the Jody Jazz ESP mentioned in the thread above is very likely to have a much larger chamber than the Lamberson (even though the opposite is stated I the post).

I guess my question is – does mouthpiece tuning and measuring the interior size of mouthpieces with water make any sense to you?
:?
 

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Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the length of the shank and the design of the mouthpiece does not change the pitch of the mouthpiece by itself. Also, the length doesn't vary too much between mouthpieces--at least the mouthpieces that I own. It seems to me there may be some variance in the length of a mouthpiece if it has a different internal volume.

The mouthpiece tunings is fairly well documented. I first heard it from Eugene Rousseau, who probably learned it from Santy Runyon.

The water method you describe is probably a reliable way to measure the volume of the inside of the mouthpiece.
 

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Interesting point. I would think that differing mouthpiece lengths would have to affect general pitch at least a little.
Try playing the just mouthpiece, and bend the pitch down as far as you can then all the way back up. (You can do the same on the horn) . You'll find a strong centered note up at the top. Whatever it is. The pitch bending increases flexibility and sense of tightness/looseness and will help you find the centered true note. At the time tuners were not around much using one now with this is probably a good idea. This one was from Joe Allard.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Water method

The water method in my opinion can only be used (in my opinion) if you close of the end of the neck and measure the space left in the moutpiece. This might be hard, but someone might be able to do it I guess.

Mouthpiece tuning

I might be wrong of course, but I feel quite confident, that when you change the length of the moutpiece, pitch will change. Put couple of fingers around it while you play and pitch will change. In fact, it is the same principle that makes the sax play different notes when you press or lift keys. The shorter the length of the tube you are playing, the more a slight altering of the length will affect the pitch. Therefore a slightly longer shank on a mouthpiece will have big influence on the pitch.

As stated - I might be all wrong ... but ...
 

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Well, believe what you will. But every alto mouthpiece I've played on--from selmer S80, selmer soloist, Meyer, slant sig link, barone, RPC, dukoff, Morgan, Berg and MC Gregory comes out the same pitch for me--A.
 

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The pitch excercise seems like it could be legit, but I've always been suspicious of using water for the chamber volume for the reasons you listed above.
 

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I have a tenor mouthpiece which is 1/2 inch longer than any other tenor piece I have ever owned. It is on loan right now so I can't try it out and report the pitch, but if this thread is still going when I get it back I'll check in with my findings.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for your comments.

Hakukani - I'm willing to believe you, I´d just like to understand why it works.

I have tried the mouthpiece tuning thing, not recently though, I got too bored ;) I'm sure it might be good for you after all (whether the theory about tuning is correct or not - I think playing just the piece and making sure you get a stable and nice sound will do your lips good).

I'm not sure how much the topic of this thread really makes a difference in real life playing situations, I am just confused because it doesn't seen logic to me.
 

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Funkdude said:
T

I'm not sure how much the topic of this thread really makes a difference in real life playing situations, I am just confused because it doesn't seen logic to me.
It doesn't. The mouthpiece pitch thing is a really good way to teach beginners to get a baseline on what their embouchures should feel like.

If you want to know more, google Santy Runyon and theramin.
 

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The basic concept is that the pitch with just the mouthpiece is set maybe 90% by embouchure tension and 10% by mouthpiece chamber and length. While when playing a note on the sax it is more like 90% the tonehole position and the rest embouchure.

Many jazz players like to play looser than the pitch espoused by Runyon, esp. on tenor.

Don't quote me on these numbers; it's just the general idea.

I agree that the chamber volume should really be normalized to the shank length. Maybe that's why no manufacturer gives a volume number for a mpc.
 

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My own view is that the "mouthpiece only exercise" is not a particularly good one for a beginner. I agree that it may provide a good baseline in terms of tuning and embouchure tension, but it is actually a very unforgiving exercise when the player is struggling to get any decent sound at all. I also believe that a good embouchure is quite flexible (ask Mr Johnny Hodges if you could!!). The "mouthpiece only" thing seems to me to encourage a very "fixed" concept of embouchure which is likely to persist into later stages of development. It seems to me that in terms of acoustics the length of the m/p itself must affect tuning to some small extent. On all the above i am happy to be totally contradicted and no doubt will be!
 

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I always flunk the mouthpiece test....:cry:
 

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RootyTootoot said:
My own view is that the "mouthpiece only exercise" is not a particularly good one for a beginner. I agree that it may provide a good baseline in terms of tuning and embouchure tension, but it is actually a very unforgiving exercise when the player is struggling to get any decent sound at all. I also believe that a good embouchure is quite flexible (ask Mr Johnny Hodges if you could!!). The "mouthpiece only" thing seems to me to encourage a very "fixed" concept of embouchure which is likely to persist into later stages of development. It seems to me that in terms of acoustics the length of the m/p itself must affect tuning to some small extent. On all the above i am happy to be totally contradicted and no doubt will be!
I don't change my embouchure except to 'scoop', or tune. I find that you can play large intervals easier if you don't use a different embouchure for different registers.
 

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Mouthpiece only for beginners is tough.
"Flexible" - that's the thinking behind the bending.

Consider an extreme case regarding pitch on alto mouthpiece should be A regardless of shank length. If the mouthpiece was say a foot long, it would certainly be lower. if it was a quarter inch longer, it may not be so easy to tell the difference. Tenor mouthpiece is pitched lower and it's longer.
 

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hakukani said:
I don't change my embouchure except to 'scoop', or tune. I find that you can play large intervals easier if you don't use a different embouchure for different registers.
What you're describing is, i think, a "flexible" embouchure. The m/p only exercise (i think) will make a beginner tighten up on the m/p in a way that's not necessarily helpful at that stage. I totally agree that one shouldn't think about embouchure shifts for interval leaps. But what about vibrato?
 

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I've always thought of vibrato as a change in the shape of the the chamber inside your mouth/throat, so that is more of a timbre change than an actual pitch change. I don't know--vibrato is one of those things that came 'naturally' to me, so is more difficult for me to analyze the mechanism.
 

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The MP pitch alone is a guideline. It helps to get your embouchure support approximately where it should be before you tune your mouthpiece on your sax. You can play tighter/looser and tune accordingly to compensate, but your octaves will be a little out of tune and you will need to use more muscle memory to play in tune. This is not difficult if you basically play one sax. But if you are a doubler, it is more difficult. A lot of tenor players play loose and push in more to compensate. The like the sound so they deal with the embouchure changes needed to make it work.

I first read about the MP pitch test on the web. So I hade spent many years playing without knowing it. I was surprised that my Alto, Tenor, and Bari chops were already on the targets. But this made the concept credible to me. My soprano playing was a mess 10 years ago. I found out that I was playing too loose. After I tightened up and retuned, most of my intonation problems went away.

Mouthpiece length does not affect the pitch test significantly. It still gets you "in the ballpark" whether you are playing a stubby mouthpiece or a long one.

The water volume test is also just a "ballpark" test in my opinion. In its purest form, you do need to subtract out the volume of the mouthpiece shank that represents the insertion of the neck cork (when properly tuned using the MP target pitch). However, if you are comparing similar mouthpieces, like stubby to stubby, or long to long, it is a decent comparison without subtracting the cork volume.

I use the water measurement when a client is looking for a certain chamber volume. Usually they have a larger chambered mouthpiece that works for intonation and they want to try the same chamber volume on a different mouthpiece that they like the sound or feel better. Enlarging the chamber to the target measurement changes the sound some, but the tradeoff is usually soemthing the client likes. The measurement is a usefull tool rather than just looking by eye.

Do you have the TV show "Myth Busters" in Denmark?
 

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MojoBari said:
Do you have the TV show "Myth Busters" in Denmark?
Do they ever. I've spent many a day preparing scripts and footage for 'MythBusters' promos for the Danish Discovery Channel.
 

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The mouthpiece tuning exercise does work. One player above suggested that tuning is 90% human, 10% mouthpiece. This seems like a fair enough value to me. If you can do the mouthpiece exercise and get within "10%" of the real pitch (however you want to go about measuring that), you're good. There is going to be some discrepancy, of course, but I've seen young players do the test and be several notes off. They have poor embouchures.

Also...although this varies between saxes, I play with an embouchure that does not change, and if it tries to, I fight it. I can adapt if need be, but I find that intervals and other playing are considerably easier with the same embouchure through and through.

I agree with you that the water test for chamber size is a bit...rough, in it's accuracy, but on two similar lengthed mouthpieces, could be an effective method.
 
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