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Discussion Starter #1
Sorry if this gets long. I type too much.

I started on clarinet as a kid, about 20 years ago. After six weeks on recorders, the band director had individual interviews to assign instruments to people and I was assigned clarinet (wanted sax) because he said the mouthpiece fit me better than other instruments. I always thought this was voodoo on his part but maybe he knew something...?

Years later, I can play clarinet reasonably well, at least as far as getting a nice tone.

I picked up sax in high school, starting with tenor, then alto and soprano.

I have ALWAYS had problems getting low notes out of saxophones. I can only HONK them out. They don't come quietly. Couple of exceptions: I can get nice quiet low notes out of my soprano, and I can play low notes on baritone only because I think ALL my playing on bari is "honking."

So, low notes on alto and tenor, my worst enemies. High notes, no problem. I understand about leaks and suspect I've played some leaky horns, but I've also had problems with horns that others could play well.

I've tried to "relax my jaw" as I've been told over and over but I don't think I'm doing it right. Maybe a few years of oboe playing ruined my embouchure? :)

On clarinet and sax, I use my top teeth. All my mouthpieces have "tracks." I understand that if I held my embouchure better I would just have a couple of dents and not tracks; I'm working on it.

If I double-lip on the sax, the low notes are a LITTLE easier; I guess I'm relaxing my jaw as a side-effect. Also, the high notes have better intonation on my soprano when I double-lip. However, having never double-lipped, it hurts and feels weird. Plus the soprano tends to slip around without a neckstrap.

So, should I continue trying to double-lip? Assuming no health issues, will I be able to strength my mouth to have the same control of the horn as I do when I single-lip? Is it practical to switch between single-lip on the clarinet and double-lip on the sax? Any other suggestions?

Thanks.
 

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A few quick thoughts:

*I would suggest not dropping jaw or changing embouchure as you change registers, but rather finding one "setting" that works for all. Those changes will detrimentally affect pitch and timbre, even if they did help with response, which I believe is not the case.

*Voicing: Think about the position of your tongue in your oral cavity. If too flat, the air will spread out and slow down as it moves up out of your airway. Slower air will typically be compensated for with more of it, hence the honking. I would use some arch "a" as in apple, rather than "a" as in la. With sufficient air speed, the low-register response issues typically clear up. Practice moving from low D to C at a ppp dynamic. If there is a gap between the two, your air is too slow, so work on air speed (not to be confused with volume of air, which would equate to volume of sound).

Hope this helps you!
JR
 

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1) check the mouthpiece position. My experience is that the wrong mouthpiece position has a huge effect on lower notes.

2) try the exercises of Phil Barone in the section "Tone Producing". They helped me tremendously on my tone overall, and very much in the lower register. It's about throat cavity more than about embouchure.

3) take the advices of Drakesaxprof. :D
 

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How hard are your reeds? What kind of mouthpiece are you using?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I use Rico Royal (I'm cheap) size 3 reeds. I've been using the mouthpieces that came with the saxes. Recently I bought Rico Royal graftonite (still cheap) mouthpieces, A5 for the alto and tenor, and B5 for the soprano. I've seen no appreciable change so far.

The same combo (size 3 reed, A5 mpc) works great on my clarinet but I guess that's an apples and oranges comparison.

I think a big part of my problem is that it's hard to un-learn a clarinet embouchure when I play sax. I bet it's just coincidence that the clarinet embouchure "almost" works on the soprano, and on the bigger saxes when I play the upper tones. I say almost, because although I have no problem getting the upper notes to speak, I now notice how out-of-tune my high notes are on the saxes.

Suggestions on better equipment are welcome. I suspect I need to re-learn a true sax embouchure and hopefully I can do it without double-lipping and biting my upper lip off. :)
 

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It is squite possible that because you were using School horns, that they were filled with leaks! What school horn now adays is not?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well, right now, I have a Conn 20M alto (student mexi-conn), which I think is leaky, is unresponsive to repairs, and I'm looking to replace it. My soprano is a straight "Heimer" whatever that is, bought new about 10 years ago, but it plays well (only horn I have no problem with). My tenor is, go ahead and laugh, a "Hawk," sold as an "Anaxa," visually identical to a "Monique," and it cost $140 shipped off flea-bay (did I mention I'm cheap?). I just bought it to goof around with, and as it turns out, it plays a lot better than my Conn alto.

However, I've owned other saxes in the past, and played still more. On some the low notes were easier than others, but only on my soprano can I play a "quiet" low C or Bb.

Seems like I need to start at square one and relearn how to play a sax like a sax, not a clarinet.
 

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Yea, I am in the process of learning clarinet right now, and my embouchure is different on clarinet than sax. You might not be biting, just putting preasure in the wrong places.
 

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Hi! You may want to try a softer reed - first off if you are 'pinching' it will show up more clearly with a softer reed (you wont get much sound at all if you are biting) and second off, I have found it is easier for some people starting out to play on a softer reed. Drop at least a half size, and possibly down to a 2 just to see? I know you said you were cheap, but hey what's a couple extra bucks tossed around in the interest of science, right?
Another thing - (I am SO not a clarinet player, so I can't say if this is a normal clarinet emb. or not) but try drawing in the corners of your mouth more - almost make like a rubber band with your mouth around the mouthpiece - the thought being even pressure all around instead of tighter on the top and bottom.
 

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Let me start off by saying that if the saxophones you are playing are not totally leak free including the neck socket, nothing anyone posts is going to make a great deal of difference. That said this is a link to a post that I did a while back that shares some of my ideas about changing from clarinet to the saxophone. There might be something that you can use. Good luck. http://www.saxontheweb.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=55674

John
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, your advice on that thread will help. I will also try weaker reeds. I can spring for a few of those. :) I just don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on "stuff" just to find out it's me.
 

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monzamess said:
I just don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on "stuff" just to find out it's me.
True. Before you do that, or anything else, take the horns into a tech and have them checked out for leaks. Then if some pads need to be changed (probably in the upper stack) spring for a few bucks and get it done. Go from there.
 

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My teacher would harp on the fact that the low notes simply need more air than the middle range of the horn and that it is key that you provide the airstream and support even when playing softly. We would work on articulation quite a bit in the lower register since getting the notes to sound cleanly can be a problem........ also, don't forget your long tones!!
 

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I have a theory, which is not proven in any way, that the mouthpieces that come with a horn are often a problem in the long run. The Selmer C* that came with my VI is long gone. The mouthpiece that came with my soprano (is says "Bari" on it, I know nothing else about it) is about to get replaced with a Selmer Supersession.

First follow the advice of the other poster who said to get your horns checked for leaks. Once you see what that does for you, you might try experimenting with some different mouthpieces, and along with them, different reeds.
 
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