Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 1 of 7 Posts

· Banned
26,884 Posts
Well, let me ask you a couple of questions about your playing practices with all these many reeds. We need to know this mainly because, like it or not, it actually takes years to learn not just how to play the sax but how to get a set-up that works for you personally. What I mean by that is that the horn, the mouthpiece, and the reed are all just inert pieces of dead dumb material. They have no life of their own and it is we the players who must give them life. Right? However that means not just learning to get your brain and heart through your fingers to get the sax to play musical notes but also learning how to set up the mouthpiece and reed to produce the tones that sound the way you want them to. It's not just a matter or looking on a mouthpiece page in WWBW and picking one that looks good or appeals to you because others praise it or because it is supposedly for a certain kind of music but actually having some experience playing so that you can try them and know if they work for you. Unfortunately that's a Catch 22 because as a beginner you haven't internalized the knowledge playing and hearing yourself to know what works and what doesn't. Same goes for reeds. Lots of brands and lots of hardness numbers plus there are cane and synthetic ones. How is a beginner to know *** to do? Right?

So first off you need to be methodical. You got a Yamaha 4C, which is a generally recommended mpc for starters. Middle of the road, nebbish, plain Jane mpc that costs little and doesn't require much chops to play. I had one back at the beginning too and sold it quickly because it was dull. I had been playing a bunch longer than you so it wasn't an issue of a "buzzy sound" but that I found it colorless and dull with the reeds I had available at the time. I bet if I had that mpc today I could match it with it's ideal reed and make it sing almost as good as my Berg HR 90 piece or the Selmer Super Session D which are gems and a far cry from the Yamahaha. You know that Bird played on borrowed altos that had rubber bands holding them together and pads stuck on with spit but he was Bird. so you know he could have made a 4C Sang like a mutha.

So my question is what made you think that the problem was the 4C? And why did you change to the Meyer 6 instead of a 5 which is the traditional go to size for alto players? You couldn't play it because the opening was too big, so you should have gone back and worked on your chops on the 4C because it was basically you not the reed issue. I mean to say that if it wasn't the right brand or hardness of reed you could have changed it...a lot cheaper than a new mpc....had you known your way around the issue. And if it was a dead synthetic....they do die faster than cane believe me (fun on a gig) would have known that, were you experienced. You say you could only get a buzzy sound with the reed strength you could use but how did you know it was the reed size you needed. I mean if it was buzzy then it wasn't right for some reason, either too hard or something else. How about your embouchure and/or your setting up of the reed on the mpc? How did you know it wasn't those? See it's easy to blame the too rather than the apprentice, if you know what I mean. So let's talk about that first.

Have you had any instruction from anyone on how to properly prepare reeds for playing? How to properly place them, adjust them and clamp them on the mpc? How to test play them to see if they need working on, such as sanding, scraping, etc, etc? I mean how did you know that the strength of the reeds you were using was right or not right for you when in fact reeds can vary in hardness and playing quality and characteristics quite a lot even in the same brand and even in the same box? Yes you said it was a Legere, but those can wonk out all of a sudden like a dead dog and you as a beginner might not know it was that and not something else, right? There is in fact an art to choosing a setup and truthfully it is not learned overnight but by trial and error and the trail of tears over time. There is now way up the mountain little grasshopper except one step at a time and nobody can avoid that reality.

So since you don't have the experience, getting a teacher or advanced player to advise you is the first suggestion I would make. Have them check out your horn for leaks and intonation issues and check your set-up and it's aptness for you. Then have them check how you hold the sax and place the mpc in your mouth and form your embouchure. It's an alto not a tenor so you know that the mpc doesn't go straight into your mouth, right? Also you need to be taking in a goodly amount of mpc and have to avoid biting down on the reed or you will stifle it. This frequently happens with beginners when they get frustrated and it is a lose-lose situation. You have trouble, you get frustrated, you bite down, you sound worse, you get frustrated, you bite even more and then you write in and ask what mpc and reed you should get. LOL

Okay, from your description of "an airy sound" I know right away that you are neither taking in enough mpc nor directing your airflow up at the reed which is at an angle to your tongue and not horizontally parallel to it like on a tenor. If you want a full rich deep sound on alto you need to have the right embouchure and that is where you are going wrong. Man, I hate to say it but you have been wasting time and money going around in circles buying and selling 4 mpcs and god knows how many reeds and still not getting anywhere toward developing a sound that is at all pleasant or good. This by your own admission. But don't feel bad....this is the beginners trap that many fall into, thinking that it is the gear that will be the answer and not them learning to use it properly. I did that as did most on here and many still do. Ha Ha. If you were a novice chef would you go out and spend thousands on a professional knife set before you can even slice a baguette let alone filet a chicken breast in 3 mm thick slices?

So it isn't your fault. We all have gone the route of gear and more gear early on while finding our way, but my advice is to cut to the chase and find out (1) how to choose, adjust and setup reeds properly on a mouthpiece, (2) how to form a proper solid alto embouchure ,(3) how to breath from the diaphragm (watch this video)

and (4)how to play for the tonal quality before you worry about what you are playing, i.e. play long tones up and down the horn. (5) Play scales for the tone not just for the correct notes.

Thankfully years ago non of this was learned except by trial and error but these days there is a ton of info online in the way of tutorial videos and step by step instruction to help you. There's so much in fact it becomes overwhelming. Where to begin is the problem.

But first I suggest you follow these tried and true suggestions:

--Get someone to check out your set up, your embouchure and show you how to do the basics correctly.

--Stop changing Mpcs. A S80C** or the Jody Jazz 5 are perfectly fine mpcs for a beginner or even an experienced player so it isn't them at fault.S80C and C* have been the standard mpcs for millions of beginning players on up to intermediates. Many pros didn't play mpcs that much different from them either. You don't need a Tesla, you need to practice driving the VW.

-- As for reeds, if you want a dark reed get a Vandoren Trad, which is plenty dark.

-- If you want a dark synth it's a bigger problem because most of them are bright and the bigger the more jazz designed the mpc the brighter they will sound. I can play a legere on my Selmer Super Session D and it sounds great. Even on the Berg bullet chamber 90/0/SMS it sounds good. However if I put that reed on my Metallite M7 fuggeddaboudit. Way too strident and treble. Finding any reed dark enough for that baby is the problem right now for me. Dark doesn't exist with it I think.

-- And get one reed size 2 and one size 2.5. Then watch this video on reed prep and do what he does.

Okay, I know you are going to say, but JIA that is for cane reeds not synthetics and they hurt my lip. Well man, that's odd, because for most folks the synthetic reads hurt the lip after awhile because they have no pores, don't breath, don't absorb moisture, and don't give. They are solid plastic.

Cane on the other hand does breath because it has pores and is a natural material that was recently alive. It's just because you didn't know how to prep the cane reed first that the roughness of the surface hurt you. I have some new cane reeds I could shave with and sand the callouses on my feet with. Imagine that!! So watch that video and do what that guy does with the reed on the paper and you will seal and smooth the cane surface and make it as soft and gentle as a baby's butt. I guarantee it.

Okay, that is very basic reed prep but more can be done and in fact some people get almost anal compulsive about how they prep reeds. I do not advise that at this stage. Some of it is more Voodoo than logical functional practice.

However, this guy has a good video of how he does it and I used to do this too.

But after 10 years of doing it after first wising up to this stuff by stumbling for a long time I just quit it and have just done the basics of smoothing it and maybe sanding it before playing it. If a reed doesn't play well after a bit of futzing with it I just choose another one. No reed geek, no vodka soaking, no sponge b.s. for me. If it doesn't play after a couple or three rounds of working on it I throw it in a box and select another. I do not throw away reeds. I keep them in boxes by size and keep trying and rotating them when I need a new one because they are really only dead when they break.

Finally, the last tip I can give you is one that many people don't know about but it helps to open up a new reed and make it less stiff and thus more responsive. With the recently wetted new reed on the mpc, clamped down by your ligature, stick your thumb in your mouth to wet it too and then place the ball or meaty part of it at the beginning of the vamp right past the cut and pressing down push it down the reed towards the tip. This will push the reed down onto the facing of the mpc and depending on the facing curve this will make it go down more or less to touch the facing flattening it more than it is normally. Do that 2 or 3 times and I guarantee that most new reeds that are resistant at first will open up and sing much better. sometimes that is all a new reed needs to get it playing well. It's something that Dexter Gordon used to do, as well as Coleman Hawkins, I believe, and it works. Believe me.

Okay, I hope this all helps you and any other new player.
1 - 1 of 7 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.