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A good friend of mine who is an accomplished professional "traditional jazz" clarinetist took a lesson from a university clarinet teacher and asked the teacher if there was any way he could increase his volume. The teacher gave him a couple of other mouthpieces to try that were more "closed" and had more resistance than the one he was playing on at the time which was quite open and "free blowing". The teacher remarked that both of those mouthpieces made his sound perceptively louder, which surprised him since they didn't sound as loud as his more open mouthpiece when he played them.

To prove it to him the teacher recorded him playing the same excerpt on each mouthpiece one at a time and then played them back in a random order. My friend believed the louder recording was made playing his own mouthpiece, but discovered that the more closed and resistant mouthpiece that sounded softer when he played produced more volume across the room and his more open and free blowing one was actually softer.

Has anyone else had this experience with clarinet or saxophone mouthpieces? Does anyone have an explanation as to why the sound perceived by the player while playing is so different or the opposite than the sound out front? It is intuitive to believe that a more open tip mouthpiece with a longer lay produces more volume, but is this really the case? Perhaps some of the mouthpiece makers or re-facers on the forum can shed some light on this interesting topic.
 

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It's an interesting topic for discussion, and it kind ofties in with some advice I was given last Summer.

Without dropping names, I was in a master class that made me start thinking about this very topic. Specifically I was asked about my equipment. My overall tone quality was "happening" but this master indicated that my 7* was more open than he has his students (and himself) play on. As he put it, there's a lot of extra effort in just getting the sound out. He suggested a 5* or 6 on the same mouthpiece would be a huge improvement for me.

He does not suffer from a lack of volume with his "restrictive" setup and a mediumish (2.5) reed.

I've been thinking about this for several months, and for me he just might be right.


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Perceived loudness can be influenced by three things: Amplitude, time, and frequency content.

The only quantitative measure I know of amplitude is measured in dB SPL (decibels sound pressure level).

I suspect that a change in frequency content is affecting perceived loudness here.
 

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Sound transmitted through the bone? I'm not sure why the opening would affect it. Perhaps the different resistance with a smaller tip affects how much sound is transmitted through the skull. Just a wild guess. I can't think of any other reason it should be so.
 

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Set up mics, play with a group using the two different set-ups and see which one you hear better. I'm sure 'perceptions' and frequency factors are contributing to this 'paradox' and I can tell you that usually your actual volume to a listener compared to what you think you are doing is very deceiving. I have always played loud and used large, high-baffle mouthpieces with med-soft reeds. Sometimes, under certain acoustic conditions, I can tell that I'm loud, but I'm so used to myself that I simply play like I play and they turn it up or down depending on conditions. However it is true that 'hearing' is not totally dependent on SPL - the frequency of the sound can make it seem 'louder' to the listener but not necessarily louder to the meter. All this is simply how we learn to project, which is necessary with a wind instrument. The timbre of the horn changes with the amount of air you're putting through it so there's no such thing as 'Use this mouthpiece and you'll sound better' because how you sound depends on so many factors unique to each player.
 

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My dad was a TV transmitter engineer back when they had such things. He used to rail about how the networks pumped up the loudness of their ads. Something to do with boosting the mid-range without increasing the dB. Apparently it is against federal regulations to boost the dB of ads but they found away around it. It's all about the middle frequencies.
 

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My dad was a TV transmitter engineer back when they had such things. He used to rail about how the networks pumped up the loudness of their ads. Something to do with boosting the mid-range without increasing the dB. Apparently it is against federal regulations to boost the dB of ads but they found away around it. It's all about the middle frequencies.
Compression/limiting does that. It SOUNDS like boosting midrange, but what it does is squashes dynamics so all frequencies are the same level.
 

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Thanks. I assumed that was what was happening. Some audio receivers have a "loudness" button you can toggle to make it sound louder. I'm pretty sure that's what's going on there.
 

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It's the same reason why some people believe their more spread sounding horns or mouthpieces are louder. It's because they can hear themselves better that the more centered equipment because the sound is more directional and projects outwards away from the player with the more centered stuff.
 

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It's an interesting topic for discussion, and it kind ofties in with some advice I was given last Summer.

Without dropping names, I was in a master class that made me start thinking about this very topic. Specifically I was asked about my equipment. My overall tone quality was "happening" but this master indicated that my 7* was more open than he has his students (and himself) play on. As he put it, there's a lot of extra effort in just getting the sound out. He suggested a 5* or 6 on the same mouthpiece would be a huge improvement for me.

He does not suffer from a lack of volume with his "restrictive" setup and a mediumish (2.5) reed.

I've been thinking about this for several months, and for me he just might be right.


Sent from my LGUS997 using Tapatalk
I play tenor .105 - .110 tip... just what I'm used to. I scored an excellent condition D'Addario Jazz Select 6M tenor piece early summer for a great price, because I wanted to experiment with a more closed tip mouthpiece and I believe it is .095. I found I needed to go up in strength of reed (to Rigotti 3.5S), and it didn't feel like it lost any volume. Tone is more focused (not sure whether to do with the smaller tip or the mouthpiece facing etc.) and didn't lose any projection, could play just as loud but then again....was using my ears.

Maybe a more closed tip with stronger reed produces better projection? Still have the D'Addario but went back to my .105; the D'Addario was more of an experiment and the price was right.
 

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I wrote to Maxime Carron with this question and he suggested that perhaps the more resistant mouthpiece forces the player to blow harder thereby increasing the sound energy. He also added that "volume and perception of volume are not necessarily the same thing". Both he and Pauline Eveno are great at answering questions about acoustics even with their busy schedules working at SYOS.
 

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It's an interesting topic for discussion, and it kind ofties in with some advice I was given last Summer.

Without dropping names, I was in a master class that made me start thinking about this very topic. Specifically I was asked about my equipment. My overall tone quality was "happening" but this master indicated that my 7* was more open than he has his students (and himself) play on. As he put it, there's a lot of extra effort in just getting the sound out. He suggested a 5* or 6 on the same mouthpiece would be a huge improvement for me.

He does not suffer from a lack of volume with his "restrictive" setup and a mediumish (2.5) reed.

I've been thinking about this for several months, and for me he just might be right.


Sent from my LGUS997 using Tapatalk
What's your point in not naming this master whom you are quoting and then pointing out that he does not suffer from a lack of volume with his "restrictive" setup? You are not defaming him in any way. I would think some other's here, like myself, would like to check out his sound to gain a better perspective of what you're talking about.
 

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Thanks. I assumed that was what was happening. Some audio receivers have a "loudness" button you can toggle to make it sound louder. I'm pretty sure that's what's going on there.
Loudness buttons traditionally add an eq to boost lows and highs. Our ears are less sensitive to the lower and upper frequencies compared to midrange, so if you're listening at a low volume, the loudness button makes it sound similar to a louder volume.
 

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It's the same reason why some people believe their more spread sounding horns or mouthpieces are louder. It's because they can hear themselves better that the more centered equipment because the sound is more directional and projects outwards away from the player with the more centered stuff.
I think this is true to some extent. But then you get into whether or not you want a big sound (spread) or a more piercing sound (centered). And those would be 'end members' of a spectrum in between. I'm not sure whether or not that's a volume issue, but it certainly is a perception thing from the player's standpoint, as you say. And of course it's all pretty subjective.

One thing for certain, when playing on stage we can't stand out front or across the room, and hear exactly what the audience is hearing. So you have to go with what you can hear from your own perspective. But I still wish I could somehow hear it from the audience perspective.
 

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I've never been able to tell a spread sound to a focussed sound. Love to hear some examples.
 

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What's your point in not naming this master whom you are quoting and then pointing out that he does not suffer from a lack of volume with his "restrictive" setup? You are not defaming him in any way. I would think some other's here, like myself, would like to check out his sound to gain a better perspective of what you're talking about.
It could easily be perceived as name dropping as well. Damned if I do, and if I don't. I am also not quoting, I'm comveying a discussion. There's a difference between the two.










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I've never been able to tell a spread sound to a focussed sound. Love to hear some examples.
Well, like I said it's subjective and maybe the terminology is a bit problematic. For a possible example, compare Gene Ammons to Sonny Stitt. I'd say Gene has the more spread sound:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npqfOk7XN_0

They both have a great sound and so it's kind of a subtle distinction. A better example might be Ammons vs Coltrane (Coltrane having a more focused or 'piercing' sound). But again, this has little to do with volume, although a brighter more focused sound might cut through a dense mix better.

p.s. I'll admit this sort of thing ('spread' vs 'focused') is down to perceptions and of course perceptions can be deceptive or even all in the mind. For example, I clearly perceive my series one Buescher Aristocrat tenor to have a more focused (laser-like) sound than my 156 Aristocrat which has a more spread sound (seemingly bigger or broader), although they both have a 'loud' and similar tone quality otherwise. I've experienced the same thing with some mpcs. Whether or not there is any objective reality to what I'm hearing in those cases is hard to say. And does the more 'focused' sound project farther into the room or does the spread sound fill the room? I really don't know the answer to that.
 

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A good friend of mine who is an accomplished professional "traditional jazz" clarinetist took a lesson from a university clarinet teacher and asked the teacher if there was any way he could increase his volume. The teacher gave him a couple of other mouthpieces to try that were more "closed" and had more resistance than the one he was playing on at the time which was quite open and "free blowing". The teacher remarked that both of those mouthpieces made his sound perceptively louder, which surprised him since they didn't sound as loud as his more open mouthpiece when he played them.
People often confuse volume with loudness. When you say "perceptively louder" that is a bit of a tautology because loudness is the (subjective) perception of a sound having more volume. So volume can be measured as sound pressure in decibels, but a sound with more volume is not necssarily louder to the human ear, which is more sensitive to some frequencies over others. Hence a mouthpiece with a high baffle can theoretically have less volume but more loudness if it enhances those frequencies we are more sensitive to. Further to that when hearing yourself, it is wuite likely that you are hearing more of those frequencies via bone conduction, so you might think you are louder than other people do.

There are various other factors such as sounding loud in a band.

Another example with the high baffle that people think will help them project is tyhat it may sound louder because it is cutting above other instruments that may have lower frequencies, ie it is filling a space in the frequency spectrum when before the high baffle it was competing for space with other insyruments of similar predominant frequencies. HOWEVER, what if switching to that high baffle makes your sound louder BUT it is competing with something else such as an electric guitar. So even though that high baffle makes it sound loud on its own, once it is in the same range as a guitar it all becomes confused and competing.

Another thing that can increase loudness is distortion. We can do that with a growl. Adding just a teeny bit of growl can add cut, and ifcan be done so that it doesn't actually sound like a fill on growl sound - just a bit more edge or grit that also helps loudness without adding volume.

Compression as has been mentioned can be veryb useful, but if it is overdone then it works against you. many musicians who have experienced compression done badly often just dismiss it as opposed to learning about how, when used senistively, it can greatly enhance loudness and clarity.


My dad was a TV transmitter engineer back when they had such things. He used to rail about how the networks pumped up the loudness of their ads. Something to do with boosting the mid-range without increasing the dB. Apparently it is against federal regulations to boost the dB of ads but they found away around it. It's all about the middle frequencies.
Those regulations are probably no longer in use - dB only measures volume not l;oudness. These days those regulations are usually based on LUFS (Loudness Units Relative To Full Scale) and more accurately measure actual loudness. When mixing or mastering for broadcast or streaming we now tewnd to pay attention to this. Spotify or Apple will adjust the level, and unless we pay attention to LUFS at the stage it is delieverd, their reduction of level or compression can be destructive.

Thanks. I assumed that was what was happening. Some audio receivers have a "loudness" button you can toggle to make it sound louder. I'm pretty sure that's what's going on there.
These buttons don't just make the sound louder:

Loudness buttons traditionally add an eq to boost lows and highs. Our ears are less sensitive to the lower and upper frequencies compared to midrange, so if you're listening at a low volume, the loudness button makes it sound similar to a louder volume.
Exactly. Loudness is a bit of a misnomer, but they do affect the quality and perception at low levels, but don't just make something louder overall.
 

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Spread and focus is what I hear with large vs small mouthpiece throat designs. Bright/dark is high/low baffles.

It it not real clear when comparing focused dark mouthpieces to spread bright mouthpieces. But when you have a particular mouthpiece and you alter the throat or baffle you can hear what it does. Putty experiments are helpful.
 
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