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I don't know which forum to post this in, but since I play soprano I'll post it here.

When you need to play soft, is it better to use a closed mouthpiece with a hard reed or vice versa? Or is the tip opening irrelevant? For that matter is it all technique and the entire mouthpiece/reed combination irrelevant?
 

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Tip opening does affect it somewhat, larger tips are easier to play loudly and smaller tips with harder reeds are easier to play softly, but with proper technique your dynamic range should be very large no matter what the piece. The key is embouchure strength and air support, developed through long tones at various dynamic levels.
 

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first i must ask: what context are you thinking of when you say you "need to play soft"? are you playing classical music? in a orchestra/windensemble? saxophone quartet? or you playing jazz?..etc...
i say that because with a change in mouthpiece facing you also get a change of timbre. some facings are more suitable for certain types of music...generally speaking the more closed the facing the "darker" or more stuffy sounding a mouthpiece will be. and the opposite is true of more open facings.
to answer your question specifically:
it is easier to play softly and in tune with a more closed mouthpiece/harder reed. but it also limits your dynamic range. ideally you want to find the mouthpiece/tip opening/reed combination that can provide you with the best balance between dynamic range/timbre/controllability. the tricky part is settling on what balance is right for you....and it pretty much all hinges on what type of music you intend to play. that's why there's so many different mouthpieces....
 

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dpmusic said:
It is easier to play softly and in tune with a more closed mouthpiece/harder reed. but it also limits your dynamic range
i believed this for a long time myself until recently, the last two months I've been using a Vandoen Optimum mouthpiece on bari, a closed/classical mouthpiece with a stiff reed in a big band setting, and when the proper aount of air is used I often surprize myself with how much volume I can get out of the thing. I still regularly get comments from the director that I play too loudly...

Again, air support and proper embouchure can do 90% of the job for you, the mouthpiece gets the rest done and makes it easier depenfing on the playing situation.
 

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Chris: I think that once a player finds the right tip-opening/reed combination for his/her own unique embouchure, it is a matter of chops. DAVE
 

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I agree with Dave. I don't think it has anything to do with the reed or mouthpiece; it has to do with time spent on the horn. Eventually, with practice, the soprano is no different from the other horns in that regard. You'll learn how to play soft through lots of practice.
 

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saying it doesn't have anything to do with the reed mouthpiece is going too far.
also the closer facing/harder reed being not as loud is definitely true. now, that doesn't mean you can't play loud at all. of course you can still play loud, just not as loud as with a larger tip opening/lighter reed.
basically you're saying you could play as loud on a selmer C* as you could on an selmer J facing...which is of course totally untrue.
but chops definitely are the biggest factor. i could see someone possibly using the same mouthpiece for any situation, but why would you want to? different situations require different sounds...seems as if you were going from classical to jazz you would use a different mouthpiece...i always have. they're different types of music!
 

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Dave Dolson said:
Chris: I think that once a player finds the right tip-opening/reed combination for his/her own unique embouchure, it is a matter of chops. DAVE
Ding, Ding, Ding!!! We have ourselves a winner!

If you can't tell, I agree with Dave!


Steve
 

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dpmusic said:
saying it doesn't have anything to do with the reed mouthpiece is going too far.
also the closer facing/harder reed being not as loud is definitely true. now, that doesn't mean you can't play loud at all. of course you can still play loud, just not as loud as with a larger tip opening/lighter reed.
basically you're saying you could play as loud on a selmer C* as you could on an selmer J facing...which is of course totally untrue.
but chops definitely are the biggest factor. i could see someone possibly using the same mouthpiece for any situation, but why would you want to? different situations require different sounds...seems as if you were going from classical to jazz you would use a different mouthpiece...i always have. they're different types of music!
I don't think that anyone will disagree with you here.

However, Dave is still correct.

I use a Selmer C* (60's ish scroll shank) on alto for my classical/quartet playing. I use a Van Doren 3.5 or 4 on this set-up. For my Big Band/Show work, I use an RPC 90R with Van Doren Java 2.5's. On either setup, I can play pianissimo, or softer, remain in tune with a pleasant sound.

I would defy even my most advanced high school students to even attempt ppp playing on either setup. Why? In a word "chops".

I think I choose the mouthpieces/reeds to play based on the quality of sound I wish to or need to make, and the volume I need to/want to make on the LOUD end of the spectrum. The soft end, I think, is up to me.

Steve
 

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dpmusic said:
...basically you're saying you could play as loud on a selmer C* as you could on an selmer J facing...which is of course totally untrue...
Well, the thread topic is about playing soft, not loud. I agree there are limits to how loud one can play with certain reed/mouthpiece setups, but I think one should be able to play soft and subtone with any.
 

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Chris:

Your reed needs to be broken in. The wider the tip opening the softer the reed needs to be, whether that be by a lighter strength or more broken in.

You will notice that as a reed breaks in, you need less air pressure to make it vibrate (sound).

How long does this take? It depends on the mouthpiece, the reed you are using and your embouchure. It's different for everyone. You will find what works for you in time and then you will know how long it takes you to break in a reed in order to play soft. That is softer than "pppp."

Also dry reeds out of the box usually don't play soft.

Hope this helps
 

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What confuses me a bit here is that the statement "a harder reed on a smaller mouthpiece" can be played softer. But anytime I go to a harder reed on any mouthpiece I have to blow harder to get it to vibrate and this results in a louder note. Am I missing something here?
I`m a little like TenTenTooter I`m getting comments of being too loud in our small band when I`m using my soprano sax.
 

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Ronish said:
What confuses me a bit here is that the statement "a harder reed on a smaller mouthpiece" can be played softer. But anytime I go to a harder reed on any mouthpiece I have to blow harder to get it to vibrate and this results in a louder note. Am I missing something here?
I highly doubt that a harder reed on any mpc is going to help me play softer. I can play soft with a Rico Jazz Select 2M which is like a Vandoren 2.65. If I try playing with a Vandoren 3, there is no way I can play anywhere near as softly.

As has been said above, it is chops, and I would add, specifically working on keeping it soft. I really liked the soft tone of a soprano player I heard on vacation, and when I got home, tried playing like that. At first I couldn't do it, but now I'm getting closer, but not with a harder reed.
 

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Ronish said:
What confuses me a bit here is that the statement "a harder reed on a smaller mouthpiece" can be played softer. But anytime I go to a harder reed on any mouthpiece I have to blow harder to get it to vibrate and this results in a louder note. Am I missing something here?
I`m a little like TenTenTooter I`m getting comments of being too loud in our small band when I`m using my soprano sax.
I joined a windensemble recently (playing the alto) and have a similar problem; some of my colleagues claim I'm playing too loud. I'm using a Meyer 6M with Vandoren V16-3 reeds (or Vandoren 2.5 - blue box).

Every time I'm using a harder or new reed I can not play soft, since I have to blow harder to produce a note.

This happens also with the soprano where I use an Yanagisawa 5 (ebonite) that has been provided with a SC991.

Do you think this will just change with working my chops?
 

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If you are playing a #3 strength, its going to take quite a while to break the reed in to get in to play soft. When one breaks in a reed, basically what happens is that you are wearing down the strength of the reed. A #3 reed after about a month, is going to play like a 2 or 1.5, although it says #3 on the reed. There are two strength's 1) the out of the box strength; and, 2) the broken-in strength, which depends on how broken in the reed is.

It's only when the reed gets soft and supple, does one get a soft and supple tone and the ability to play quietly. This happens a lot faster with lighter reed strengths than heavier reeds strengths. Heavier reed strengths take more time to break-in, unless one is shaving them down.

The other thought that occurred about playing soft, is that a "straight" sax is very unidirectional. It's like a rifle. One really has to be careful where they point the horn. Point a "straight" at someone's ear, although they made be a distance away and you will get the "playing too loud" in a heartbeat.

Yes, it does have to do with chops in that softer reeds that are broken in that this extent and harder to control, especially with a large tip opening. A lot of the "starch" is out of the reed.
 

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What happens to the pitch when you play soft? What happens to the pitch when you play loud? It is a good idea to find the correct placement of the mouthpiece on the neck cork before trying different reed strengths. Tune to concert Bb in both octaves. I have a mpc and reed combination that accommodates both very soft and very loud. :D Every wind instrument, including saxophone, has it's own intonation peculiarities and it takes experience to understand them. There are no shortcuts.
 

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You are right and you got me before I finished the edit. Thanks :) Have a good weekend.
 

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Yes it IS chops (as I posted earlier), but I think many saxophonists and clarinetists don't spend enough time developing their set-ups. A close-tipped mouthpiece can be played softly with stronger reeds when the player finds the right reed to match the mouthpiece, THEN preps all of the reeds so they play consistently alike.

Or, for my clarinet, I found the perfect combo in a Fibracell reed and a Meyer 66 mouthpiece. Fibracells, at least for me, are a lot stronger than their cane counterparts. But the Fibracell (1 1/2 or SOFT) works perfectly on my clarinet. That set-up allows me to play soft or loud.

For soprano, it has taken me years of testing, buying, trading to come up with mouthpieces and reed combos that give me that flexibility. Of course, those years also developed my hi-reed chops.

On alto, a recently acquired Don Sinta piece (described as approximating a Selmer C*, normally WAY to closed for my tastes) plays superbly with a Fibracell 1 1/2.

It is NOT a matter of slapping on a reed and letting it happen. It is a long-term research project. I am betting that the bulk of players who find no difficulty in playing soft OR loud are those who have found the perfect combination of reed and mouthpiece.

I know VegasChris (who opened this thread). He is a dynamite, world-class barrelhouse pianio player who recently took to saxophone. I've heard his recordings where he played sop sax and am amazed at his quick take on soprano where many of us have struggled for years on that horn. I envy his musical talent. DAVE
 

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Playing soft also relates to good horn performance.

If you have any leaks, playing soft will become difficult.

Make sure your horn is leak free.
 
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