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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello
I've been playing saxophone for six years now and I've always loved jazz, been in a jazz band all six of those years, and I currently play lead alto in my high school jazz band. My question is a half euipment based and half skill building question I guess. The sound I'm looking for is what I would consider modern but maybe I'm completely off. It's what you hear the the modern lead alto play in a big band, but if I had to compare it to an artist I'd say a little bit of Cannonball or Phil Woods. Anyways I've tried everything to produce this tone, mouthpieces reeds exc. but I just can't get the sound I want and then I hear other high school band alto players play exactly how I want to and I get a little jealous. I know that many responses will be about listening and I do a lot of that and I pratice a lot of long tones but I can't get the sound. Anyways I currently play on a HR* Jody Jazz 6M. I was thinking about getting a new mp with a larger tip opening or smaller chamber for that bright modern sound I want so any feeback will help, thanks!
 

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Hello
I've been playing saxophone for six years now and I've always loved jazz, been in a jazz band all six of those years, and I currently play lead alto in my high school jazz band. My question is a half euipment based and half skill building question I guess. The sound I'm looking for is what I would consider modern but maybe I'm completely off. It's what you hear the the modern lead alto play in a big band, but if I had to compare it to an artist I'd say a little bit of Cannonball or Phil Woods. Anyways I've tried everything to produce this tone, mouthpieces reeds exc. but I just can't get the sound I want and then I hear other high school band alto players play exactly how I want to and I get a little jealous. I know that many responses will be about listening and I do a lot of that and I pratice a lot of long tones but I can't get the sound. Anyways I currently play on a HR* Jody Jazz 6M. I was thinking about getting a new mp with a larger tip opening or smaller chamber for that bright modern sound I want so any feeback will help, thanks!
Who do you listen to? Do you want a '40's, 50's type sound?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well I like that sound and I appreciate it a lot, but I am going for a much more modern sound then that. I listen to Cannonball probably the most, but I actually listen to more tenor players to be honest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Our group plays more transcriptions than arrangments. Lots of Basie and lots of Ellington. The Basie lead alto of the Nestico era/Basie Straight Ahead is close to what sound I'm looking for.
 

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I wouldn't worry about the mouthpiece; what you have is great. Make sure you are using a jazz embouchure (lower lip out rather than in) for maximum tonal flexibility. For help, you can do a search here on the forum or even better, ask a private teacher.
Also, practice overtone exercises to assure your embouchure, air, and tongue position are all good. Start your practice sessions with 5 mins of these.
Play along with Cannonball transcriptions and the Basie band while reading the charts. Try to sound as much like the greats as possible by matching their articulation, tone (by directing your airstream, tongue position, etc.), and phrasing. Your own sound will come later; matching other players' tones will give you flexibility and the ability to blend in a section.

A good private teacher will guide you through these things. It is money well spent...
 

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Our group plays more transcriptions than arrangments. Lots of Basie and lots of Ellington. The Basie lead alto of the Nestico era/Basie Straight Ahead is close to what sound I'm looking for.
You don't mean modern then. I play mostly Nestico (Basie), Wolpe, Kenton. I listened and still do to the 1950's Basie sax section with Marshall Royal. Phil woods of course. Johnny Hodges with Ellington. Bud Shank's no vibrato lead with the later Stan Kenon Orchestra. Johnny Bothwell wiih Boyd Raeburn. Willy Smith with Billy May and Harry James. Benny Carter. These are not really modern jazz sounds but these are great lead alto sounds of the big band era. Listen to Cannonballs ballads. All this stuff is available on iTunes and you can hear much of it on Youtube.. You might want to try a Meyer 5 or 6 mouthpiece although the Jody HR should also do it for you. You might like Dave Koz or David Sanborn for more modern conception. Listen on You tube to the Marshall Royal video of The Midnight Sun Also Rises. Now that's an alto sound in my opinion.
 

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Two suggestions. (1) Listen very carefully to the lead alto's vibrato on sustained notes especially. It might help to slow some recordings to half speed. (2) Listen to yourself. Seriously, record some pieces to play back on good audio equipment. You might even discover that you're closer to the sound you're looking for than you thought.
 

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Our group plays more transcriptions than arrangments. Lots of Basie and lots of Ellington. The Basie lead alto of the Nestico era/Basie Straight Ahead is close to what sound I'm looking for.
That's Marshall Royal. I mentioned before, check out The Sun Also Rises on youtube. Great lead alto tone and phrasing.
 

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I don't think you're going to find the sound you're looking for with a new mouthpiece -- I think a new piece will just tweak the sound you've already got, and I think you're looking for more than a tweak.

Long tones are a great start. I'd suggest next on your agenda should be exploring taking in more mouthpiece and doing the tone production studies Barone posted here a while back: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?53228-Tone-Production

Of course, I am diagnosing your problem without hearing you or seeing your embouchure or anything along those lines, so this is the rankest, crummiest guess as to what's going on with you -- but it's based on my experience with folks your age with the same complaint.

For a less crummy, less rank guess regarding your sound and embouchure, find a good local teacher -- maybe even talk to one of those high school players who are making you jealous, and ask them what they're doing and who they're studying with.

Because this is SOTW, it is required by statute that someone will respond here that the real problem is that you are taking in too much mouthpiece, and that the Barone stuff is a crock. Also, someone will say it's all attitude and who you're listening to, and that's all. These people are also correct.

Good luck, and get going!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you for the advice. This makes the most sense to me. I'm probably playing with a more classical approach as far as how much mouthpiece I take in. I've noticed that when I hear recordings of my self the sound is not all that bright and a little stuffy. Almost as if the sound is there trying to break free. So what I'm understanding from you is that when I take more mouthpiece in I'll be able to relax my embouchure more making a brighter or more open sound? Thanks again.
 

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I'm probably playing with a more classical approach as far as how much mouthpiece I take in. I've noticed that when I hear recordings of my self the sound is not all that bright and a little stuffy. Almost as if the sound is there trying to break free. So what I'm understanding from you is that when I take more mouthpiece in I'll be able to relax my embouchure more making a brighter or more open sound?
I think taking in more mouthpiece goes hand in hand with the "lip out," less-is-more embouchure approach, which has been very beneficial to lots of folks in improving their jazz sound. Taking in more piece does not *automatically* make you relax the embouchure more, however -- you still have to work on unlearning previous habits to get to where you want to go here.

This is not the ONLY valid approach, of course -- but it's certainly worth exploring if you're unhappy with your current sound. And again, an actual flesh-and-blood teacher whose sound you admire will beat a guy giving you advice on the internet by a mile...
 

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There are lots of videos on YouTube of the great players you are talking about. Watch them. Look at HOW Cannonball or Phil Woods or David Sanborn or whoever blows. Look at their mouths, their lips, their jaw as they play. Then pick one or more, transcribe it and try to do the same thing with your mouth lips and jaw as you play the transcribed solo.

Most of these folks take in way more mouthpiece than a typical classical approach. If you look at the picture in Larry Teal's Art of Saxophone Playing book (actually a very nice embouchure, but classically oriented), and compare to the great jazz players, you will see that the jazz guys generally take in way more mouthpiece.

A good place to start is to place the center of your lower lip (rolled in or out, doesn't really matter) right at the break point of the mouthpiece facing curve. That's usually about 20 - 22 mm for alto, and 23 - 25 mm for tenor. This spot, or perhaps 1 or 2 mm back toward the tip, gives you good control of the reed, but also lets it vibrate freely over most of its length - or rather the length of the facing. Use a piece of cellophane or paper to determine this spot.
 
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