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Can you list all the well known lead alto players that played Selmer C*’s? I was playing as loud as I possibly could and blowing my brains out on something like that in high school and still couldn’t cut through the band. Switched to a Beechler and bam, I was leading the way. Saying the mouthpiece doesn’t matter is ridiculous………..


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Well, you completely missed my point. And, not once did I say the mouthpiece doesn't matter. My point being that playing what the last lead alto player played on isn't going to get you what he had. We're all different, and what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. My second point was, there have been plenty of lead alto players playing Meyer's. I'd be willing to bet that that Selmer you were playing at that time didn't quite suit you on a personal level either, so you had no problem ditching it. Some mouthpieces are never going to project and cut through to lead the section, and personally I wouldn't want it for solo or small group work either if I could project with it.
 

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Well, you completely missed my point. And, not once did I say the mouthpiece doesn't matter. My point being that playing what the last lead alto player played on isn't going to get you what he had. We're all different, and what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. My second point was, there have been plenty of lead alto players playing Meyer's. I'd be willing to bet that that Selmer you were playing at that time didn't quite suit you on a personal level either, so you had no problem ditching it. Some mouthpieces are never going to project and cut through to lead the section, and personally I wouldn't want it for solo or small group work either if I could project with it.
Sorry. My mistake for not understanding your point. I thought you were saying choosing between a Selmer C* or a Meyer for alto makes no difference. I understand now...........
 

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Hey everyone, let's focus. OP's already playing on a Meyer (he doesn't say what facing, but it's probably a 5, 6, or 7, I bet). In other words, he's already got the bog-standard setup for lead alto the world over. Equipment ain't the issue here.
Indeed, indeed. One of my suggestions to the OP was to consider an in-person teacher is he is serious about advancing.

I'd never send a high schooler down the rabbit hole of a mouthpiece quest without a teacher (who would likely want to work with him on his present setup a while before changing anything).
 

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1963 Conn 16M, Beechler Metal mouthpiece .95 aperture, Fibercell 2 1/2
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If you are concerned about projection, a mouthpiece with a big aperture and a stiffer reed ups the volume, although you will have more trouble controlling the sound.

Another way to increase projection is to increase the physical volume of your buccal cavity by pulling your tongue back and down. It requires practice to do that and still articulate cleanly with your tongue.
 

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In my opinion Lead Alto is one of the most beautiful requirements of the horn:
You have to have enough warmth and full overtones to blend with a section,
you need to be able to go pp to ff without much effort,
with some "gas" you need to ride slightly on top of the Sax section - and -
with even more gas you need to be able to blow over the entire band during a solo - and the band could be screaming. (Those damn trumpets!) lol.

The best mp design for this IMHO is a roll-over baffle. I hate the sound of high-baffles in most big band contexts - too much edge, too many high overtones, few low overtones or "body." For instance, I would never play my metal Dukoff D7 or 80's Beechler in a big band context on Alto. MIGHT work on a lower pitched horn like tenor or bari, but not Alto.

For the classic Big Band Sound, I would go with a rubber Brilhart, Meyer, Link, Lamberson, etc. as well as some of the "throwback" designs by CE Winds, Jody Jazz, etc. Look for a mp with an unrestricted throat (get some AIR in the horn), curved or straight sidewalls, NO raised baffle and a slight convexity rising towards the tip, starting about 1/2" away. This is the "roll-over." This slight raise, when done right, is pure MAGIC for a great Sax sound, regardless of the voice (SATB).

The poster who talked about Diaphragmatic Breathing is right. If you're not doing it now, LEARN how to do it, all the time. Power comes from your belly, not your throat or chest. It's a "huff," not a "hee," if that makes sense.

As for pitch, another poster hit it right. The old saying regarding Lead Alto used to be "You can play sharp or out of tune." When I first heard this as a kid, I was confused. Then I did Lead Alto work and understood. You can be spot on pitch and sound fine... but you can also be SLIGHTLY sharp and give the whole ensemble an edge. But if you're flat - or if some idiot next to you is sharp and won't tune down, the whole section will sound deflated. lol. You have to get with your section and learn to work together for an agreed aesthetic.

And then there's Timing, which separates the men from the boys. There are zero modern bands that drag like the Basie sax section, especially the 50's Atomic Band Period. But if you can get the section to try it, it's amazing. But it doesn't work on ALL material. For instance, I wouldn't play That Jones' "US" this way. In a driving chart like this I'd actually lean forward in time a little - again, to give the ensemble an edge.

There's a lot to playing in a Big Band. Most of all, listen your ass off and HAVE FUN with it!

Oh, and definitely find a trustworthy mp refacer to check your mp. Whoever said it's a waste of money is either very lucky or ignorant. I can pull a dozen name-brand mps off the shelf - new - and show you many of them have warped tables and crooked facings. Just because it is stamped "Meyer" doesn't mean anything. Every piece is different. The day you take your "it almost plays well" mp to be worked on and feel the difference, you'll know what I mean.
 

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Java Green is a great lead reed. BUT, and it‘s a Big But… get the STRENGTH right… Strength is as important, or more so, than cut. By this I mean: ASSUMING you are (a) relaxed, (b) full of energy/inspiration (listen to the recordings mentioned here, to include the ENTIRE Basie Plays Hefti LP… not only “Cute”), (c) pushing, full-flow, from the seat of your But, (d) CARESSING/FEELING the mouthpiece/reed, as LOOSELY as permissible, with your lips/tongue/air, and with FEELING/EMOTION, and (e) Listening (to you, AND the section)… Then:
Put on the strongest reed strength (broken in) that lets you cut loose and project, with that air/emotion energy, and with a big throat saying ”Aaahh…uuwwwhah”, etc.
You will know the strength is right when you can hit the highest notes cleanly and without changing anything mentioned above, e.g. mouth/jaw pressure. You will also be able to pop out low Bb cleanly… and pleasantly… Not a big Blatt‘s Beer sound. If not, work the shoulders of the reed, near the base of the vamp, on either side. Don’t take off too much.
Listen to all the Basie records with Marshall Royal playing lead.
 

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Best advice I ever got was to play the lead part like you are playing a jazz solo. In other words, phrasing and musicality. Don’t just read the notes, play them. And your section mates will appreciate consistency, so play the same way all the time. If they know how you are going to phrase 8th notes, how you play short notes, your vibrato style, etc. they will be able to follow and match you.

It’s not how YOU sound and project, it’s how the SECTION sounds. It’s your job to lay it down solid for the rest of the section.
Thank GOD this was the SECOND response. As a tenor player playing recently in our big band over the past few years, I can't tell you how frustrated I am when we work on something as a section, and then the next day the lead player plays it differently in the large rehearsal, and we (the section) get chastised by the bandleader for not following our lead alto and to listen up for style and mimic.

All I do is ask, "Is this how you're going to play it EVERY time?" and the answer I get is almost always, "Probably. But I can't guarantee it. Just listen up to me." I just want to scream at them. &^*%@# write it down so you DO play it the same way every time so we can *&@^%# MATCH it every time!!!

Rant, over.
 

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I'd like to add to those some other great role models as lead alto such as Jerome Richardson with Thad Jones - Mel Lewis, Joe Romano and Andy Fusco with Buddy Rich, Dick Oatts with the Vanguard Orchestra, Tim Ries and Steve Wilson with Maria Schneider.
Joe Romano with buddy rich was great. love that God Bless The Child solo he played. love it.
 

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Section still has to blend, no matter how loud or soft you are, so focusing on volume is missing the point. IMO, the best lead players play with confidence and authority, laying down the style, the vibe and most of all swing. The lead players of the past didn't have paint peeler mouthpieces, they had solid chops and confidence.
I just skimmed through this thread but it seems like this has turned into a gear discussion and not a discussion on playing lead in an ensemble. I agree with this early reply.

Playing lead is not about playing loud or projecting over the section. It shouldn't be a fight where the lead player feels he/she needs to dominate the sound. The section should blend. The other players in the section need to be doing their part to sound like a section and not a bunch of individual players fighting with one another for dominance.
 

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Best advice I ever got was to play the lead part like you are playing a jazz solo. In other words, phrasing and musicality. Don’t just read the notes, play them. And your section mates will appreciate consistency, so play the same way all the time. If they know how you are going to phrase 8th notes, how you play short notes, your vibrato style, etc. they will be able to follow and match you. It’s not how YOU sound and project, it’s how the SECTION sounds. It’s your job to lay it down solid for the rest of the section.
Great advice.🦘
Best advice I ever got was to play the lead part like you are playing a jazz solo. In other words, phrasing and musicality. Don’t just read the notes, play them. And your section mates will appreciate consistency, so play the same way all the time. If they know how you are going to phrase 8th notes, how you play short notes, your vibrato style, etc. they will be able to follow and match you. It’s not how YOU sound and project, it’s how the SECTION sounds. It’s your job to lay it down solid for the rest of the section. [/QUOTE
 

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Best advice I ever got was to play the lead part like you are playing a jazz solo. In other words, phrasing and musicality. Don’t just read the notes, play them. And your section mates will appreciate consistency, so play the same way all the time. If they know how you are going to phrase 8th notes, how you play short notes, your vibrato style, etc. they will be able to follow and match you.

It’s not how YOU sound and project, it’s how the SECTION sounds. It’s your job to lay it down solid for the rest of the section.
 

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Your gear will be fine. You'll probably evolve in that regard in time, but for now, the OPs gear is just fine. There is so much good advice in this thread. If you skip the entries recommending a certain mouthpiece, you could learn a lot. For me, I expect myself to set a consistent example of everything. Intonation, volume, phrasing, cutoffs, and so much more. You have to communicate all of this while playing. You have to communicate in a way that encourages growth and buy-in from folks who may have fragile egos. It is also your job to look for opportunities to develop the rest of your section members. You have to interface the same way with the other lead players. Playing lead is a lot more than playing the 1st part. ;>)
 

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Again, let's focus, people. OP has been playing on a Meyer mouthpiece already, so it's obviously not too terrible a piece. He's already using the standard lead alto mouthpiece. The instrument really doesn't matter. Reeds, maybe a bit.

The main thing for playing lead is the ATTITUDE, the SOUND, and the PHRASING. The attitude you can't get in a box, you have to develop it. The sound comes from the airstream and learning how to blow through the horn. The phrasing you have to learn. You have to learn how to phrase so as to lead a section (and someone up above noted, you also have to be consistent). STOP MUMBLING. Articulate, damn it!
 
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