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Discussion Starter #1
Question:

I'm currently playing on Vandoren Red cut 3.0 (and sometimes ZZ 3.0's). Since switching over to tenor from alto last summer, this is the only strength I have used. I'm really trying to practice and work on both my overall tone (sound) and in particular, subtones. While I'm having fairly decent subtone success with higher and middle range notes, once I get down to about low D and lower, the subtone very often "breaks up" (kind of like a machine gun sound where I assume the reed stops vibrating?). In any case, my quandry is do I continue to just keep plugging away with 3.0's until I get this right, or should I maybe move down to a 2.5? Obviously I don't want to sacrifice high note quality (or low note "bark", when I need it) and my altisimo ability is NOT good.....but on the other hand I've read a softer reed can help with subtones and in general overall tone. Like many on here I was brought up with the old-school "go to a stronger reed to develop your chops" idea, but that seems to be falling by the wayside based on many threads I have looked at.

Opinions?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Question:

I'm currently playing on Vandoren Red cut 3.0 (and sometimes ZZ 3.0's). Since switching over to tenor from alto last summer, this is the only strength I have used. I'm really trying to practice and work on both my overall tone (sound) and in particular, subtones. While I'm having fairly decent subtone success with higher and middle range notes, once I get down to about low D and lower, the subtone very often "breaks up" (kind of like a machine gun sound where I assume the reed stops vibrating?). In any case, my quandry is do I continue to just keep plugging away with 3.0's until I get this right, or should I maybe move down to a 2.5? Obviously I don't want to sacrifice high note quality (or low note "bark", when I need it) and my altisimo ability is NOT good.....but on the other hand I've read a softer reed can help with subtones and in general overall tone. Like many on here I was brought up with the old-school "go to a stronger reed to develop your chops" idea, but that seems to be falling by the wayside based on many threads I have looked at.

Opinions?
I moved to softer reeds years back. Yes, at first you may think your altissimo could suffer but all you need is to work on air support and breath control for that.

BUT I would first make sure your horn has absolutely no leaks, then re-evaluate.

However I do find a softer reed has many advantages sound wise once you have worked on the technique of playing on a soft reed. More flexibility of pitch and dynamics especially low notes.

It was a big eye opener for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm going to try a lower strength reed either way, but I was curious as to other people's opinions/experiences with this issue. That's the beauty of sax forums I guess.

Pete, I am ordering a leak light (I've always wanted to have one around anyway) and it it's tight at least that'll put that possibility to rest. If it isn't, obviously that could be hurting me and I'll have it tweaked. I do recall reading (on your site?) about lower reed strengths, so thanks for the reply.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I'm going to try a lower strength reed either way, but I was curious as to other people's opinions/experiences with this issue. That's the beauty of sax forums I guess.

Pete, I am ordering a leak light (I've always wanted to have one around anyway) and it it's tight at least that'll put that possibility to rest.
Bear in mind a leak light won't show up all leaks, e.g. a leak in the body/bow/bell tenon or very small leaks with pads, for which a cigarette paper can be useful.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The other thing I neglected to mention is I am doing this on a new horn ("new" to me....1936 Buescher Aristicrat series I). While my other horn (1939 Martin Handcraft) doesn't "break up" like the Buescher, I can't fairly say I have subtones nailed on that sax either, so I'm not prepared to say "it's the horn". It's more than likely me or something with the set-up, is my guess. Will check things though.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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The other thing I neglected to mention is I am doing this on a new horn ("new" to me....1936 Buescher Aristicrat series I). While my other horn (1939 Martin Handcraft) doesn't "break up" like the Buescher, .
Ah well this could be very relevant.

I get the same thing between different horns. Sometimes horn can just have a few very teeny leaks that don't show significantly with a light, but added together they can make difference.

also an important thing to check low down is that the G#/C# link is not the culprit. This won't be apparent on a D or C, but can leak on C#, B and Bb. (ie if not correctly adjusted, the G# key lifts slightly when playing those notes)

https://tamingthesaxophone.com/leaking-articulated-g-sharp
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, I guess this is good news. First off, I have an older style horn with cork and not screws for the articulated G#. Visually, it seemed to be sealing perfectly with the F but I just did 2 play tests - play low D and then add G# key - absolutely no difference. Then I played a A major scale descending with the C# key depressed - again, perfect.

I'll still check with a leak light once I receive it, but I suspect this may be more of an "I suck" issue than anything else. Also going to try some softer reeds.

Thanks again for your help Pete.
 

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I am not trying to antagonize you - only curious as to what you think an opinion will do for your reed-selection?

What reed one chooses to play, or what reed gives you the best results, can only be decided by you, not us. We are all different in the embouchure and tonal-concept areas, AND in what mouthpiece we are using. It is impossible to help you with that.

To most of us, reeds are plentiful and reasonably affordable. It is SO easy to go to the store (or on-line) and buy a variety of reeds to test what is best for you and your mouthpiece(s). I don't need to ask a forum about something as mundane as reeds. Sure, they are a critical part of playing a saxophone, but if you think you need to increase or decrease your reed strength, brands, or cuts, do it. Teach yourself what works best for you.

Leaks are a more complicated subject. A leak-light is good (I use one), but like Pete said, a light won't reveal all leaks. Besides joints, there are the interconnected combination keys that often won't show malfunctions with a light. I've always advised that one take the saxophone into good sunlight and closely watch the connected keys function. You may find a rising G#, bisBb pad, a low C# (etc.), or an octave key that isn't fully closing or opening - things like that.

Good luck with your saxophone. DAVE
 

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The other thing I neglected to mention is I am doing this on a new horn ("new" to me....1936 Buescher Aristicrat series I).
It's not the brand of sax in this case, that's for sure. Those 'Crats play very well in the low notes, assuming there aren't any leaks. Unless you bought that horn from a dealer who guaranteed it was properly set up (which still may be no guarantee), it's almost certainly not in top playing condition.

Take the horn to a reputable tech and get it checked out. That's the only way to know for certain.

As to reeds, yeah, I'd try a BOX of 2.5 reeds and see how it goes (but only after getting the horn checked out).
 

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Discussion Starter #12
JL

Yes, I have no trouble hitting low notes with the 'Crat (I'm talking "normal velocity", or, pushing it). I'm also really enjoying the core this horn has - it's nicely focused and quite "even playing" throughout it's entire range. I feel it has a lot of potential. Just trying to iron out a couple of issues - the subtone thing (which could be me) being one, and it's overall sharpness unless the mpc is backed way off (another thread). A tech visit in the not too distant future would undoubtedly be a good idea....unfortunately I have no one reputable that's really "close by". So in the meantime, getting thoughts/advise from other forum members is quite helpful.
 
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