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Have any of you sax-playing boomers, or older, noticed a distinctive change in your sound, or tone as you have become older?

I am in my mid seventies, have been playing constantly for 56 years, mainly tenor and alto. Over the past year or so, I have noticed a definite change in my tone.

This has led me to experiment by switching mouthpieces, reeds and horns in an effort to isolate the the source of this change, but it makes little difference no matter the setup. I have tried changes in embouchure as well, but the tone is still not what it used to be - and I can reference the change by listening to recordings I have made through years. This difference does seem more noticeable on tenor.

I have not had any major dental work done. I can only surmise that it must be due to subtle changes in one's oral cavity and facial anatomy as one ages. Perhaps a lesser air stream could contribute to the problem as well?

I have not been able to find any other references to this issue on the internet, but would be very interested to hear whether any other players have noticed this change as well.

(Apologies if this is not the correct forum for this topic…)

Thanks
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

I, too, have played sax for over 50 years. I feel that my sound has changed, but mainly for the better.
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

My sound is richer and more 'lush' than it was in my '20s but I don't think I've seen a distinctive change at any one point. Of course, I have continued to play with bands even into my '70s so that could make a major difference compared to those who do not gig or who gig rarely. BTW, I do have tapes, etc., from most of the periods of my life, maybe only one song from 1965 or a solo on 'When The Saints...' from the Army band days for example, but they're like snapshots and sufficient to tell basically what I sounded like then. One thing I have noticed that bothers me a bit - my articulation was much better when I was young and my single-tonguing speed was much faster than I can do today. I guess the trade-off for losing some of your physical abilities is a better idea of what you want to sound like and how you want to play.

If you experience a sudden change in your sound that cannot be explained any other way, I think I would be concerned about some kind of physical change in the head, neck or chest. The doctor might not make anything of it but it might be good to ask.

'Doc, will I be able to play the sax after this?' 'Sure'. 'Great, because I always wanted to!' Ba-da-bing!
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

The older I get, the better it gets. Fuller, richer, more 'mature'.
I'm only 58 so I'll see how it is when I'm in my 80's. If I'm still among the breathing!
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

Well, it stands to reason that like the other muscles we have in or body, the muscles in our face will weaken as well as we get older. I have not noticed any detrimental change in my sound (just turned 64 this past Thursday) only that it seems more refined or centered in some way. Anyway, we're all different, so all things develop or change for us at a different pace.
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

Have any of you sax-playing boomers, or older, noticed a distinctive change in your sound, or tone as you have become older?

I am in my mid seventies, have been playing constantly for 56 years, mainly tenor and alto. Over the past year or so, I have noticed a definite change in my tone.

This has led me to experiment by switching mouthpieces, reeds and horns in an effort to isolate the the source of this change, but it makes little difference no matter the setup. I have tried changes in embouchure as well, but the tone is still not what it used to be - and I can reference the change by listening to recordings I have made through years. This difference does seem more noticeable on tenor.

I have not had any major dental work done. I can only surmise that it must be due to subtle changes in one's oral cavity and facial anatomy as one ages. Perhaps a lesser air stream could contribute to the problem as well?

I have not been able to find any other references to this issue on the internet, but would be very interested to hear whether any other players have noticed this change as well.

(Apologies if this is not the correct forum for this topic…)

Thanks
If anything I would think it would be a change in your hearing more than your tone..........Have you had your hearing checked?
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

If anything I would think it would be a change in your hearing more than your tone..........Have you had your hearing checked?
This is possible, but most age related hearing loss is the frequencies between 10k-20kHz. There isn't a whole lot up there in a sax sound, except the attack transients.
It is possible to have 'holes' in your hearing (I'm less sensitive to 1k and 4k Hz, because of work in recording and sound reinforcement.)
 

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For me, the overall concept of what I want my tone/sound to be has changed. I'm no longer interested in the intensity and brilliance I once desired in my sound. Now, mellow is my sound and my attitude. Peace.
 

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I have witnessed a decline in tone and pitch stability among some of my friends - they have been playing all their lives, and are now well into their 70s or 80s. Technical facility has also diminished since I first started playing with them 20 years ago. Their peak level of accomplishment far outstrips what I can ever hope to achieve. I am blessed to call them friends, on the bandstand or off.
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

If anything I would think it would be a change in your hearing more than your tone..........Have you had your hearing checked?
That would be my guess. I’ve found I keep trying to brighten my sound. Smaller tip openings and softer reeds but I bet it’s my hearing. I wear earplugs at any loud gigs and rarely hire guitarists for my jazz gigs. I’m trying to protect it as much as I can as I get older.
 

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Re: Sax tone changing as you get oder

That would be my guess. I’ve found I keep trying to brighten my sound. Smaller tip openings and softer reeds but I bet it’s my hearing. I wear earplugs at any loud gigs and rarely hire guitarists for my jazz gigs. I’m trying to protect it as much as I can as I get older.
Go to an audiologist and get your ears checked. Then, get earmolds for custom earplugs. Even 'softer' gigs can have transients (think cymbals and snare drums) that don't seem 'loud', but can easily damage your hearing.
 

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I’ve probably lost some highs and patience with guitarists. If you tell them to turn down it’s like you shot their puppy.
I used the industrial foam blocks everything type. I do use them on my ear by the ride cymbal on acoustic gigs.
 

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I’ve probably lost some highs and patience with guitarists. If you tell them to turn down it’s like you shot their puppy.
I used the industrial foam blocks everything type. I do use them on my ear by the ride cymbal on acoustic gigs.
Not on topic, but I have found that a single earplug on the drummers side really helps my ability to hear on stage. You get a cross of the instruments you want to hear and some bone conduction. I've even been leaving the monitor at home on gigs where I might have to carry it...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the interesting and varied responses to this topic. As others have mentioned; hearing. Fortunately, in my particular case, my hearing is still fine, and has been tested. The other factor though, which I previously alluded to, could just be a successive string of bad, stuffy reeds. Especially these days. (In my opinion, they just don't make 'em like they used to.) Amazingly though, when you do occasionally come across that 'perfect' free-blowing reed, the sun just seems to shine a lot brighter, and one's day - or night - is a whole lot happier, with the tone and sound you remember...
 

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Thanks for the interesting and varied responses to this topic. As others have mentioned; hearing. Fortunately, in my particular case, my hearing is still fine, and has been tested. The other factor though, which I previously alluded to, could just be a successive string of bad, stuffy reeds. Especially these days. (In my opinion, they just don't make 'em like they used to.) Amazingly though, when you do occasionally come across that 'perfect' free-blowing reed, the sun just seems to shine a lot brighter, and one's day - or night - is a whole lot happier, with the tone and sound you remember...
Ah, reeds eh. Well then you can't really expect much from a sound perspective if you're playing on bad reeds. It's tough to find a reed that's perfect. But I wouldn't play on a reed that's not at least in the "good" range. If you can't find playable reeds then your original post was not quite on the mark concerning what your problem is. No one sounds good with a bad reed.
 

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At 70, having returned to regular playing, mostly ~'64 Mk VI tenor, after ~45 years off I have dropped reed strength by 0.5 with new mouthpiece. I'm pleased with midrange tone, but very hard to do a low B; middle D lacks edge; and above that starts to remind me of a bari. I use an oral device for sleep apnea. The first time I played after using it for a while, I could barely get a note out. Same with my bugle. My rule now is I don't use oral device unless I practiced that day.
I had the horn tuned up a couple years ago, and a teacher played it more recently with no problem.
(I wonder if sax helps sleep apnea. Didgeridoo, which I also rarely play, is supposed to.)
 

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I can't compare my tone to my youthful self. I've had half a dozen different saxes since then, and each sax has offered me a different tone. If any change happened besides for that it was so gradual that I didn't notice.

But my playing keeps evolving, hopefully for the better.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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I've been playing 50+ years as well, and if anything my tone is better.

You didn't give any specifics about how your tone has changed, just that it has. What is the the change your noticing?
 

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Interesting thread....I wish I'd notice if my tone had changed/was changing before I stopped playing ten years ago when I was 66 yo, after playing 45+ years.
 

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I think it has to do with your air stream.

I just turned 50. I have noticed that my sound has gotten darker. Years ago, mouthpieces that I could scream on with no mic now feel pretty dead. I now have to strain to make it sound somewhat close to what I used to sound like with little effort.

Oh well.....I now alternate between a Saxscape Florida .102 (brighter Link sound) and a 10mfan Robusto 7*. I never would have played on these pieces 10 years ago, but I can't move the air I used to.

later

JOel
 
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