Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
1,629 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
This is really annoying me. Saxophone is (too) often just too loud instrument. Yesterday I had a gig once again where I just had to play as quietly as possible (sax + upright bass playing standards, not the most common combo but that's what they asked for). I feel that my playing suffers in this kind of situations. I just have to concentrate all the time not to blow too hard and it kills all the pleasure and also creativity in my playing. It is also very exhausting to play that way. Any ideas, experiences, hints? My setup is very "modest". A HR Link 5* with Rico Royal 3's (tenor that is) and even that's too loud!

-TH
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
three ideas :
1) switch to Rico Jazz Select 2H (maybe 3S). you can whisper with such a setup, and risk less to get too loud. And for me, these reeds give a better sound than the Rico Royals anyway.

2) subtone, subtone and subtone, especially the low register. Forget about altissimo. (In fact, I even don't go above middle G most of the time in such a setting)

3) choose the right music. If they want it soft, playing "soft" music is one way to get it. Choose ballads, forget about fast licks and tunes. When improvising, think melodic.

There is a reason behind this :
- if you play relaxed, music is less tiring for the people. slow songs at the same volume appear "softer". more spaces in the solo's appear softer as well.

- people tend to hear high notes as "louder" than low notes with the same volume.

No fun? I think it is. It's more challenging to say something with ten notes than it is with a hundred. Ben Webster comes to mind...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
310 Posts
I had a steady gig for a year or so with this exact combo. (bass & sax) It is everything you describe -- physically and mentally taxing, etc.

I really enjoyed the challenge, however, and adapted quickly to the setting. (though we certainly didn't always get it right!) Perhaps all those years of classical training helped!

Jolle has some good practical advice above, especially about repertoire. The tunes (and tempos!) you choose can have a lot to do with how "loud" the music seems to people.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,183 Posts
Yep, Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, (at least if you need the money to eat). Consider it a challenge. I use three different mouthpieces for different gigs. I use a mute sometimes, too. Since the bass isn't too loud, you'll need to balance with him, or her. It's good practice, too! Good luck
 

·
Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
5,076 Posts
Yes: find a mouthpiece suitable for this kind of gig. I play my RPC when I want plenty of volume, and often when the gig is medium-to-lowish volume; the RPC is very flexible that way. But for very quiet situations I go to my Link or my Morgan Excalibur. A little experimentation with the setup can help a lot. But I find very quiet gigs to be very useful discipline.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015
Joined
·
3,383 Posts
I've done quite a few gigs with myself and a guitar player, same sort of thing. I found I got the best overall result going down a half-strength in reed and putting a hand towel in the bell (leave it a bit open so it can vent).

Of course, the other points are valid too - and it's always good to take the "Miles Davis" approach of maximum space in solos!

Pete
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2008
Joined
·
1,493 Posts
Jolle said:
three ideas :
1) switch to Rico Jazz Select 2H (maybe 3S). you can whisper with such a setup, and risk less to get too loud. And for me, these reeds give a better sound than the Rico Royals anyway.
You might try a harder reed also.
I have restaurant gig on occasion and I have to be quiet enough for people to talk a few feet away without having to raise their voice.
I can play very quiet with my regular mouthpiece (runyon) and a softer reed but the sound is a bit buzzy. The last time I switched to a generic Mayer type small opening(5) MP and used a 4 reed.
It took some getting used to but I was able to get a much less buzzy(Phil Woods) and more dark and airy sound(Paul Desmond).
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
A harder reed can indeed give a more dark and airy sound, but it gets even more difficult not to "honk" on the lower notes. For me at least, a harder reed gives a more dark and airy sound at a higher volume. Which is exactly what we don't want in this situation :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,844 Posts
What kind of room are you in? Is it carpeted, are there large glass windows and low ceilings? I did this bass and sax duet for about a year, and still do sometimes, in two different places. One thing I try is to just blend with the bass - if there are people sitting in the back of the room at tables, I don't try to reach them, don't even think about whether or not they can hear me.
I imagine I am playing for just the bassist and keeping the sound contained to an immediate circle that surrounds us alone. It seems to help. I use a soft reed, not a hard one, and I agree completely that choice of repertoire is very important. I also double on flute, but soprano, for me, is just too loud, and since I'm not adept on it, hard to control. I enjoy the freedom the bass/saxophone format offers, but agree that it can be demanding.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
1,629 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Leon: The place is a huge department store..

Thanks guys for your suggestions!

I'll experiment more with reeds and maybe a Rovner Dark-kind of ligature would help a bit (currently I'm using the stock two-screw ligature).

I agree with the subtoning and playing in the lower register. Normally I don't use altissimo register that much and ofcourse in a gig like this, I don't use it at all. Towel in a bell sounds interesting ;) Maybe I'll try that too.

The thing is that I can't use my normal "strong" air flow when playing quietly. When I play quietly I feel that I have to blow only from the "top of my lungs" and I have to compensate the less efficient air flow with my face (firmer embouchure) and that's exhausting.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
I switched from Vandoren V16s to Javas for this very reason

I think it takes alot of skill and focus to play at well at low volume, its something i'm working on at the moment.

I have recently found that moving the reed further up the mouthpiece so its right on the edge or even overhanging a little bit makes the sound light and more airy, whereas moving it the other way makes it more bright and buzzy... (may well be different for different mpc/reed combos)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
853 Posts
-TH said:
Leon: The place is a huge department store..

Thanks guys for your suggestions!

I'll experiment more with reeds and maybe a Rovner Dark-kind of ligature would help a bit (currently I'm using the stock two-screw ligature).

I agree with the subtoning and playing in the lower register. Normally I don't use altissimo register that much and of course in a gig like this, I don't use it at all. Towel in a bell sounds interesting ;) Maybe I'll try that too.

The thing is that I can't use my normal "strong" air flow when playing quietly. When I play quietly I feel that I have to blow only from the "top of my lungs" and I have to compensate the less efficient air flow with my face (firmer embouchure) and that's exhausting.

Ugh....we called them "Wallpaper Music" gigs.....the band is just supposed to be there but not really noticed too much. Gotta provide what the customer asks for though.

I don't think you need to change your setup or anything. It's VERY fatiguing to play pp for that long no matter what. As one plays louder, muscles actually relax more and more.

I like the advice of using lots of space in your solos. That'll help everything along. You're a good enough player that you'll have no problems w/ it. Think of it as "weight lifting reps" for saxophone playing. It really strengthens your chops.

-Dan
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
214 Posts
A couple of duo gigs this summer were one hour playing in a hotel lobby as guests arrived for a dinner event followed by one hour of strolling between dinner tables. First hour on tenor, playing softly and not directly at croud. Second hour switching to soprano. Both worked.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
5,092 Posts
You should be using the same strong air flow for pp as you use for other playing. It's hard to get it right, and if I don't practice it I have the exact problem you're having with fatigue. Maybe if you have a good teacher to help you focus on soft playing, it will make life easier for you. The main thing to remember is to keep a high tongue, open throat, relaxed embouchure and solid, focus stream of air. Try taking the mouthpiece off your horn and doiing long tones. You want to be able to start from the barest whisper of a sound WITHOUT the hissy subtone sound cluttering it up. When you can do that consistantly, you'll be good for the soft gigs.

Conceptually, it helps me to listen to music that is more subdued (tone wise) before I do a gig like that. Chris Cheek, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz or Paul Desmond would help me to get that sound in my head. The last thing I want to do is listen to a bunch of Brecker's stuff before doing soft sax and bass! I hope I've helped. Good luck, man.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
dstack79 said:
I don't think you need to change your setup or anything. It's VERY fatiguing to play pp for that long no matter what. As one plays louder, muscles actually relax more and more.
Now that's exactly why I switch to a softer reed for soft gigs : less fatiguing. But I'm no pro, far from even. I agree with you (and DanPerezSax) that practicing pp with the same setup gets you further in the long run.

I just go for the easy comfort.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top