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Discussion Starter #1
This past week I started using a NC4 on alto. It plays quite differently, as I imagined it would compared to the AL3. Much stronger breathe support is needed, the sound is a tad darker, has a more flexible tone color, better control of dynamics, better response in the lower register, and the pitch is easier to alter in the regular range of the horn. I feel that the breathe support needed for the NC4 is going to take some getting used to. Right now it is a work out. The AL3 played with such ease, but wasn't giving me the sound or flexibility that I desire. I assume that once my chops get used to the NC4 and I develop better breathe support, it will become easier to play.

Other than the NC4 being a real workout to play thus far, the altissimo register is giving me a challenge. Response and tone are okay, but my pitch is between five and ten cents flat once I hit F-sharp (front/altissimo). With the AL3 my pitch in the altissimo register was getting closer; F-sharp, G, and G-sharp right on; A, B-flat, B, C a little sharp; C-sharp and up a little flat. On the NC4, as I already stated, all of these pitches are flat. Those that were usually a little flat, are now so flat that I cannot voice them up (yet?).

-Are these typical problems when switching mouthpieces? Has anyone experienced it when switching between these two particular mouthpieces?
-I am assuming these problems will begin to vanish when I become more accustomed to playing the NC4. Is this thinking logical?
-I believe Dr. Murphy at Indiana switched from a NC4 to an AL3, but has anyone switched the other way with great success?
-Any pointers or comments?

Thanks,
 

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The NC series will be much more difficult to control - at first. I switched from a Hite Classic to an NC4 many years ago, and took a bit to get the intonation down exactly right, but when I did, it was spot on. Yes, they will begin to vanish as you continue to use it. I'm curious though, why did you deicide to switch?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
J. Max,

I decided to switch for several reasons.

Musically I felt constricted by the AL3. Playing softly or inside a wind ensemble, it worked great, but trying to really push the piece dynamically was tough. As I pushed it, I always hit a wall. For example, I performed the Claude T. Smith Fantasia with my college wind ensemble this past spring. I was able to hear myself over the ensemble, but several aspects bothered me. To be heard, I was pushing it so hard, that I was blowing the notes flat. So I had to push in more. Then when I wanted to play soft and delicate my intonation seemed a little touchy. I was also unhappy with my dynamic contrast and shaping. There are so many things you lose when you hit that wall dynamically from "fighting the ensemble" when there is no where to go.

Tone-wise I have always been happy with the AL3. However, since graduating I just can't find my "sound" again. It sounds bright, thin, and immature to MY EARS. When I pull out the recording of my senior recital I don't hear these things; I am happy with my sound. Playing duets with my girlfriend this weekend, I switched mouthpieces while she was out of the room and she did not notice a difference in my sound. Maybe the tone thing is just how I am hearing MYSELF. As I like to say, if I'm not pleased with my sound and happy to be playing, it doesn't matter what others think.

I have also been frustrated with my playing as of late. The general hitting a wall that I believe everyone experiences. Switching mouthpieces has helped me get a little more excited about my playing, has helped me establish some new/different short term goals, and has given a much needed new angle to my practicing. Making a significant change due to this last reason alone, I am aware is not a good reason. However, I feel these three reasons together make sense.
 

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Interestingly enough, I'm in the process of making this switch right now too.

I used to play an AL3, and was very satisfied with it for a while, but as of the past two months, I'd become increasingly dissatisfied, because I thought my sound was too bright and thin. The classical tone that I want is bigger than that. Plus, there's the fact that the AL3 wouldn't project like I wanted it to project.

While the AL3 is a great mouthpiece, I can't really play on it very well-it's not for me. It works for Dr. Murphy (VERY well, I might add), but it's just not the mouthpiece for me. I'm also adjusting to this mouthpiece switch, but my teacher has been playing one for a while (was a student of Dr. Rousseau) and his intonation in the altissimo register (and everywhere else) is also spot on.

It's interesting to see that someone's going through the same switch as I am at just about the same time.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
AltoDM I'm glad I'm not alone!

Updating on my previous posts: My intonation in the altissimo register has improved. B is still a problem, but I'm toying around with other fingerings and I'm noticing that the old fingering is slowly getting better. Also, my low D is extremely sharp after making the switch.

Just curious AltoDM, what was your setup before the switch? Which facing Rousseau are you using and with what reeds?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
MM,

The altissimo range is used quite often in the more modern solo saxophone literature. For example, I don't have the scores in front of me, but I'm fairly sure that Ibert's Concertino Da Camera has an arpeggiation similar to Altissimo G-sharp, B, D, F. One piece I am working hard on right now is the Maslanka Sonata for alto sax and piano. It is a great piece if you are not familiar with it. It has Bs and Cs in several sections that are NOT optional (you more or less ruin the musical line and thought be displacing the octaves). There is plenty of classical/legit literature out there that does not require those notes. However, my goal of becoming as a complete player as possible includes full range scales and classical literature that goes into the altissimo register.

Hope this clarifies.
 

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Before the switch, my setup was Vandoren Optimum AL3, Vandoren Traditional 3 reed, Bay Ligature, Yamaha CustomEX alto. Now, just swap out the mouthpiece for a Rousseau NC4 and a Vandoren Traditional 3.5 reed, and that's my current setup. I was also on a Serie III with the optimum mouthpiece awhile back, including for my college auditions and spring concert of my senior year of high school.

I really like how I can push the Rousseau more. With a 3.5 reed is a great fit. With the Optimum, it was really hard to find reeds...it seemed like a 3.5 was way too hard, but a 3 was way too soft. I'll post some clips somewhere tomorrow or Saturday of the different mouthpieces to see what difference there is (or isn't). And yes--there's a TON of literature that requires altissimo. Remember also the altissimo C (Optional) at the end of the Glazounov concerto. There's more also, but I forget it at the moment.
 

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I just bought an NC3 for 25$!!
I got the NC3 since the tip opening is close to the AL3 that I've been using for about a year now and it would make for an easier change.
My first impression of it was "What a huge sound!" I'm getting 50% more sound than I ever got from my AL3. There is also much more clarity to my sound, the AL3 is much more damper than the Rousseau.

It is a hard beast to control. I don't sound no where as near as good as I did with my AL3, but I guess that goes with the fact that it's so much louder (and it's a new mpc for me).

-AP
 

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Yeah, i tried the NC4 for about a month and a half, but ended up switching to an AL3 a few months back :p

I couldn't control the darn thing and it was a little too free blowing, although, it did give me a very clear and focused sound that i couldn't achieve on my AL3 until i tried different ligatures. Now with the AL3, I get the sound i "hear in my head", but the NC4 was pretty solid.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
AltoDM,

How's the switch going for you?
 
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The NC4 takes a while to tame, but the benefits are clear when you do so. I have used one for about a year now and it allows much more freedom in colour. It did however take a while for me to tame, first month or so i was always quite flat over the whole range (and that was with the mpc pushed in as far as it goes!) i think this has something to do with the abnormally long shank :) as far as im concerned it was worth persisting
 
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