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Discussion Starter #1
Most of you know I am a soprano-guy. I started on soprano in 1956 when I was 16 years old (do the math) and have primarily played soprano my whole life as a weekend-warrior. The style? Dixieland (but we now call it trad jazz, don'tchaknow?). I never moved on from that style of jazz.

For many years, I played fairly open-tipped mouthpieces like Selmer J-tips (both S-80 and Super Session - .069+/-), then Morgan Vintage etc. one #6 and several #7 tips (.065 and .070), Phil-Tone Sapphire .070, and Joe's Missing Link .072, using an ever-changing battery of various brand sopranos, modern and vintage.

The reason for the open mouthpieces was because I didn't blow into microphones and I needed to be competitive with other instruments in a Dixie band, sometimes when the bands were tastelessly amplified.

But that was then (younger and busier with gigging). Now, the trad-world is dying off (both the players and the audience), the gigs are drying up (at least in SoCal), and my playing-time has dwindled which makes for a weakened embouchure (and growing old doesn't help THAT, either). Oh sure - I still play at home and have an occasional gig, but that isn't the same as a steady gig and festival playing. As I played those open tips, I could feel the weakened embouchure and an inability to be spot-on with intonation as I tired.

So, I dug out two mouthpieces I'd had for years to see if the smaller tip-openings could help me control intonation more easily. One, a Selmer S-80 D I sent to Joe Giardullo (SopranoPlanet) for a fix - it did not play nearly as well as all of my other S-80's (from C* through to J). Joe did a good job with the S-80 D - no tip-opening was done but whatever he did made the the thing sing - and very smoothly. I used that piece for a weekend of trad jazz in Montana last February. It worked very well for me.

The second piece I had was a Selmer scroll-shank C* (some say Soloist although it isn't marked as such, and others say Airflow) which I had purchased new in 1957 at a store in downtown L.A.

Then, this past week, I was visiting in Austin, Texas and visited Strait Music in south Austin. I always go there when I'm in that town. They had new Vandoren saxophone mouthpieces and had one new Vandoren SL3 soprano piece. Because of my renewed interest in so-called "classical" mouthpieces, I'd wanted to try one of the SL3's.

I gave it blow (using my curved Yanagisawa SC902 that I had with me) and bought the SL3 immediately.

Now I'm home and had a chance to play all three pieces, using a variety of prepped reeds I'd already selected (all #2, mostly Vandorens in various cuts, some Alexanders, and a couple of Ricos). I wetted all the reeds, then went about testing them all on three sopranos - a five-digit Mark VI, a '27 Conn NWII, and a '26 Martin Handcraft.

The S-80 D was the strongest of the three - in comparison to the SL3, the S-80 D was a bit buzzier - more sizzle, if you will. Obviously it would be good for larger and louder bands and environments.

The Airflow was pretty strong, too but somehow lacking when compared to the S-80 D.

The SL3 was VERY nice - a bit more subdued than the Selmers but still SWEET - easily controlled, very responsive top to bottom, nice sound. I figure the SL3 would work for me in more subtle playing environments or when I was solo or in maybe a duet or trio.

They all played well on my sopranos - they all gave outstanding intonation and allowed me to play top to bottom on the horns.

But what amazed me about the SL3 was how small the tip-opening was compared to what I'd played for years and my previous reactions over the years to small tip-openings. I avoided the small tips like the plague. Who knew?!?!

Well, I suppose some of you here knew, but it just shows to go ya' . . . you learn something every day. DAVE
 

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I never would have picked you for an SL3 guy, Dave, but my experience has been that the smaller the horn, the better a classical mouthpiece will work for nonclassical playing. A soprano is so naturally bright that even a darkish mouthpiece can sound perfect for certain types of "chamber jazz." Also, the SL3 is easy to play and seems to match well with Yanys.

I've been comparing the SL3 to the SL5 recently. This is also marketed as a classical piece, but check this out:


 

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Discussion Starter #3
Oh MY that was awful . . . but I get the point. I think much of a mouthpiece's success has to do with finding the right reed for it - and of course, the player's embouchure. This guy's tone was - well, a soprano saxophone and he he played "jazz" with what we consider to be a classical mouthpiece. The notes he played are a different issue (to say nothing about the ensemble accompanying him).

I haven't made THAT much of a reed-adjustment as I downsized my mouthpieces. Where I used to really scrape down #2 reeds for the open tips, I've found that I can still play the small tips with #2 reeds that have not been heavily adjusted. The end result being that my horns speak about the same way as before, but with a lot less effort on my part.

And, something that took me years to realize is that what I hear from behind the horn as a player is not what the audience hears. So another thing I've done is to reduce the power I put through the horn and instead, I'm letting the horn do the work. It will be heard out front regardless of whether I use an open mouthpiece or a closed mouthpiece. DAVE
 

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I will avoid sounding like a commercial for Joe, and just point out that the scroll-shank Selmer and the Vandoren might play better if a reputable re-facer made sure the tables were flat and the rails balanced. Of course, you can check these things for yourself, and send them for adjustment if needed.

Joe G. is always saying how bad stock soprano pieces are. I just checked nine stock mouthpieces in my drawer including my S80 D and found them all misshapen and unbalanced to one degree or another, which is probably why they were in my mouthpiece drawer in the first place.

Concerning the change of tip openings, didn’t most of the old Dixieland Jazz players play fairly hard reeds and fairly closed tip openings. I am not trying to imply that that’s the only or best way to play. We’ve seen too many great departures from that setup. But, I don’t know, it just sounds like you are getting back to Dixieland roots.
 

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I had an odd "jazz on a classical setup" situation last year. A couple members of my church handbell choir formed a handbell duo, and they wanted to do a trio with me on soprano. We played a trad-ish arrangement of "Summertime," melody plus two improvised choruses (me, not them), and the only way I didn't drown them out was on my Rascher. I had to mind my embouchure a bit more than I would with a more open piece, but it was still a pretty good Bechet-type sound. I don't know how well it would do with a louder ensemble, but I really liked it for the more subdued setting.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
In my experience, the quality of a stock, out-of-the-box mouthpiece, such as those sold by Selmer, Yamaha, Vandoren, etc. certainly do vary. For instance, I have most of the tip-openings offered by Selmer in their S-80 line and most of them play very nicely. However, three of the E-tips have noticeable variations - one being far superior to the other two. The D-version was so bad that I did send it out to Joe - and it came back perfect.

I had three Selmer Super Session J's that were so close to each other that I couldn't tell any differences among them. They all played well. But, I sent one to Joe just to see if it could be improved. I never cared for it after that and I ended up gifting it to a fellow SOTW member.

So I am not in agreement that any stock mouthpiece can be improved. For sure, the new Optimum SL3 that began this thread is a superb player for me. It does not require further "treatment."

As far as that video clip I mentioned above, it was the style that turned me off completely. I heard no melody, just note-blowing by the soprano. The drummer added nothing to the ensemble except distracting random shots that said nothing musically to me, and the piano was the typical comping that I detest.

I like melody and a steady beat in my music. That ensemble was not music to my ears. I realize some ay think that clip was wonderful. To each his own - my opinion.

But like I said, the point of it in this thread was the playing of something other than classical music on a classical mouthpiece. The guy's soprano tone was typical, in my view - I often argue that most folks confuse style with tone - his soprano sounded like a soprano, that's all. It was what he fingered that I found un-appealing.

The playing of SUMMERTIME with a handbell duo was interesting. Bechet really did a number on that tune. But the use of a classical-style mouthpiece is exactly what I envision with my SL3. I'd probably go with the SL3 in such a situation, but change to the S-80 D (or several of my good open mouthpieces) if playing in a full trad band, but that would be decided on the fly depending on the the venue. I'd love to try the SL3 in such a situation. DAVE
 

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........As far as that video clip I mentioned above, it was the style that turned me off completely. I heard no melody, just note-blowing by the soprano. The drummer added nothing to the ensemble except distracting random shots that said nothing musically to me, and the piano was the typical comping that I detest.

I like melody and a steady beat in my music. That ensemble was not music to my ears. I realize some ay think that clip was wonderful. To each his own - my opinion.

But like I said, the point of it in this thread was the playing of something other than classical music on a classical mouthpiece. The guy's soprano tone was typical, in my view - I often argue that most folks confuse style with tone - his soprano sounded like a soprano, that's all. It was what he fingered that I found un-appealing........ DAVE
As you say, each to his own, I have no argument with that sentiment; but I thought calling it 'awful' was unnecessary. We are entitled to our opinions but we do not need to denigrate our fellow musicians. I've been to gigs where the drummer never once played 'time' in the traditional sense, but the effect was mesmerising, appearing to allow the soloists to float within the beat. When you get your head around that, and if it's done well, it becomes very exciting.

Anyway, back to the main point: I've used fairly closed pieces for all sorts of music, especially on soprano, for many years - Vandoren S15/SL4 etc. Soloist/S80 C** and now Pillinger S120s - and although I appreciate more open ones for the broadness of tone and flexibility, I am comfortable on closer pieces and find that intonation is generally better for me. I don't play much with rhythm sections so I don't need the extra volume and projection. You might find the SL3 a bit limiting in a situation where you like to play 'full-bore', but I agree, they can be very pleasant to play.
 

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In my extremely limited recent experience, I have not had any trouble projecting over a big band with my Buescher soprano and Selmer C* S-80 mouthpiece (a relatively closed piece that is marketed for classical music).

Way back in the day, I remember playing in a rock band with a Meyer something or other, maybe about a #6? and having no trouble, though of course there were mikes.

I think that once you retrain yourself on blowing through a smaller tip opening you can get almost as much projection and volume as with a larger opening.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Opinion . . . It was awful . . . non-musical noise. I've seen other similar video clips of well-known and well-respected soprano players doing essentially the same thing - blowing nonsense through their horn, obviously convincing themselves (and other fellow-travellers) that what they were doing was SO with-it, so cool, and so inventive. Wow - the leading edge of new music.

I seriously doubt that 99.9% of the audience took home what they heard and sang it in the shower.

I always laughed with Pete Hales ("saxpics") when he'd post a video of Coltrane playing MY FAVORITE THINGS whenever another poster would make a comment about poor soprano tone. Talk about something revered by the oh-so-cool crowd.

Back to the main point - I agree that maybe this new SL3 soprano mouthpiece will fail to serve me when I finally get to use it in an ensemble, but I played it yesterday with my wife (on piano) and so far, the SL3 did fine. It always helps me to play against another good instrument (e.g., my regularly tunes home-piano) to assess my own equipment's performance. DAVE
 

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Opinion . . . It was awful . . . non-musical noise. I've seen other similar video clips of well-known and well-respected soprano players doing essentially the same thing - blowing nonsense through their horn, obviously convincing themselves (and other fellow-travellers) that what they were doing was SO with-it, so cool, and so inventive. Wow - the leading edge of new music.

I seriously doubt that 99.9% of the audience took home what they heard and sang it in the shower. ............ DAVE
Yes Dave, it's your view point, but there's no call to be rude. We are all at different places in our understanding of music. It's quite possible that you might hate the way I play music (modern classical mostly) and that I might hate your playing, but we should keep the negativity to ourselves and say 'not to my taste' and move on.
 

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The word 'awful' appears sometimes in evaluations of playing in this forum. It is not intrinsically rude, nor is it apparently in violation of forum standards of decorum.

Dave D turned up the 'blunt' dial a notch, which I think is acceptable in this thread about what he himself is doing. If he'd done it in a thread someone started about that video it might be different.

I think we should err a bit on the side of bluntness in questions of good manners because freely expressed opinions motivate thinking. They open the speaker to having his ideas challenged (when appropriate--here I think a link to a new topic would be best), and they give the listener an opportunity to reconsider the foundations of their own opinions if they disagree. Since knowledge isn't static, but has constantly to be cross-checked and maintained, that kind of back and forth is one of the important benefits of discussion.
 

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I never would have picked you for an SL3 guy, Dave, but my experience has been that the smaller the horn, the better a classical mouthpiece will work for nonclassical playing. A soprano is so naturally bright that even a darkish mouthpiece can sound perfect for certain types of "chamber jazz." Also, the SL3 is easy to play and seems to match well with Yanys.

I've been comparing the SL3 to the SL5 recently. This is also marketed as a classical piece, but check this out:

I liked it. Thanks for sharing.
 

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I never would have picked you for an SL3 guy, Dave, but my experience has been that the smaller the horn, the better a classical mouthpiece will work for nonclassical playing. A soprano is so naturally bright that even a darkish mouthpiece can sound perfect for certain types of "chamber jazz." Also, the SL3 is easy to play and seems to match well with Yanys.

I've been comparing the SL3 to the SL5 recently. This is also marketed as a classical piece, but check this out:


Beautiful!
 

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Dave D, I am completely with you on this one. :)
I guess I am kind of 'old school' on this topic...

It makes me think of graphical arts: the modern (and quite more abstract) paintings are definitely leaving me indifferent (which is probably the worst that can happen when talking about art forms).
On the other hand, show me a Boticelli, a Vermeer, ... (to cite only a few)

So with music, if it doesn't make you want to move/tap/shake (even just 2 fingers), if it doesn't make you feel anything (except maybe wanting to be somewhere else), or if you can't even remember any of it after the band stopped playing, then, to me, it was 'uninteresting' (to say the least).

Continuing the comparison with visual arts, the present sound example makes me think more of the transition towards complete abstract works, lets say the Picasso era... not completely detached from the 'representation' of the real world, yet working more on the perception side of things.

Visual arts went through these changes, there is no reason 'sound arts' would not (as we will not all agree about what to call music, I'd rather extend the notion through that expression).
And that will rightfully appeal to people.
But not to me (my opinion being that these trends tend to 'speak' more to the intellect than to the feelings).

About the original topic: didn't Bechet use a Buescher True Tone with a Selmer Air Flow/Soloist mouthpiece ? (at least when he was playing 'Summertime', 'Petite fleur', 'Les Oignons', ...
I always believed these mouthpieces were more on the classical side of things... ? (but I guess that, at that time, they were not yet talking in terms of 'classical' vs 'jazz' for the designs of mouthpieces, and that sax players were mostly grabbing whatever they could find)
 

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The new-ish Selmer Concept soprano mouthpiece is closed tip (0.042") but I love it for playing jazz. I was playing various different mouthpieces around 0.065", but the Concept feels about the same, has a rich sound with enough volume and is flexible. I have heard that Selmer are finishing their pieces much more consistently nowadays.

Rhys
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I have never figured out what kind of mouthpiece Bechet used, although I've had a few long-time soprano players tell me various things about Bechet's equipment. One story from a protege of George Probert's (of the well-known Dixie band, The Firehouse Five plus Two, and other trad bands including Kid Ory's and Bob Scobey's) was that Bechet used a Selmer mouthpiece made especially for him by Selmer - and this guy was playing one like Bechet's at the backyard memorial jam session for George in 2015 when we all gathered at George's house. I didn't try to pin him down or exam his mouthpiece. He sure didn't sound like Bechet (more like George), so I'm guessing that Bechet's equipment doesn't matter except as a historical note.

I believe Bechet's soprano sax was a Buescher TT in gold-plate. I read an article several years ago that it sold for something like $180k. But I'm sure that Bechet, like so many of us, had more than one soprano sax.

I know for a fact that George Probert did. He preferred a really beat up old Conn and was always seen with it. I have a photo of him playing it in a band I was playing with a few years ago. I got two sopranos out his garage the day of his memorial jam - a Conn (not his gigging horn) and a Mark VI.

As far as "classical" soprano mouthpieces, I saw that video clip in another thread where a player compared four soprano pieces, all of what we think of as classical mouthpieces (Caravan, Concept, Russeau [sp?], and the SL3). I thought the Concept he played sounded pretty strong for a closed-tip mouthpiece.

I'm still enjoying the SL3 I posted about above. I suppose if I come across a Concept in my travels, I'll give it a try, but I'm happy with what I'm playing now (the SL3, and an S-80 D that Joe Giardullo cleaned up for me, plus an old Selmer scroll-shank C* that I bought new in 1957).

As far as the posted comments liking that video clip that was posted in this thread, I get it. That shows me, eh? DAVE
 

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Thinking about the Bechet set-up, I remembered Nicolas Trefeil's website : http://www.nicolastrefeil.com/soprano-sax-player-s-setup
(N. Trefeil being one of the well - if not most - renowned mouthpiece refacers/rebalancers in Europe).

I don't know where Mr. Trefeil got his information, but I wouldn't doubt easily the info he put on his website, on the account that he apparently worked on Olivier Franc's set-up, so discussions occurred...
And O. Franc ought to be extremely knowledgeable about Bechet since he is both his disciple and kind of 'heir' : after all, he is playing (one of) Bechet's actual sax. (as is stated on his website: http://olivierfranc.monsite-orange.fr/inenglish/ )
And to be frank (pun intended), listening to Olivier you can't miss Bechet's influence : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBkF_priCUE

So, in the end, it appears that Bechet's mouthpiece was an even earlier model from Selmer (earlier than the Air Flow), and modified to his requirements, indeed. And I guess that would be the end of this historical anecdote...

Even if I am not even close to considering changing my Missing Link for anything else, I must admit that you got me quite curious about the SL3... I'll give it a try if a 'meet' one. ;)
Whatever set-up you use, happy playing ! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
That link to Trefeil’s chart was interesting. Thanks for that. I’m familiar with Olivier Franc, having been introduced to his recordings by Joe Giardullo. Franc is the closest to Bechet I’ve heard. Marvelous sound.

There are a few French reed guys who emulate Bechet’s style, but Bechet’s tone is not easy to capture. Bob Wilber did at one time, but as good as he is, he has changed over the years. Still an excellent soorano player.

I have a Missing Link piece (.072”). Nice enough, but my recent down-sizing is still fun and I’m going to stick with the smaller tips for now. DAVE
 

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Opinion . . . It was awful...
In my 6 degrees of separation to Joe G is pianist Borah Bergman with whom I played during college in the late 60s. Joe was with him in the 70s when he was getting recognition for stunning technique in this ultra modern style. He had some great players.

Unfortunately, I really wasn't one of them but I was there for him in the late 60s to play hard and long enough to keep up with his frenetic style. I was awful and for all the reasons you mention. Among other things I learned from that relationship was that some players came to the style with a solid musical background and others did it because it seems easier than playing the right notes. So, I disagree that the clip is awful.

Maybe we can find you a Cecil Taylor play-along. 😎
 
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