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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m working on this continuing theory that how much mouthpiece one takes in and their embouchure style (loose, tight, covered, uncovered) has a lot more to do with which reeds work for them than picking out a cut designed for a particular style. I don’t care much to discuss my theory because pseudo-scientific threads usually end up as ego-stroking mostly nonsensical arguments on this forum, so let’s not do that.

If you happen to play tenor and tend to eat the mouthpiece, please chime in with what kind of reeds you like and why. I’m asking because the more mouthpiece I take in (now pretty much all of it, the more I find I need another direction...reed sampling is quite expensive and I’d like to try to narrow down my next round. I’ve always tended to do better with thinner blanks. I have/ like to have a darker edgy tenor tone and lots of my usual go to reeds have me bordering on tubby sounding. A bit concerning as I’ve had a few experiences lately where all sounds okay in practice and I get on a gig and all of a sudden I’m working my *** off playing dead wood and they’re all the same. Do reeds get performance anxiety 😜

Playing a Robusto metal 6* and my tenor is in better playing condition than ever. always had great luck with:
LaVoz MH
Rigotti Gold 3.5L-4M
Queen 4
Vandoren v16 3.5

Really hope this is a reed thing and that I’m not just all of a sudden completely out of love with my tenor mouthpiece after playing exclusively alto for a couple months.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Oh yeah, reeds I’ve been trying recently with no winners:
Rico Jazz filed and un-filed
Andreas Eastman both cuts
Vandoren Green ZZ and Red
Marca Jazz
Roberto’s Winds
Rico Orange and Royal
 

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What happens when you go with a little softer reed in one of the brands that works best for you? For me when I take in considerably more mouthpiece and/or play with less jaw pressure I need a little softer reed .... I think it offsets your embrouchure not pushing the reed towards the mouthpiece tip and limiting airflow like can happen when your embrouchure pressure point is further back.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What happens when you go with a little softer reed in one of the brands that works best for you? For me when I take in considerably more mouthpiece and/or play with less jaw pressure I need a little softer reed .... I think it offsets your embrouchure not pushing the reed towards the mouthpiece tip and limiting airflow like can happen when your embrouchure pressure point is further back.

YES! This is something I’m working with. What I’m finding is that, in the cuts I’m used to the high end becomes a bit harder to handle. Sure, part of that is me sometimes if I’m tired or get lazy, but even when focused I’m not digging the feel. It’s not thin, but it’s fragile. It sounds okay on recordings and people I’m playing with don’t get what I’m trying to say, but it feels like I’m on thin ice and it could break anytime. People actually say it sounds cool and Brecker-like, especially when I lean into that kind of sound..It’s like now that I take in so much mouthpiece my tone is so much more colorful and flexible, but fragile up top.
From what I gather the Rigotti and Rico cuts I’ve been playing successfully are thinner at the tip? Perhaps a reed cut with more at the tip, but I thought the v16 and Java cuts were supposed to have thicker tips...
kind of frustrated, as I’m playing more and better ideas than ever and I’m kind of hating my sound.
 

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I think with lots of mouthpiece in the upper register can feel kind of brittle and buzzy. I think larynx and throat control really comes into play in this case. I’d imagine that some long tones in the upper register along with overtone exercises extended to the 5th and 6th overtone could really help with feeling more stable and flexible up there.

The other thing is that Im guessing then metal Robusto gets pretty bright up high once you start taking in more mouthpiece, especially considering it’s a smaller tip opening? Brecker got a pretty bright sound out of a 6-6* Link, and he was using a similar Joe Allard approach with lots of mouthpiece and minimal jaw pressure. Or check out Steve Grossman on an old ToneMaster ..... same thing. Curious how your current approach to sound production translates on a less “turbocharged” mouthpiece in a similar tip?opening?
 

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....lots of my usual go to reeds have me bordering on tubby sounding. A bit concerning as I’ve had a few experiences lately where all sounds okay in practice and I get on a gig and all of a sudden I’m working my *** off playing dead wood...

Rigotti Gold 3.5L-4M
Vandoren v16 3.5
I have pretty much the same reaction as dctwells, regarding reed strength. The two brands I included in the quote above are brands I've used a lot over the years and I would find the sizes you're playing to be much too hard (with the caveat I'm playing a more open tip, but even on a 6* I'd find them too hard). Which can result in the kind of 'dead wood' tone you describe. Maybe try going down to a 3Light in the Rigotti & 2.5 in the V16 (V16 run a bit stronger at a given # than most other reeds) and see what happens.

I'm really not sure how much mpc you take in would affect this in terms of the reed brand/size, but it could be possible to take in bit too much. There may be a 'fine line' there.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow, Some great responses so far...I kind of thought what I was saying might not make much sense, glad to hear there’s hope! Haha.

Pete, I definitely know what you’re saying and have that in mind.

Dave: I am definitely using a loose embouchure and obviously taking in more mouthpiece, and I’m lifting weights in the right register; it’s definitely helping. It’s the turbocharged bit I struggle with. I realize brightness comes a lot from airspeed and I can speed it up to be brighter, but generally I’m dark always. It seems I just get darker the more I play...I’m getting very little buzz or sizzle from the reed. The high end is frustrating, but equally frustrating is sounding tubby on a 10mFan Robusto 6* with 3.5 reeds (seems pretty middle of the road to me). I cannot play dark mouthpieces...tried a hard rubber Link 7* off the shelf last week and it sounded like I was on a stuffy bass clarinet. I do have some throat and palette mobility issues, but nothing to where I should have to go MB style and start trying to find a pea shooter that has some magic in it to allow a nice low end.

JL, Yes, there’s certainly a “too much” point, but I’m not there. My tooth mark is just past the edge of the bite plate...I see tons of pictures of Trane and Dexter taking in more or less the same amount, and as far as I know they both played pieces in the 6-6* range. From what I gather Trane experimented with all kinds of baffles and such while Dex was pretty stable in his gear choices. As for strength/ cut/ amount taken in: try it out. Pick a red you like and experiment with taking in different amounts of the tip. You get a different vibe out of a reed based on where and how hard you damp the vibration.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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JL, Yes, there’s certainly a “too much” point, but I’m not there. My tooth mark is just past the edge of the bite plate..,
That is likely to give you problems then, the bite plate is ther fpor a reason..

I see tons of pictures of Trane and Dexter taking in more or less the same amount,
But do you see their teeth to actually know what is going on? Even so, if you are as good as them then carry on what you are doing!
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
That is likely to give you problems then, the bite plate is ther fpor a reason..



But do you see their teeth to actually know what is going on? Even so, if you are as good as them then carry on what you are doing!
IMVHO the bite plate is too small and too close to the tip on the Robustos I’ve had (3). Nope, Dex and Trane are a bit better than me 😜🙏, but I get what you’re saying. My measurables (protruded mandible and large lips) are similar to theirs and that’s a little bit of what sent me down this path. There’s a lot to take from looking at playing posture. Video is way more useful, but stills are nice too.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Side note and possible game changer: My tenor was out of playing condition then off for repair for a period of almost four months where I played alto exclusively. I was already feeling a change was needed before being off tenor, but since so got it back it’s staring me in the face (ears) every morning I practice and especially on the gigs I’ve had the past three weeks...the horn is outstanding and has never played better. I don’t know exactly what voodoo they did for me at Tenor Madness (Thanks Randy and Simon!!!), but my already smoking horn came back a complete beast. I don’t know what change has had more of an impact, but maybe I’m not getting what I need out of this mouthpiece anymore and that makes me sad because it’s an amazing piece.
 

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I totally agree.

Also the sort of stock answer of "take in more mouthpiece" in regards to some questions confused the hell out of me until I realized that it usually only pertains to people who are taking in WAY too little mouthpiece start out. I was always experimenting trying to take in more mouthpiece because I kept hearing that advice get thrown around but it's only in the last 3-4 years that I've been working on taking in less mouthpiece and using a harder reed with a nice flexible tip. Where as before when I was trying to jam a bunch of mouthpiece in my face I was only using a 3 and having it feel like that was all I could handle.

I'm a really really big fan of the Red Box Javas. I've been playing the 3.5's for the last 2 years. They are just nice and flexible and let me put a lot of air through the horn now that I've gotten used to playing a little further back on the mouthpiece.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I totally agree.

Also the sort of stock answer of "take in more mouthpiece" in regards to some questions confused the hell out of me until I realized that it usually only pertains to people who are taking in WAY too little mouthpiece start out. I was always experimenting trying to take in more mouthpiece because I kept hearing that advice get thrown around but it's only in the last 3-4 years that I've been working on taking in less mouthpiece and using a harder reed with a nice flexible tip. Where as before when I was trying to jam a bunch of mouthpiece in my face I was only using a 3 and having it feel like that was all I could handle.

I'm a really really big fan of the Red Box Javas. I've been playing the 3.5's for the last 2 years. They are just nice and flexible and let me put a lot of air through the horn now that I've gotten used to playing a little further back on the mouthpiece.
Thanks, Sean! Yeah, I don’t mean to say I’m like shoving it down my throat, just that there’s a sweet spot that seems to work nicely for me...I can back off a little or take in a bit more to play with colors. Before this “issue” I could grab a box of LaVoz MH or and Rigotti 3.5-4 and comfortably play 7-8 of them in any setting, now I’m happy with one or two. Very frustrating and kind of a mind f***, as I’ve been super happy with the direction I’ve been going in for the past three years with no change in gear except in early 2017 I went from a 5* to a 6*.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I bet you all have been waiting to hear updates on this thread...haha 🤣🤣🤣
I tried all the reeds. I tried a different mouthpiece design all-together (a super fun higher baffle piece that changed my opinion of pieces like it). I tried two really nice necks from Tenor Madness that they hand-selected as they play-tested my horn quite a bit during the amazing set-up they did for me. I grabbed a neck from Phil Barone last week too...winner, winner, chicken dinner!

For those interested: Viking Legend M58S, Phil Barone copper plated neck, 10MFan Metal Robusto 6*, and Rigotti 3.5M or S have me loving life behind the horn again. Still eating as much mouthpiece as I can, lifting weights (overtones and altissimo), and playing with as many people as I possibly can...some crazy cool sit-ins lately 😁🤜🙏. As long as I’m still in love with this neck next week, I’m going to have a pick up installed in the original neck for fun electronic stuff I’m working on!!!
 
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