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A little background... I played mostly clarinet and a little alto sax in high school (almost 50 years ago now) and after many years started back playing again. I now mostly play alto and a little clarinet. I played in a community band, but the last several months have been playing in our church orchestra.

Most of the church pieces use the alto saxes to double/replace French horns parts. I am definitely improving, but would like to have a tone that is more “spread and lush” like a French horn.

I am playing a Yamaha Custom Z alto with a Selmer C* and Vandoren 2 1/2 or 3 reeds.

I would really appreciate your thoughts on how to achieve a more spread/lush sound. If the solution requires me to get different equipment I am certainly receptive to those ideas, too.

Thanks very much for your thoughts!

Martin
 

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You have a decent setup for what you want to do. First thing I would do is practice long tones. Soft to medium loud. Practice these a lot. Best thing to improve overall tone.

Also, think about whether you are using a sax vs a clarinet embouchure. Sax should be somewhat looser and expose more bottom lip to the reed. Plenty on YouTube about this.

You could try another mouthpiece. But you may see more improvement with long tones and embouchure.

Good luck.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I would really appreciate your thoughts on how to achieve a more spread/lush sound. If the solution requires me to get different equipment I am certainly receptive to those ideas, too.
No different equipment needed. You just need to learn how to control and manipulate your sound.

I could suggest plenty of exercises (see below) but really you need an actual live teacher to help you.

Odd thing though, I've never thought of a French Horn as spread and lush
 

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Whenever someone tells me they played clarinet and are switching to sax the first thing I tell them is "loosen your embouchure".

How long have you been back playing? Obviously 50 years is a long layoff... I picked sax up after 15 years and it took me a few years of regular playing to get my tone anywhere near where I wanted it. Take your time, have the sound you want in your head, and try to match it when you play. Enjoy the journey, most of all.
 

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A different mouthpiece will make an immediate and discerning difference. I recommend a Caravan large chamber mouthpiece for the kind of sound and use you are interested in.
Paul Cohen
 

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No matter how hard you try, an alto sax will never really be as 'spread and lush' as a french horn. The best you can hope for is as 'full and rich' as you can get with an alto saxophone.
Focus your effort on manipulating your embouchure, oral cavity, and breath support to achieve that goal.
Your current set up is perfectly capable of achieving that of which you seek. 😉
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Whenever someone tells me they played clarinet and are switching to sax the first thing I tell them is "loosen your embouchure".
Good point, I missed that. It can be quite an easy mistake to equate the saxophone embouchure with clarinet. Even the angle of the mouthpiece in relation to your mouth is important (clarinet tends to be more downward). So even more weight to my mentioning a real live teacher in the room with you...can be better than people on the internet all giving different (hence confusing) advice.
 

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The idea of a "full and rich" sound has many different meanings in the saxophone world. And, different mouthpiece designs lend themselves to different sound profiles which the player then manipulates to their liking. A larger chamber mouthpiece simply gives an acoustic profile more like the french horn quality than smaller chamber mouthpieces. Starting with that will give you a significant head start towards your tonal interests.
Can you achieve the desired sound on your current mouthpiece? Some saxophonists would say "yes", many would say "almost but not quite" (if played by an experienced player) and some would say "no way". It depends on the saxophonists' tonal reference and performing experience on both kinds of mouthpieces.
Paul Cohen
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you all very much for your comments/suggestions. I have been working on those items you all have mentioned (long tones, looser embouchure, etc.), but will re-double my efforts! As mentioned high school was almost 50 years ago and not counting a very brief couple of months about 25 years ago I haven’t played since then. Definitely a lot of “rust” has been knocked off my playing so far, but much work to do! I will also look into the Caravan mouthpiece. Thanks again for all your suggestions. I will also seek out a good teacher!
 

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I would definitely listen to what Professor Cohen says. I don't think the Caravan pieces are very expensive.

The Selmer C* is going to be on the brighter end of "classical" mouthpieces, I think. The FH does not have the kind of "edge" that a saxophone does, so you'll want to tame that edge.
 

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Find a player who's sound your really like and play along with their music. Ballads are great to play with, I use them for long tones with a melody. Experiment with mouthpieces, but don't break the bank.
 

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All good suggestions above, especially in regard to embouchure, long tones, etc. However, I would aim for a good alto sax tone; I wouldn't try to make a sax sound like a French horn, even if you are playing "French horn" parts.
 

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I don't want my comments to appear condescending to more experienced players. I am simply offering them as techniques and concepts I found useful in my 32 year teaching career. The "buffet analogy" certainly applies in this instance: "Take what you like, and leave the rest".

Many players who started on clarinet and then switched to saxophone tend to have the same issues. They include:

- Playing too high on the mouthpiece pitch---on alto it should be no higher than A=880. The clarinet plays near the top of its mouthpiece pitch, the saxophone pitch is lower allowing "lipping" up as well as down (though not as much).
- Trying to recreate the resistance they become familiar with on the clarinet. This is often done by restricting the throat and inserting the mouthpiece at a downward angle as on clarinet.
- Using a clarinet embouchure on the saxophone. On the clarinet, the chin is flat and the lower lip is stretched thin to cover the least amount of reed. On the saxophone the chin is "rounded", the corners pushed in, and the lip is more of a "cushion".
- Holding back the air. The saxophone is more "free blowing" than the clarinet and takes more air---especially in the low register where the "tube" not only gets longer, but wider as well because it is shaped like a cone.

A useful exercise to work on both air and embouchure on the alto sax is to play the mouthpiece and neck alone. Play as loud as you can without the reed closing off producing an Ab concert. Do this as long tones, keeping the pitch and intensity as steady as possible. When that can be done with control, assemble the saxophone, and play F2 (Ab concert) using exactly the same embouchure and amount of air. Using this much energy and air and blowing the same pitch on the "tone producer" the the saxophone is fingered to play will result in as big and resonant a sound the saxophone and mouthpiece/reed can produce. Using this tone and intensity as the standard, begin adding fingers one at a time making each successive note have the same qualities.

A technique to help open the throat (back of the oral cavity) is to say "HAUP" as you take a breath. Other methods include doing the first part of a yawn before the swallow reflex kicks in, and singing the lowest note you can on an "AHH". Tips to preventing "biting" with the embouchure include mentally blowing the airstream toward the LH thumb on the octave rest, pressing down with the top teeth on the mouthpiece, and remembering to "open the teeth" when you play. When "opening the teeth" it helps to push in more with the corner muscles to keep the pitch from going flat.

The best tip to teach "breath support" which I prefer to call "pressurized air" I learned from a tuba professor at a local university (the Jazz for Cows guy :)) You tear a sheet of copy paper in half and hold it up to a window or mirror with one finger. Then you release it as you blow and try to keep it up as long as possible. I would have my students do this several times and tell them to make their stomach muscles feel the same way when they play their saxophone.

One effective way of achieving a more French Horn like sound on an alto saxophone is to use a "donut mute". Most of the higher harmonics travel past the open toneholes and go straight out the bell. The "mute" helps to dampen these higher frequencies giving the saxophone a rounder and warmer tone without significantly decreasing the volume. Of course there are many different methods and concepts for teaching and playing the saxophone, some of which are different than the ones I have described. I am making no claim that my methods are better than any of the others, just that these are the things that I found worked for me in my teaching experience.
 

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Just want to comment on the quality of info/assistance here. I came back to the saxophone after being away for a couple decades. Prior, I studied sax and performed semi-pro for also a couple decades.

Those starting out (or getting back in) have an amazing amount of quality instruction available that many of us had to travel to or just figure out on our own previously.

It’s really a great time to be a practicing musician.
 

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All good suggestions above, especially in regard to embouchure, long tones, etc. However, I would aim for a good alto sax tone; I wouldn't try to make a sax sound like a French horn, even if you are playing "French horn" parts.
Yeah, but the composer had a French horn sound in mind, so best to come close to that, IMO. I often have to blend with other sections (trombones, French horns, etc.), so I have to be able to take the edge off what I consider my ideal sax tone I'd use when playing solo or with the whole sax section. This is a skill that comes with listening and imitating over and over and over. The OP already has all the equipment capable of making a fuller, less edgy tone that blends with the French horns. So my advice is to simply keep trying to sound like a French horn, and you'll eventually get closer to that sound, or at least one that blends better.

When I hear a really good classical tenor sound, it's very cello-like, a far cry from my ideal jazz tone, but ideal for blending with other orchestral instruments.
 

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Yeah, but the composer had a French horn sound in mind, so best to come close to that, IMO. I often have to blend with other sections (trombones, French horns, etc.), so I have to be able to take the edge off what I consider my ideal sax tone I'd use when playing solo or with the whole sax section. This is a skill that comes with listening and imitating over and over and over. The OP already has all the equipment capable of making a fuller, less edgy tone that blends with the French horns. So my advice is to simply keep trying to sound like a French horn, and you'll eventually get closer to that sound, or at least one that blends better.

When I hear a really good classical tenor sound, it's very cello-like, a far cry from my ideal jazz tone, but ideal for blending with other orchestral instruments.
Very much, yes!!!

When playing classical, I find I have three native sounds - tenor sax, bassoon, or cello. Depending on the mood of the piece, these tend to come out naturally, then I find myself thinking "Oh, there's my inner cello", or "There's my bassoon sound". The natural tenor sound is most prominent when playing more modern pieces that don't have a natural connection to either classical string or wind ensembles (here I refer to the more common mixes of flutes, double reeds, and clarinet derivatives). Bassoon was my other instrument through high school and early college days. I haven't played one in decades, but still love the sound.
 

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I am simply offering them as techniques and concepts I found useful in my 32 year teaching career. The "buffet analogy" certainly applies in this instance: "Take what you like, and leave the rest".
+1. Your posts are excellent saxoclese! And very helpful, I'm sure, to all those looking for advice. Far more than some of my cryptic or off the wall comments. :)

And when it comes to classical music, I do realize the role of the sax and appropriate tone quality is quite different than in jazz or R&B music. Not being a classical musician, I should probably steer clear of discussions regarding classical sax playing. I do like classical music, though.
 

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Very much, yes!!!

When playing classical, I find I have three native sounds - tenor sax, bassoon, or cello. Depending on the mood of the piece, these tend to come out naturally, then I find myself thinking "Oh, there's my inner cello", or "There's my bassoon sound". The natural tenor sound is most prominent when playing more modern pieces that don't have a natural connection to either classical string or wind ensembles (here I refer to the more common mixes of flutes, double reeds, and clarinet derivatives). Bassoon was my other instrument through high school and early college days. I haven't played one in decades, but still love the sound.
Oh, I'd love to think to myself, "There's my inner Coltrane", and get the results, but it doesn't work for me.:cry:
 
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