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Berg Larsen too sharp; how to fix?

Discussion in 'Saxophone (technical)' started by Squawky, May 29, 2011.

  1. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    I purchased a Stainless Steel Berg Larsen 120/1/M tenor mouthpiece (same as listed in my sig) back in December of 2010 as my first jazz mouthpiece. Before the Berg, I was playing on my school's Selmer S-80 C*. I play the Berg on my Super 20, and I love the sound, but the problem is, it plays around 40 cents sharp when about in the middle of my cork. When I back it off to get it in tune, it refuses to stay on my neck. I've had it recorked with a very large cork and have used plumber's tape before to hold the piece on, but it still wobbles. Is there something I can do to get this thing to play in tune? Or should I just look for another mouthpiece that will give me a similar sound but will stay in tune and more importantly, stay on the neck?
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  2. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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    Berg Larsen ss tenor mouthpiece and King Super 20 is a "classic" setup used by lots of players. Big sound. Maybe you should have a new thicker neckcork? Easy for a tech to help you with.

    Thomas
  3. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Switching from a Selmer C* to a 120 Berg is a heck of a jump. Sounds more like you want to work on your embouchure. Has anyone else played it?
  4. Saxo

    Saxo New Member

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    A Selmer C* is .071, Berg Larsen is .120. As Nick said, that is a heck of a jump -even for a player with years of experience.
  5. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    I purchased the mouthpiece used on ebay, so yes, someone else has played it, and there weren't any complaints that I saw about the intonation of the mouthpiece. Any recommendations on ways I can strengthen my embouchure?
  6. Pyrografix

    Pyrografix Senile Member

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    I think the question about someone else 'playing it' was referring to someone else playing your sax and the new mouthpiece together - maybe a teacher or someone with experience of that type of m/piece could try it, to eliminate any doubts about the mouthpiece itself.

    Keep practicing!
  7. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Yup. That's what I meant. If you know an experienced sax player (that's sax player - not a clarinetist who thinks a sax is a sort of inferior clarinet) then get him to play your set-up and see what the intonation's like,

    "Strengthening" your embouchure is possibly the wrong way of thinking about it. It sounds like you need to loosen up.
  8. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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    I also tried Berg Larsen ss with wide opening (115/0 SMS and 120/0 SMS) on King Super 20 tenor. They were too hard for me to handle. I also tried a Dukoff LD 10 (0.130) with the same result. If you want to give your mouthpiece a chance I think you must play a lot and do embouchure excersises every day and several hours each day. You must keep in mind that a setup like yours was used by players like King Curtis, Clarence Clemons, Red Prysock (but they were on harder reeds!!!) … . So it’s not easy for hobby players, like myself, to get used to such setups.

    Try to trade your open Larsen for a medium (0.90-0.95) or medium-open (0.100-.0.105) one. Your reed is also fine on Berg Larsens. A LaVoz M reeds are softer than Rico, Rico Royal 2,5 but harder than Vandoren 2. You can try a softer reed on your mouthpiece as well and see how it turns out. I think the M facing is easier to control compared to the SMS facing. The “1” baffle is a quite high (closer to the reed) compared to the low “3” baffle. I would say your mouthpice is a great Rock or R&B mouthpiece. Larsens baffles are 0-3 with 0 brightest and 3 darkest.

    I have owned three King Super 20 tenors and they were hard for me to get along with. IMO, a demanding sax. Thats way I switched to Martins. Better for me to play on. The King Super 20 is a very nice and delicate sax. I regret I sold my first King Super 20 from the early 50’s. A milestone when it comes to saxes!

    Good luck with your sax and mouthpice. King Super 20 and Berg Larsen metal mouthpieces sounds good in my ears!


    Thomas
  9. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Alright, thanks! I'll have my sax teacher take a look at the mouthpiece and try out my whole setup to see whether it's just me or if there's something up with the mouthpiece. As for a different Berg, I'm thinking I might also do a lower baffle on the next one, perhaps a 2. I'll look around for a decent 105/2/M in stainless. Or should I try bronze? I also ordered a box of Rico Jazz Select 2H reeds yesterday so I'll see how those react with the mouthpiece.
  10. Clivey

    Clivey Senior Member

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    I can`t get a toot out of my"100/2 SMS" these days as I stick to a 5 YAM.

    It`s all embouchure stuff. No Fast way I`m afraid.
  11. Saxo

    Saxo New Member

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    Exactly ! A .120 is extreme. John Coltrane used a .090, Stan Getz a .095 and most of the best tenors never exceeded .105.
  12. Jules

    Jules Formerly known as "nachoman"

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    agree with the first bit of your statement but I'm not convinced by that bit- ernie watts, brecker etc.. plas johnson's epic 150 thou berg etc (but, as they say- don't try this at home)
  13. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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    I have a BL ss (blue box) tenor mpc 95/2 SMS in good condition. Send a PM if you want to trade?

    Thomas
  14. compound

    compound Member

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    Hi Squawky,
    Is there any sign inside the piece that it has been reworked in the past,? worth checking.
    Rob.
  15. Paul Inglis

    Paul Inglis Senior Member

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    I don’t agree! Many great Tenor Saxophonists play / played bigger than .105” such as:

    • Pete Christlieb| Metal Berg Larsen 130/0
    • Arnett Cobb | Otto-Link #9 (0.120”)
    • Ronnie Cuber | Otto-Link 8* (0.115”)
    • Frank Foster | Lawton 10*B
    • Gary Foster | Lawton 10*B
    • Stan Getz | Otto-Link 8* HR (0.115”)
    • Johnny Griffin | Otto-Link 0.150”
    • Jimmy Giuffre | Berg Larson 130/0
    • Scott Hamilton | Otto-Link #12 (0.150”)
    • Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson | Otto-Link 12* (0.155”)
    • Plas Johnson | Berg Larson 160/2
    • Bob Malach | Otto-Link 8* (0.115”)
    • James Moody | RPC 150M
    • Houston Person | Lawton #10
    • Lenny Pickett | Berg Larsen 130/0
    • Joshua Redman | Otto-Link 9* (0.125”)
    • Sonny Rollins| Berg Larsen 130/2
    • Wayne Shorter | Otto-Link #10 HR (0.130”)
    • Ernie Watts | Otto-Link #13 (0.160”)
    • Ben Webster | Otto-Link #9 (0.120”)
    • Plus many, many more …
    I play an 8* (0.115”) which I find a little too small and having a custom 0.120” made up which plays a little bigger than the Otto-Link so it’ll be more like a 0.125” (9*).

    There are plenty of great players at the other extreme who play tiny tip openings such as Don Byas with his Otto-Link Florida Super Tone Master 3* (0.065”).

    Could you play Coltrane’s set-up? He played his Custom Otto-Link 5* (0.080”) with Rico #4 Reeds!!!

    Everyone has different mouth sizes, shapes, tongues, jaws, lungs, etc … which mean’s finding a tip opening that suits you and a chamber, baffle, etc … that gives you that sound you want!

    Doesn’t the nice Mr Thomas play a PPT 9* (0.125”)!

    EDIT: BTW Stan Getz, actually played an Otto-Link 8* HR (0.115”) not a 0.095" ;}
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2011
  16. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    I think there are two points here:

    1 - the jump is huge and will take some managing. OP has already decided to do something about it.
    2 - Each 'great' player played what he wanted to play. And many changed at different times in their careers. You don't need a big opening to be a good player, and neither do you need a small opening. Even though the modern tendancy is towads wider tips/softer reeds, it's not an absolute. And no point in arguing...
  17. Paul Inglis

    Paul Inglis Senior Member

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    That's what I was trying to say! In too many words :)))

    :shocked: Spoil sport :)))
  18. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Rob,

    I don't think it has been reworked. Everything looks pretty normal. Eventually I can upload some pictures of the piece when I get home.
  19. jonf

    jonf Well-Known Member

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    I'm not a great player, and never will be, so this probably means nothing, but I play a 120 mouthpiece, a modified Otto Link 10. I just find it suits me. I've always found things like Yamaha 4c and 5c, and Selmer C* to be like trying to blow through a pinhole, and I started playing on a 105 mouthpiece. I don't find a 120 to be in any way extreme.

    None of this is any evidence of me being a tough macho guy (I'm not) as I play using either a RJS 2S or 2M reed. So, big mouthpiece, soft reed. Works for me.
  20. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    I do understand what you're saying. I love the 120 tip opening and I don't think it's extreme either. It's a great feel but my only issue is intonation. I'm hoping that finding a slightly smaller tip opening will allow me to control it better and thus achieve bearable intonation. Also, what do you think of those RJS reeds? I haven't tried them yet.
  21. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Wide tip openings and soft reeds can work well. The only issue I have with that set-up is when it is combined with an inexperienced player it can lead to serious intonation issues.

    The 5 tenor mouthpieces I habitually lug around with me range from 115 to 135 and I find they all work pretty well with Jazz Select 3Ms.
  22. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Thomas,

    I tried to PM with some questions, but it said you could receive no more PMs and that your box was full
  23. jonf

    jonf Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, Nick. You do need to get to a certain level to avoind the intonation problems - I guess I sort of subconciously pitch each note.

    Squawky, I play RJS reeds on all my saxes. I've tried others but just find RJS for me to be the best reeds. Everyone has their own preferences, but they suit me better than any of the others I've tried. Bright, clear and controllable.

    Jon
  24. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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  25. phooesnax

    phooesnax Member

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    Easy way to see if new cork will solve your issue is to wrap the neck cork with teflon tape. Like the plumber use. It will make the cork thicker without harm and let you play the mouthpiece a bit further out. I actually have used the teflon in place of cork grease for years. Works great.
  26. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    I have actually used it for a while, but my Berg's to the point that the mouthpiece is so far out that theres barely any shank gripping the neck, essentially making the plumber's tape ineffective.
  27. AndyB

    AndyB Member

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    Squawky, I have an old sax too, a Pan Am/Conn 60m from somewhere in 1947-1955. I had a Conn 16m when I was a kid. Almost every mouthpiece (except the original 1967 Conn 16m mpc) played almost 1/2 step (!) sharp on both horns. Pete recommended that I try an Otto Link. I tried out a 7* Link NYC and the intonation is perfect on my Pan Am. I lost the original 16m mpc but it had a shank that was about 3/4" longer than any modern mpc that I've seen. I don't know what it technically different about the Link but there is something magic about it.
  28. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    I've looked around at Otto Links, and I've heard a mix of reviews. I've heard they can be stuffy and that quality control on them is rather spotty nowadays, but I've also heard that good ones are very pleasing tonally. I know that all three other tenor sax players at my district jazz band were using Otto Link NY 7* pieces, and they sounded pretty good. I hesitated on getting a Link when I first was looking around for a tenor piece, because I had bought a 20/30-year-old Super Tonemaster 8* for my alto on ebay a while back just to see what it would be like (this was before I had ANY concept of what in the world the tip openings meant... should've checked it out first) and I found even with a very soft reed, it was hard to blow. I'm guessing that the difficulty was due to myself having inadequate air, and not characteristic of the piece.
  29. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    Morgan Fry sorts all the problems out with links. Drop him a line. His mouthpieces play really well. He's a member here.

    May be one for sale in the yard sale.

    But the Berg should work.
  30. johnboy

    johnboy Senior Member

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    "Strengthening" your embouchure is possibly the wrong way of thinking about it. It sounds like you need to loosen up.[/QUOTE]

    Here, Here and softer reeds!!!!!

    John.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2011
  31. Morgan Fry

    Morgan Fry Senior Member

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    First of all, it's a big difference, but there's no reason it shouldn't work fine once you adjust. A big Berg should play reasonably in tune on a Super 20. Get the neck recorked to fit the Berg. It's not unusual at all to recork a neck to fit a mouthpiece.

    OTOH, if you're only at the middle of the cork, that worries me a little. How sure are you that the problem isn't your embouchure? There is a decent chance that you're just biting the pitch too high. Have a look at the mouthpiece only exercises in the front of Dave Liebman's "Personal Saxophone Sound". Long story short, play with loose enough embouchure that you can bend the note a full octave on the mouthpiece alone using only your vocal cavity (mostly the back of your tongue) while exerting almost no vertical pressure on the piece, just enough to hold it in your face. Once you find yourself letting the reed work more freely you'll find you need to push in more, and you'll bring that Berg back into pitch.
    HTH
    Morgan
  32. Morgan Fry

    Morgan Fry Senior Member

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    About tip openings -- some designs of pieces work better smaller, some work better larger, some work better over a larger span than others. Probably the biggest factor in this is the baffle. With more baffle, you need a wider tip opening to have the same functional chamber size. So Coltrane's .090 or so ToneMaster -- medium tip, large chamber, little baffle -- has a similar functional chamber size as Christlieb's Berg 130/1. The early Otto Link STMs work very well, albeit differently, in pretty much any size.
  33. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Morgan,

    Thanks a bunch! I'll be sending in my sax soon to my tech get it recorked and fixed up and whatnot. I'll try picking up a copy of the Liebman book and doing those exercises and see how that gets me started embouchure-wise.
  34. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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    Squawky,

    PM sent with pictures.

    Thomas
  35. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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  36. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Thomas,

    I checked the links and I definitely like what I see. I tried to send a PM regarding trading, but your inbox is full.

    Squawky
  37. thomsax

    thomsax Well-Known Member

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    My mailbox is empty. If you want to contact me you can send an e-mail to thomsax@hotmail.com .
  38. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Email sent
  39. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    Tom/squawky, please make sure that Pete's charity gets its share.

    I'd also prefer it if you formalise it through the yard sale for protection on both sides. There's a good reason the posts there can't be edited....
  40. Squawky

    Squawky Member

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    Kev,

    Can you give me a rundown on how to formalize this through the yard sale? This is really the first type of "transaction" I've tried on this forum, so I sincerely apologize for not knowing the proper formalities.

    Squawky

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