Beginner Alto Mouthpiece issues - lots of air noise.


Hong Kong
Hi all.

I started just over a year ago with a Yamaha alto YAS-475 and the 4C mouthpiece. I aspire to playing Jazz but also wanted to get a good technical (music reading) background. So with my teacher, I started preparing for the ABRSM exams. As I have had some musical background, I sat 5th grade first up.

As I started to get the mouth piece under control, I dropped it and it broke but being adventurous, I decided it might be time for an upgrade and went for a Meyer 6.

I struggled initially with the change and in fact it wasn't until after the exam that I started using a softer reed and seemed to be getting a better sound (Vandoren Jazz 2 1/2).

In the meantime, I bought a Tenor and planned to change over to that but it is much less practical to cart around (travel for work) so I figured I should have a more classical style of setup on the Alto to complete the ABRSM exams and then explore a more ofa Jazz setup on the Tenor.

With this in mind, I thought (given the previous mouthpiece change grief) I should change back to a more classical mouthpiece on the alto so I went for a Yamaha 5C. Initially I used Vandoren 2 1/2's but now I have gone to a 3's.

I am getting a very breathy sound (sounds like a lot of air escaping). I have persisted now with this for about 3 months and while I think it woulds okay sometimes, most of the time there is still a very sort of woody breathy sound if that makes any sense.

One thing I have been waiting for is I am getting a tooth implant (second molar) next month (the tooth was extracted prior to my starting the sax). In case that affects things like mouthpiece choice etc.

I would be interested in any thoughts on what I should do. Persist? Change? Go back to the Meyer?

Thanks in advance.


Further: I have been considering this post for quite sometime but had hoped the problem would just go away. So after posting today, I have put the Meyer back on and it just seems way better. I am using the 3 reed and it took only a little while to get back on it. The only thing I am worried about is it will not give me a suitable sound to keep going with the ABRSM, particularly in the later grades. I have read that the Meyer 5 might have been a better choice as an all round mouthpiece. Would it be that different?
Breathy sound would make me think the reed is too hard.

I'm not a teacher , just a self taught amateur but my experience is , wider tip opening softer reed.

Moving from a 4c to a 5c I would be trying a half softer to start with. A vandoren 3 is quite a hard reed for alto.

You don't say why you moved from the 4c that you were comfortable with to a 5c.

Some new players think that higher numbers on reed and mouthpiece is a measure of your playing ability and progress.

In my opinion you should use the reed mouthpiece that is easiest to play for you. The one that gives you reliabilty of tone and pitch so you can concentrate on the music. This may change over time as things develop in your mouth and ear.

According to the mouthpiece chart

The meyer 6 is quite a jump from the yamaha 5 and I would be looking at a softer reed.

Bare in mind that what may be a world class sound for one may be totally useless for another.

Jazz is such a broad field. There isn't a jazz sound. It's more about how you play.

The next mouthpiece you buy should be picked from a selection you try in a shop, preferably with your own horn but that's not essential.

I was lucky with my alto find. I was given a vintage, 1920's I think, mouthpiece almost 30 years ago and have stuck with it because I can't find a better one, for me. Others have tried it and sound awful.

My search for a tenor mouthpiece has paused while I explore a new ,to me, vintage piece.

I've had the same mouthpiece on bari for over 25 years and am currently exploring a new world of sop.

Let your ear or others ears be the judge of what you pick. Heart and head will lead you astray.

Most of all it should be easy to play. That means it suits you where you are now.

There's lots of players/teachers on here to give you a more technical answer and I'm sure one will be along shortly.

You just have to type "mouthpiece" or "reed" on here and the pages appear. :gathering:
Hi Colin

The reason I left the 4C was I dropped it and it broke.

I am having a good day with the Meyer and the 3 reed today. Its been 3 months since I tried it and I seem used to the harder reed. I quickly tried a 2 1/2 but it sounded tinny!

The softer reed seemed the same on the 5C, I am wondering if there is any chance that the mouthpiece itself is a problem. I bought it on ebay....

Thanks for your thoughts.
Colin is absolutely right!!!!
A 3 reed will not help you to develop your embouchure. You will be biting up, and blowing harder than you need to. Tone & vibrato will suffer.

John :):);}
Hmmm. I actually found the Meyer with the 3 reed easy today. Unlike the 5C.

I did spend a lot of time on the Meyer before I tried the 5C (I sat the exam with it). At the time I was using Rico Royal 3's but I didn't like the sound. I changed to a Vandoren 2, then found it flakey and moved to the 2 1/2 Jazz. I thought that was okay but I was worried about having a more appropriate sound for the ABRSM exams. Hence the change to the 5C.

When I started with the 5C I started with the Vandoren blue 2 1/2's and recently changed to the 3's. I have never really felt good with the mouthpiece, it always felt too small in my mouth or something.

Today the Meyer felt good. I guess I need to keep trying, my theory was that I was the problem and if I kept trying I should be able to come to terms with the 5C but recently I have been losing faith.

Perhaps I need to experiment a little more. I have plenty of reeds etc. to play around with the Meyer. Kind of wish I had bought the Meyer 5 in the first place but when I first bought the sax I chatted to a guy in the sax shop (on Denmark st) and he seemed to suggest I should just start with what I planned to finish with and suggested a Meyer 7. I backed off a bit and bought the 6.

The reason for the harder reeds was at the suggestion of my teacher.

Thanks for all your input.
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The reason for your breathy sound (you say like air escaping), is exactly that! to get the '3' reed to vibrate you are having to blow too hard to produce the note.
Generally speaking, a good tone & vibrato will come from a reed adjusted to suit the m'piece being used.
My own preference is to adjust the reed (by sanding), until middle 'C' down to 'D' plays cleanly with a relaxed emboucher and no change of airflow. This enables me to play at all volumes. Sand the reed too much and it will jam up, and not produce a note. Don't take enough off and it won't play the full range of the instrument without extra effort from the player.
As Colin says, wider tip openings need softer reeds. This is so you can easily use your emboucer to alter the position of the reed tip in relation to the m'piece, thus giving you control of the sound produced.
I should say I play a '7' m'piece and use '2.5' reeds adjusted to suit (probably end up about a '2').

I now sit back and await the flack :w00t:

John :):);}
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No teachers on yet? They must all be busking the Cenotaph crowds or watching the Rugby.

My experience has been that you can't aim at a mouthpiece. Just like you can't aim at a shoe size. Shoes need to fit the feet you've got. Mouthpiece needs to fit where your embouchure is at. Start where you're going to finish sounds like some one trying to clear a bit of static stock. If you had your instrument with you......

Adjusting your embouchure to the wrong mouthpiece will limit your development in my opinion.

They wouldn't make exactly the same mouthpiece in such a vast array of lays if we were all heading for the same place. Everybody's chops are different.

You say you were going well with yam 4c but when it broke you replaced it with something different and when that wasn't right you went for something different again. If the Yam mpiece feels small a patch may help but if you were getting along fine with a 4c then a 5c may be the wrong mpiece for you.

Changing to a softer reed "quickly" may well sound "tinny" in comparison because you may be overblowing it. I doubt a lovely Yamaha alto with a Meyer mouthpiece and a quality vandoren reed would sound tinny if you give yourself time to blow in the reed and adjust your playing. Give it some time. No rush.
Colin is correct on this one. I still am using a 4C with a medium 2 Rico Jazz. I have a wider tipped metallite mpc that I can use but sometimes struggle with. I stick with the 4C for now because I can think about playing instead of blowing. I am going to get some softer reeds to try out, but that mpc may never work for me. I hope it does because when it does work I prefer the sound, but its not worth struggling to get that sound if I can't concentrate on the music. No matter what, it's okay it's something learned.
Okay, well today I am using the Meyer 6 with Vandoren Jazz 2 1/2 reeds and its seems pretty good across the range. The 3's were giving a little breathy sound on the Meyer 6 as well (but no where near the sound from the 5C). I would try the 5C with some 2's, really back off and see how that works but given this set up (Meyer 6/2 2/12 Jazz) was what I had before and seemed to like prior to trying the 5C, perhaps I should stick with it.

I was just concerned that the sound was too broad for the ABRSM exams where I need to play a variety or music (I am studying for the 'classical' stream rather than the Jazz).

In retrospect, it would have been smart to just have bought a new 4C but I did spend a lot of time playing on the Meyer 6 in the first place to get in under control and it now seems to feel right. Its feels way better than the 5C anyway.
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It might be helpful to read the comments today on Sax On The Web.
Post topic - Suggestions on how to increase reed strength & remain comfortable and relaxed.

John :):);}
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The only problem with trying out mouthpieces in a shop is that the stock is likely to be severely limited. Even though in UK has one of the biggest stocks I still would not have been able to try either of my two chosen soprano mouthpieces, nor my top 7 alto mouthpieces, and not any of my top 6 tenor mouthpieces (include Phil-Tone, Saxscape, Mouthpiece Cafe, Soprano Planet and Drake). A mixture of both is probably more realistic, and there is a regular trade in used mouthpieces on places such as Sax on The Web - where they often go for about 75% of original cost.

As an alternative to the good old Yamaha 4C I'd see about getting hold of a Clark Fobes Debut (£36 in UK, $36 in USA) - ideal for classical, esp with Marca Superiere reeds. Only 1 shop in UK stocks them (Howarth) and they are hand finished ( I have one).
The Rico Graftonite A5 is also in the frame for classical use, at £14.40 from Rapid Reeds U.K.

P.S. I dropped my tenor B5 onto a tiled floor and it bounced with no damage.

John :):);}
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Glad you are still alive, Johnboy! (had all that sanding given you bronchitis?!) an A3 might be better at 0.070" trather than the A5 at 0.080". Or a Bari Esprit II at £14 from Ackerman Music in UK - which I prefer to the Graftonite now - made of "Durable Hard Composite" and can bounce even higher than the Rico!

Kind regards
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Glad you are still alive, Johnboy! - has all that sanding given you lung problems?! an A3 might be better at 0.070" trather than the A5 at 0.080". Or a Bari Esprit II at £14 from Ackerman Music in UK - which I prefer to the Graftonite now - made of "Durable Hard Composite" and can bounce even higher than the Rico!

Kind regards

Hi Tom,
Yep, still here & ROCK'IN (70 next month). No lung problems, but the vacuum cleaner's worn out!!!
I've just found a site for the history of 'Pompey Pop', with pics of one of my old '60s band, The J.Crow Combo (Pete's not old enough to have seen this great band at the Waterside? Pub, Woolston, or is he? >:)).
They also have a 'Roll of Honour' and I was amazed at how many musician friends aren't with us any more :shocked:

John :):);}
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Okay I concede :)

I tried out the mouthpiece with a no. 2 today and it seems fine. I think the original transition from the Meyer made me struggle to come to terms with the 5C but it seems okay today with the softer reed. I'll keep experimenting but at least I have a sound that I can practise with!

Funny, I like the Meyer a whole lot more now too.

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