All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
Tutorials

Does beginner need huge mouth welly and general welly?

rotate

Member
Messages
49
As a beginner I am having a lot of trouble and only get anywhere at all if I clamp my lips round the thing like Dracula, with maximum strength; and generally put in serious muscular effort.

Looked at Sanborn videos and his face and neck muscles and veins are standing out like he's on steroids.

So does it follow that playing the saxophone is big time physical? This is a serious question; I'm used to simple whistle flutes which require no effort.

Perhaps what the question is is "Is big time effort what to expect or does it mean somethings wrong?"
 
Messages
509
the simple answer is no it doesn't or shouldn't take huge physical exhertion to play the sax.
you don't say what reed/mouthpiece setup you are using also are you teaching yourself?
as for Dave Sanborn,part of his technique is due to the fact that he had polio as a boy
therefore his he is slightly limited movement wise and his breathing suffered.
besides i dont think it is wise to try and learn purely by watching top players.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
As the man says - should not require that much effort, so there may be something not quite right in your technique or your set up may be too challenging. Points to look for are: too wide a tip opening on mouthpiece for your current embouchure strength, reeds too hard, ligature too tight. Ideally a beginner should use a narrow tip opening (4 or 5) and soft reeds (1.5 - 2 strength). Be interested to know what your set up is. Also you need to take in a good amount of breath and have a relaxed, open throat so that your air flow is consistent and unblocked. It does require some breath to make a decent sound, as with brass instruments, but not quite as much.

look forward to hearing more from you about your set up etc.

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
As has been said it shouldn't take masses of effort however some saxes and in particular some mouth pieces are not very free blowing. Also it's usual to start with a less open mouth piece and a softer reed. I'd get some advise from a teacher or someone with knowledge locally if you can. Also if your horn is set up badly it won't help.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Rikki

Member
Messages
205
I strongly suggest that you try and get yourself at least a few lessons from a reputable teacher, who will be able advise on setup and correct any errors in your technique. It will probably be an easy fix and then plenty of practice!

All the best and don't give up!
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
I reckon I'm in agreement with everyone on here! A teacher's experience would be very useful I think, to explain the merits or otherwise of what you're doing, with the benefit of seeing and hearing it. It could be an adjustment is needed either in terms of technique or setup.

It's a great idea to pick up tips by watching the pros, but you can't see what's going on on the inside, or the hours and hours of practice they've put in to do what they do, so you can't know why they're doing whatever it is. If you understand the why, then the how makes more sense.

For instance, I spend hours telling my pupils to keep their cheeks in, since this helps direct the airflow and support the embouchure, then they see me at gigs 'puffing' my cheeks out. A lot of them point this out! The thing is, I don't do it all the time, I have support for my embouchure anyway through years of playing, and I alter my cheeks to alter the airflow and therefore the sound, for particular effect. Quite often all my students see is: "He's doing that hamster thing he tells me not to do!".

By the way, are you keeping your cheeks in? This should help!

Good luck, keep us informed,

Nick
 

Mikec

Member
Messages
196
All good advice above. I'd just add that even if you have a soft reed and a small tip opening, it might be that you're "wasting" a lot of the air at the moment. As you get better at controlling your diaphragm and maintaining a steady pressure it may well begin to feel better. In other words the three Ps, Practise, practise and practise!
 

rotate

Member
Messages
49
Points to look for are: too wide a tip opening on mouthpiece for your current embouchure strength, reeds too hard, ligature too tight. Ideally a beginner should use a narrow tip opening (4 or 5) and soft reeds (1.5 - 2 strength). Be interested to know what your set up is. Also you need to take in a good amount of breath and have a relaxed, open throat so that your air flow is consistent and unblocked. It does require some breath to make a decent sound, as with brass instruments, but not quite as much.

look forward to hearing more from you about your set up etc.
Great thanks all.

The instrument is a cheap Chinese Mistral 4414 alto. http://www.counterpointdirect.co.uk/PhotoGallery.asp?ProductCode=W-WDW068L . The mouthpiece, which seemed a bit dodgy because it had a bit of plastic swarf stuck to the side of the ?table, is illustrated here: http://yfrog.com/j4mouthpiecewj . Get on best with the two and a half reed, but this maybe due to damaging the other reeds or something.

I expected the answer 'yes'. As a result of the advice I have moved the clamp thing much further back on the mouthpiece.

Don't know if this will prove sensible, I have a tendency to this sort of speculation, but things were much better today. It may seem idiotic but I stuck the white gloves, mysteriously included in the carrying case, down the bell in their plastic bag. And things improved dramatically. Perhaps I have been trying to play too quietly to avoid agro from the simple town's folk. Felt I was beginning to play by ear, which is how have learned to play things in the past, and less effort.

The advice was invaluable - sort of got me thinking.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
The mouthpieces they throw in with the sax are generally rubbish. A couple of good starter mouthpieces that won't break the bank are the Rico Graftonite (try a 5B) and the Yamahas (try a 4C). I've a cheap chinese alto that I bought for practicing repairing. The mouthpiece that came with it is pretty much unplayable.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
A great beginner mouth piece is the Yamaha 4C as mentioned above and you probably want a reed of around 2 as a starting point - you should be able to try both in a decent shop. In my experience, alto reeds can be rather variable so you may need to check out several to be sure. Also make sure you use a reputable make of reed like Rico and do ask advice in the shop. I started with a 4C, they're great and will last you until you're ready to move on to something a bit more open/interesting.

I've found that even on some expensive saxes the 'as shipped' mouthpieces are not brilliant - I have a P Mauriat 66RUL that cost over £2,400 and previously a Keilwerth SX 90R Alto that was s/h but would have cost around £2k new. Both mouth pieces were rubbish!
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Trevor Jones in Bristol www.trevorjonesltd.co.uk sell Rico Graftonite mouthpieces at £18.55 and are just great. Look up under "Woodwind accessories". Just buy one online - cheaper than the bus fare to try one, and they are hardly available in the rest of the UK. A Yamaha 4C will cost about £25 - both are highly recommended so you can't go wrong. The Rico is virtually bullet - proof and the Yamaha is made of plastic FWIW.

I think that this may be THE main reason that you have needed some welly in order to make a noise. A 2 reed should be spot on!

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

rotate

Member
Messages
49
Thanks, I'll get a new mouthpiece: as a beginner I can't cope with variables like potentially unplayable mouthpieces.

Everyday story of country folk: Have improvised a mute and now feel have basically got there, i.e. can get it to play. Previously it was just all over the place. I still have to hit it very hard, with higher notes for example, with the 'tuh' to get the note to start. But today managed three blind mice, a great tune.

Enormous help.:)
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
Thanks, I'll get a new mouthpiece: as a beginner I can't cope with variables like potentially unplayable mouthpieces.

Everyday story of country folk: Have improvised a mute and now feel have basically got there, i.e. can get it to play. Previously it was just all over the place. I still have to hit it very hard, with higher notes for example, with the 'tuh' to get the note to start. But today managed three blind mice, a great tune.

Enormous help.:)
Also, the sax is a pretty easy instrument to blow into and get notes out of but don't be fooled - it's a bugger to play well and that will take practice and good technique. Get yourself a copy of The Art of Saxophone Playing and Top-Tones for the Saxophone.

The key to a good strong consistent sound in good technique from a well developed embouchure and strong breath control using the diaphragm. Both these books will help you avoid any bad habits.
 

rotate

Member
Messages
49
Thanks. I was just trying to say that I've been unable to play for several weeks after buying the instrument and that is a bit demoralizing. Now at least I can get a tune although it's all a bit hairy.
 

Der Wikinger

Member
Messages
180
My suggestion would be a Selmer C* MP & Rico # 2 Reed. You may want to go up to 2 1/2 reed after you get used to playing.
 

rotate

Member
Messages
49
My suggestion would be a Selmer C* MP & Rico # 2 Reed. You may want to go up to 2 1/2 reed after you get used to playing.
It's about 100 British pounds. In a sense I'm not paying, but is it sensible to pay this and put it on a cheap saxophone?
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Polite Snip -------------- 8< --------------

It may seem idiotic but I stuck the white gloves, mysteriously included in the carrying case, down the bell in their plastic bag. And things improved dramatically. Perhaps I have been trying to play too quietly to avoid agro from the simple town's folk.
Also this quote:

Polite Snip -------------- 8< --------------

Everyday story of country folk: Have improvised a mute and now feel have basically got there, i.e. can get it to play. Previously it was just all over the place. I still have to hit it very hard, with higher notes for example, with the 'tuh' to get the note to start. But today managed three blind mice, a great tune.
This part may hold the key to your problems ...

Try the cheaper mouthpeice and reed set-ups as suggested then - I think you may need to give it a bit more welly ... "scare the neighbours" ... :w00t:
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
It's about 100 British pounds. In a sense I'm not paying, but is it sensible to pay this and put it on a cheap saxophone?
No, not at this stage, unless you buy second hand and very cheaply. Get something playable for a reasonable price. Then when you know what you want/need, spend... An expensive mouthpiece may work well, and may carry over onto your next instrument - but it may not.

Guys tend to dismiss the cheaper mouthpieces, but they're really good for the money.
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Without wishing to put oneself forward and tout for business on here...


If you're still struggling after days and days, why not get a consultation lesson? Teachers really are helpful you know, if only to guide you. I know you have to do all the learning yourself anyway, but a decent teacher can use their experience to steer you down the quickest routes to improving - sounds like you might have finally struggled out of one of those cul-de-sac problems, but there are many more. It's an investment, honest!

If there's no teacher near you, I'd be happy to have a 'face to face' over Skype - no charge for the first 'consult'. Admittedly it's not as good as being in the same room, but others have found it helpful in the past.

Cheers,

Nick
 

rotate

Member
Messages
49
If there's no teacher near you, I'd be happy to have a 'face to face' over Skype - no charge for the first 'consult'. Admittedly it's not as good as being in the same room, but others have found it helpful in the past.
Thanks. Webcam microphone does not work at the moment, saxnik, I'll have a try at setting up Skype.

I'll go for a Yamaha C4, because it sounds safest. Though I'd prefer a Rico Graphtonite on the frivolous ground that it sounds more interesting.
 
Saxholder Pro

Members online

Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom