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Daithi

Member
Messages
72
Location
Scottish Highlands
Greetings from the sunny Scottish Highlands

As I said on the Doorbell thread I am an old codger, long retired and recovering from a bit of a health scare at the turn of the year, with an interest in many types of music who has tried several times to get to grips with various instruments but have so far failed due largely to a lack of patience and manual dexterity.

This time I am determined to make some real progress and because I love the sounds it can make and the fact that is a single note instrument hope to make some progress on with the Saxophone - purely for my own pleasure.

I have tried a Jericho Tenor and at about the third blow managed to produce fairly easily a (to my ears) gorgeous tone which I absolutely love. The problem is that despite being 6'3" tall and big with it I find the tenor a tad heavy and difficult to manipulate (partly because my fat stomach gets in the way). So I thought I would give an alto a go and tried a gear4music alto in Nickel finish. Compared with the Jericho tenor I found it much more difficult to blow, much more difficult to get a consistent tone, and the tone was far inferior to the tone of the tenor. I replaced the mouthpiece on the alto with a Yamaha 4c and fitted a new ligature and Rico reed. That did improve the experience as it was somewhat easier to blow than the Jericho tenor but the results and tone quality are still far inferior.

My question is should I persevere with the Jericho tenor in an attempt to work around the physical difficulties OR would it be worth having a go with a Jericho alto.

all the best

Daithe
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,872
Hi Daithe...Sometimes the G4m instruments have regulation/adjustment issues, but when set up are great value for the money. I would suggest taking the Alto to a repairer/tech and get him to check it over.then after that, looking at reed selection, and also if the MP is in good playing condition.
 

Daithi

Member
Messages
72
Location
Scottish Highlands
Hi and thank you for your helpful comments.

The g4m alto came with a reed and mouthpiece. When I didnt like the results produced I bought a brand new Yamaha 4c and carefully selected the best from a box of Rico number 2 reeds. I dont know how easy it would be to find a technician in my location close to Inverness but excuse my ignorance would "regulation/adjustment issues" affect the tone and other problems I am experiencing?

all the best

Daithe
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,872
Hi and thank you for your helpful comments.

The g4m alto came with a reed and mouthpiece. When I didnt like the results produced I bought a brand new Yamaha 4c and carefully selected the best from a box of Rico number 2 reeds. I dont know how easy it would be to find a technician in my location close to Inverness but excuse my ignorance would "regulation/adjustment issues" affect the tone and other problems I am experiencing?

all the best

Daithe

Sounds like MP and reeds are ok....but it could be something as simple as a pad that is not closing due to a key sticking, have a good look at what is opening and closing when you press each key, also see if it is the same action as your Tenor, that has no problems
 

MLoosemore

Deluded Senior Member...
Messages
759
Location
Spalding Lincs
Could just be the difference between the tone of Alto and Tenor. I find it a lot easier to produce a sound I like on the Tenor than I do on the Alto. The Alto is much harder to get good intonation from imho.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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The Malverns, Worcs
The problem is that despite being 6'3" tall and big with it I find the tenor a tad heavy and difficult to manipulate (partly because my fat stomach gets in the way).

have you tried different harnesses?

I have a FreeNeck 4.0 which I play both my tenor and Bari on, which takes away almost all of the weight and transfers it to your hips. I usually play my Bari standing for 3+ hours at rehearsals with no problems at all.

However, I am not rotund (as you describe yourself) so couldn't comment whether it would help with logistics around your tummy.
The Tenor player in our quartet continued to play until she was about 7 months pregnant, until she ran out of any lung space before taking some time off, so I'm guessing there are ways round playing a tenor around your mid-riff :))) ;}
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,428
Location
Daventry
I would stick with the tenor - I suppose this is inevitably anecdotal but the bigger the sax, generally the easier they are to get a respectable note out of. Can you not sling the thing to one side, avoiding your, er, abdominal protruberance?
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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13,988
Location
Burnley bb9 9dn
The tenor is usually played to the side so adjusting the angle of the crook should help with positioning. I have the very same alto as you have and find it a lovely instrument. I have the G4m tenor and curved sop too.

I found it strange that I struggled with tenor for years as I had no problems with Baritone. That all stopped when I got the right mouthpiece. Right for me that is.

You may need to come down in reed strength for the alto. I use Vandoren 2.5 or 3 on the tenor and 2 or 2.5 for alto.


You might try a different brand of reed for the alto. I find the Vandoren classical blue box will give me a richer tone than a Rico. The numbers are slightly different strength-wise so have a look on a comparison chart.

Also there are some better alternatives, mouthpiece wise, for the alto,one for very for little money. The Bari Esprit II gets good reviews and comes in around £15. It comes in only one lay so no head scratching. For a fatter richer tone there's the Selmer S80. It divides opinion (Marmite) but it will give you a richer sound than the Yam.IMHO. £50ish second hand,£100ish new. A C* lay would be appropriate for a beginner.

Bear in mind also that saxophones are all very different animals. The embouchure for the alto is different to tenor, and it may be that your expectations of being able to pick it up and play it out of the box were naively optimistic. With a little practice the muscle building process will start and you may be fine.

Personally I think it's harder to move from tenor to alto than the other way round.

I would say though that to stick with an instrument you have to have the love for it. You picked tenor for a reason. Mere convenience may not be the inspiration or motivation to drive your ambition with the alto.

Personally I love them all. I thought owning sop, alto, tenor and baritone would bring some sense of completion to me but no...

I find myself looking at melody C and sopranino now. The bass just being a lottery dream heheheh
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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Indeed, Colin, I played Alto first, then Bari after 2 years, then I acquired a Tenor after another year or so.
I never had a problem switching between Alto and Bari, but it has taken me nearly a year of (irregular) playing to get to grips with the Tenor.

I always felt for me it was a pitch issue - I knew what sound to expect from the Alto and Bari, but the Tenor just sounded wrong!

And I hold the tenor differently from either the alto or Bari....for me there is definitely no consistency between the 3 instruments.
 

Daithi

Member
Messages
72
Location
Scottish Highlands
Thanks to everybody for their helpful comments and suggestions which have helped a great deal. About the only thing that was missing was someone who had experience of playing both the Jericho tenor and the gear4music alto, but I appreciate that even then differences in experience, embouchure etc would produce variable results.

My heart really is with my lovely tenor but (and I realise this goes against received wisdom) I am going to persevere a little more with the gear4music alto as it is easier to handle and I wonder how reasonable/sensible it might be to spend some time practicing on the wee one as well as the tenor? Following the excellent reviews on here I have decided to spend yet more cash on the purchase of a Bari esprit mouthpiece for the alto - here's hoping it will do the trick.

all the best

Daithi
 
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Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
13,988
Location
Burnley bb9 9dn
I am of the opinion that all practice has value. I find that whistling will exercise some of the muscles of the embouchure and if I can't get my hands on my sax I find myself whisltling.

I've just received a Bari Esprit sop m/piece today and am very pleased with it, so fingers crossed for the alto piece.
 

Daithi

Member
Messages
72
Location
Scottish Highlands
Thanks Colin, I am inveterate whistler :)

Do you or anyone else have any advice on what ligature would suit the Yamaha 4c and/or the Bari Esprit mouthpieces? The ligature that came with the g4m alto has a long section which is almost the full length of the unshaped part of the reed and a single tensioning screw. I bought an Earlham ligature which looks more conventional with two tensioning screws but it doesnt seem to want to stay put on the Yamaha 4c. GRRR Maybe I should go for an EWI

all the best

Daithi
 

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
Ah you have so many things to consider.

Tenor tone trumps Alto tone by a mile every time for me personally. Having said that though I have a G4M Rosedale (their supposedly "pro" model) Alto and like the tone I get from it. But you need to understand that alto tone is not the same as tenor tone.

If its still early days for you on sax generally, let alone on the alto, then it could just be your chops. Mouthpiece and reed are also key of course. And yes any leaks will have a big impact too. Also position of mouth piece on the neck - if not pushed on far enough you'll really struggle with notes at the bottom end. Also at first you'll very possibly find top end notes on the alto harder to hit than on the tenor. If you've got Yam 4c MPs on them both your are off to the right start. I'd persevere on both for a bit and see how it goes. You may find that each swing in and out of favour several times as you progress. I almost never play my alto but got it out this week on a whim and after a few minutes of intial rough tone I loved it and had a whale of a time.

Re the weight of the tenor etc I'd recommend trying a Jazz Labs Sax Holder. You'll find discussion of them on threads here. Available from Howarths and Sax.co.uk, and probably Amazon, Ebay et all. Priced at around the £45 mark. I tried one and it honestly felt as if I wasn't holding my tenor at all. I wish I'd bought it now as decided instead to try to get an XL one as I'm a pretty big chap too, but to be honest the normal one was fine.

Re the alto; do you know any other sax players near you that have a bit more experience? If so ask one to have a blow on your alto (with their own mouthpiece of course). They may quickly be able to tell/demonstrate whether the sax has any problems or not and what kind of tone its capable of.

You've got two saxes. Enjoy them both. Best of luck.
 

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
Thanks Colin, I am inveterate whistler :)

Do you or anyone else have any advice on what ligature would suit the Yamaha 4c and/or the Bari Esprit mouthpieces? The ligature that came with the g4m alto has a long section which is almost the full length of the unshaped part of the reed and a single tensioning screw. I bought an Earlham ligature which looks more conventional with two tensioning screws but it doesnt seem to want to stay put on the Yamaha 4c. GRRR Maybe I should go for an EWI

all the best

Daithi

PS I'd go for a fabric ligature at your stage, from someone like Rovner, Faxx, or BG. They are relatively inexpensive, really flexible, and so easy to put on and off. Don't start worrying about how a ligature might affect your tone. Its the very last thing on the list to consider in my experience and from what I've read.

PPS you can even get clone fabric ligs from China via Ebay for an absolute pittance if you don't mind the very long shipping wait.
 
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Daithi

Member
Messages
72
Location
Scottish Highlands
Hello Thomas

Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful reply. I spent the week around New Year in Intensive Care with Pneumonia and came within an ace of being put on life support. I am still recovering my strength and having now tried the Yamaha 4c and Bari Esprit 11 on the g4m alto I am coming to the conclusion that it is just not going to be possible for me to feel comfortable blowing it. The effort required is seems about 50% greater than the effort to blow the Jericho tenor and its not a question of me slacking - it is basically sufficiently hard to blow the alto that it is quite an unpleasant experience - especially for something that is intended as a pleasant and rewarding pastime. I have ordered an one of the clone Chinese fabric ligatures and intend reluctantly putting the alto aside until the ligature arrives in several weeks time.

Its a shame because whilst I absolutely love the tone and ease of blowing the tenor it would have been great to be able to practice on the alto as well.

all the best

Daithi
 

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
Hello Thomas

Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful reply. I spent the week around New Year in Intensive Care with Pneumonia and came within an ace of being put on life support. I am still recovering my strength and having now tried the Yamaha 4c and Bari Esprit 11 on the g4m alto I am coming to the conclusion that it is just not going to be possible for me to feel comfortable blowing it. The effort required is seems about 50% greater than the effort to blow the Jericho tenor and its not a question of me slacking - it is basically sufficiently hard to blow the alto that it is quite an unpleasant experience - especially for something that is intended as a pleasant and rewarding pastime. I have ordered an one of the clone Chinese fabric ligatures and intend reluctantly putting the alto aside until the ligature arrives in several weeks time.

Its a shame because whilst I absolutely love the tone and ease of blowing the tenor it would have been great to be able to practice on the alto as well.

all the best

Daithi

Hi Daithi,

Sorry to learn of your plight and hope you are recovering well. I'm a relatively new sax player and have soprano, alto and tenor. They all have their own challenges but I don't feel any of them are particularly harder to physically blow than the others, so I'm tempted to venture that there must be something wrong with either your alto or set up. I suppose being smaller than the tenor it will have a narrower bore and this may offer more resistance to blowing which you might feel more than I would whilst you are in your recovery. I'm a bit out of my depth here so possibly other forum members could advise better. Hope you sort it out anyway, whilst I love the tenor the alto also has its charm and would I'm sure provide you great pleasure in time.
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,872
Hi.... Hope you continue to get stronger, the advice so far has been bang on the money, but it is only possible to help to a degree, there is no substitute for first hand contact. As has been said you shouldn't find a big difference between the saxes, in fact most kids start on the Alto. You could spend a lot of time trying to sort the problems you have by yourself, but with a teacher/sax player to help, it could be resolved in one lesson. Then you can decide which one you really prefer.
Hope this helps
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
Café Supporter
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3,572
Location
The Malverns, Worcs
if you're feeling that you need to make significantly more effort playing the alto that the tenor, I might be inclined to lean towards a leak?
You said you play a 2 strength rico reed on your alto. How long have you been playing tenor? and what strength reed do you play on it?
The only time I need to make more effort is to hit the really low Bell-notes (B Bb A) on the Bari, otherwise I don't think I there's anything in playing my 3 saxes.
When you play, do you use your diaphragm? or are you a lungs only player?

I appreciate you've had recent lung problems and maybe although you feel a bit better in yuorself, your lungs are not fully recovered.

However, I am still surprised that you feel you need so much more effort.

Try practicing long long notes on the alto? it might help (and certainly is good for general playing technique)
 

jeremyjuicewah

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,871
Location
Costa Blanca Spain
I played alto for two years then got a tenor. Both machines sounded pretty bad till I had been at them for a considerable while. Mpc and lig and reed and such all matter, but more influential is you. Stick with it, read it up, have a few lessons and strive to make every note a beautiful note. (That flute player said that one). RE Rovner. I have been fooling with ligs a lot lately and the Rovner (I got a light) seems to me to lash down the reed so that it is really hard to blow. eg a 3 tip mpc (my closest) with a 2 reed, is not recognisable as the one I use to practice the low notes when I strap the Rovner lig to it. Not sure I like Rovner, but will accept that its probably me. Keep at it and good luck.
 

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