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M/Pieces - Ligs Mouthpiece advice for an Alto saxophonist switching to Tenor

archipelag0

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Hello everyone,

For context I learned on a Yamaha Alto sax, played through school and a bit at University and then life got in the way. A few years ago I changed jobs and joined the office band where I've really enjoyed playing again. On a whim this year I bought an old Boosey & Hawkes Predominant Tenor from eBay so that I could try learning that instrument as well, reasoning that the fingering would be similar.

I've found that the Berg Larsen 100/1 SMS mouthpiece I picked up in a charity shop, which never worked on my Alto, is still not that great on the Tenor. I've actually had better results with the Yamaha 4C mouthpiece from my Alto, but it's designed for that instrument and gets a bit 'squeaky' on certain notes on the Tenor.

Given that this is essentially a hobby for me, can anyone recommend what I should be aiming towards for an appropriate mouthpiece, especially given my 'alto embouchure'?

I'm also currently using Vandoren 2.5 reeds which might not be helping...

Thanks in advance!
 

Pete Thomas

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Given that this is essentially a hobby for me, can anyone recommend what I should be aiming towards for an appropriate mouthpiece, especially given my 'alto embouchure'?
Honestly you just have to try them. If you can afford it, buying is the best way to try (and then sell on or keep in a drawer until such time as you want to retry them) because it's best to have a few weeks rather than hours to get to know a mouthpiece.

Obviously I'm going to recommend my own design (PPT), but I tend to think it's good to get confident on the instrument with something very "stock" before experimenting- hence the 4C is good for alto players to get to grips with the instrument and so have a more informed attitude and experience before experimenting.. And the equivalent 5C or 6C for tenor. Or if you lwant a kind of standard jazz piece then it the Otto Link STM I suppose. (I never liked them).

Biggest mistake is to think you need to upgraded by buying something expensive. Expensive mouthpiece does not mean better mouthpiece.

I'm also currently using Vandoren 2.5 reeds which might not be helping...
I can't think why not, vandorens are good. But it's worth also trying others such as D'Addario or Legere.
 

turf3

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Do NOT try to play alto mouthpieces on tenor!

If you've been playing a Yamaha 4C on alto, the 5C or 6C on tenor, just like Pete says, is a good starting place, as the basic response will be similar, allowing you to focus on getting the tenor under control.
 

nigeld

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Trying to use your alto mouthpieces on tenor will not work.

Some low-cost, but good, possibilities are the Yamaha tenor 4C or 5C, or the Bari Esprit. Or you could look out for a cheap used Selmer S80 C*.
 

jbtsax

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Finding a tenor mouthpiece that works with an "alto embouchure" sends up some red flags for me. Since playing the tenor involves a whole different sensation than playing the alto, there are adjustments that a player must make irregardless of the choice of mouthpiece. Some of those include:

  • getting used to putting a bit more mouthpiece in the mouth, ie. top teeth on farther
  • a more "relaxed" embouchure, G on the mouthpiece alone, and E on the mouthpiece and neck are common indicators
  • depending upon the mouthpiece, using a slightly softer reed

I agree with Nigeld's suggestions for a mouthpiece to start with.
 

Pete Thomas

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Since playing the tenor involves a whole different sensation than playing the alto, there are adjustments that a player must make irregardless of the choice of mouthpiece.
Although I play mouthpieces with very different characteristics on tenor compared to alto, I’m not aware of any significant embouchure change. If there is it must be subconscious.
 

Colin the Bear

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I think if you do anything often enough it becomes automatic.
Adding baritone to alto was simplicity itself for me but adding tenor was problematic. I struggled for quite a while till my ear and chops adapted.
Nowadays I just pick it up and blow. No problem. Well...apart from the usual.

Wise words above. A Yam 4, 5 or 6C won't break the bank. I don't think any of my alto mouthpieces would fit on my tenor. It has never occurred to me to try.
 

nigeld

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I don't think any of my alto mouthpieces would fit on my tenor. It has never occurred to me to try.
I just checked whether I could fit an alto mouthpiece onto my tenor. I could probably do it, but only by compressing the cork so much that a tenor mouthpiece would wobble around.

So @archipelag0 - if you have been putting alto mouthpieces onto your tenor sax neck then you may have compressed the cork so much that a tenor mouthpiece won't make a seal. You may need to get the neck re-corked, but you can do a temporary fix by putting paper round the neck cork or by using teflon plumbers tape.
 

Phil

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As said. Alto pieces are alto pieces. They are not ever interchangeable to tenor. Just don’t try.
You need to talk a little about what sound you want and your budget. Otherwise the suggestion list will be endless and rather useless to you.
 

DavidUK

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I struggled with tenor coming from alto.

Went to a Yam 6C tenor MP, to get back to basics. Coupled with LaVoz medium soft 2 reed, at the suggestion of Richard from D'Addario, and I was fine. But it is a different, more relaxed, embouchure so technique is tricky when swapping between alto and tenor. Kind of sets you back a bit on the horn you're used to.
Playing time and practice solves all eventually. I'm not there yet!
 

MikeMorrell

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Just my 2 cts as an amateur (tenor) player:
  • mpc's and reeds are very different between alto and tenor (and also bari and sop)
  • so is the embouchure (and voicing, etc)

+1 for @Pete Thomas's suggestion just to try things out. Just be aware that your embouchure, voicing, etc may be very different on tenor than on alto. So if you've previously played alto, it might take a while to find your ideal 'setup' and embouchure on tenor.

As an exclusive tenor player, I'm delighted to welcome you to the 'tenor team' Which actually does't exist :) .
 

SaxDon

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JodyJazz 5m or D’Addario Select Jazz 5m would be my first stock mpc picks. You can trial these from either Howarths or Dawkes.
 

SaxDon

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Quite right. I was thinking alto! Tenor 6M is a really good mpc (I playing one now with the new Venn reeds and I love it). However it’s a slightly more brighter piece than its alto counterparts. Jody jazz 5/6 would be my pick for a first decent tenor piece
 

Saxlicker

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Hmmm
It's not clear to me if you know whether the Berg Larsen is an alto piece or a tenor piece?
If you do know which, then as already pointed out it should not be played with the other sax voicing.

Secondly
Buying a used mouthpiece with little experience tells me you probably don't know if it has been altered, got badly worn facings or is simply ok but not right for you at the moment.

If it's metal, the chances are favourable that its in original shape. If its rubber then there is more chance of both wear and alteration.

Anyway,
Leave the Yamaha 4C with the alto, and experiment with NEW tenor pieces. There are lots out there and shops you can take your sax to and try them (umm... perhaps covid restrictions have put a hold on this, I don't know the status now).
There are tons of pieces to choose from, cost is not directly associated to better so get out there and find yourself something to kick start your tenor playing.
 

Pete Thomas

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cost is not directly associated to better
Very little is truer than this.

But it's understandable that until you become an expert (and even after) that with little else to go on (you cannot trust mouthpiece reviews) that the easiest thing to think is that if something costs more it must be better. I succumbed to that way beyond being a beginner. In fact only a few years back I "upgraded" by bauhaus soprano to a more expensive model, thin king it was an upgrade. I convinced myself the Taiwanese model must be better.

But then, listening back to recordings I certainly regretted that cheapie one go. Now I do have something as good sound wise (a Buescher True Tone) but sadly is a a bit more challenging re: intonation.

re: mouth;ieces the same happened with an old cheap Selmer Goldentone. I regret letting that one go (as well as a baritone Yamaha 6C).
 
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Saxlicker

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Very little is truer than this.

the easiest thing think is that if something costs more it must be better. I succumbed to that way beyond being a beginner.
Absolutely and I think most of us have.
 

MikeMorrell

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FWIW I once did a 'mpc measurement' in the Netherlands (see Mouthpiece measurement). I can't exactly remember which 'measurements' were carried out as I remember, they included things like
  • looking at the mpc I'd used for years
  • asking what I like to change/improve
  • measuring my lung capacity (blowing up a balloon?) embouchure strength and some way of measuring my 'oral cavity'.

Based on these tests, he selected 5 or 6 mpc's from his vast collection to try out w.r.t. tone and playing ability with my current reeds. One (obscure) mpc immediately stood out for me.. His 'business' was just to test and he got no commission on any mpc's that were ordered. I had to order the mpc separately via a (German) supplier.

My takeaway from this experience was that sax players need to find a good 'match' between their personal characteristics (lungs, throat, oral capacity, etc.), their desired tone and the 'playability'. In other words, a well-known brand and/or model might not always be the the best choice.

So my basic advice is just to try out lots of different mpc's until you find one that you think "yes, this is it!"

Years after buying my 'obscure' German mpc which I played for years - and still do - I bought a PPT mpc which is now my much preferred mpc. It gives me a much more flexibility and a better range of tones and volume than my 'obscure' German mpc (which is still pretty good).
 

jbtsax

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It is a bit hard to determine what type of band your "office band" is and whether you plan to play alto or tenor in the group. If it is what you'd call a "concert band" and if you plan to play tenor sax, that is going to somewhat limit your choices of mouthpieces to those that would work in a "classical" setting. There are a few mouthpieces that a skilled player can make work in both classical and jazz settings, but for someone starting out, a Yamaha 5C or equivalent would be a good choice in the beginning.
 

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