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M/Pieces - Ligs Mouthpiece Questions

Nomad Z

New Member
Messages
28
Locality
SE Scotland
When I was shopping for a first sax (tenor), I read in many places that the supplied mouthpieces tend to be pretty rubbish, so I got a Rico Graftonite B5 at the same time. I chose the B5 on the basis that it's just about in the middle of the Graftonite range in terms of chamber size and tip opening. I also got some Rico Royal #2 reeds. I used the Rico mouthpiece from the start.

For the first week or so, things went fine as I found my feet with the instrument, apart from the low notes being a bit of a struggle - quite possibly due to my poor technique. However, on a whim, I decided to try the mouthpiece that came with the sax. The finish on the table was a bit rough, so I gave it a few passes over some fine sandpaper (paper on a flat surface, piece passed over it with longitudinal strokes), with a few curving strokes to smooth the finish where the gap bit is. It quickly acquired a much nicer finish and looks very similar to that on the Rico (under a loupe). Note that I didn't try the supplied piece before tidying the finish on the table.

When I tried the supplied piece, I was surprised to find that the low notes were much easier to get. I went through a couple of sessions of swapping between the two, using the same reed (tried a couple of reeds - I have three in use at the moment), and it's always easier to get the low notes with the no-name mouthpiece.

I had a little look at them. The tip openings are different - the Rico measures 2.37mm and the no-name 1.9mm. Measurements were done by holding the piece on a flat surface and measuring the gap between that at the middle of the tip of the piece using digital calipers. The Rico also has a noticeable convex shape on the inside of the sloping part (is this the baffle?), while the no-name just seems to follow the outer shape of the moulding (no convex feature at all).

So far as I can see, the length of the sloping/curved part (between the table and the tip) is pretty similar on both - maybe the Rico is a little shorter. I don't know how to asses the chamber size other than sticking my pinkie into the cork end and wiggling it about. When I do that, there seems to be more wiggle room with the no-name.

What does all this tell me? Could the reed strength be a factor? My technique / embouchure?

While I'm quite happy with the playability of the no-name piece, I don't particularly like it when fitting the reed. It's a bit short (the thick end of the reed overhangs), and the shape is a bit awkward for seeing if the reed is centred. The Rico B5 is much better for sticking the reed on quickly and correctly and is (unsurprisingly) a better fit for the length.

So, I'm wondering if a different piece would let me get to the low notes in a similar way while being a bit better for reed fitting and alignment. I'm not looking to spend loads of money (or even any money, if it's down to me rather than the equipment). That said, the Graftonites seem to strike a good balance between being cheap and decent - cheap enough to be willing to try another as part of the learning process.

If anything, I'm more curious about how the differing features of each piece affect the playability of the low notes. Given my no-doubt poor beginner's technique, why is one easier to use than the other, and how does that inform possible future choices for mouthpiece?
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,186
Locality
Berkshire, UK
The opening is bigger on the Rico therefore you have to blow harder to get a note and the low notes are difficult to achieve! I have a number of tenor mouthpieces that you are welcome to try, PM me.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,468
Locality
Just north of Munich
Sounds like your reed is too hard for you at the moment using the Rico. The ideal reed allows you to play easily over the whole range of the sax. Generally harder reeds favour higher notes, softer reeds lower ones.

You'll also find that as your embouchure develops, you need/can blow harder reeds.

Also be aware that the strength numbers don't have the same meaning from one maker to another.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,059
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Generally speaking a mouthpiece without a significant baffle will produce the low notes more easily than one with a baffle. This might be one reason why so many tenor player with a "bright" mouthpiece resort to using subtone to play the lowest notes softly. If you are taking the same reed from a mouthpiece with a wider tip opening to one with a smaller tip opening, the reed will feel "softer" on the mouthpiece with the smaller tip opening. Finding what works best for you is all part of the journey.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,947
Locality
Manchester, UK
You'll also find that as your embouchure develops, you need/can blow harder reeds.
But you may (or may not) choose not to. I'm currently learning to use softer reeds and support the high notes with better breath control and voicing. Seems to give more tonal flexibility. But yes, it's a question of finding what works best for you.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
16,003
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
The new mouthpiece may be better quality but a poorer fit. Like expensive shoes in the wrong size won't be as comfortable as cheap shoes in the right size.

4 hours daily practice for 10 years and you can play just about anything. Keep banging away with practice. Try different reeds when you get the opportunity. Singles and 3 packs are available. Boxes of 10 are great when you've settled for a while. And try any mouthpiece you get the opportunity to try till you find the Cinderella fit. We all have a drawer full of ugly sisters.

It must be pantomime season:rolleyes:
 

Nomad Z

New Member
Messages
28
Locality
SE Scotland
Thanks very much, folks.

ProfJames, I might take you up on the opportunity to try different mouthpieces, but maybe a little later. I'm getting on okay with the no-name for now - I might not be getting a particularly good tone, but I'm still at the stage of working out where all the notes are (getting there, though) and feel I should continue with that for a little while longer.

If nothing else, trying the no-name has shown me that mouthpieces do indeed make a big difference. When I was using the Graftonite, I was just assuming that my raw beginner technique was where the difficulty lay, and maybe it is, but I was genuinely surprised to find things much easier with the no-name. Being able to get notes that were previously a struggle has really helped me to move forward.

Maybe I'll try shaving down a reed and see how that goes in the Rico.
 

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