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Beginner Once comfortable with size 6 & 7 mouthpieces would you keep/use a 4 or 5?

QWales

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I have quite a few mouthpieces now and wonder if I should be unloading my old size 4 and 5's? Also when looking at new pieces, should I be ignoring these smaller sizes? I guess what I really want to know is, do people of all abilities use all different sizes or do the better players tend to use the higher numbers?

I might be making this up as I haven't properly tested my theory yet but it seems that the smaller mouthpieces allow you to play a harder reed, is that right?
 

Chris

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You play the mouthpiece that gives you the control over the sax to be able to play what you want. It's seems pointless playing open tips and hard reeds if, for eg a player can't play the full range of the instrument, from soft to loud.
 

PaulM

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I might be making this up as I haven't properly tested my theory yet but it seems that the smaller mouthpieces allow you to play a harder reed, is that right?

Thomas Dryer-Beers (Mr Reeds Direct) gave a talk at a course I attended last year. His view was that, in general terms, you match the reed stiffness to suit the mouthpiece aperture. So smaller opening tend to require stiffer reeds and the reverse for larger openings. This sounds reasonable.

However, I was talking to the excellent Mr Pillinger this morning and mentioned that I played one of his tenor mouthpieces with a 2.5 reed. He said that all his mouthpieces are designed to play well with a 2.5 reed and that he play tests them with a selection of 2.5 reeds to be sure they do. I don't have unlimited funds to verify if this is possible, but if anyone is feeling generous with their spare cash, I will be happy to take on this onerous task.
 

QWales

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You play the mouthpiece that gives you the control over the sax to be able to play what you want. It's seems pointless playing open tips and hard reeds if, for eg a player can't play the full range of the instrument, from soft to loud.

When I use my Lawton 6*b and 2.5 Vandoren I feel I can pretty much play the full range from soft to loud, although I can only really play the low B's loudly. When I use my Beechler 7 I find it has a nicer sound for some tunes but not others and if the song is at my technical limits my chops get quite a workout which I always thought was supposed to be a good exercise for a beginner. I also though everyone experimented with reeds and mouthpieces to see what sounds they could make and what they preferred so I don't understand why you think this is pointless?
 

kevgermany

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When I use my Lawton 6*b and 2.5 Vandoren I feel I can pretty much play the full range from soft to loud, although I can only really play the low B's loudly. When I use my Beechler 7 I find it has a nicer sound for some tunes but not others and if the song is at my technical limits my chops get quite a workout which I always thought was supposed to be a good exercise for a beginner. I also though everyone experimented with reeds and mouthpieces to see what sounds they could make and what they preferred so I don't understand why you think this is pointless?

There's a lot more to it than just the number. Tip openings by number are not necessarily the same from one maker to another. Also the facing curve has a big effect on how hard/soft a reed you want. So although it's a good rule of thumb to say bigger tips, softer reeds, it really applies to mouthpieces of similar characteristics. I play a RJS 2H on my PPT 8* on tenor. I use a I use an RJS 2S on the Morgan 7 alto piece, and a Marca Jazz 2.5 on the sop PPT7. Does it mean much? Only that these work for me.

What Chris is saying is play what works for you, but don't fall into the fashion traps that currently point towards large tips, soft reeds. And, if a soft reed works for you on a narrow tip, that's good - as long as you can get the full range of the instrument.

If you're missing some low notes AND some top notes, maybe it's practice, maybe a different reed type/mouthpiece are needed.
 

Colin the Bear

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We aren't all made the same so mouthpieces come in different shapes and sizes to accomodate our physiology. The sound you make is the important thing not the numbers on your kit. We all start on a middle of the road set up. Some need more while others need less. On alto I've played the same medium opening mouthpiece since I got it in the 1980's. I use a 2 for recording stuff close to the mic, a 2.5 for band stuff and a 3 for outside.

It's not a weight lifting competition or a high jump contest. The numbers are for reference not a measure of your progress.
 

TomMapfumo

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Here is one chart that highlights that different manufacturers use different ways of measuring tip openings: http://www.jodyjazz.com/facings.altosax.html

From what I glean most players, pro and otherwise tend to stick with a certain size of tip opening, period, be it large or small. Commonly players of yesteryear - Parker, Getz and others - played quite small tip openings. Jan Garbarek usually plays a 6* on tenor sax, rather than the more common 7 - 8 tip openings. On the other hand some people played size 10 and above on tenor and soprano - Shorter and Lacy.

If you primarily play 6 and/or 7 tip openings then the 4/5 size may be no longer necessary UNLESS you also play music which might benefit from a smaller tip/harder reed - for classical playing etc.
I have evolved such that I play a 0.056"- 0.060" tip on Soprano, a 0.078" - 0.080" on Alto and a O.105" - 0.110" on Tenor. I can play both smaller and bigger pieces, but these seem to be the best range for me sound wise and playability wise.
 

QWales

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Thanks for all your comments and I do understand that the reed size and mouthpiece sizes vary greatly and one makers number 6 mouthpiece could be completely different to anothers but all that being said, I still have the feeling that, as a rule, you don't get many pro's playing a number 1 reed and number 4 mouthpiece. I also understand that a pro may be comfortable playing a 2 reed as could a beginner but it seems to me that with mouthpieces, the larger bores are very difficult to play as a beginner and that it is only with improved "chops" and breath control that you learn to play these and become able to play notes with a more breathy sound to them. Maybe it's all in my head but this is what I was hoping someone would explain. Like I said above, I enjoy playing my number 7 but sometimes find it difficult and on a technical piece I sometimes run out of strength in my mouth to complete the piece and rightly or wrongly I presumed this will improve with practice. If rightly then it could be seen as a measure of my progress couldn't it?

OK so it's not a competition and as already said, the numbers are not an accurate representation of the capability of the MP but when you see and here the guys here who can really play talking about mouthpieces it seems that it is usualy in numbers of 6 or above or am I just reading something into nothing and just as many pro's will play with a size 4 or 5 MP as they would a 7 or 8?

Progress is slow from where I'm sitting and it helps me to create as many milestones as I can. Obvioulsy I don't want these to be fictional but it does seem difficult to find the facts here.



Thanks a lot Tom, your post wasn't live when I wrote the above. That answers a lot of my questions.
 
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aldevis

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as many pro's will play with a size 4 or 5 MP as they would a 7 or 8?

Charlie Parker played a 4*!

Possibly a never ending debate.

My very personal opinions:
- Bigger openings tend to give more flexibility, if you can control them
- Until the late 50s anyone playing with more than a six was seen as a lunatic.
- Different facings (and facing curves) give different sounds. If I wanted to go in the direction of Bird, I would probably use a smaller tip opening. On alto, I play a 5 or an 8, in different contexts.
- I am starting to think that a curve shape is more important than the actual distance between tip and reed.
- Smaller facings are more relaxing if you have a long and boring gig. I did a big band gig with my Link 11, and I will never do it again.
- Mouthpiece and reed are working for you, not you for them.
- I agree with post #2
 

TomMapfumo

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I agree about the curve shape being important, so you must be right!
 

mrpeebee

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You play the mouthpiece that gives you the control over the sax to be able to play what you want. It's seems pointless playing open tips and hard reeds if, for eg a player can't play the full range of the instrument, from soft to loud.

This is exactly the point IMO. You should be able to generate the sound and get the control you need or want with the lowest possible effort (so take the smallest tip size and reed combination that gives you what you want).

Another important factor about is that what you want highly depends on what type of music you play and under which circumstances. For playing quite background music in a restaurant you could be perfectly happy with a 6 tip and 2,5 reed, while you maybe wouldn't be heard with that setup in a loud big band soloing without microphone. It also depends on your physical characteristics (muscle strenght), which is also linked to how much you practise or play. I own mouthpieces between 4* and 12, but settled on playing a 10* on almost all my outdoor playing (also because I mostly play in loud environments).

I also understand that a pro may be comfortable playing a 2 reed as could a beginner but it seems to me that with mouthpieces, the larger bores are very difficult to play as a beginner and that it is only with improved "chops" and breath control that you learn to play these and become able to play notes with a more breathy sound to them. Maybe it's all in my head but this is what I was hoping someone would explain.

That's exactly what it's all about. Practising on a harder setup (bigger tip and/or harder reed) will always give improved chops after putting the time in, but you shouldn't go up just before the sake of it. Only if you're not happy with certain things in your current setup (like not getting enough volume, thinner sounding higher notes, not able to play altissimo notes). Experimenting with different reeds on a mouthpiece you ike would be always recommended before changing mouthpieces, because it's far cheaper to that.

Like I said above, I enjoy playing my number 7 but sometimes find it difficult and on a technical piece I sometimes run out of strength in my mouth to complete the piece and rightly or wrongly I presumed this will improve with practice. If rightly then it could be seen as a measure of my progress couldn't it?

If you stay for a while with a bigger tip mpc your chops will improve in time, but if you feel you're fighting the setup under certain conditons (while playing techincal stuff f.i.) you could also deside to play that with a slightly softer reed or one of your smaller tip mouthpieces, if that gives you better control and results.
 

QWales

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Thanks mrpeebee, just the confirmation I was looking for :thumb:

I do use the RR 2 instead of V 2.5 when using the number 7 MP. I don't use it often but glad to know that the effort I put in when I do is not wasted.
 

jthole

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Being mostly a clarinet player, both closed and open mouthpieces have their place for me. Since I mainly play tenor and bari sax in a bigband and a small wind ensemble, I am happy with a Link-style mouthpiece with a "7" tip opening there. But I use my clarinet in much more varied circumstances, from classical band to a jazz ensemble. And while some argue that you can do everything with just one clarinet mouthpiece, that works less well for me.

Edit: on bari, I actually use a Meyer #9 ... larger horn, larger tip opening for me.

Clarinet: Selmer Concept, and Portnoy BP02
Tenor: Otto Link Tone-Edge New Vintage
Bari: Meyer 9
 
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