Beginner Pieces of the Puzzle

Jazzaferri

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#1
From my experience and discussion with other players. In order of importance

For sound and response

1 Player (embouchure, air control/support)

2 Mouthpiece/Reed

3 Neck

4. Sax Body

For Intonation

1. Player (embouchure)

2 Setup of sax (key heights, tone hole size and placement)

I hope this gives some insight for beginners for decisions on when and what to upgrade
 
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nigeld

I think I need a different ligature
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#2
Thanks for this.

As an addition to the second list, I think the sax body and neck must play a role in intonation. For example, some sopranos are noticeably out of tune, and some vintage saxes are more difficult to play in tune than modern ones. Presumably the setup can only go so far to correct built-in faults.

I would be interested to hear whether you think the mouthpiece is more important than the reed or vice versa. This is tricky, since a really bad reed can ruin everything. So I think we have to assume that the reed is basically OK for a fair comparison.

We could try try placing the ligature in the first list as well. I think it does make a difference, but I would put it last.

But there is an important psychological element here as well. I am an amateur, and if I am honest, I care more about how I feel when I am playing than about what other people hear. Some saxophones feel "good" and some don't. When I recently changed mouthpiece (for the umpteenth time) my teacher remarked that I still sounded like myself, but to me it felt different and more satisfying. And when I got a different alto sax a couple of years ago, my attitude to the alto completely changed, and I began to believe that it could be fun to play rather than a chore. And this in turn must have affected my tone.
 
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randulo

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#3
Fascinating list. We can only reasonably control our part, embouchure and breath (and maybe 'ear'), though. The rest is very difficult to change, especially the body. I guess if you have a budget of X, you can go try a bunch of instruments, but otherwise, the beginner, unless rich and careless, is kind of limited. The rest, reeds and mouthpieces, we can usually manage. I've got most kinds of reeds and three (soon four!) mouthpieces. The common opinion I've read here is that any ligature will do if it holds the reed on, but ligature placement is most definitely a factor.
 

jbtsax

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#4
This reminds me of a "formula" for good tone quality that I posted at the front of the bandroom when I taught beginning band.

EMBOUCHURE + AIR + EQUIPMENT = GOOD TONE

Equipment was defined as a good quality mouthpiece and a good reed. Air meant "breath support" which I prefer to call "pressurized air".
The longer I taught the more I discovered that once good fundamentals of tone production are mastered, the intonation largely takes care of itself.
 

nigeld

I think I need a different ligature
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#6
When I was taking bassoon lessons, my teacher used to say that the things affecting the sound, in order of decreasing importance were:
1. Player
2. Reed
3. Bocal (neck)
4. Bassoon

Which corresponds to @Jazzaferri 's list (there's no mouthpiece to worry about with a bassoon).

In bassoon terms, the surprising thing is that the bocal matters more than the bassoon. A good, and comparatively cheap, way to upgrade ones bassoon is to get a better neck. Howarth have trays full of necks to try. Putting a Heckel (= Selmer in the sax world) neck on my student bassoon made a big difference, and when I got a more expensive bassoon, I spent as much time choosing the neck as the instrument. The seller did not assume that I would take the neck that happened to come with the body. My one attempt to do this with a saxophone (trying a Yanagisawa neck on a cheap alto) was not successful, but I only tried the one neck.
 

Jazzaferri

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#7
My bassoon playing guitar playing friend who I played with as a teenager and recently as well gave the same rating as yourteacher.

He told me a story of the bassoon tech in NE USA who was shown threw the Heckel factory but they wouldn't let he see the bocal room. The have thousands of bocal designs … you tell them what notes aren't working, pay your money and presto problem solved.
 
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