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Beginner practicing embouchure and breathcontrol and loads of odd questions ;)

Lalythil

Member
Messages
44
Locality
Netherlands
Hi everyone!

This might be an odd question, but here it is nonetheless..

I want to start playing saxophone. At this time i do not have the money to buy one. I was wondering if it might be a good idea to start off with buying a mouthpiece (for example a yamaha standard 4c or 5c (30 euro), or a rico metalite mjm-5 (20 euro) I'm currently leaning towards the ricoh as that's the cheaper of the two, but are these consistent in make, or are there 'regular' bad copies being sold and something to watch out for?) with some reeds (what's more recommendable, plastic like legere and fibracell, or regular (wood?) to start out with? i guess plastic will last longer and in the long run be more cost-efficient?) and simply focus on embouchure and breath control excercises and as I get a little better at that in the course of a month (And receive income), then go out to actally buy a horn. or should i just wait a month and then get it all at once?

What would you guys do?

1 buy mouthpiece and reed now and sax later.
2 buy everything later, but all at once.

I'm currently looking at this one: MySax-pro-line-gold-lacquered-alto-2010. I can't find anything on the internet about it though. Another sax I'm considering is this one: MAIN_Student_silver_alto_saxophone

Also, another question, how big is the actual difference between a 4c and a 5c mouthpiece? not in millimeters or something, but in playability. I seem to keep reading contradicting things, like 3c or 4c is easier, but others say that those are too small and are only good to learn on for little childeren.


Please take into account that i have no experience with wind instruments, but am somewhat proficient with violin, piano, drums, bass, guitar, harp, ukulele and singing. (And yes i keep playing them, just not all at once xD. So yes, i know about boring excersises and no i don't really mind them as i know they have their purpose)

And I live in the Netherlands.

tnx in advance!

and I'm sorry for this seemingly random outburst of perhaps odd questions. ;)
Trying to read up on anything sax related before actually buying one, and when not have held one. Everything one reads, just makes him more curious and raises even more questions, i guess xD

Laly
 

kevgermany

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Hi Laly, lots of questions. Would be great if you introduced yourself in the doorbell section.

Mouthpiece only - Assuming you've settled on which sax, it's not a bad idea. Many teachers start students on mouthpiece only exercises, only progressing onto the sax proper when the student has got the mouthpiece under control. However it's a painful exercise and you'll soon get bored - unless you want to start playing tunes on mouthpiece alone (and that's a good exercise).

As for the choice of mouthpiece, I'd avoid the metallite. The Yamahas are good, there's very little difference between the 4C and 5C, so more a case of picking what suits you. However you're going to get lots of conflicting suggestions about mouthpieces. The one that's getting pushed the hardest by the evangelists here is discussed ad nauseam in this thread: http://cafesaxophone.com/showthread.php?11469-Bari-Esprit-II-Alto-MP-The-clarification-thread

Consider also the Hite premier, Fobes Debut and Rico Graftonite B3 as well. Like the yamahas, all will play well and be good pieces to start on.
 

davidk

Paints With Notes
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343
Locality
Earth
Hi Laly

If practicing on the mouthpiece alone, I recommend the mouthpiece silencer: http://www.jazzlab.com/en/silencer/

It doesn't silence the saxophone, but reduces the volume considerably. The kit includes a useful book and DVD of exercises. A mouthpiece can give a one octave range.

Also a tuner would be needed. There are plenty of apps for this. I like Cleartune or Tunable. If you don't have a tablet or smartphone, Seiko make some nice instrument tuners.

Regarding getting a saxophone, hire-purchase is a way to get one. This is useful if the shop allows you to stop payments and return the instrument if you decide it's not for you. Yamaha instruments make high quality student instruments. Some reviews (lots more on the linked site):
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Alto/Yamaha_YAS275.htm
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Alto/Yamaha_YAS21.htm

There's mouthpiece advice for beginners on the same site:
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/mouthpieces.htm

Hope this helps

David
 

jbtsax

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Kev has given a lot of good information. As a former teacher, my advice would be to wait and buy the saxophone and mouthpiece at the same time, and also save up a bit to take a few lessons right from the start. Experimenting with trying to play a mouthpiece alone which is difficult to control even for experienced players can easily lead to some bad habits with the embouchure that would be difficult to correct later on.

If you must do something, get a beginning sax book and about 2' of plastic pipe. Hold the pipe between your legs while seated and practice the fingerings on the pipe saying the names of the notes as you finger. If you can sing the pitches as well that would be an added bonus. If you want to get really fancy and look even more daft put a 90° elbow and a short piece of pipe at the top and sing "too too too too" into the end as you finger the notes.
 

Lalythil

Member
Messages
44
Locality
Netherlands
Thank you very much! I was thinking about introducing myself at the doorbell, but then I i kinda didn't know what to write, so I didn't.. I did fill in hobbies and location in my profile though ;)

I'll start with mouthpiece only then. I don't have any objections to the boring stuff and i didn't know it was possible to play tunes on the mouthpiece alone, but that seems like a very fine challenge to me and something to keep me busy the next few weeks.

I haven't really settled for any specific horn btw. I'm just going to start out with the cheapest one that's sold at a specialty store. Assuming that even the cheap chinese horns are somewhat good to start out with (And assuming that specialty sax-only stores are less prone to selling complete cr*p because of a having a name to uphold ;)) And I found quite a good read on ultra cheap chinese horns btw. It was on a blog by shwoodwind in the uk.
Then after a few months or perhaps even years I'll know exactly what to look for in a better horn. That's going to be my approach anyway.

I might start of with the graftonite b3 then, as that is available in a small all-purpose music store in the neighbourhood. What is the reason to stay away from the metalite btw? Is it just not any good, or is it something for more advanced players?

anyway, thank you for your awesome and fast response!
 

Lalythil

Member
Messages
44
Locality
Netherlands
grrrrr i had an additional response (in an edit, to avoid double posting) to david and jbt, but somehow i couldn't send it, said i can't send links, though i hadn't written any.
Anyway:
David, thank you! that silencer really looks like something! A tuner is something i already own so that's something good :D
Jbt, thank you too! dry-practicing of fingerings is a great idea too! And I'm already looking for fairly reasonably priced teachers, though all i can find at this time are clarinet teachers, or extremely pricey ones o_O but I'll keep looking!

thank you all for your comments!
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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Burnley bb9 9dn
Try a descant recorder. The universal woodwind trainer. The finger patterns are mostly the same and it's only a few quid. It will be simpler when you acquire a saxophone as your fingers will have a little training and then it's just the reed you'll need to master.
 

aaronrod

Member
Messages
42
I might start of with the graftonite b3 then, as that is available in a small all-purpose music store in the neighbourhood. What is the reason to stay away from the metalite btw? Is it just not any good, or is it something for more advanced players?

anyway, thank you for your awesome and fast response!

I use a Metalite (M5) for baritone sax and absolutely love it! However, it is not a good mouthpiece to learn on.

This is because the Metalites are high-baffle mouthpieces. For details on mouthpiece construction, try Google - there is a lot out there!

In simplest terms, a high baffle mouthpiece tends to be very loud and very bright - it amplifies the higher overtones in the sound. This can make your sound seem louder, and allow it to "cut through" when other instruments are playing. It can also sound shrill and piercing - especially on an alto sax.

"Student" mouthpieces generally have no or very small small baffles, a medium chamber, and a small tip size. these things combined make for a setup that is relatively easy to play, and can create a middle-of-the-road sound - not too bright, not too dark. They are also far more forgiving - you can have a less than perfect embouchure and still get a pleasing sound. In a high baffle mouthpiece, if your embouchure is not good, you will probably be summoning all of the stray cats in the neighborhood.

The best analogy I can think of is like learning how to drive a manual transmission in a sports car vs a compact. While they are both driven in a similar way (press in the clutch, change gears, etc...), learning how to drive in a sportscar tends to be harder, because the gearing is setup for advanced drivers - less margin for error, so you would probably end up stalling a lot.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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The other thing with the metallites is that they have not only a high baffle, but it's stepped as well. This can make them difficult to control.

The graftonites are OK, I started on one. But many of the others on the list are better.

On the saxes, it's difficult to know what to suggest. Cheapo chinese can be a gamble. But many are OK now. Getting something from a local shop's a good idea, cos they'll have to support you and mak sure it's set up properly and so on. Rental is a good idea, didn't think of that one.

One other thing about teachers - they can and will test your sax, usually with their own mouthpiece. They'll soon let you know if any problems are down to the sax, or just you. JBTsax makes a lot of good points about learning properly from the start, by using a teacher. If you can find a sax specialist, it's best. Clarinet specialists often teach sax, but can be too biased towards the clarinet.
 

Lalythil

Member
Messages
44
Locality
Netherlands
So basically, the yamaha is still better than the graftonite? then perhaps i should wait, buy it all at once and learn some basics on a recorder. As the yamaha is sold by the specialtyshop which is a little bit further away.

thanks!
 

Colin the Bear

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Burnley bb9 9dn
It's a misconception to think one mouthpiece is better than another. What you need is something that will fit your physiology. Which starter mouthpiece you chose will probably be on a temporary basis. Six months or a year down the road when your "chops" have developed you'll be able to test and try something different and pick one you feel is suitable to your physiology and direction. The bari esprit is cheap and comes in only one lay. It's as good a place as any to start from.

The recorder is a good place to start your woodwind career. A clarinet is cheaper to buy and anything you learn on clarinet will transfer directly on to the saxophone. Recorder, clarinet, saxophone is a logical progression imo.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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By better here I was meaning easier to play. But this is, like most things subjective and dependant on the player.
 

Lalythil

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Netherlands
Another thing that just caught my attention btw, is the fact that you can already produce about an octave worth of tones with the mouthpiece alone. If that is true, then what exactly is the need for 'tuning' a saxophone by wiggling the mouthpiece around on the neck? Because one could simply change the embouchure to play the right note? And if it is this dependant on the embouchure, how does one 'tune' the saxophone correctly as you might be blowing each time a little bit differently? (Especially true with beginners i'd guess?)

I'm probably just over thinking things though.. but these things did peak my interest for a bit.
 

kevgermany

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Good points:

Take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQyz34KZviM

and listen....


The idea of playing different notes on the mouthpiece is to develop your embouchure and control. And to teach you to dial in to the correct base note of the mouthpiece.

When you play, you quickly find that you can bend notes, a little up and a lot down. This comes from your and your embouchure control. And you'll later find that you need to think a note before/as you play it, what this really does is make you adjust your embouchure as you play to make the note play/sound better. However as you heard on the video, notes forced by embouchure that are a long way from the keyed note don't sound so good. Also speed of response is much less.
 

TomMapfumo

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5,215
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Skabertawe, South Wales
Hi there!

Get a Bari Esprit II mouthpiece if you think of playing alto sax later - better than both the Rico and the Vandoren and only cost £15 in UK. Excellent beginner mouthpiece which lots of newbies have successfully bought/played on the forum. I have all three and no comparison!
 

Colin the Bear

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Burnley bb9 9dn
The addition of the saxophone to the mouthpiece vastly reduces the range of the bend. The bigger the saxophone the less bend is available. The saxophone won't play in tune by itself like a stringed instrument. Each note has to be guided and assisted to its correct pitch. The embouchure will help with this but more important in my opinion is the oral cavity. Like whistling the togue shifts about to create the note. The point of pushing in or pulling out the mouthpiece to tune the saxophone is to get sound production and pitching right in the middle of your comfort zone. The less stress on the biological bit of the sound production system the easier playing will be, on the ear and on the player.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
The addition of the saxophone to the mouthpiece vastly reduces the range of the bend. The bigger the saxophone the less bend is available. The saxophone won't play in tune by itself like a stringed instrument. Each note has to be guided and assisted to its correct pitch. The embouchure will help with this but more important in my opinion is the oral cavity. Like whistling the togue shifts about to create the note. The point of pushing in or pulling out the mouthpiece to tune the saxophone is to get sound production and pitching right in the middle of your comfort zone. The less stress on the biological bit of the sound production system the easier playing will be, on the ear and on the player.

You're quite right. I was just simplifiying/generalising. Perhaps I shouldn't have.
 

davidk

Paints With Notes
Messages
343
Locality
Earth
Another thing that just caught my attention btw, is the fact that you can already produce about an octave worth of tones with the mouthpiece alone. If that is true, then what exactly is the need for 'tuning' a saxophone by wiggling the mouthpiece around on the neck? Because one could simply change the embouchure to play the right note? And if it is this dependant on the embouchure, how does one 'tune' the saxophone correctly as you might be blowing each time a little bit differently? (Especially true with beginners i'd guess?)

I'm probably just over thinking things though.. but these things did peak my interest for a bit.

Hi again

Moving the mouthpiece helps get the low notes in tune with the high notes. Push in to sharpen, pull out to flatten. Once a note is in tune with the one two octaves lower (keeping the same embouchure), the embouchure can be adjusted to get both notes in tune with a piano.

So much to learn at first, but willingness to learn and curiosity will get you a long way.

- David
 

Lalythil

Member
Messages
44
Locality
Netherlands
Thank you all! Now some of the pieces are starting to fall in place and i start to get some understanding of the workings of the saxophone and all it entails, though i'm sure I'm far from actually knowing even half of everything that there is to know. Or make that one-tenth even. xD
Anyway, thank you all for your great answers!

More questions will probably come your way anytime soon though ;)

(btw, even on a recorder I noticed how i could shift pitch by just moving my tongue around. Really something I had never known! kinda fun, though it didn't give much of a pitch-shift, and on a side nite, I really found it hard to consistently close all the holes properly xD guess i'll just have to keep working on that, though i really dislike the (much) too high sound of the recorder (and no, i'm not blowing too hard, i've been trying to keep the airflow as slowly as possible, while still getting a tone and when all the holes were properly closed the sound was pleasantly low, but anyway, i'm now probably boring you all with this useless chattering so i'll stop.. :p bye! (is 'cheerio!' still being used in the UK btw?)
 

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