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Reeds Reed Advice Sought

photoman

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Here I am again with my enthusiastic, but probably jumping-the-gun beginner's questions...I hope this is OK?

I'm having a problem deciding about my reeds, I really would welcome some advice on it, please as it is starting bother me a bit.

I have only been playing for about 5 weeks (alto Sax) and I started with a grade 2 reed and changed to 1 1/2, which I found easier to blow. But the 1 1/2 sounds "throatier" (a bit "growly" and definitely not "smooth"), whereas the number 2 sounds sweeter and more consistent, to my ear, especially in the second octave.

I have tried several reeds in the 1 1/2 grade: Gonzalez; Vandoren "classic / blue" and ZZ; and Marca Jazz. The only one I can hear a difference in is the Vandoren blue that sounds less buzzy than the others, and a bit softer - and maybe duller.

In the grade 2, I have mostly used Rico and Rico Royal. I like the sound of them (I can't really hear a difference in the two) but it's harder to blow at the moment.

My real is issue is I don't like the sound I'm getting with most of the 1 1/2 grade reeds but the grade 2 leaves me trying to catch a breath every 2nd or third bar and tiring quicker overall. Should I stick with the 1 1/2 - and if so which one - or try to make the grade 2 work?

I use a Yamaha 5C mouthpiece and I am also wondering if a Selmer C* would be a useful upgrade at this stage?

Thanks for any suggestions,

Stephen
 

Colin the Bear

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I can't remember if the Yam 4c has an american facing or a french one.

With the selmer the C* bit is the size of the tip opening. Selmer make lots of different mouthpieces. I'm pretty certain a selmer will be a french faced m.piece so you'll need a french cut reed like Rico royale or Vandoren blue. For an american faced m.piece, american cut (orange) rico. If you compare them you'll see the different way they are cut.

The Yam is a good mouthpiece which comes in different tip openings. The four bit is the tip opening and the C is the chamber size.

The selmer S80 with its square chamber splits the room. The selmer soloist with its horeshoe chamber gets good reviews. Both are a bit expensive to experiment with.

Have a look at a Bari esprit II. It's very little money, comes in one tip opening and like the S80 has a square chamber.

As far as make of reed goes, you'll get as many different opinions as there are makers. You pays your money and takes your pick. Buy them in ones or twos and try lots till you find "the one".

I use a clipper to adjust the strength and to refresh the tired ones. I also do a little adjusting by scraping the reed after reading lots of threads on here.
 

photoman

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Have a look at a Bari esprit II. It's very little money, comes in one tip opening and like the S80 has a square chamber.

As far as make of reed goes, you'll get as many different opinions as there are makers. You pays your money and takes your pick. Buy them in ones or twos and try lots till you find "the one".

I use a clipper to adjust the strength and to refresh the tired ones. I also do a little adjusting by scraping the reed after reading lots of threads on here.

Thanks for all that info Colin, it's really useful. I'm now looking for somewhere to buy the Bari Esprit II in Ireland (or maybe the UK). And a reed clipper - not that I now what to do with it. But I have started rubbing the reeds on my desk really fast until they start "clicking". This seems to smooth out the squeaks a bit when they get a bit "wavy".

Stephen
 

jbtsax

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For a beginner on alto saxophone of any age a Yamaha 5C is an excellent mouthpiece. I recommend plain vanilla Rico Reeds #2 for now and moving up to #2 1/2 as soon as the embouchure muscle tone develops. All playing on #1 1/2 reeds does is prevent the embouchure from developing. Long tones every day, even for 5 minutes at a time works wonders.

Too many inexperienced players have a tendency to want to "buy" a good sound by purchasing fancy reeds, mouthpieces, ligatures, etc. rather than "developing" a good sound through conscientious study and practice. A good player will sound great on a student sax with a Yamaha 5C mouthpiece and a Rico #2 1/2 reed. As your skills develop, you will know when it is time to move up to a better mouthpiece and sax. If you are not sure, you are not ready just yet.
 

aaronrod

Member
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42
I have only been playing for about 5 weeks (alto Sax) ...but the grade 2 leaves me trying to catch a breath every 2nd or third bar and tiring quicker overall.

I'd stick with the mouthpiece you have, and stay with the 1-1/2 reeds. here's why:

1) The mouthpiece - you've only been playing for 5 weeks. Provided the Yamaha 5C (provided it is not damaged) is plenty of mouthpiece to last you for years (or at least until you've hit a point where you know exactly what you are after in a mouthpiece).

2) The 1-1/2 reeds - if you can't play for more than two bars on a #2 reed without getting tired, then you will not improve. It's like trying to train for a marathon by running 100m sprints.

If you are fighting the instrument to get a sound out, then that's energy that you are not spending on things like breath control, tone etc. Ultimately, getting a sound out of the sax should be an easy experience - not one that is a struggle. Getting a good sound on the other hand...that's what takes work.

The right reed strength is all about compromise - you want a reed that allows you to play the entire range of the instrument. Too hard a reed and it becomes more difficult to play the bottom end quietly. Too soft, and the high end becomes pinched - it's all about finding the right compromise for you.

however at this stage in your playing, you should go for a setup that is easy for you to get a sound out. If you have to breath every 2 or 3 bars and you're getting tired quickly, then the reed is too hard. In the early learning stages, if you are playing a reed that is too hard, you will tend to compensate by biting down with your jaw - this practice will limit your sound and potentially damage your lip (depending on how hard you are biting). Also, once this habit forms, it is incredibly difficult to break.

For what it is worth, on alto I play a Meyer 5M (very slightly more open than the Yamaha 5C) with 2 or 2.5 reeds (depending on brand). I get far more expression and control than when I used to play an Otto Link 8* HR with #3 reeds. Open tips and harder is not necessarily better and softer reeds and closed tips are not necessarily worse.

It's all about what works for you. At only five weeks, stick with the equipment that lets you easily produce a sound without pain or struggle.
 

TomMapfumo

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Main contribution that I will make would be to ask whether you wet your reed before playing, and whether you rotate your reeds - say have four reeds on the go which you play in turn in order that each reed gets a chance to recover. When I started playing I used Rico Royal reeds (knew no better!) and would get through one every two weeks or so. When I started rotating them and also wetting them - in water for a minute or so - they lasted considerably longer and sounded much better.

I'd try soaking both a 1 1/2 and 2 reed and them massaging them towards the tip to settle down the fibres. See what difference it makes by playing them both. The 1 1/2 reed may need this to produce a cleaner sound, and the 2 reed may need this to make it more playable and flexible. At least try this for a few days and share the results. http://www.superial.com/mainten_breakin.html highlights how to prepare a new reed.

The Yamaha 5C has a middle size facing rather than American (long) or French (short) facing, which is much more common these days, so reed choice is more flexible (French Cut or American Cut) and need not be a concern at this stage, but I do agree with Colin that the Bari Esprit II is a superb mouthpiece - only £14 or so - and I prefer it to the Yamaha in terms of what it contributes to any sound produced.
 
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kevgermany

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I'm in the stick with the same mouthpiece, play what's easiest camp. But JBTsax makes very valid points about the softer reed holding you back. Sound quality, at this stage, isn't as important as getting the notes out. As your embouchure develops you'll find the softer reeds starting to close up as you try to blow louder/higher, and it won't take long - if you follow my next suggestion. However you should build on this current disatisfaction with your sound and work with your mouth/embouchure to improve the sound on the playable reeds. You'll find out that most of it is you, nott he soft reed.

Also be aware that reed strength isn't consistent across brands, or ranges. Vandoren blues are generally reckoned to be about half a strength harder than rico for instance.

Suggestion: Get hold of Larry Teal's book, The Art of Saxophone Playing. Comes in a natty pink cover. You'll find it on ebay and Amazon. Find the embouchure exercises and do them as much and often as you can. This really helps with muscle development and embouchure control.
 

photoman

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Thanks to all for the great advice, so far.

I think that the points made do sum up my current state of confusion though - I'm a bit unsure of what to do next fopr the best.

I am already finding the 1 1/2 reed closing up in the second octave, as Kev mentioned, but the 2 reed takes more breath. Perhaps not quite as much as previously, and I can go longer than 2 bars without breathing - but certainly not more than 4...but I also realise the need to work harder to improve the musculature as others have mentioned, too.

I am tempted to put the Rico 2 back on and stick with it for now, to try and build up the embouchure. I am soaking the reeds, as Tom mentioned, but not massaging them or rotating them as often as perhaps I should. I'll try that and report back.

I have decided to stick to the same mouthpiece as JBT suggested for now, and not be tempted to think that the mpc and reed combination maketh the man! But I will try the longer tones with the #2's - although I have to say it is something I do a lot of in my regular practice.

I think what I really need is a consistsant approach and I have become a bit confused about whether I was on the right path with the 1 1/2 reeds and my mpc. After all, I did start with a 2 reed (sent to me gratis by Woodwind and Brass (who have also sent me some 3's that I haven't gone near yet). it was my own choice to go to the 1 1/2, and I did find it much easier. But now I think I should go back, and work on the embouchure and breath control...or maybe not. :confused:

As for teaching material, I have at least 3 tutor books, PT's video, a real live tutor for an hour a week, I susbscribe to Nigel McGill's Sax School and I find this wonderful forum genuinely very helpful. My most recent book is Rob Buckland's "Playing the Saxophone" which has a good section on embouchure control - and I am actually being taught dynamics in my weekly class at the moment, which that section (and his video link) helps with, too. So I might not buy another book just yet, to avoid further confusion. But I am seriously tempted!

Thanks again for all the help.

Stephen
 
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jbtsax

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As a "warm up" I would have my beginning saxophone class play on their mouthpiece and neck (crook) looking at the second hand on the clock and tuning the note to Ab concert for the alto and E concert for the tenor. First we would hold the note 10 seconds and rest, then 15 seconds and rest, and so on. Not right away, but after a few weeks most of the students could sustain a loud, clear tone for 30 seconds at a time. Some could even go 45 seconds or more. Once you can make the tone producer (short saxophone) sound good, putting that same sound wave through the entire sax sounds great.
 

photoman

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County Limerick Ireland
As a "warm up" I would have my beginning saxophone class play on their mouthpiece and neck (crook) looking at the second hand on the clock and tuning the note to Ab concert for the alto and E concert for the tenor. First we would hold the note 10 seconds and rest, then 15 seconds and rest, and so on. Not right away, but after a few weeks most of the students could sustain a loud, clear tone for 30 seconds at a time. Some could even go 45 seconds or more. Once you can make the tone producer (short saxophone) sound good, putting that same sound wave through the entire sax sounds great.

I have just tried this, thank you for the suggestions, and I'll keep trying. It's quite similar to one my Sax teacher gave me, just using the mpc, but I can control the tuning a bit more and I'm close to Ab (alto) most of the time.

I did find that I was blowing about 5 marks flat of Ab for a while and then the reed (1 1/2 Marca Jazz) "popped" open and I am now getting Ab or about 2 marks sharp of it most of the time. Not sure why this happened?

As for the length of note, I am only getting between 10 - 12 seconds at the moment. As a life-long non smoker (never tried anything that was lit in my mouth) it's a bit disappointing. But I'll keep blowing!

Stephen
 

TomMapfumo

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A Marca Jazz 2 will solve all your problems in a stroke - not all two's are equal, and the Marca has a more flexible quality..........................................:thumb:
 

photoman

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A Marca Jazz 2 will solve all your problems in a stroke - not all two's are equal, and the Marca has a more flexible quality..........................................:thumb:

That settles it - and I was hoping there was a compromise between the 1 1/2 and the 2 reeds. it sounds like you found it, Tom. Thank you.

Now, shall I get the Selmer C* mpc with the new reeds? :confused:

Stephen
 

TomMapfumo

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I'm another of those that don't rate the Selmer S80 C* - but depends what type of mouthpiece you want.

Here is a list of reeds and strengths which may be useful: http://www.saxophon-service.de/shop/z_57.htm The Alexander Superial 2 is also a good possibility - Howarth of London sell reeds singly for same price as in a box so may be worth getting a couple of each of the Marca and Superial to try. The Rico Jazz Select 2S might also be worth trialling.

Mouthpiece wise a Windcraft Etude HR Alto - £49.95 from Dawkes in UK or a Clark Fobes Debut - £36.00 from Howarth of London would be a lovely upgrade and my top recommendations under £100 and be a good size at 0.065" (slightly smaller tip than the Yamaha 5C {0.067"}and much better sounding).

Do all the exercises above but "Jazz" reeds may be a better bet soundwise.

Kind regards
Tom
 

kevgermany

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The Selmer S80 C* is a good, easy to play piece. A bit pricy, but if you liekthe sound it's a good choice. But I wouldn't see it as an upgrade from the Yamaha 5C. Stay where you are.
 

ProfJames

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Disagree Kev.....S80 is an upgrade from the 5C, certainly for me it was!
 

Colin the Bear

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If you spend the small amount of money on the most excellent bari esprit, it will put to bed any notions that you can buy a good sound. You will still sound like you. Better to find this out for £14 than spend the £100+ that the S80 will cost.

As far as holding long notes goes, you need to make sure you're breathing deep enough. Breath in like you normally do, hold it, then breath in some more. Finally breath in a little more and this is where you should start blowing from. The last bit of air in your lungs is under very little control. The first bit is where I find the power and control.

As well as the tension in the embouchure, you can alter the pitch and quality of the tone with tongue position and the throat. While holding a long note experiment by moving your tongue and opening your throat like yawning.

The only time to buy new kit is when you're sure you need it and are ready for it and know what you're looking for.

There is a vast range of experience on this forum but bear in mind that one players experience may not be the same as anothers. Players can only share their accumulated playing experience while teachers know all the common pitfalls and can stop the development of bad habits. The teachers on here have the best advice for beginners to set you on the right course.
 

BeBopSop

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I use the selmer SA 80 C** and rate it very highly, I have tried loads of mp's but it is the sound I like....may not suit everyone though.On the Soprano I loved the Yamaha 4C.:thumb:
 

photoman

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If you spend the small amount of money on the most excellent bari esprit, it will put to bed any notions that you can buy a good sound. You will still sound like you. Better to find this out for £14 than spend the £100+ that the S80 will cost.

I would be more than ready to do that Colin and I looked for it online last night after I saw your prvious post about it. I could only find the Bari website in the US.

I live in Ireland and also use Thomann in Germany for Sax stuff. I can't see it on their website and I can't find an Irish supplier. If anyone has a link to a UK supplier that will ship to Ireland, I'd buy it today.

As far as holding long notes goes, you need to make sure you're breathing deep enough. Breath in like you normally do, hold it, then breath in some more. Finally breath in a little more and this is where you should start blowing from. The last bit of air in your lungs is under very little control. The first bit is where I find the power and control.

18 seconds first 3 tries with that method! I obviously wasn't breathing right. :thumb:

Thanks again for all the good advice guys.

Stephen
 
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