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Tone Saxophone mouthpiece pitch and its relation to tone quality

PaulM

Member
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143
As a beginning player I am struggling to sound more musical in the tone department. I don't think this paper has been discussed here before, but forgive me if it has. While browsing I came across a doctoral paper designed to determine if there was a relationship between the pitch the player generated from the mouthpiece alone and the resultant tonal quality of their playing. You can find the paper here:

http://idl.ee.washington.edu/publications/HasbrookThesis.pdf

It is a scientific paper, but there's nothing too heavy in it. I found it fascinating reading. As a novice player I have to assume the methodology used and conclusions made are valid. If any more experienced players think otherwise, please put me right. I must admit I am guilty of doing some of the things the author says beginners tend to do that result in poor tone quality. If you ever needed reasons to do mouthpiece only exercises, there are some here.

I wonder if Mrs M would mind if I did some random mouthpiece practice/squeaking while we listen to tonight's Prom? Mind you with some of the pieces we've heard I'm not sure she'd notice.
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,272
I had a quick look and for me to read that would take a while (i'm not a reader) and i know i'd rather blow my sax in the hours it would take for me to read that paper.
Something iv'e learned from this site to improve tonality is...practice long notes :thumb:
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,950
Possibly the weirdest thing about that paper is that she asked each player to produce a jazz tone and a classical tone on the same mouthpiece/reed. Even after forty odd years of playing classical/jazz/folk/rock/ska I haven't the faintest idea how I would do that.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
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12,125
Even after forty odd years of playing classical/jazz/folk/rock/ska I haven't the faintest idea how I would do that.
I have a similar issue, but this might be because we are not scientists.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,009
I would certainly recommend Vanessa Hasbrook's study to any aspiring saxophonist. Her methodology has been found somewhat lacking by the academic scientific/acoustic community, which is reasonable since she is an educator---not a scientist.

Her paper is important in my opinion in that it highlights the difference in sound concepts between jazz and classical players and makes the point that it is the player more than the mouthpiece design that creates the sound. The study shows that while most classical players use an A=880 as the mouthpiece pitch to set their embouchure and "voicing", jazz players on the other hand may be as much as 3 whole steps lower!

Of course when playing that much lower on the mouthpiece pitch, the mouthpiece must be pushed much farther onto the cork to get up to pitch. The resultant tone quality produced by using the more "open" embouchure was shown to not only have more overtones, but stronger ones as well. It is these overtones that give the edge and power to the jazz tone that are absent in the classical sound which is more round and refined.

I have long been an advocate of teaching beginners using the pitch of the neck and mouthpiece as a reference until they have the control necessary to work with the mouthpiece alone. My own tests have shown that playing an A on my classical mouthpiece and then putting in on the neck at the "tuning spot" produces an Ab concert as does playing 1 1/2 steps lower on my jazz mouthpiece and putting that mouthpiece on its "tuning spot" a bit farther onto the cork.
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Thanks for your thoughts jbtsax, very interesting.

I have long been an advocate of teaching beginners using the pitch of the neck and mouthpiece as a reference until they have the control necessary to work with the mouthpiece alone.
I hadn't realised how much expertise you need to play 880Hz or lower (and keep it steady there) on the mouthpiece alone. When I first got my sax I blew into the mouthpiece and got a moderately stable tone and thought "that'll do nicely". Now that I've checked the note on my tuner it's nearer B or Bb than A. While opening the top of my throat helps to lower the note, I really do need to practise loosening up at the mouthpiece end. No wonder the sound is so thin on the higher notes. If anyone has any tips in developing the ability to sound a stable A or lower on the mouthpiece alone, I'm all ears.

Thanks, Paul
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,009
If anyone has any tips in developing the ability to sound a stable A or lower on the mouthpiece alone, I'm all ears.

Thanks, Paul
- Try blowing with warm air
- Mentally aim the airstream downward
- Say "haup" when taking a breath to open the throat
- Try opening your teeth as you keep your lips tight around the mouthpiece
- Lower the back of the tongue as if singing "AHH" on the lowest note you can sing
- Practice long tones watching the second hand of a clock
 

spike

Old Indian
Messages
2,258
Here's a link to Shooshies mouthpiece exercises.

http://www.bobrk.com/saxfaq/2.6.html

I did a lot of work as a result of this, it's over ten years ago now. I found it very useful for developing tuning as well as overall tone control and development. DaveLiebmann's book is also a good source for tone development as well all aspects of your sound. The book title escapes me at present.

gruss - spike
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,581
Thank for the various post here, must investigate more deeply


Cheers & ciao
Jimu

"Together We Create Beauty"
 
Saxholder Pro

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