SYOS

Saxophones So I went to a woodwind shop..

AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
I went to a music shop t’other day with the intention of trying out as much as I could, while still being able to remember what I tried. My situation is a little unusual compared to most beginners so I’ll explain that in full later when it becomes relevant, but for now I’d just like some opinions on what I tried from anyone who has experience with them.

Saxes
I went to John Packers in Taunton, since I was in Bath this weekend to sort my student digs for next year I thought I’d pop over for a few hours while I was relatively near by. I wanted to try the JP. 045 alto that a lot of people seem to be gushing over. I’ve seen great reviews and someone posted a clip on this forum too, saying for the price it is an outstanding instrument. I had a ‘lesson’ of sorts with a guy who plays regularly on the west end, who was telling me about a couple of other players now using these saxes in the shows, so I had to try it out.

I found it immediately very comfortable to play, very easy to blow and I liked the sound I was getting. I didn’t play it as much as I intended though, as I noticed above top C it was horribly flat. E was closer to Eb and nothing I did seemed to make any difference. I don’t normally have that problem so I had a go on a Yamaha YAS275 to compare. With the same mouthpiece/reed (Yamaha 6C with a Vandoren 2 or 2.5, I forget), the problem wasn’t there on the Yam.

Impressions on the Yam – while it was a nice instrument that was similarly easy to play and felt comfortable, it didn’t ‘feel’ right. This might be a bizarre observation to make, but the sax just felt very clinical and mass produced. It was well made, as most things Yamaha are, but it still felt lifeless, as if it had no character.

On that lesson I mentioned I had a go on one of the saxes the guy had with him, a Yamaha 62 (old model I think). For comparison I had a go on a new one of these too, again with the same Yam 6C mouthpiece. Of the three, I liked this one best, just. It felt the most substantial and well made and had a fuller sound. Admittedly though, I struggled to see where £700 went between the 275 and the 62. It was only a half-hour blow on each but I wasn’t immediately struck with 700 quid’s worth of difference. The 62 still felt a bit blank, a bit restrained. I wish I’d tried a different JP 045 because aside from the flat top register, I felt very much at home on it, seemed to just buzz along nicely.

I only had half an hour left before the shop closed so I wanted a go on some mouthpieces. I read everywhere how they make more change to your sound that just about anything else, so even though I have no intention of buying one yet I still wanted a go. I played a Vandoren 6C, a Selmer S80 C* and an Otto Link Tone Edge 6. All ebonite.

I only had a few min on each so brief descriptions are... the Vandoren seemed to be very clear with a lot of mid-range (sorry, played electric guitar so tone descriptions tend to involve equalisation terms!). The Selmer was more rounded with the link being warmer and softer still than the Selmer. Anyone with experience with these have any opinions? I know I’ve not been playing long enough to be able to give a solid definition for a mouthpiece, but I’m curious to know if my initial thoughts match the general consensus on a mouthpiece.

These three mouthpieces I noticed an immediate colour to the sound, compared with the Yamaha 6C which I couldn't tell any difference to the La Voz (severely battered and I think very cheap) mp that came with my rental Buffet sax, though I couldn't tell you whether I didn't notice a difference purely because I didn't play them one right after the other. So I've kindof counted the 6C as a 'blank slate' from which to go from.

I could be way out, I only realised once I got home but natural inhibition meant I didn’t play as loudly or with as much expression as I do when at home. Unfamiliar environment/small acoustically ‘loud’ practise room & being able to hear other people playing in the rooms next to you seem to naturally decrease the levels at which you play, subconsciously.. I’m not shy so I certainly didn’t intend to play more reservedly, just seemed to happen automatically. These initial trips to shops to try things out will eventually end up with my picking my first sax.. something I have a fun little plan for which I'll no doubt present here later, but for now - anyone with experience with any of these saxes or mouthpieces have an opinion, I'd love to hear them!

(Phew!)
 

Linky Lee

Member
Messages
182
Location
Salisbury, UK
One thing to be aware of.

In a different room, you'll find out different things about the same gear. Maybe a mouthpiece you thought was more 'rounded' in one shop you'll find seems more focussed in another.

Also I had a few different mouthpieces, I've been through all you mentioned and am settled on a Yanigasawa 6. Definitely try one.

At first I had the Selmer, was great for learning and nothing wrong with that piece at all. I wanted a jazzier sound and headed towards the Link. What I realised once I'd got better was that it was just stuffy and didn't play well at all. I ended up finding I could get a jazzier sound on simply the mouthpiece that made it the easiest for me to play. For me that was free blowing, responsive, evenness of tone and ability to home in the intonation. The Selmer was very good at this, but the Yanigasawa had 'more' to it and just sang a bit more for me.

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Sax wise I think the Jupiter's are really good student saxes. I've never had one myself but have met a few people in various big bands and the like who have played various models of them and I've had a go. None of them have been 'bad'. There's been variation for sure but none have stood out either.

I personally play an old Yamaha 62. In a similar vain to the mouthpiece malarky, I've ended up with the saxophone that makes it the easiest for me to play. That is, quality of the action, free blowing, response and build quality.

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Reeds are something I messed with when I first started. I tried all the usual but couldn't find any consistencies with regard to quality, tone or playability of a certain brand/model. Decided I tend to like the ZZs and the Royals a bit more, so pick up whatever is in the shop when I need some. Though I have half boxes of all sorts and just tend to bung any old new one on till I find one I like when needed. - not much good in a gig I knew, but then I break a few in before hand and take a selection of know favorites.
 
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AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
Thanks very much for the response.

I bought a bunch of reeds when they were going for a quid each at a shop mentioned here. I found most are too hard to be comfortable or too easy for my liking, I'm actually sticking with the two I was playing before the order arrived - Vandoren 2.5s. I have three of them and two of them seem wildly different, so this weekend I'm hoping to take a trip to London and have a go on a selection of softer reeds - in general the ones i ordered were too hard. There's some in Howarth's that Tom was lauding so I'll have a go.

Good opportunity to take my rental back and see if they'll sort the pads out, perenially sticky and no amount of lighter fluid + fag papers seems to stop it. The octave lever is also at a bit of a funny angle.

I'll be sure to have a go on the Yanagisawa mouthpieces. If I have to describe the sound I'd most like to have, it'd be something close to Paul Desmond's sublime tone. Does anyone know where I ought to start from to get me in the right ballpark?
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
697
Adam

That must have been a very good afternoon at Taunton. Thanks for the detailed report.

I sometimes wonder how people actually go about choosing their instruments. Various factors must be in play: budget, local choice, peer pressure, reviews, perceived sound, etc.

Budget today is probably less of a problem than it used to be. If you have $1,000 to spend, you can get a nice alto or tenor. It will at the very least last until you are in a position to look at the more expensive options. Local choice varies. Where I live you can look at some Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Jupiter models. In bigger cities there is more. I think peer pressure matters. In the United States it appears that at some stage one has to deal with the importuning of those who think that only of the various Selmers will do. If that is not affordable, then some vintage instrument is recommended. I find reviews very beneficial, especially when I know something of the track record of the reviewer.

Perceived sound appears a big factor, but I wonder how reliable one’s own judgements in this regard are. We hear the saxophone sounds though the mouth cavity and the ears, and the result differs from what others hear. You can verify this by recording your own voice and listening to it. Add to this the point already made by Linky Lee that your trial room at the shop will have entirely different characteristics from your usual environment. Factors such as carpets, drapes, furniture, size of the room, etc., come into it. To get a truer picture you might have to bring your old instrument with you to get an idea of the different effect. Of course, once you have been in the room for two hours, you have become accustomed to new acoustics, with unpredictable results. The feel of the instrument is likely to be important. If it feels good, you are more likely to play well. It is not just a matter of ergonomics. Looks also come into it.

The choice of an instrument is therefore based mostly on subjective criteria. But never mind, the mouthpiece people will make sure that you have every opportunity to get the optimum out of your investment.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,232
Location
Skabertawe, South Wales
Hi Adam!

I think that John Packer have a very good range of instruments - I recently bought a trombone from them which is jointly designed with Rath Trombones and made under licence in China - rated very highly, and above the Yamaha equivalents and more, so quality is good and value is very good too. In your situation I'd probably go for the JP Sax and investigate mouthpieces further. Howarth are excellent for mouthpieces and there are plenty to try out there (including a Jody Jazz HR, LeBayle HR Jazz/Studio and Bari Ebonite). With John Packer it might be worth highlighting any concerns about flat notes etc. in case the instrument needs a slight tweak or so, but you sounded comfortable with it.

Good Luck with your hunting!
Kind regards
Tom :cool:
 
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