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Beginner Switching from alto to tenor

ProfJames

Elementary member
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Had a first lesson on tenor saxophone yesterday. My tutor said I needed a stronger reed. So swtiched from Gonzalez 2.3 to a Rico Royal 3 and pushed the mouthpiece further onto the neck. Then....moved my lips further down the mouthpiece (as opposed to on the "tip" with the alto) and all of a sudden I could reach all of the notes!

Well at least the notes I practised! Forgot to ask him why as the hour went quiickly so just thought I would ask the forum as to why I needed - stronger reed and mouth further down the mouthpiece?
 

kevgermany

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The sound is generated by the reed vibrating, not by the air you blow. All the air does is make the reed vibrate. You lips control and damp the reed vibration. If you're too near the tip your lips stifle the reed with excessive damping and the sound goes. Same thing happens if the reed is too soft. As you gain experience you'll learn to control a softer reed, but on narrow tipped mouthpieces, soft reeds are generally too soft, although sometimes beginners are started on them to allow time for lip muscles to develop.

The amount of mouthpiece you need to take in varies from mouthpiece to mouthpiece, and from one sax size to another, and according to the sound you're trying to achieve. You might try taking more in on your alto as well..
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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I had the same experience trying tenor for the first times at the end of last year. On alto is use Rico 2.5. After discussion with tutor, I use Vandoren Java 3.5 on tenor.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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Thanks guys, please explain a little more as I thought that as the numbers ascend the reeds ahould be harder to play (?). Therfore for beginners I was suggested last year to go with a 2 or 2.5 reed and a mouthpiece with an aperture around 5. Was this correct information? Am I getting confused (probably!).
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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No, you're right. I started with a 1.5 on alto and have settled at Rico 2.5. I suspect because the vibrating length of the reed on a tenor is quite a bit longer, you need a stiffer reed in comparison with the shorter reed of an alto.
 

jbtsax

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The attached article by Bruce Pearson is the best description I have found for finding a good starting point for the placement of the top teeth on the mouthpiece. A good general rule is that the larger the mouthpiece the more you take into your mouth. In my playing experience I have found that reeds on the softer end of the spectrum ie. #2, #2 1/2 work better for me on the larger woodwinds such as bari sax, bass clarinet, contra bass clarinet, etc. On tenor it depends on the tip opening. Pieces with a wider tip opening take a softer reed than ones with a narrower tip opening. I used to play on a wide open metal Berg and the strongest reed I could blow was a Rico Royal 1 1/2.
It is nearly impossible to give accurate advice about reed strength without knowing the brand and marking of the mouthpiece being used.
 

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Colin the Bear

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Burnley bb9 9dn
I use Vandoren classic blue reeds
sop 1.5, alto 2 or 2.5, tenor 2.5 or 3 and baritone 3.5 or 4.

The bigger the instrument the more air is needed. Smaller saxes seem to have more back pressure allowing long phrases on a single breath.

I have noticed that I move about on the mouthpiece when playing. Experiment with positiion and let your ear be the guide. Internal mouth shape and tongue position will affect tone too.

Mouthpiece position is critical on some saxes but all benefit from a little fine tuning. I use a digital tuner and check high and low and middle. You can be pulling down or pushing up without realising.

Practice is everything.
 

AlistairD

Member
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164
The attached article by Bruce Pearson is the best description I have found for finding a good starting point for the placement of the top teeth on the mouthpiece. A good general rule is that the larger the mouthpiece the more you take into your mouth. In my playing experience I have found that reeds on the softer end of the spectrum ie. #2, #2 1/2 work better for me on the larger woodwinds such as bari sax, bass clarinet, contra bass clarinet, etc. On tenor it depends on the tip opening. Pieces with a wider tip opening take a softer reed than ones with a narrower tip opening. I used to play on a wide open metal Berg and the strongest reed I could blow was a Rico Royal 1 1/2.
It is nearly impossible to give accurate advice about reed strength without knowing the brand and marking of the mouthpiece being used.

This is a great explanation and matches my experience well. The other thing I have noticed is that the facing length (though this may be the wrong term) is critical to me in terms of the strength of reed I need and the ease of playing the mouthpiece. I use an 8/9 but only like medium/long facings or I really struggle even with softer reeds.

Just something else to consider IMHO when looking and trying mouthpieces.

A
 

Profusia

Senior Member
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Worcestershire
Interesting, I had always assumed that the numbering system would be relative so that broadly speaking the same number reed would be right across the different saxes (for a given player once the right number had been found).

My tutor however suggest that I might want to go UP a number or so to slightly harder reeds when playing alto or sop (as opposed to my usual tenor). In practice I haven't found that to be the case but haven't tried softer reeds on alto or sop so am now thinking perhaps I should go that way as a test.

Of course there are added complications in that most of us have numerous mouthpieces on each instrument and probably all with slightly different tip openings which optimally therefore tend to require different reed strengths.

Further complication comes from the fact that even if a player has the same make and model of mouthpiece on bari, tenor, alto, and sop with the same facing numbers, the actual tip openings will all be different, and the reed widths and lengths different too.

I'm not contributing anything whatsover in the way of an answer here, sorry. I'm just adding to the complexity! I would have loved to been able to believe that a Rico 2 on a Yani 8 would play broadly the same across the range of saxes but maybe that was too optimistic.
 
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MandyH

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How odd!
I play a Rico Royal 3 on my alto and my tenor, but no matter how hard I've tried, I cannot get beyond a 2.5 on my bari.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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Berkshire, UK
I am fascinated by the comments! My tutor is the saxophone teacher at an extremeely exclusive school, in his '70s, well known in the musician circles, hass his own band, been on TV, etc so is very widely respected (as are all of the tutors attached to members of this forum). So I am convinced of his pedigree and his advice. Also I can make noise from the tenor by moving to a harder reed.

Itt would appear though that the opinions are fairly divided as to whether this acivitity is the norm.
 

Saxdiva

Older, wiser, should know better....
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I guess it's another sax conundrum, we are all different and your tutor is the only one who gets to see you in the flesh ( so to speak!). Opinions even among sax legends differ so I don't think differences say anything other than there is no one answer. :confused:

Unless you have a problem with the bore fitting on the cork, moving the mouthpiece up and down the neck should only affect the tuning. The length of the mouthpiece lay, and its curve, together with the tip opening, along with your personal physiology will determine the reed strength, and this is complicated by the fact that reed strengths are not consistent across brands. If there is less resistance in the tenor, you may need a stronger reed. My tenor is easier to blow with the same reed strength and a slightly more open mpc than my alto, so my experience is very similar to yours.

Some players prefer filed reeds, some unfiled and some suit different mouthpieces. My selmer mouthpiece definitely sounds darker with a filed reed (in my head, at least).

All part of the cunning master plan to keep GAS alive and well as we collectively buy cupboard loads of reeds, drawers of mouthpieces and roomfuls of saxes.......
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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Berkshire, UK
Thank you Saxdiva. I now appreciate just how subjective the equation is with sax, mouthpiece, reed, embouchre, etc. Why would an unfiled reed be used as opposed to a filed reed?
 

Saxdiva

Older, wiser, should know better....
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Burgess Hill, West Sussex
Well unfiled are supposed to have more resistance (because they have less cane removed) and sound darker. Filed are supposed to be brighter and clearer. I found the opposite in some cases (here we go again.....). I could send you a filed one to try but it would be too soft for you, I think. I only have Rico Royal 2s or vandoran 1.5s (slightly harder than the Ricos). I have had to order some harder ones - and I like RICO jazz select filed on alto.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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Location
Berkshire, UK
Many thanks Saxdiva. I wondered what the difference was! I am currently on Rico Royal 3 on tenor and have been using Gonzalez 2.5 on alto. I am in the process of acquiring some different reeds just to try out over the next couple of weeks and may well try an unfiled reed. Will post my various findings!
 

Saxdiva

Older, wiser, should know better....
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Burgess Hill, West Sussex
Rico orange box are the unfiled version of the royal. I don't know if Dawkes do the same thing but Sax.co.uk sell reed bundles of 5 or 10 where you can order several different types of equal strength to save money compared to trying them all individually. Might be worth a look if you want to experiment. Let me know how you get on.
 

kevgermany

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Just reading this...

1 - Reed strengths for numbers are not the same across brands, or even different reed styles of the same make.
2 - The Gonzales reeds tend to be rather hard compared to Rico Royal, I'd have thought the 2.5 was the same as a Rico 3.
3 - Points been made a few times about matching reed strength to mouthpiece tip opening. Idea is that the reeds should play the same on the same mouthpiece on the different saxes. It's roughly right.
4 - On tenor I have a PPT8*. I use an RJS 2H. On sop with the PPT7 I use an RJS2M. With the PPT8 I use a 2S, occasionally a 2M. So what I said in 3 isn't an exact rule. But to support JBT above, I'm slightly harder on Sop than tenor, on pretty equivalent mouthpieces. On alto, with a completely different mouthpiece, I use an RJS 2M or 2S, depending on how much Sop I've been playing.
5 - I can't tell the differnce between a filed reed and an unfiled one. But the filed one is useful, cos the lig lines up with the cut. Don't mix up French Filed, with French cut - here the differences are as explained above.
6 - I'm not too sure the Rico Red box is the same as an unfiled Rico Royal. They seem to play differently - for me at least. And seem to be a touch harder, strength for strength.
 

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