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Home Alt Forums Mouthpieces Beginner concerns with my mouthpiece and tone

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      My name is Troy and I'm 41 years old and just picked up an alto saxophone for the first time maybe two or three months ago. I have a friend that plays the bass guitar in a band and I've always wanted to play an instrument, and after my first vacation in years and talking to my wife, I decided I'd pick up a sax. First, I love the sound of a sax, and second, if I'm playing a sax, nobody can ask me to sing. :0) That sounds like a win/win to me.

      I am renting a sax from Music & Arts at the moment. I'd prefer the sound of a soprano, but I could not find a soprano locally to rent. I am taking music lessons online from the Dallas School of Music. I was looking for more information outside of this online class because I feel like something with the sax just isn't clicking for me and I feel like I'm getting a tone/sound more like a goose that has been goosed than a smooth sax tone. I've been using Hempke 2.5 reeds and I've swapped 3 of them around a bit trying to see what is going on. I thought maybe I had a crack in my reed and changing reeds has helped a bit, but I'm wondering if it's just me, my mouthpiece, or if I'm not setting up my reed and mouthpiece correctly. I've moved the tip of the reed closer to the tip, further back, blown harder and blown softer, moved the mouthpiece further in and out of my mouth, and I'm just not happy with the sound. The bad part of that is that it's starting to become discouraging and I really do want to learn to play well. I'm currently using a Selmer student model sax, the AS500, with the deafult (pun intended) plastic mouthpiece. Does anyone have any suggestions for an inexpensive mouthpiece that gives a decent quality tone, maybe in the – range? If I notice a marked improvement I'd be more than willing to purchase a higher quality mouthpiece down the road, but I'm not sure where to start and I do not know anyone personally that plays the sax, and the musicians I know do not know anyone that plays the sax, so I'm stuck at the mercy of salesmen, so I'm doing some homework before moving forward.

      Thanks in advance for your help!

      Another question…are the mouthpieces interchangable between types of sax, such as from alto to soprano to tenor etc.? I'm thinking they are not, but if they are I'd be a lot more comfortable investing in a decent mouthpiece since I'm not sure I'll stay with the alto. I was looking at the 'Yamaha Alto Sax Mouthpiece 4C' on Amazon and the 'Rovner Alto Sax Ligature 1RL' ligature for a set up, but wasn't sure if they would mesh well together? From the name I'm assuming the mouthpieces do not interchange between different types of sax.

      Also, where do you attach your ligature? I put the tip of the reed almost flush with the tip of the mouthpiece, then attach the ligature pretty much flush with the rounded portion of the reed. By that I mean…if you look at a Hempke reed there is the thin portion that you blow across and as you go further back on the reed it gets thicker. On the Hempke reeds you reach a portion that is rounded and equal (the finish changes as well) from the mid-point to the rear of the reed and there is a distinct line where this portion starts, and I've been putting the ligature at this point. Should the ligature be moved further back to allow more vibration?

      Peter D’Arcy

        I started earlier this year with an Alto Sax. I bought all the beginners books I cold find.
        But, I believe books can’t show you the correct way to mouth and tongue the sax.

        Find a teacher locally to you, it will make the world of difference, and you won’t be tempted to give up



        Southampton UK


          Ya, there’s nothing like face-to-face lessons. Some books have really good illustrations and some folks are a bit more patient than others for this way of learning. I started out on my own for a year or so and when I found a good teacher he had to help me break a bad habit or two and then I was away.
          As far as mouthpieces go, no, they are not interchangeable! They differ in size just like the horns themselves. For alto you can’t go wrong starting with a Meyer, Selmer S80, or Yamaha…I have some mouthpiece reviews you can find on the right side menu for more info.

          Howard Jackson

            I couldn’t agree more. I have a great teacher, I have an hour with him once a week and then practise on my own. Regarding the tone, try to change one thing at a time. I warm up by playing notes in the lower octave and hold them for 30 secs or so. Do this for 10 minutes. Hey it works for me.
            Keep swinging,


              Good one Howard, 30 seconds wow!
              Long tones like you suggest are one of the best things we can do to improve our tone.
              But again, if you’re doing something wrong like breathing or embouchure you won’t be quite there yet
              and you may have to break some bad habits, that’s where an experienced teacher can help.

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