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    Gary Wilkins


    I’m not a very good, or proficient, sax player (yet) but I have extensive musical experience. I just picked up an inexpensive alto to start learning fingerings and getting a nice tone (embouchure, breath control, etc.). I have played the clarinet (including the alto), oboe, bassoon, trombone and the bass guitar. I played in a jazz band in high school (don’t ask how many moons ago *that* was 🙂 ) and I always enjoyed the sax players (most are still good friends of mine). Music has been a huge part of my life. I have composed various pieces (symphonies, choral pieces, jazz, contemporary) and I am starting exercises for the alto (mostly to help me learn, but I sincerely hope others will also learn (starting with long tones and small tunes and progressing). I also own a soprano sax.

    My biggest challenge is avoiding the octave break in the lower notes (I believe this is part of tightening my embouchure and breath control). I had similar issues with both the clarinet and oboe, although the oboe is a different beast but the similarities are the same. I’ve been watching some YouTube video on playing better sax.

    What reed strengths do you use and why? I usually go with 2.5 (I like Rico) but I may start cutting and shaping my own if I get good enough. I’m curious about what you all think. I look forward to learning from you all, to lend my voice to help newcomers when I can, and to share the love of music and the enjoyment of being able to make it. Music is what YOU make of it, and the more you make, the more you will find deeper enrichment and enjoyment.

    May you always be in tune!


    Gary Deripaska

    As far as reeds are concerned Johnny has a lot of information on reeds, https://www.howtoplaysaxophone.org/fiberreed-synthetic-saxophone-reeds/. Just this past week I switched from cane reeds ( RICO # 2 ) to the Fiberreed CARBON ONYX Medium Soft, and soft. I bought them from here on Johnny’s web site. His turn time is awesome on getting your order.
    I absolutely love them Every note from the low Bb to the high F# is crystal clear ( TENOR SAX) ( No wobbling on the lower notes at all) and loud. When they arrived yesterday I took them out of the mail box brought them in slapped on the Soft FIBEREED CARBON ONYX and played several songs ( Without soaking them or wetting them) all in tune and loud. The tone I get is amazing I’m using a Berg Larsen 110/2 metal mouth Piece. Then tried the MEDIUM SOFT CARBON ONYX and loved it even more. I can’t see me ever going back to a cane reed.

    With the cane reeds, always had to wet the reeds for long periods of time then warm up a bit before actually playing.

    Hope this helps, I am sooo sold on these reeds now. If I’m not mistaken it’s what Johnny plays with and of course his sound is pretty awesome.

    Take Care and enjoy the Sax, there’s a lot of talent on this forum and a lot of courses Johnny has to help you improve from basic to advance playing.

    Gary Deripaska
    Southern California


    welcome Gary and thanks for sharing your story!
    sounds like you’ll do fine on sax since you have a good amount of knowledge already from other instrument experience. That’s how I entered it to, way back when. Knowing how to read etc does make things easier but the saxophone is it’s own beast as you are already aware.

    Getting into customizing your own reeds is a great idea. Especially at an early stage cause if/when you jump up to a harder strength it may very well feel too hard so you can sand it down slightly to help make the jump much easier and gradual….no reason to wait to get “good enough” for this.

    brother cavefish
    brother cavefish

    reeds are a big journey, they are vast and vary alot, and one has to find the right mouthpiece and the reed to go with it, it is hard to says whats best, but , from my point of view, good ones are vandoren, rico, hemke there is videos of these by UK sax on youtube, great display of sounds you want to find a good MP though, that suits your needs, i am a tenor man myself so i like the warm dark MPs , if i were an alto i would still go with dark, Steve Neff has demos of many types of MPs , good luck its a little bit of a ride to find the right combo

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