Saxophone Forum

by budding_saxman
(7 posts)
18 years ago

reeds & mouthpieces: what the deal?

ok, so i'm kinda new; can someone please tell me what the deal is with different reed strengths and mouthpiece sizes? eg, is it a fallacy to think softer reeds are easier to play and are for beginners, and you should generally work your way up to the hardest strength that you can comfortably play for a decent amount of time? (and is it just me, or do harder reeds actually sound 'softer'?) and as for mouthpieces, is a bigger chamber just better, and should you work your way up to the biggest one you can play? when do you know you have found the right set-up? it can't be that it plays well for you right away, right? cause doesn't it take a while to get used to playing on a certain strength reed and size mouthpiece?

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  1. by connsaxman_jim
    (2336 posts)

    18 years ago

    Re: reeds & mouthpieces: what the deal?

    This is one thing that seems to be confusing a lot of players. As you probably already know, mouthpieces come in different size facings. Some companies use letters, like the Selmer C* for example, other companies use numbers, like a 6*. The facing refers to the tip opening size, or the distance between the tip of the reed and the top of the mouthpiece. The tip opening is usually measured in thousandths of an inch. A standard tip opening for an alto saxophone is .065, or 65 thousandths of an inch. The higher the number, the larger the opening size. Often a * is used to indicate half sizes. Softer reeds are easier for beginners to play, but I would not recommend starting with a reed softer than a #2. It will take some time to develope your embrochure. The hardest reed is seldom the best reed to play either. Harder reeds are best for mouthpieces with smaller tip openings. On mouthpieces with larger tip openings, a softer reed is best. The idea is to find the reed that works best with your embrochure and whatever mouthpiece you use. Harder reeds require more embrochure control and more air pressure to move them. Typically, a harder reed will play louder, but depending on embrochure and how hard you blow, they may sound softer. I like mouthpieces with large chambers. I've found that mouthpieces that have larger chambers usually play louder and have better intonation. The design, shape, and material that the mouthpiece is made of all effect the tone. Plastic and ebonite mouthpieces have a smoother, more mellow sound. Metal pieces are brighter, and certain types of metal brighter than others. Many vintage horns were designed to work with large-chambered mouthpieces and can have intonation and tuning problems with small chambered mouthpieces. The right set-up is the one that works best with your style of playing as well as your horn. I can offer you some suggestions if you let me know more about the tone and style that you're looking for. The right set-up should offer you the best combination of tone, projection, intonation, and embrochure control. Jim

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