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Tap/Click stave notes for fingerings

Fingerings for Harmonics


I daresay you have already researched this subject online. And maybe you're even more confused than when you started. Or, at the very least, you are no closer to a final decision. The internet can be a confusing place!

My first mouthpiece - (as I remember) - was a 4C equivalent that came with the instrument, and I had convinced myself that I sounded okay. How wrong can you be? A few weeks later, and under some expert guidance, I had a mouthpiece that suited my embouchure, jaw, and lung-power. I was suddenly playing better, sounding better, and making fewer squeaks. My progress improved exponentially, and so did my self-esteem.

What's the difference? And why?

I guess what I am saying is: you can own a saxophone that cost the earth, and you can sound terrible. On the other hand you can own a cheap student model and sound like an angel. In saxophone-playing the result (to a large extent) is determined by the mouthpiece/reed combination you actually have in your mouth. Plus, of course, how you hold it there!

But it even goes beyond this. If you have a rotten reed attached to that mouthpiece the sound will be bad however much you spent!

The answer? Take expert guidance - (on-the-spot, for preference) - that you will probably need to pay for!

It is probable that the reed which came with your instrument was a "1" or maybe a "1.5" - the lowest possible strength. This is a shove-it-in-your-mouth-and-breathe strength reed. A vacuum cleaner on reverse thrust would get a sound from this reed, whichever mouthpiece it was attached to. It is possible that your developed embouchure could require such a reed, but it's unlikely. Highly. In my experience 2 or 2.5 is the norm.

What I look for in a reed

Charlie Parker - (by way of an extreme example) - blew a strength 5. Which is very nearly a floorboard!

For information only...I use "Rico" 2.5(Strength) on Alto. "Vandoren" on clarinet. Hybrid reeds on soprano, tenor and baritone.

Hybrid? - Contact me and I'll tell you.

There are certain keys on the saxophone which operate almost independently. These keys are allowed to open, as opposed to being operated by physical contact of some kind. Whether they work or not is dependent upon the strength of a the contact between the pad and the rim of the tone hole. If that contact is sticky with sugary spit that has been allowed to coagulate - is that the word I want? - then the spring itself cannot cope. Result...the key does not open, and you could find yourself playing a G-natural, when all the world and his brother wants to hear a G-sharp! Or, maybe, a B-flat, when the passage requires a B-natural. These things are to be avoided if possible. Stands to reason.

The picture shows the build-up of "stuff" that can gather in the groove of the above pads in particular, right where they settle over the rim. Left is the pad of an "E" key, right is the pad of the "G-sharp" key. Put in the case wet and allowed to dry, it'll harden like glue!

Answer? Make certain that the contact between pad and rim is clean (That's before you start playing after any kind of a layoff, where spit has been allowed to dry). A sheet of blotting paper used to be a standard consideration, like making sure your sling was in the case! I am not certain that blotting paper is available anymore. Who uses a pen with ink in it these days? Something like newspaper is almost as good. Or tissue of some kind. Any kind.

The main culprit is the "G-sharp" key. The B-flat button key can also be a problem, as can the F-sharp key.


Slide your paper - or whatever it is you are using - in between pad and rim, close the key on it gently and, just as gently, ease the "paper" out against the pressure of the pad. This should do the trick short-term. Though, now that I think about it, you can buy a proprietary gizmo, specially designed to do that job. (The corner of some newspaper or other is way cheaper, of course)

Remember, if your tipple is coke, or some other sugary drink, the problem is clear and present, and it could mean the difference between sounding like a pro, or coming off as if you didn't know your key signatures in the first place.

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