A change of C-Melody sax mouthpiece…

Click here for the hi-resolution image After probably almost a decade of using Bb tenor sax mouthpieces on C-Melody saxes, I’ve decided on a change.  As I also play alto as much as I can, and (literally) never play Bb tenor these days, I’m trying out some alto mouthpieces/reeds on the Martin C-Mel. The best (from previous trials) is being tried first, never been too hot on an alto, but used to play very well on Conn ‘alto-neck’ C-Mels when the tenor mouthpiece shanks were too long for the micro-tuners…

Click here for the hi-resolution imageThe logic is undeniable – a similar embouchure for both alto and C-Mel – and has to be worth a try.  Initial findings are that the Martin C-Mel plays slightly less ‘easily’, but then tenor has always been (for me) more free blowing than alto.  Sound is also a tad smaller (just a tad…) but quite crisper, probably more due to the smaller size of the reed than anything else – and the harmonics are in a different place so I need to re-educate the embouchure for those.  Intonation seems to be all over the place on the tuner 😦 – but by ear is much better 🙂    So I’ll stick with ‘by ear’ for now.

Choice of mouthpiece ?

Berg Larsen 95/1 SMS ebonite – not amazingly vintage, but been kicking around here for a while.

Reed – Rico Plasticover #2        Ligature – Rovner L6 (light)

Click here for the hi-resolution image I know I’m quite cynical about ‘fancy’ ligs, but the Rovner ‘Light’ range are about as unpretentious as they get, and I have a couple kicking around.  The reed does seem to respond slightly faster and easier with the fabric L6 than with the original ‘as supplied’ Berg metal lig. And I used to play Plasticover reeds a lot (Rico Royal with a teflon coating) so I had some of those to hand – although a #2 is slightly softer than I normally use – but they work !  Doesn’t look too tiny on the end of the neck, just needed a bit of Lanolin to get it on – and, yes Lewis, I STILL use that pot you gave me all those years ago !  Sound Samples will be available after I’ve settled down with it.  As usual – click on any of the images for a better view.  Pretty funky – all that black !

This entry was posted in C Saxophones, Eb/Bb saxes, Humour & Techie, Mouthpieces. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to A change of C-Melody sax mouthpiece…

  1. Lewis Pelham says:

    Not quite sure what you are seeking here Alan.
    You have always said that, like most of us, that you like, and seek the tenor aspects of the C Mel…this is emphasised by a Bb tenor mouthpiece.
    If it took that long to adjust to the differing embouchures then no-one would double on tenor and soprano.
    The benefits would need to be considerable when switching from a mouthpiece that you find easier…why make life hard?
    I too have always been very cynical about Carlos Fandango ligs; stating that they are a device to hold the reed in the correct relative position. Recently however I have found that a simple fabric lig, as yours, allows top F# to really sing on my RPC tenor piece compared with the metal two screw lig…no other differences that I can detect,; so I use it. The only snag is the choice of available reed caps…I have had to abandon my metal “machined from the solid” silver plated cap for a ghastly, brittle plastic item which resembles a cheap dustbin. Also, I have to take care not to push it on too far in order to prevent the end fouling the reed.
    A never ending succession of problems…where will it all end?
    I consider that life is too short (and getting inexorably shorter) to faff about with different set ups…let alone different instruments. I have decided to stick with what is to me, the perfect set up, and leave it at that. We never heard Ben Webster or Stan Getz playing bass…they had the sense to leave that to Billy Sheehan or Jaco Pastorious. They chose instead to play their favourite instrument gloriously. I can think of no-one who played more than one instrument superbly, but can think of many who played several…badly. Bob Dylan for starters.
    An R&C tenor with RPC mouthpiece using 2.5 Plasticover baritone reeds is as good as I am going to get. Having made up my mind (again!) I shall work on that…the faults are with me, not the equipment; and I am certainly not about to deflect any skills by learning the banjo or piano accordion; being convinced that the reason for doing so would be dissatisfaction with my skills with my very favourite instrument…the tenor sax.
    Find out what you like; the easiest/best set up, and concentrate on just that.
    I feel better now!

  2. Lewis Pelham says:

    I am forced to eat my words.
    I have an old CD with the most wonderful blues solo on tenor…It exploits everything possible…brings tears to my eyes.
    Today I looked him up….it is Dan Higgins…yet again.
    Utterly fantastic.
    On youtube he appears playing gorgeous clarinet….and BeBop alto.
    He looks more like a Cost Accountant than a sax player…perhaps he would be a household name if he looked like Miles Davis…a triumph of astonishing skill over presentation!

  3. Lewis Pelham says:

    Here am I admiring his tenor solo, only to discover that his main horn is alto….Grrrr.
    Just to top it, he is Bleedin’ Gums Murphy!

  4. alan says:

    Hmmm… Lewis – good question “What am I seeking…”

    I think, quite a few things – and I do have the option to easily and quickly revert back to tenor mouthpieces – but I do need to use an alto mouthpiece, just for a few weeks, to give it a fair try… So, what am I seeking ?

    a) I want to see if I can find a modern C-Mel sound, not just a mini-tenor in C. I know that contradicts a lot I’ve said, but that’s the nature of a Gemini ! I could revert back to mini-tenor at the drop of a hat, so nothing lost, but the way forward has definitely stalled…
    b) I also want to see if the experience helps improve my alto playing. I love alto, it was my first sax, and I’ve often told that (when I’m playing well) it’s my best – and most expressive – instrument.
    c) Sad thing is – if I could ever only play one instrument for the rest of my life, it’d be alto ! Preferably my Martin Magna… 🙂 It’s the one instrument I go back to when all else turns to sh*t – a couple of weeks diligent practise and I can fly…
    d) Possibly listening to the more gentle sounds of Dave Pietro and Scott Robinson has made me realise that a tenor mouthpiece won’t get those for me. I may yet invest in a Zinner Jazz (rather than a Morgan) C-Mel mouthpiece. I think that’s enough soul-searching for now.

    ‘Course, I could use that hackneyed expression “seemed like a good idea at the time…” Very possible that, in a few weeks time I’ll be back to tenor mouthpieces, but I have to give it a go.

    And yes, isn’t that Dan Higgins just something ??? To me, he looks like the thinking womans Jeremy Clarkson… 🙂

  5. Ross Challender says:

    ‘Tis the season for mouthpiece re-evaluation!
    I’ve just spent some time on my Conn and Buescher C mels adjusting corks etc.
    and checking out my stocks of mouthpieces for something better!
    I tried my alto pieces on the Conn but, for me, they don’t work.
    The Conn likes my Runyon 8. In keeping with what others have found,
    the Rico El-Cheapo C style baffle suits the Buescher – especially after I trimmed the bumper felts to open the horn up!
    I often use my C mels in settings where they have to be in pitch and not just
    “close enough for jazz” so the horn has to be in pitch across the harmonics as well.
    I found an old box of Rico C mel reeds too!
    About 2 mils narrower than a tenor and 4 mils shorter. They do make a pitch difference in balancing the horn. They are not quite as small as the ones Steve
    Alan, if you treat yourself to the Zinner there will be many hanging on your
    Well, at least one blog comment without reference to animals, wild or domesticated!
    I could mention cricket. England should beat New Zealand tomorrow!

  6. lewis says:

    No mention of animals until you raised the subject. 🙂
    Not sure of your nationality, but cricket is rather a sore point….we invented the game, so we should be given an advantage; same with golf, rugby & that game of kicking a spherical ball.
    One small consolation, being partly Welsh, is that “we” won the Grand Slam. Not only is Wales a small country, but Rugby is played only in the bottom right hand corner. To rub it in further, 13 of the 15 were all from a small town team.
    In effect, Neath beat England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy….hats in the air.
    I had no idea that people go to so much trouble to get a sax in pitch to such an accurate degree. I find that if I place the mouthpiece to get, say, middle G smack on, I only have to hit the octave key to shew that it is not so accurate an octave higher…..on any of my horns or mouthpieces.
    Santy Runyon said that to obtain perfect intonation, the sax would require twelve, not just two, octave vents….you have made it hard for yourself in your choice of instrument…;-)

  7. ukebert says:

    Saxophones cannot play in tune. This is of considerable annoyance to me, but it’s surprising how in tune you can make them with a little practice 🙂

  8. lewis says:

    This is one of the reasons that I love them so….they have the slight inaccuracy of the human voice. Compare this to the clinical, pasteurised sound of the electronic keyboard….just no soul, as I am certain that you agree.

  9. alan says:

    Yerssss… But to return to the topic, it may well now be in shreds. Seems conclusive that an alto mouthpiece/reed combination doesn’t have quite enough ‘oomph’ to drive my Martin C-Mel adequately !

    If I keep full power on, it’s fine – but if I ease back for subtle bits, it very easily stalls – seems quite non-negotiable. Sigh… Still very much like the idea of getting a Zinner Jazz C – widest lay available (7 ?) of course.

  10. lewis says:

    I hate to point it out Alan but you knew that before you started your survey….how often have we heard you enthuse about your weapons grade Lawson 8*BB.
    We know that the C Mel can be made to assume several roles…you are one of the tenor brigade. Yes, I know that some have beautiful results with the alto piece….but it’s not in your nature….but you knew that. 🙂

  11. alan says:

    Lewis – I’d have liked to check ‘if it was in my nature’ to be Mr Softy Subtle, but seems the Martin has other ideas. There’s nowt wrong with the alto moutpiece I tried, it has (in the past) produced excellent results on Conn (both types of necks) and Buescher C’s… However, not on Martins, it seems ?

    I keep the Lawton bazooka in the tenor case these days, if anything, it overdrives a C-Mel (sadly…)

  12. Ross Challender says:

    Just for lewis – I live in Launceston,Tasmania, home town of Ricky Ponting and David Boon – both have wrecked many an English summer.
    I play the other saxes but sometimes like to drop the c mel into ensembles to
    add to the musical texture. This can be a big band sax section or a wind ensemble.
    With young guns on one hand and serious wind players on the other, I like all my
    horns as in-tune as possible.Yes,it can be time-consuming but it does maintain
    the integrity of the C mel when the overall effect is Getz-like. not goose-like!

  13. lewis says:

    There is a Launceston near me, in Cornwall…pronounced, for some inexplicable reason, Lance..un! I wish that I could say that Harold Larwood was born there 🙂
    Always an admirer of Getz; I think of his tone & phrasing rather than his intonation….co-incidentally he does some lovely goose honks in Summer Time.

  14. alan says:

    Lewis – let me explain about “Lansun” versus “Launceston – something I know even more about than saxophones – I can remember every Pasty shop in the place, almost certainly ate all of their wares. I passed my driving test in Lansun. Any Cornish Pasty shops in Tasmania, Ross ?

    Right (stay awake at the back !) – in the 1800’s, literacy was usually a case of writing things down as best they could, exactly as it was heard… As a genealogist (or geneologist…) I have copies of Census Returns from that period with the place spelt as “Lanson” or “Lansun”. Very sensible…

    Over the years (like ‘Clapham’ became ‘Clawm’..) – the place has had delusions of grandeur, and became “Lawn-cess-ton”, probably also to humour the tourists, and ‘up’ the house prices. This was then quickly reduced by the media – forever wishing to be politically correct – to “Launce-ton” (with an implied ‘s’ in the middle), but them there awkward locals still didn’t like the ‘poshness’, or maybe it was too long to remember, and will lose vowels or consonants at the drop of a hat ! And so it turned full circle and became “Lan-son” – but as we all say ‘un’ instead of ‘on’ (as in Donkeys vs Dunkeys..) it quickly became “Lan-sun”. And long may it stay so, until the three Cornish revalists agree on the original Cornish name – and then we’ll have dual-language signposts, just like the Welsh… Sigh…

    I’ve e-chatted to Ross about this before, and I reckon the reason that the Tasmania one has the posh sounding name – is because all the ‘ex-crims’ who founded Tasmania wanted to give themselves a ‘leg-up’ in society ? And why not, indeed ? Very fitting and appropriate.

    OK, back to saxophones, except to just ask Lewis – do all the old locals around your way say “Bid’furd” instead of “Bid-e-ford” ? I went to Totnes a while back, and found it had suddenly become “Tot-NESS”… With the emphasis on the NESS. Grrrr… I spent ages once, looking for ‘my’ early 1800 Evans connections – when I found one family was down in the Census as “Evins” ! Thank goodness “Tucker” is not mis-pronouncable, except for the Breton spelling “Tout-Coeur” (yes, a very small part of me is almost certainly frog…) – All Heart !!!! How very apt, it’s me, to a ‘tee’… 🙂

  15. alan says:

    I read an interesting comment about Stan Getz somewher, recenty, which implied that – when, as a lad, he practised – his Mother used to shout at him : “Stanley – play louder !!”

  16. lewis says:

    Thanks for the vernacular history Alan….very interesting.
    Yes, the locals here do indeed say Bidfurd or, more usually, Biddyfud; & a nearby village spelt Woolfardisworthy which is pronounced Woolsary.
    What always does surprise me is the variation in local accents within a five mile radius. On Tuesdays, Market day, the people from surrounding villages visit. It is as far as they ever travel judged by the differences in their speech. The differences in their accents just 10 miles apart is delightful.
    I pointed out to my wife the remark from Stan Getz’s mother. She, my wife cannot understand why I do not use an “indoors” mouthpiece…instead of those loud b*%$”s.

  17. alan says:

    I think “loud blighters” is a very lady-like comment… My compliments to Sandy for hitting the nail on the head. It is with personal sadness that I note the kids regional accents are now being very much diluted (at least in England) by Schools and TV.

    I make no apologies for detracting from the “alto mouthpieces on C-Mels” origins, the project is as dead as a Dodo – shame, but there it is… “Not suitable for purpose” is, I think, the correct modern phrase ? Certainly on my Martin, but I’ll revive it again when I get one of the Conn’s up to scratch. Sigh (of relief…)

  18. lewis says:

    I really believe that C Mel players fall into one of three camps:-
    The Original; with sweet, syrupy, rather stuffy sound.
    The Modern C mel mouthpiece (which includes alto pieces) brigade…revivalists with a more open sound.
    The (minority) Tenor mouthpiece crowd who have realised that there is quite a bit of Clarence Clemmens hidden away in their horn….if you use a hairy, open & baffled piece. OK. the intonation is not always perfect, but that’s the purpose of your lips…
    From what I have heard Alan, you fall firmly in the latter group.

  19. ukebert says:

    I’m probably in the second camp myself. And I too have frog in me, but Jersey French rather than Breton.

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