Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things

**Updated December 11th 2015**

It's 2015, and it has never been a better time to be a saxophonist.  There are so many good tools and accessories that there is little to keep an aspiring musician from reaching whatever heights they desire.  Below are some of my favorites.

Neckstrap -

I have been using a Just Joe's Sax Gel Strap for a couple years, and it is awesome!  The strap looks great, disappears well, hold its adjustment, and is quite comfortable.  The materials seem every bit as good as claimed, and the strap is holding up very well; it could still almost pass for new!  I forget what size I have, but I can use the same strap on alto, tenor, and bari, though I still prefer a harness for bari.

I also really like Brancher's neckstraps.


The Cannonball Dragon Swab is one of the best designs I have seen.


With the right setup, Legere Signature Series reeds eliminate my need for cane.  I have always dreamed of being able to perform a recital on synthetic, and now I can.  Everything is better.  The tone has greater clarity, faster response and articulation, and the intonation is more stable.  Right now, my favorite mouthpiece to use with these is a custom faced modern Larry Teal.

Legere's Inspiration mouthpiece has a lot of potential as a classical mouthpiece.  I've only played on or seen one, but it is well-made and has good response, tone, and intonation.  For me, it tends to get a bit too buzzy in the lower register, but your results may vary.

The PlayNick LM1 is another mouthpiece with a lot of potential and is designed to work well with Legere reeds.  The example I have is well made and quite a bit darker than the Legere Inspiration.  It also has good response, tone, and intonation.  The tone is very well-balanced in all registers.

Ligature -

Wonderful new design!  I have always been a fan of the string ligature, and this one is fantastic!  It is the best sounding ligature in my collection, and the sound can be modified by adjusting the side bars.

I am no longer so enamored with this ligature.  Yes, it can sound really good with some of my mouthpieces but not all of them.  I do tend to like it with my Larry Teal and Beechler, but there is a major problem, one that plagues many minimal contact ligatures especially with Legere reeds.  You see, Legere reeds have much less friction against the mouthpiece than cane.  This means they slide around easily and really rely on a ligature to hold them in place.  The Silverstien can hold them in place... until I need to adjust my mouthpiece for intonation.  Then, the whole setup slides.  This makes quick pitch adjustments on the fly in a performance impossible, and therefore, I cannot use this ligature in performance.  I have even tried sticking a thick BG mouthpiece patch to the top of the mouthpiece where the ligature's two primary contacts are.  This gives them something better to hold onto, but it is not enough.  I can never seem to get the ligature tight enough to keep the reed secure, and I've even tightened the top screw with pliers.  I still think there is a lot of potential in this design, but more refinement is needed.  By the way, contrary to the claims of the makers, the string material in my ligature has indeed stretched over time.  The problems I have described have been getting worse.  

Tuning Drones -

Steve Colley's Tuneup Bootcamp System has helped me refine my my ability to hear fine intonation and play in tune like nothing else.  Every musician should use this daily!

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