Antigua Winds
AW Reeds
Results 1 to 14 of 14
  1. #1

    Default Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Hi all
    I've been searching around this site for a few weeks, and have found tons of great info, so I thought Id run something by you guys...
    Ive only been playing for about a month (alto) and Ive been doing well, but I have some trouble breathing during practice sessions, and especially after Im done. Now, I know part of that is just that I need to keep practicing to strengthen my lungs a bit and get them used to blowing in this way (I do have some breath control. I used to play the flute, and was a singer), but I also have asthma and my overall lung function isnt good (20 years of smoking). Im playing on a rental Hunter right now which is not particularly good, but it serves it's purpose at the moment. Im saving up to buy a horn of my own and during my search for the right one, I mentioned to my father (who used to play tenor) that I am looking for the most free-blowing horn I can find, to ease my breathing issues a bit. Obviously, There is no magical horn that will breathe for me, so I know i still need to get my lungs as strong as they can be, but he made an interesting comment, and I was wondering if anyone here could either confirm his thoughts, or confirm my thought that he is wrong...He said, very definitively, that a free-blowing horn will make no difference to me at all. That "free-blowing" vs "stuffy" vs "average" would only be apparent to a professional, but that a beginner would feel no difference whatsoever.

    That sounded strange to me. Infact, that sounded completely backward to me. I would have thought that a pro would be so well trained that they could play on anything that felt right to them, while a beginner could find a much easier time learning on a sax that allowed air to move freely. Especially a beginner who has mild trouble breathing without a horn in their mouth. (I should mention that my breathing problems are not bad enough to prevent me from playing well, or properly, down the road when i improve my technique. It just makes something that is difficult for a lot of people to get good at a little more difficult for me. not a tragety - just extra frustrating)

    So, should I really not be looking specifically for a model that is made to be particularly free-blowing? Would I really not feel the difference? Just seems so strange, if it is true. I was thinking he's either screwing with me, or trying to keep me from overspending on a model that is supposed to be very free blowing, but is also beyond what i need right now (been looking at the Yani 901). Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member Saxland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Southern Canada
    Posts
    1,988

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Have you tried different mouthpieces? What mouthpiece and strength reed are you playing on? Have you had a tech look over your horn to see if there are leaks? Leaks can make the player work harder, and if it crosses a threshold for you, it can make all the difference. A mouthpiece that is not faced properly can make the player work extra hard as well.


    The most free blowing alto sax I have ever played on is a Keilwerth Series 1. It rewards the player for holding off and shaping the tone. Projection is not a problem.
    http://www.smallsjazzclub.com
    CANADA'S National Jazz Radio Station is www.Jazz.FM

  3. #3

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Ive tried different versions on the Rico Graftonite mouthpieces (A5, B3, B5, B7, and C5). I know theyre not the best, but i wanted to try out a few different facings on a cheaper type before i buy a better one. In the Graftonite, i settled on the B5. Im pretty comfortable on it. My embochure is shaping up well with it. Reeds- Im switching between Vandoren ZZ #2 and Rico plasticovers #2. Not sure which ones I like better yet, but with either type of reed on the B5 mouthpiece, I can maintain a great sound for as long as i can breathe properly.

  4. #4
    Distinguished SOTW Member Saxland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Southern Canada
    Posts
    1,988

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    If you are near a music store try out other mouthpieces, to see the differences. Do you reach a point in your playing where your heart is pounding from lack of air?
    http://www.smallsjazzclub.com
    CANADA'S National Jazz Radio Station is www.Jazz.FM

  5. #5

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    I have COPD, and started playing again 3 years ago after a 30 year layoff. I've found that "free-blowing" does make a difference, but it's a lot more a function of the mouthpiece-reed combination than the horn (assuming the horn is free of leaks).

  6. #6

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Being asthmatic, and a former....smoker myself, when I first got a sax 10 years ago, a tenor, I could play 4 or 5 quarternotes before running out of breath. I know playing has helped my lung function considerably. As far as horns go, I've only played 50 - 90 year old horns built in Elkhart, but for one - a Dolnet alto that I find not very free-blowing when I use some mouthpieces, but relatively easy when I use a metal Dukoff 8M, and man is it loud, but its still not as easy blowing as when I use a Martin Searchlight alto with the Dukoff.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Saxland- I do very often get to the end of my breath and my heart starts pounding really hard, where i have to really take a minute to catch my breath and let it slow down before i can keep playing. If it happens more than a couple of times in a row, then i put it down for about a half an hour and come back to it later on. Generally though, its just a shortness of breath. I end up feeling like i just ran up some stairs. Its really not usually too bad. On most days, I can get through 30-40 of solid practicing (minus a few seconds here and there to catch my breath) before i have to actually walk away from it for a while. And I do that 30-40 minutes twice a day. So I dont think Im in terrible shape with it. I just assumed that a horn that is catagorically free-blowing could give a touch of relief to the situation, and would make it easier to practice enough to train my lungs to work harder and more effectively. (Id like to be able to put in a bare minimum of 1 hour at a time, without having to stop to catch my breath). It seems so strange that my dad would say that was false...but he is certainly more experienced than i am...but, he also hasnt played in a long time.

    35TangoTango - Can I ask what type of horn you play? And what mouthpiece you found easy enough? I know what works will vary from one person to another, but id love to have a place to start. I did have a bunch of leaks repaired right after i rented it, and that did help a lot!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    soreliprick - Thats intersting. Its good to hear that lung function does improve with practice. Ill look into the Dukoff. So, does bigger facing generally mean easier to play? (Is that a stupid question?)

  9. #9
    Distinguished SOTW Member
    Forum Contributor 2013
    Sigmund451's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    8,404

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Here is my 2 cents:

    Poorly executed mouthpieces generally waste energy. I did not say they take more or less energy because that is a function of design. You do not ever want to waste air.

    Next: You are a new player. I would suggest that unless you are in terrible condition that you avoid extremely free blowing pieces. Most players that are not accomplished sound terrible on them. They are hard to control and it will get in the way of your learning.

    My advice: Do not buy a mouthpiece with a large tip. In fact choose a small tip mouthpiece that is good quality. Until you have reached a level of significant control over your instrument use a tonally balanced piece with a medium baffle and a medium chamber. Use tip size and reed strength to address how much air you can put in the horn. If you find you progress and have more air (very likely) you can go up in reed strength. Eventually, you may go up in tip size, maybe not. The important thing is to get a setup where you can focus on learning.

    PS keep your horn in good adjustment too. Blowing through leaks will strain you.
    Phil-Tone Custom Woodwinds
    Custom Mouthpiece Design

    www.Phil-Tone.com


  10. #10

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Thank you for those 2 cents! Even though it was just adjusted last week, i just blew some long(ish) tones, and i think i have another small leak in the B key. Ill take it back for a readjustment and see what happens.

    Interesting about free blowing horns being harder to control. Explained like that, i suppose it does make some sense. So even though it would be easier, free blowing isnt as good for long-term technique. I dont think i can physically play anything too stuffy, but on something pretty close to "average", I could build more strength, control, and better tone, and then later on, go for something more free blowing if i still need it at that point. Hmmm. I can get on board with that. In the meantime, I may get a better mouthpiece but in roughly the same size as Im using now (I believe the graftonite B5 is .080mm tip opening).

    I'll just keep practicing, and see where it takes me. I am relieved to know that I wasnt just inventing ideas in my head when i figured that my lung function could improve from playing. Thats a big plus to know that it could actually work! Maybe none of this breathing stuff will even be an issue for me in the future if i play enough. Thanks to all of you!

  11. #11
    Distinguished SOTW Member
    Forum Contributor 2013
    Sigmund451's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    8,404

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Sorry, its late. I was more referring to free blowing mouthpieces. Most any horn in good regulation should be fine for you. There may be a few exceptions such as smaller bore horns. On the whole you should be fine with most horns in good regulation.
    Phil-Tone Custom Woodwinds
    Custom Mouthpiece Design

    www.Phil-Tone.com


  12. #12

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    The most important thing:

    Get a teacher!

    Then:
    Learn proper breath support without instrument. I sometimes wonder how many people "breath" with their shoulders.

    Try another horn in a shop and see if there is a difference regarding resistance.

    If you are having problems with airsupport start with a mpc around 0.071- 0.076". Look for something you feel comfortabel with. Get help by a professional player to find the right set-up for you.
    A very free blowing mpc could be difficult too, because it takes much more air, than you are used to.

    Have your lungs and their tidal volume been checked?
    Has your heart been checked?

    Giving you advice without having you in front of us or the possibility to check the horn for ourselves is difficult, therefore get help from a local saxteacher.

  13. #13
    Forum Contributor 2014
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Posts
    511

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Are you using your diaphragm for breath support? If you are using only your lungs (as it seems), you will run out of air on longish phrases, become light-headed, have rapid heart beat, etc., and have a hard time recovering for the next phrase. I agree with florian--you need at least several sessions with an instructor to get the basics of breath support, posture, embouchure, etc. I think that when you begin breathing farther down (you should feel your belly fill and expand when you inhale, and feel a steady push from below when you exhale), this problem will go away and the free-blowing thing will become a non-issue until you become more experienced (a la your father's comment).

    The usual beginner's alto mouthpiece is the trusty Selmer C*. It's a good, solid choice and will stand you in good stead for many years.

    I've been asthmatic all my life. I noticed a marked decrease in asthmatic episodes after about a year of playing the sax (I started at 50). So besides the aesthetic joy, the sax has been a major health benefit for me. I'm guessing the same will happen for you. Good luck.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Beginner with respiratory problems - "free-blowing" horn?

    Florian- I know you are right, that a proper teacher is usually the way to go, but I currently play drums, guitar, a little piano, and a little flute, and the only one I had a teacher for was the flute. I learn much more quickly when I am self taught. Standard methods of teaching dont work for me. I know learning the baisics on your own can be detrimental, thats why Ive been taking things having to do with the basics to my dad. He had no problem teaching me proper embrochure, posture, fingerings, ect...But beyond that, If im going to learn anything else, I really have to just practice as much as I can. Having an instructor tell me exactly what to do just frustrates me. (but I do take it to my dad a couple times a week, when I feel ready to do so, to make sure Im not learning any bad habits on my own). Its a balence I found, and It does work for me. But if I get stuck, then I could give in and try a teacher.
    My lungs and heart have been checked and Im always in more than good enough shape to be able to play. I just have to be aware of when I neeed to take a break, (and then i have to put the horn down a walk away for a bit...thats the hard part)

    Fred- Ive been a singer from the time I was very young, so i do use my diaphragm pretty naturally - but after reading your post, Im really focusing on what Im doing, and I think with the sax, Im inhailing from the diaphragm, and then im pushing out hard from my lungs. Maybe Im thinking about how hard it is to blow air through it and just pushing harder than I need to. I will focus more on pushing out from the diaphragm. It certainly makes sense that that could be a huge part of my problem. Fortunately, as long as I am mindful of it, that should be something I can get into the habit of doing comfortably. I will also look into the Selmer C*.

    I love this forum! Everyone here is so helpful. Thanks so much!!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •