IS YOUR CHILD ‘SET-UP’ FOR SUCCESS!
The reed is the most integral piece of equipment for your saxophone and will have the greatest effect on the quality of sound and response of the instrument. Proper care and maintenance of the reed is essential to ensure that you are getting the best out of your saxophone. The reed should be removed from the mouthpiece after every playing and should be kept flat and dry. The best solution for this is a quality reed case such as the Daddario reed case or other available product.
As a beginner, you will need a reed that will provide a quality sound and response yet will not be too expensive, as any reed that is cracked or chipped should be disposed of.
At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we strongly recommend the Rico Royal reeds for this level. Strength 2 is the ideal reed to start on and once the student begins to play low C and notes above high C they should progress to 2.5 reeds.
Once a student has been playing for a number of years and has completed the first series of AMEB exams (up to Grade 4) we recommend students progress to a higher quality reed which will enable them to produce a warmer richer tone and achieve a faster response. We suggest D’addario Reserve reeds. Vandoren blue box reeds are also a good alternative for this level.
Jazz reeds such as D’addario Jazz Select, Plasticover, Vandoren Java and Vandoren V16 should be reserved for advanced players performing with jazz style mouthpieces. These reeds used on a classical or traditional mouthpieces will create a thin buzzy sound that will not be pleasing or appropriate for AMEB examinations or school bands.
The mouthpiece is an integral piece of equipment that will greatly effect the playability of the instrument. A quality mouthpiece will not only improve the tone of a student but will also ensure that the saxophone is reacting correctly to the use of air. A poor-quality mouthpiece will make the production of an even tone almost impossible for the student, leading to students being dissatisfied and at risk of discontinuing.
At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we recommend all beginner students use a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece, no matter what brand of saxophone they are using. The Yamaha 4C is a plastic machine-made mouthpiece of high quality and good design. It enables a strong even tone with great response for clear and light articulation. This mouthpiece is ideal for students in the first series of AMEB examinations (up to grade 4).
Once the student has been playing a few years and has developed a stable and correct embouchure a mouthpiece upgrade is recommended.
To achieve the quality of sound, response of articulation and flexibility of tone colour expected for AMEB grade 5 and above, and for the budding student, A handcrafted ebonite mouthpiece is highly recommended. There is a huge range of these mouthpieces available and the idea of upgrading the mouthpiece can be a daunting one. At this stage of development we at the Saxophone Academy Sydney recommend a traditional/classical style mouthpiece. Even if the student is interested in jazz. These mouthpieces are much easier to control and will allow the student the appropriate sound and consistency expected for any school ensemble, be it concert band or big band.
The two mouthpiece brands we recommend at the Saxophone Academy Sydney are Selmer and Vandoren. These two brands (both French) have been the industry standard in this style of mouthpiece since the early 20th Century. They come in a variety of styles and designs and therefore guidance from your tutor or a Saxophone Academy Sydney staff member is recommend at this stage. Popular options in this category are
Vandoren V5 range (A15, A20, A27, A28)
The french standard. This mouthpiece enables for great tonal flexibility while still maintaining evenness of tone and great response
Vandoren Optimum range (AL3, AL4, AL5)
A darker tonal concept than the V5 mouthpiece but with less tonal flexibility. Incredible ease of playing.
Selmer S80 range (C*, C**, D)
The standard mouthpiece upgrade in Australia since the 1980s. Great tonal variation and sound emission, easy articulation
Selmer S90 range (170, 180, 190)
Very similar to the S80 range but with a slightly brighter and clearer tone.
A mouthpiece that has become very popular over the past few years is the Selmer Concept mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is a laser made ebonite mouthpiece and has become very popular amongst professionals. We at the Saxophone Academy Sydney believe this mouthpiece is excellent for the professional player, but requires a great level of technique and flexibility to achieve great results from, therefore we do not recommend it for students.
If a student is considering a jazz mouthpiece, they should be aware that they require a great deal of control and flexibility and should be practiced on daily to achieve good results. They are also not appropriate for AMEB examinations as they produce a different tonal concept. Students in jazz bands etc at school are encouraged to consult their tutor if a jazz mouthpiece is appropriate.
For a student to flourish with music making, enjoy the art-form and to excel at their instrument, the saxophone needs to be easy to play. A quality instrument in good working order will ensure ease of playability and lead to a far more enjoyable experience for all. It will also develop confidence and satisfaction within the student, encouraging them to persist with saxophone playing.
At the very beginning stages, investment in a quality student model saxophone is strongly recommended. At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we only recommend Yamaha student model saxophones. A second hand YAS275 or new YAS280 or YAS26 are all excellent models that will produce a great sound, have an even response and accurate intonation. The Yamaha is a tried and tested brand that is made from quality materials and with an excellent design. Another brand that has some reputation are Jupiter saxophones. These saxophones are cheaper and use a lower grade brass that is much easier to ding and bend, however the design is very good and the instrument will be reliable for the student.
Sometimes the financial outlay of a new or second-hand instrument is to great, in this case rental of a Yamaha saxophone is recommended. (This is available through the Saxophone Academy Sydney). In saying that, one of the greatest encouragements a student can receive is owning their own saxophone.
Instruments of unknown brands purchased on ebay should be avoided at all costs, they are the best way to discourage a student from practicing.
Once the student has been playing for 5yrs or achieved 5th Grade AMEB examination (whichever comes first), the student will be ready for a saxophone upgrade. There are many reasons for this. The beginner instruments are made of a very thin brass that results in a lightweight instrument ideal for smaller students, this thinner brass does not have the resonance and tonal complexity required for an advancing student. The keywork on student models is smaller and closer to the body of the instrument, ideal for small hands, but as the student grows these keys become more challenging to reach. The bore (width of the tube) on student model saxophone is smaller. This means that the student instrument requires less air, but will have a smaller sound with less projection. Finally, student instruments have less adjustable screws and mechanisms, this reduces weight and cost, however the instrument is harder to finely regulate and requires bending to make adjustments.
Upgrade options at this stage are the intermediate and semi-professional instruments. At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we recommend sticking to the 3 most reputable and reliable brands: Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Selmer Paris.
Their intermediate/semi-professional models are:
YAS62 – The Australian standard for this level of upgrade. Excellent playability, tonal flexibility and secure intonation
YAS480 – this instrument uses the same keywork as the student model but with the body of the YAS62
AW-01 (A901) – A fantastic saxophone becoming one of the most popular upgrade saxophones. The highest quality brass available with excellent sturdy key-work. A more complex sound than the Yamaha. A favourite of mine.
AW-02 (A902) – The same as a AW-01 but made of bronze rather than brass, this produces a more mellow tone.
Seles Axos – Selmer saxophones have been the industry standard for professionals since the turn of the century. Selmer in fact bought the original tools and machinery from Adolphe Sax. They have recently released their first ever ‘Intermediate’ model, The Seles Axos. A quality instrument with an excellent tone. In my opinion these instruments are expensive compared to the other options listed above and do not necessarily offer any additional quality or character. They are a good option for those particularly enthused with tradition.