A Sound You Can Hear: Tom Walsh Explains the Difference Between Jazz and Classical Saxophone Setups

by VandorenTV

Date Posted: August 31, 2017

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A Sound You Can Hear: Tom Walsh Explains the Difference Between Jazz and Classical Saxophone Setups

Hi, I'm Tom Walsh and I am Professor of Saxophone at Indiana University. I'm visiting the Vandoren Chicago Studio and I've got with me both my alto saxophone setups here. My jazz setup which is the V16 A6, the M|O ligature, and the V16 #2.5 reeds. My classical setup which is the AL3 with the leather ligature and blue box #3.5 reeds.

I love this jazz setup: I've been playing this for about 10 years now. The A6 gives me a real great zing in the sound which I love for lead alto playing as well as for small group playing. The M|O ligature I've been playing for a few years now. I've gone through a lot of ligatures: the M|O is the one that gives me the kind of clarity I want; there's a little extra something in the sound. The V16 reeds give me a nice balance between a lot of body in the sound but also a little bit of buzz. I want some sizzle, a little bit of edge in the sound, but I don't want it to be too thin. So that's why I use the V16 reeds for jazz.

(1:34) *saxophone playing*

My classical setup, I've been playing also for maybe 10 years. The reason I chose the AL3 is that the response in the low register was superior to any mouthpiece that I've tried. It has such a warm, almost buttery tone: very smooth, gives me warmth and clarity that I want out of my classical sound. The blue box #3.5 reeds I've been playing for 20 years now. A lot of people use #3 reeds, I've found for myself, to get the kind of sound I want, as a classical player, (especially switching over from jazz to classical) I wanted to have a clear difference in my sound and he blue box 3.5 gives me a little more resistance so I can have a very clear sound when I'm playing classically. The leather ligature I like because it helps to keep that warmth in the sound that I want when I'm playing classical saxophone.

(3:13) *saxophone playing*

I'd like to demonstrate the difference between these two sounds. I think it's really important that you choose equipment that's going to work with the style of music you're playing. For classical playing, using the AL3 and the blue box #3.5 reeds, leather ligature, I can get a very warm sound and a clear tone that's going to work great in classical playing.

(4:38) *saxophone playing classical excerpt*

For jazz playing, I want to use a jazz setup. That's why I've got the V16 A6 mouthpiece with the V16 reed. For this, I want a little more buzz in the sound, I want more projection, more energy in the sound. That sounds like this:

(5:16) *saxophone playing same excerpt with jazz setup*

If you're going to be playing in multiple styles of music, choose the right tools for the job.

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