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Author Topic: Tenor sax mouthpiece modified for alto clarinet – It changed my life!  (Read 763 times)

Offline windydankoff

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I have a Vito alto cl. that I play for jazz and improv. I have been almost happy with it, always wishing for a more clarinet-like tone throughout the range. I heard a modified tenor sax mouthpiece on an alto clarinet demonstrated by Eugene Kirton at https://www.youtube.com/@eugenekirton6548  It's also discussed at https://www.woodwindforum.com/forum/index.php?threads/tenor-sax-mouthpiece-on-alto-clarinet.26537/

I have a good-playing no-name plastic tenor MP that a repair client gave me. It had a typical cylindrical end that fit into the alto cl. socket after adapting with tape and grease. It sounded great, but flat because it was too long. So I mounted it on my lathe (using a wooden mandrel cut to the dimensions of the sax cork). I cut the MP shank about 5mm shorter until I had good tuning. Then I cut the cork groove and corked it as normal for the alto cl.

My top A, Bb and trills were very flat. I used epoxy putty to coat the top inside of the neck for about 1 cm. of length. I did that to roughly match the neck bore (18mm) to the exit bore of the modified MP (about 17mm). I used a slow-setting putty plumbing repair putty, and played with the amount and taper until it corrected the throat tones accurately.  (My first experiment to locate the sensitive area by using a pair of magnets (one inside/one outside) to restrict the bore in different locations.)

The horn now plays exceptionally well. It sounds, ironically, more clarinet-like but it feels more like blowing a sax - easier! It's expressive and free-blowing. My Vito alto now has more of the character of a bass clarinet. It sounds similar to the Kirton videos. I use a Fibracell 1.5 tenor sax reed. Think about that - It has the same range as a tenor sax, so why shouldn't it have the same length of reed?

To my amazement, the intonation is BETTER than my alto cl. mouthpieces, two vintage Vito France and a J&D Hite. It is the only MP I have that lets me start and articulate the low and mid clarion notes. The low altissimo is delicate, but the intonation is just as good.

At first I could only play loud, but I quickly learned to play a wide dynamic range. To maintain the pitch when going soft to loud, I had to find a specific neck pullout and then adjust myself from there.

Conclusion:  I will never go back to a conventional MP!  And a plastic beginner tenor MP works that well (at least this one). BTW, it will still fit a tenor sax, just looks ridiculous. I'm having fun doing my Rubank exercises on this alto. It's less fatiguing to my chops, and easy on the ears. It also keeps me in practice for the bass cl. It plays a wicked blues.

UPDATE:  With the current version of a similar MP, I have removed the epoxy from the neck bore - thankfully, there is no need for it in the version I'm developing now.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2024, 09:43:38 AM by windydankoff »
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Tenor sax mouthpiece modified for alto clarinet – It changed my life!
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2024, 06:20:40 PM »
That's awesome, Windy.  What a great bit of experimentation and fine calibration you always do.  I doff my hat to you for your pioneering sensibilities and fearlessness.  I never cease to be amazed by the hurdles you clear. 
Very nice.
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Offline philpedler

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Re: Tenor sax mouthpiece modified for alto clarinet – It changed my life!
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2024, 03:53:50 PM »
Way to go, Windy!
Congratulations!
Phil

Offline windydankoff

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I get peculiar thrills by making things do what they were not intended to do, and getting a superior result. As a kid, I did that in the amateur radio hobby. I made my living doing some of that in the early years of off-grid solar power and solar water pumping.

Possibilities for other clarinets? No, luck has its limits. Exploring this for soprano or Bass clarinet, I saw that the bore of the alto sax or bari sax MP (respectively) are FAR from appropriate. The bore match for tenor sax MP to alto clar. is a unique and lucky coincidence.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2024, 08:34:37 AM by windydankoff »
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Offline modernicus

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Very impressive adaptation - I totally get your philosophy 8)
If you ain't got 'em, that's why you need 'em...

Offline windydankoff

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My first attempt (Proto 1: described above) used a cheap old student piece that has a big round smooth chamber (vintage classical).

My Proto 2 involved a Rico Graftonite C5 tenor MP that a friend gave me. For sax, it is a very good piece with a medium bright tone. Result - strangely bright with a chaotic spray of harmonics. Intonation was good however, and that gives me further encouragement. For Proto 3, I will return to the round classic chamber.

Two weeks later:  The more I play, the more I love Proto 1. It sounds like dark chocolate, smooth over the break with a gutsy transition a bit like a baritone sax, then good up to altissimo G#. Articulation problems show up on low clarion requiring some jaw work, but that seems chronic to the horn (just like a bass cl. with single register vent). For legato passages it's fine, but I'll try to improve it.

Photos:
1. Proto 2 (Graftonite) on the lathe, first shortened, now cutting the cork groove.
2. Proto 1 finished

« Last Edit: April 12, 2024, 07:06:37 PM by windydankoff »
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Offline Windsong

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"sounds like dark chocolate, smooth over the break with a gutsy transition a bit like a baritone sax"

Wow, man!  That's the stuff!
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Offline windydankoff

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My goal turned to producing more of these modified MPs based on Prototype 1, with its classical rounded chamber. I found a source for this acrylic MP. I developed a reamer to enlarge the upper bore, improving the clarion to sound more clarinet-like. I have now produced a series of 8 prototypes with 3 playing perfectly. The purpose was to "tune the tool" to tune the bore, and also to practice hand-finishing the facing for a better reed seal. All the while, I'm learning the effects of these variables.

I also make a short brass insert for the neck that extends the reduced exit bore down into the neck. It improves the throat tones and (surprise) the altissimo!  ... By lining up those upper harmonics, it improves the entire instrument. That's the magic that fulfills me.

I had to give it the only possible name:  BIGmouth piece

If you wish to try one, beware:  It will ONLY work well with a "large bore" alto clarinet measuring 18mm ID at the neck (like my Vito). If a US dime will drop through the neck, it's 18. If the dime is refused, the bore is too small (like my Bundy open-hole at 17mm).  –– I NEED BORE DATA so if you measure your Brand X, I'll appreciate if you send me your measurement or dime-result.

One of our illustrious members is the first to receive one (for his Pedler alto). He sent me his initial reaction:
" I LOVE THIS MOUTHPIECE setup!  ... You've taken a rather boring horn and given it a sonorous, gutsy personality.  The alto has never been regarded as anything but a filler horn, and now it can take center stage.  ...  Frankly, it's a whole new instrument--and a better one, at that. "  – Windsong

If you are interested, please read the attached pdf.

Thanks to ClarinetPages for all your support over the past 8 years!
« Last Edit: April 13, 2024, 03:19:48 PM by windydankoff »
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Offline Windsong

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Windy--what you have done to provide for fuller, and quite frankly-better sound and projection without sacrificing intonation is extremely clever.  This is a really fun instrument with brand new relevance.

I am excited to see how my technique improves and expands, as a result of being exposed to this hidden 'realm' you've discovered.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2024, 07:47:12 PM by Windsong »
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