San Diego Saxophone Lessons

San Diego Saxophone Lessons
presented in conjunction with

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mouthpiece review: 10mFan Merlot tenor #8

Mark Sepinuck (a.k.a. 10mFan) recently sent me a few of his new mouthpieces to review. This is my first mouthpiece review for the blog, and it was a treat to get to try the new 10mFan pieces I'd been hearing so much about.

Mark is known as one of the biggest and most reputable vintage mouthpiece dealers around. He knows his pieces and is really passionate about the saxophone and finding the right setup for every player. The 10mFan pieces come in three different designs to match different playing styles. The Merlot is the darkest and warmest of the three mouthpieces (the brighter/more projecting pieces are the Robusto and The Boss).

The Merlot is made from German bar-stock hard rubber and the facing/finishing work is done by mouthpiece maker Eric Falcon. His facing work is impeccable (see the video) and the rails and internals all looked perfectly symmetrical to my eye. The main thing I can say about this piece is that it blows very efficiently and makes it quite easy to shape your own sound. The Merlot also has very respectable intonation - as good or better than any other mouthpiece I've tried.

[The Merlot up-close]

[Play-test of the Merlot]

I tried the #8 tip opening, which measures .110 thousandths of an inch. Mark keeps it simple with the tip openings; a #7 is a .100 and they go up or down by increments of .005 (7* is a .105, 9 is a .120, etc). This piece has a number of interesting design features which I found unique in a rubber piece. It combines a very thin tip-rail with a wider, more traditional profile on the side-rails. This seems to get a really quick response but maintains tons of warmth and even some spread if you want it (like the best vintage pieces). You can also get a focused sound depending on how you blow. The thin tip did concern me a little bit for nicks and dings; don't drop this piece! The Merlot has a fairly low flat-baffle which drops down to a medium large chamber. Most rubber pieces in this style use a roll-over baffle, however the flat-baffle design works incredibly well. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more mouthpiece reviews in April!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Practicing chords + scales

As saxophonists, we need to find ways to associate our scales with the corresponding chord. For pianists and guitarists, this is fairly simple as they can see where all the notes are laid out and they have the ability to play multiple notes at one time. For those of us who play single-line instruments, it can take a while to get the sound and feel of each chord associated with the scale.

Check out the video lesson here:

This is a simple way I practice all of my scales and chords together:

Get the 2-page PDF of this exercise here

I'm combining the 9th chord with the entire scale (also played to the 9th) in one exercise. You should eventually be able to play the whole line straight through in one breath. This helps to get the chord and the scale to reside in the same part of your brain. With time and diligent practice, it will be available to you in-the-moment (like when playing a solo over changes).

It's important to get these under your fingers and in your ear. Once you become comfortable with the fingering, try playing these with a backing-track such as one of the ones available from Aebersold or Jerry Bergonzi. It is a huge benefit to hear the notes in context with a rhythm section. Another good option is to strike the chord on piano with the sustain pedal, and then play the exercise while the chord is ringing.

Happy practicing!