So, I play Tenor Sax in band in school, and i use a Strength 3 VanDoren reeds. Recently, i had the opportunity to bring home an alto thats been in our family for a while, and it's really nice. I tested it out with the reeds that were in the box, which were Rico, strength 2. It sounded great, even with the Ricos, so i figured, if i get some strength 3 VanDorens, this will sound even better! well, I don't know if its just a box of bad reeds (most of them have good hearts, so i dont think they'd be bad), but for the life of me i CANT wear them in and its very frustrating. I struggle to make a good note come out, it always sounds too airy. If i push down part of the reed with my thumb i can get a good sound, but otherwise its completely airy and very hard to make a sound.

But, my band teacher was talking about how on smaller instruments you should use stronger reeds. I use 3s on my tenor, so 3s on an alto should be easy. But as i said, i struggle to get a good sound. Is this true? I think getting 2s or 2.5 might be a good idea. The problem with that is, i dont have a lot of money, and the box of reeds my parents bought me was like 25 bucks, and i dont want to tell them that they're no good, because they are specifically what i asked for.

Anyway, UGers, could you point me in the right direction of strengths and brands (cheaper, but still great sound), to look for? Thanks in advance.

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It's definitely the size. Alto needs a much tighter embouchure compared to tenor. Just try Rico 2.5's, there isn't really anything else you can do other than trying to shave down the reeds you have right now.
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for cheaper reeds i might look into Rico Royals 2 or 2 and a half, then. Maybe others, idk. But i'm glad to know its the size

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i would stick with vandoren cause they really are nicer, but maybe jump down to 2.5? i dont know, the alto should be easier to play then the tenor in terms of getting notes out, ive played both
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It's probably a problem with your embouchure. You're used to playing 3's on the tenor, which needs a wider, and less pressurised embouchure, when you used the 2's on the alto, it's almost like playing 3's on a tenor because the mouthpiece is smaller and harder to blow into. If you got 2.5 or 2's for the alto, you'd be fine.

On a similar note..think of an oboe player, they have INSANLEY small holes for the air to go through, and it's hard for a beginning oboe player to even make a sound, whereas it's easy for an alto/tenor/bass clarinet player to make a sound on their first try. It's a combination of reed choice and you.
You just gotta get used to it really. I play Vandoren 4s on my alto. They sound great. But, yeah, you just gotta work your way up to it.
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Until you can get a box of lower strength reeds, try soaking the ones you have in water for a little while to soften them up more.
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I play a 2 on Alto, and a 3 on Tenor. It's because of the mouthpiece size. You may eventually be able to work your way up to a 3, but I recommend using 2's.
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I would go to a lower number until you get really used to it then move up. Im currently trying a 5 on my tenor. yay for special orders
What brand vandorens are you using?

I find that the blue box vandorens suck pretty majorly, I never liked the blue box vandys. I've also tried the javas as well as the ZZ and those weren't to my taste either. Right now I'm really happy with v16 3 1/2s. The alto may also be leaky, making notes harder to play. The mouthpiece is also a very crucial piece to the response and ease of play as well as tone.

Playing an alto is just as conplex and contains just as many nuiances as tenors.

What kind of sax is the alto? Cheaper lower end brands will definately not play as well as high up models, and no matter what the saxophone, get it taken into a shop before you blame anything else. If this sax has been sitting around for a while, chances are that it's been taken out of adjustment. So just take it to your favorite sax tech, and have them take a look at it.

Anyways, there are a lot of things that could hinder you alto sax playing, we just gotta slowly eliminate each potential problem.

Btw if your music store price matches against online stores. Print out a page off of musicians friend for a box of reeds. They are usually around 20 bucks for ten alto reeds, and take that print out to the store, and they will match that price and you'll get the box a lot cheaper that way. It's what I do.
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for cheaper reeds i might look into Rico Royals 2 or 2 and a half, then. Maybe others, idk. But i'm glad to know its the size


Rico's SUCK. They have very thin and ugly tone, wear out quickly, and are designed for to be easy to play for noobs. A VanDoren 3 thickness is about as thick as a 3.5 Rico, so it will take longer to break in, but you will have a much fuller tone and they last much longer. You should not go cheap with reeds; there's a reason better reeds cost more.

EDIT: if you do get Vandorens V16 are best.

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