My Setup for Live Shows - Part I - Saxophones
Hi, I'm Mr Woodnote and this is my first blog for the website. I regularly get messages from people asking about my instruments and equipment which is always really nice and I thought that listing it all here in detail might be of interest to some of you. In this article I explain the saxophones I like for gigs as well as mouthpieces and accessories, for information on my loopstation and FX setup please check out the next blog here.
I have a few really great saxophones and a real passion for vintage horns from France and America. The problem with traveling with an irreplaceable instrument is that it can make the show or the tour really stressful just trying to make sure it's safe and I have had a few nightmares come true on the road myself. My Selmer has been knocked off it's stand a few times and I have damaged nice mouthpieces too, it's a really terrible feeling especially if you happen to witness it, it feels like everything goes into slow motion as you dive across the stage yelling "Nooooooooo!" in that deep slow-mo voice. Another problem is the deterioration of a lovely old saxophone, I have shaved considerable value off nice saxophones just from bringing them out on the street or at rainy festivals... so that's why I have been taking my Yamaha tenor (YTS-62) to all my festival and club gigs for the last few years.
The 62 is an awesome saxophone for a whole stack of reasons but the best one being that if you lose or damage this horn you can replace it and it will be exactly the same. The 62 model has been one of Yamaha's all time best pro horns even though they make some really epic and far more expensive saxophones. I dig their Customs models (the Z and the EX etc...) and they are really great to play but to travel with one of those is to be back in same position (at least in part) as traveling with an expensive vintage instrument. The sort of shows I do aren't really "controlled environments", festival stages and late night club gigs can be messy, the monitor engineer might be on Pluto and there can be lots of people walking on and off the stage at any point, it's often dark too and so for these reasons I reckon it's best to leave your King Super 20 at home and bring that Yamaha instead.
The saxophone stand is also worth mentioning, I think I've had every type of stand ever made and the Hercules one is the best one I've found yet. It doesn't have any screws or parts that can be removed so you can't lose any bits, it has a very low centre of gravity and folds up quickly and to a size much smaller than most other stands.
My saxophone cases are from SKB, they call them the "Contoured Pro Tenor Sax Case" and they're really good. The horn is placed perfectly in the middle of the shell for even protection, they have a couple of compartments for the crook and mouthpieces or reeds and they look pretty slick too.
I also collect mouthpieces although I will exclusively play just one for years before switching it up. I recently visited Ed Pillinger in London and spent some time talking about and testing out a whole bunch of his mouthpieces. For the year or two before meeting Ed I had actually been playing a piece made by him which was commissioned by legendary saxophonist, Craig Crofton. That mouthpiece is based on a late Guardala, the MBII (Michael Brecker II) and is made in Pillinger's trademarked "Bronzite". One of the pieces I tried while visiting Ed was a model he calls the "LL/9G" which apparently means something along the lines of "Larson-ized Link / 9* Guardala facing" and it was so responsive and big and badass that I had no choice but to buy it. This is what I'm gigging and recording with now and I have a feeling that this LL/9G and I are going to have a beautiful friendship for a long time to come.
My reeds are Rico Jazz Select (now called D'Addario) 3Hard Unfiled and they're really snappy and consistent. I like the Francois Louis ligatures and use them to record but for shows I use Rovners for their simplicity. The ability to change a reed mid-show both quickly and without the need to mess around with fiddly parts is important to me. You can also drop a Rovner and even step on a rovner and the ligature will be fine while breaking an expensive and delicate ligature at the show might actually render you silent for the rest of the night.
The Akai EWI (Electric Wind Instrument) is another instrument I get a lot of questions about. The EWI is just a synthesizer but controlled by my breath and I can articulate in a similar way to playing a saxophone. The keys are in a generic wind instrument layout and you can program the EWI to have similar fingerings to a saxophone, clarinet, flute, oboe or you can totally customise they keys any way you like. The simulated saxophone sounds on the EWI are pretty terrible and I think this is why I had an aversion to them for a long time and it was only when I realised I could play a full 8 octaves of other sorts of sounds that I knew I needed one. I make my basslines and trippy sounds with the EWI and I have been able to create unique patches by running the it through my FX processor. There are a few other wind synthesizers out there but the EWI is probably the best one in my opinion.
In the next blog I will be discussing the rest of my equipment, the loopstations and FX processors, you can check that out here.
If you have any questions about my setup or other mouthpieces or saxophones or anything else please feel free to get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org