Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saxophone with Delay, Reverb, Octave, Distortion, Envelope Filter, etc. via JamUp Pro



I've been experimenting with some new sounds using an app, JamUp Pro (link to site, link to app on the apple store). The app has digital versions of various guitar pedals and amps, and not only does the app create some great sounds, but it's also very convenient.

Here is a quick list of pedals that I've gotten sounding pretty great with saxophone:
  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Octave
  • Tube Distortion
  • Fuzz Distortion
  • Envelope Filter (based on a Qtron pedal, super funky)
  • Compressor
I've also been using a noise gate pedal to prevent feedback, especially when I'm using distortion and compressor. 

Sounds
Before we make it any further, I think we need some proof of concept. Here are some clips showing off the pedals, sometimes in combination. These are recorded on my iphone using the default voice recorder and built in microphone, so nothing fancy, and I apologize for the clipping. However, you can hear that the effects sound pretty great.







That last one is for anyone who really wanted their saxophone to fit in a metal band. ;)

The Setup
My setup is simple and straight forward. I have an Apogee MiC that plugs straight into my iPad or iPhone. JamUp Pro runs all of these pedals on my device. Then I use an 8th inch to quarter inch converter out of my device's headphone jack to a guitar cable that runs to an amp or PA. That's it!

That means my pedal board is both ridiculously mobile and ridiculously cheap. In physical form, these pedals could cost something like $600, but the app only cost me $5, and the QTron add-on costed me another $3 (there are more pedals that came with the app that I haven't mentioned here, including various modulation pedals, an overdrive pedal, another delay pedal, another reverb pedal, a wah, a filter pedal, and a sampler). You can also buy other interesting pedals for $3 each. I still plan on getting a reverse delay pedal. The only thing that I wish they had that I haven't seen is a ring modulator. I might have to actually pay some real money and get a physical pedal for that one.

If you'd like to try out the app, you can pick up the free version, which has a limited number of pedals but is otherwise totally functional. Happy shredding.

Sax In The City Competition & Showcase in Philadelphia

If you're in or near Philadelphia, you might be interested to know there will be a saxophone competition happening on the 15th of this month. There is a dash prize of $500 along with networking opportunities. Here are the details:

Date: Saturday, July 15, 2017
Time: 4 PM
Location: West Catholic Preparatory High School, 4501 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Tickets: $25

Fitness for Musicians

I'm reposting an article (http://takelessons.com/blog/fitness-exercises-for-musicians) as a preventative aid. I've known a lot of musicians who recently had physical problems that limited their time on the instrument or temporarily stopped them from playing altogether. Anyways, what follows is a good reminder to all of us.

10 Fitness Exercises & Activities for Musicians

Power yoga

What it is: Fitness-oriented classes that focus on breathing, alignment, strength, balance, and opening up the body
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: Choose between heated and non-heated classes at a local studio or with a private yoga instructor; look for vinyasa-based classes that link breath to movement.
Learning how to properly and deeply breathe isn’t just important for singers! Taking full breaths is known to reduce stress and improve concentration. Breathing slowly and deeply, especially during challenging yoga poses, will help you to do so during stressful moments, calming both your mind and your body.

Core strengthening

What it is: Exercises that strengthen the muscles in your torso, including your abdominals and back muscles
Best for: Vocalists, pianists, wind instrumentalists
How to get started: You can incorporate core work in many different workout formats, but especially in Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing classes. Or create a routine for yourself that includes planks, crunches, and oblique work.
Put simply, you need a strong core to hold yourself upright. It’s not just about having a six-pack; having a weak core can put strain on your back and ultimately cause chronic back pain. Core strength also helps improve your balance and stability — super important for all the sitting and standing we do!
See also: 8-minute Abs Workout, Beginner Pilates videos via Blogilates

Posture work

What it is: Exercises that help maintain proper alignment of your spine
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: This is usually incorporated heavily in barre and yoga; you can also try doing some simple exercises at home, such as wall sits or shoulder rolls — anything that encourages your shoulders back and down, your chin slightly tucked, and your feet parallel with each other.
Sitting at a computer all day, being hunched over our phones, and slouching in general can wreak havoc on our posture. Over time, our spine begins to morph into the wrong shape — chin jutting forward, shoulders hunched, feet forming a v-shape. Not to mention that a performer with poor posture just doesn’t look as confident or as professional!
See also: Posture and Breathing, via Brass Musician Magazine

Arm strengthening

What it is: Exercises that strengthen the biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles
Best for: Percussionists, pianists, string instrumentalists, wind and brass instrumentalists
How to get started: Most common in weight training classes; create your own circuit at home or at the gym, including push-ups and different weight-lifting exercises.
No matter if you’re a singer or you play an instrument, chances are you’re going to be holding something up, whether it’s your music, your instrument, or your arms. Some instruments may even require using the strength of your arms for certain techniques. Strengthening your arm and shoulder muscles can help prevent injuries, especially to the joints that end up fatigued when they aren’t supported by strong enough muscles.

Intense cardio

What it is: Exercises that increase your heart rate and keep it high or raise it in intervals
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: Try a spin class or do sprints, jumping-rope, or jumping jacks on your own.
Cardiovascular health is important for everyone, but musicians especially can benefit from the mind-over-matter mentality that it takes to push yourself past your limits. And increasing your heart rate during exercise can ease stress, relieve anxiety, and help you sleep better — all of which benefit both your practice and your performance.
See also: Burst Training for Beginners via Dr. Josh Axe

Dance classes

What it is: Classes (or videos) that include short snippets of choreography and a variety of genres of music
Best for: Vocalists, instrumentalists (especially those playing in any sort of ensemble or band)
How to get started: Try a Jazzercise, Zumba, or cardio hip-hop class. These classes are a great workout, and some formats include strength training, too.
Dance classes with choreography require you to stay present and focused, and to memorize moves in the context of the music. These skills come in handy when you need to memorize a piece of music, especially if you are singing or playing with others. They also require coordination and improve your rhythm by forcing your body to feel the beat. Lastly, dance classes can expose you to types of music you might not listen to on your own.
See also: 30-minute Aerobic Dance Workout via GoodHealth 24/7

Neck & shoulder stretches

What it is: Stretches that ease tension in your neck and shoulders and encourage them to stay relaxed, even after the stretch is over. These stretches also bring balance to your body
Best for: Pianists, wind instrumentalists, guitar players, string instrumentalists
How to get started: Do several stretches that include the front and sides of your neck and the fronts of your shoulders; do these several times a day, especially before and after practicing.
Keeping tension in your neck and shoulders while practicing can cause you to suffer more over time. Especially if you allow your shoulders to come up and forward, this can really weaken your posture and cause back pain, in addition to the neck pain already present. Tension can also inhibit your playing, since many techniques require your muscles to be controlled but in a relaxed way.

Hip flexor stretches & backbends

What it is: Stretches that open up the front of your body and counteract all the sitting and leaning forward we do
Best for: Vocalists, pianists, guitarists, drummers
How to get started: Many yoga postures are hip openers and backbends; take a yoga class, work with a private yoga teacher, or do a few stretches on your own at home.
Tension in the front of your body causes it to be imbalanced and ends up pulling on the back of your body. This takes a toll on your posture and can cause muscle and joint pain. Some say that we carry our stress in our hips, so opening them up would naturally help relieve that stress. Backbending opens your chest and lungs and can help you breathe more deeply.

Outdoor hobbies

What it is: Any outdoor activity that forces you to breathe and/or sweat!
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: Go hiking, biking, or swimming; do a marathon or mud run; take a surfing or stand-up paddleboarding class.
In his piece “For Poets”, Al Young advises “Come on out into the sunlight/ Breathe in Trees/…Don’t forget to fly”. The message rings true for all artists — the best inspiration comes from being out in nature and experiencing life. Many musicians spend so much time holed up in studios and practice rooms, so it’s even more important to remind ourselves to get out there and have those one-of-a-kind experiences.

Meditation

What it is: Sitting in stillness, calming your mind, and focusing on your breath for a certain amount of time
Best for: Performers
How to get started: Take a meditation class or listen to a guided meditation.
Meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, it also improves focus and memory. And when you have the skills to calm your mind anywhere, anytime, you can handle anything! For performers especially, practicing meditation will connect your mind and body and allow you to keep calm, no matter how many people are in the audience.
See also: Free Guided Meditations via UCLA Health, How Musicians Can Really Benefit From Meditation via GuitarHabits

Try these fitness exercises, get healthy, and give your music the strong, vibrant musician it deserves! And don’t forget one of the most important aspects of growing as a musician: a great teacher who will guide you and encourage you to be the best you can be. Good luck!





Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review: D’Addario Woodwinds Select Jazz Tenor Mouthpiece


D’Addario Woodwinds has recently released the tenor version of their Select Jazz mouthpiece. This mouthpiece was designed to recall and improve upon the sound of classic vintage hard rubber mouthpieces. Notably, Jeff Coffin was the primary artist who contributed to the mouthpiece’s design. It has a medium chamber and a roll-over baffle, and comes in sizes 6 through 9. The mouthpiece has a number of strengths and is a lot of fun to play. It particularly stands out for its projection and for its ease in the altissimo register.

While the mouthpiece has a warm tone it easily puts out a lot of volume. It has a noticeably larger presence than other comparable hard rubber mouthpieces also going for a vintage sound. Additionally, each note’s entrance has clear definition, contributing to an overall powerful tone quality. After hearing a few players on the piece I would say that the tone is on the darker side, though I get a pretty balanced tone, someplace in between dark and bright. The tone has a fair amount of flexibility, and it is fairly clear sounding, meaning it has a little less buzz than something like a hard rubber Otto Link for example. If you’d like to hear what the mouthpiece sounds like, check out the video at the top of the post.

In terms of response, the mouthpiece really shines. Everything from top to bottom speaks very easily. The response and resistance of the altissimo register feels similar to the normal register, which means playing altissimo feels very easy for players who have developed those chops. The mouthpiece’s easy projection also continues in the altissimo register. Essentially, the mouthpiece plays easily from the low Bb up through the altissimo register, which makes it really enjoyable and comfortable to play.

If you’re looking for a vintage-inspired hard rubber mouthpiece, this one is definitely worth checking out. The mouthpiece is extremely playable and is reasonably priced ($165-$200 depending on the seller). Overall, this is a very solid mouthpiece that deserves consideration alongside the typical modern and iconic vintage choices.

Relevant Links:



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Breathing, Air Support Tips, and Altissimo

I've recently been thinking more about the importance of proper breathing and abdominal support when playing sax. One thing I've observed is that no matter how much you develop your voicing, if you don't have proper air support than voicing doesn't have as big of an effect. One extreme version of this view was given by Lenny Pickett recently in a Vandoren article. Pickett denied that voicing (tongue position) plays a significant role in playing altissimo, which frankly, is mistaken according to a study by Lawrence University (the site includes video of what players' tongues and other oral-cavity-shaping muscles are doing when playing altissimo, multiphonics, etc.). Pickett's position is understandable considering many saxophonists are generally unaware of the muscle movements that shape voicing, and that is likely one of the factors contributing to the long practice hours it takes on average to hone saxophone voicing. However, what Pickett offers instead provides some awesome insight into saxophone playing.

Pickett talks about how he understands breath support or "control" to be the most important factor in producing altissimo, and I can't disagree with him there. I find breath support to be the most important factor in playing the saxophone in any register, particularly in the more difficult to execute registers (e.i. low and high). If my breath support is weak and anemic, I can still squeeze out some altissimo notes, but they sound pretty terrible, I don't have as much control, and I can't play as high.

So, what's going on here? According to basic saxophone acoustics, in order for a player to attain the next higher harmonic, so either a higher overtone or an altissimo partial on a given fingering, the pressure in their oral cavity has to overcome the pressure in the mouthpiece. It's a fairly simple equation that feels much more complicated to execute than to talk about. That means that every tactic that increases pressure in your oral cavity plays a role in producing altissimo. In terms of voicing, your tongue is used to decrease space in your oral cavity and act as a baffle, increasing the air speed, and other muscles help with these acrobatics too. Meanwhile, breath support provides the underlying pressure that your voicing then increases. When you breathe in properly, filling the lower part of your lungs and expanding your diaphragm, you create a pressurized system that your abdominal muscles can now push up against and increase the pressure further. Trying to play the saxophone in any register without this support is tone and technique suicide.

Breathing In
This means that breathing in well is the first step. There are lots of different ways that people promote proper breathing. Common tips include not letting your shoulders rise or make sure your belly expands. Those may be signs that you're breathing well, but they are not proof. What's the proof? When you breath in you should feel pressure build up in your lower abdominal area. That's it.

When you're sitting down, the building pressure is very easy to feel. When you breath in deeply, you feel the diaphragm pushing down against your abdominal muscles and the pressure quickly builds as you're breathing in. If you feel the pressure build up, you're doing it correctly. If you don't... you get the idea.

Another helpful tip, though not directly related to breath support, is to breathe without taking your bottom lip off of the reed. This helps keep your embouchure position and formation consistent.

Support: Blowing Out
The act of engaging your abdominal muscles to blow out is a somewhat subtle technique that needs to be developed. Sorry for the frankness, but it's similar to bearing down to use the bathroom (and that's why you can't play saxophone as well when you need to use the restroom!). Pickett suggests working on long tones at various dynamics to help strengthen your abdominal muscles. Playing softly with a good tone certainly requires really good air support. Another good exercise is to play low notes, starting them with only air attacks (no tongue).

One of my favorite exercise for strengthening and engaging abdominal muscles consists of strongly pulsing your abdominal muscles while playing long tones. I described this exercise in detail in an earlier post.

Conclusion
I hope you've come away with an understanding of how diaphragmatic breathing is foundational to saxophone playing (any wind instrument really) and particularly important for the altissimo register. Honestly, no matter how many chops you've already got together, you're playing will benefit by improving your breathing and air support technique. Sometimes more advanced players think they've already worked on breathing and don't need to worry about it, but until you can play altissimo like Lenny Pickett (or Chris Potter, Mark Turner, Ben Wendel, etc.), you've got some work to do.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Strident, Harsh, or Stuffy Sound: Breaking the Habit

Saxophone Colossus: A fantastic
example of a resonant full tone.
Recently, I've worked with a few saxophonists, a couple of them being serious gigging college students, who have had similar problems. The common thread has been that their sound wasn't speaking properly. The tone was either too harsh and strident or too stuffy and muted. I've gone through periods where I've struggled with the same thing. Since the problem is pretty ubiquitous, especially with saxophonists who are practicing a lot and really going for it and because it can be a difficult rut to get out of, I wanted to address the problem generally. I hope this article will be a helpful resource for frustrated saxophonists everywhere.

Symptoms
The following are a list of issues that saxophonists experience, which are essentially aftereffects of a similar underlying problem. Not everyone experiences all of these issues, but the first is the most common.
  • Sound is not as clear or as resonant as you'd like.
    • One end of the spectrum: too harsh and strident, possibly distorted or grating.
    • The other end of the spectrum: too stuffy and muted, possibly overly dark and sluggish.
  • Sharp high register.
  • Feeling like your normal reeds are just bad, every reed in the box seems bad. 
  • Response feels sluggish, saxophone doesn't "speak" as easily as before.
  • Difficulty playing overtones.
  • Difficulty keeping your embouchure steady at low volumes.
  • Notes coming out in higher register than intended, even chirping or squeaking.

The Problem
The underlying problem is essentially that your embouchure is taking over. Instead of relying on air speed and pressure created by diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal support, and proper voicing (tongue position and oral cavity shape) to make the reed vibrate, the embouchure tightens to help the reed vibrate more easily. It tightens to such a degree that it changes how the reed vibrates, affecting sound and response.

This can be brought on by a number of different factors. It can be a reaction to practicing altissimo or upper overtones without proper voicing and air support, over-practicing altissimo or overtones, or simply over practicing. In the latter cases, as your abdominal muscles and voicing tires, your embouchure tries to take over. This keeps the pitch from dropping and allows you to continue playing but creates its own set of problems. Another way this increased embouchure pressure can occur is by the mouthpiece being positioned too far out or too far in on the cork. Your ears pick up on the intonation problem, and in reaction, your embouchure tightens or drops to correct the issue, depending on whether the mouthpiece is positioned too far out or too far in. If the change in pitch is subtle enough, it can happen almost immediately without you consciously picking up on the intonation issue. Again, this either adds embouchure pressure or creates a malformed embouchure, resulting in tone and response problems. The most obnoxious part of all this, is that the new embouchure can be habitual, leading to a cycle of less than ideal tone and lots of frustration.

Here is a quick list of potential ways in which the problem gets started:
  • Attempting altissimo or upper overtones without proper voicing and air support.
  • Over-practicing altissimo or overtones.
  • Over-practicing generally.
  • Out-of-tune mouthpiece placement on the cork.
  • Non-diaphragmatic breathing or breathing from the chest and not engaging abdominal muscles.
  • Overly tight or badly shaped approach to embouchure technique.
  • Too resistant of a setup: combination of reeds, mouthpiece, and sax offers too much resistance or back pressure.
  • Playing on reeds that have gotten too hard through warping.

Breaking the Habit
If you've identified that you have this general problem, one of the most important things to do is to take a break from playing. Similar to taking a day off after working out, the rest helps with recovery. It allows your embouchure technique to loosen, letting your air support and voicing take the helm. This is especially applicable to saxophonists who practice a lot and likely fall into the over-practicing category. You need to let your voicing, abdominal, and embouchure muscles all rest. If you can, take a day or two away from the horn. Just do it!

As you approach correcting your technique, the single most important factor will be to listen carefully to your sound while playing. If you hear the harshness, stridency, or stuffiness in your sound, take steps to fix it right away (see below), and if you can't, take a break from playing and come back to the problem fresh. Your ears are the best guide to whether you're playing with good or bad technique. It's all in the sound.

Here are some important aspects of your playing to check when attempting to fix the problem:
  • Are you breathing deeply? When you breath in, you should be building up pressure in your lower abdominal area.
  • Is your mouthpiece placed ideally on your cork? Here is an article that can guide you in experimenting with mouthpiece placement: Intonation and Your Ideal Sound
  • Is your bottom lip tucked too far in? Say the letter V, and where your teeth touch your bottom lip is a good estimate of where your bottom lip should contact the reed. 
  • Are you applying too much vertical pressure with your lips or jaw? Instead, try to use pressure at the corners of the mouth to maintain the seal around the mouthpiece. Your bottom lip should stay relatively flat (see next bullet point).
  • Are the corners of your staying out of the way of the reed? They shouldn't be coming in towards the reed or upwards. Those motions can skew the reed shape and cause havoc.

Overtones with Vibrato
This first exercises is very helpful in promoting good voicing technique while simultaneously loosening your embouchure. Starting on an easy overtone (maybe the first overtone off of low B or C), first play with a straight tone. Once you have a solid sound, add a slow wide vibrato. Listen carefully for tenseness or resistance and fix when needed. You want a clear resonant overtone sound with a fluid easy sounding wide vibrato. The vibrato helps you to maintain good voicing while lowering your lower lip/jaw to drop the pitch. It also helps your embouchure to relax as it needs to be flexible to affect the pitch up and down. Once you have a solid slow vibrato, move to a faster vibrato. Start with your easiest overtones, and then work your way to others, always paying attention to tone quality. If you can’t get a good tone, take a break.

Recalibrate Your Embouchure
The following exercises are all designed to help you play with better embouchure technique. Experiment and use which ever ones work the best for you.
  1. Minimal Pressure Long Tones (adapted from Ben Wendel)
    • Play a long tone with just enough embouchure pressure to make the note sound (very flat).
    • Play the next long tone with a bit more pressure.
    • Repeat until you have found the least amount of embouchure pressure you need to be in tune.
  2. Low Bb with Vibrato.
    • Full tone with wide and fluid slow vibrato, then fast vibrato.
    • Subtone with wide and fluid slow vibrato, then fast vibrato.
  3. Quarter-tone Long Tones (adapted from George Garzone)
    • Start on the pitch B, slur down a quarter tone and hold it as a long tone.
    • Repeat the process starting on Bb.
    • etc.
  4. Old School Subtone
    • Play in the middle and low register with a big fat subtone and vibrato.
    • Maybe play a melody or just improvise.
    • Think Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, etc.
  5. Mouthpiece Slur
    • On just the mouthpiece, slur evenly from the default pitch down to around an octave.
    • It should sound smooth and even.
    • If there are breaks, readjust your embouchure (see above).
Air Support Exercise
Lastly, this exercise is helpful in increasing your abdominal support while playing: Abdominal Pulsing. Don't overdo it though. You can end up tightening your embouchure with this one if you continue after your abdominal muscles are tiring.

Conclusion
Playing with a habitually over-tight or malformed embouchure can be overcome. If you put all the right elements in place you can correct it fairly quickly. I've had students fix the problem in a matter of a few days. Remember, to listen carefully and be aware of your technique. Whatever you do, don't keep playing if the sound is getting worse. Always play with a great sound, and don't put up with anything less!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ligature Position and Sound

After a few years of experimentation and observations including putting various students through the paces, I'd like to share share an overview of the effects of ligature position on sound.

Before we get too far that I've also found that for some yet unexplained reason(s), what ligature you use does have an affect on your sound (here is a great demonstration of variations in sound by ligature on bass clarinet). While I'm not going to get into that today, I'd just like to mention that I find that ligatures that make drastic changes in your sound often come with unadvertised disadvantages. A lot of fantastic saxophonists in the past used basic ligatures. I'm thinking of Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Michael Brecker, etc., and a lot of the current greats also use basic ligatures, including Chris Potter, Ben Wendel, Seamus Blake (in the past couple of years), Donny McCaslin, Walt Weiskopf, Steve Wilson, etc. That being said, it's also a good idea to experiment with different ligatures and pay attention to things like intonation, response, resistance, and stability as well as tone quality.

One other piece of advice worth mentioning is that you shouldn't over-tighten your ligature. The tighter the reed is clamped down on the mouthpiece the harder the reed feels. If the reed feels too hard you end up overtightening your embouchure and squashing your sound. Of course, if the ligature is too loose that can be a problem also.

Ligature Position

left mouthpiece: ligature towards the back, right mouthpiece: ligature towards the front.

Depending on which way you move your ligature, there are consistent changes to your sound. Each player needs to experience these for himself or herself and figure out what tone they most prefer. What follows is a quick overview to get you started and to help you know what to listen for. These observations apply most consistently to players who don't have extreme setups, meaning overly hard or soft, and have healthy embouchure and voicing technique.

As you move your ligature towards the front of the mouthpiece (towards the tip):
  • the connection between notes sounds smoother.
  • the sound becomes more spread  and more flexible (i.e. you can more easily change your sound depending on how you play).
If you move your ligature too far towards the front of the mouthpiece:
  • the sound becomes thin.
  • the connection between the notes becomes so smooth that it becomes difficult to hear each note distinctly, especially when playing fast.
  • if your reed is pretty stiff or hard or if you have embouchure problems, you may end up with a distorted rough tone.
As you move your ligature towards the back of the mouthpiece (towards the neck of the saxophone):
  • the beginning of each note has a clearly heard ping-like quality.
  • bends and vibrato becomes more pronounced.
  • the sound becomes more focused or compact.
If you move your ligature too far towards the back of the mouthpiece:
  • intonation becomes hard to control and is generally sharp in the upper register.
  • the tone, though very thick sounding, loses some of its color and can sound a little dull.
Below is a short video demonstrating a middle position, one that is further forward, and one that is further backward. Listen for the different characteristics of each example (listen with headphones).


Resistance (one reason why moving your ligature changes anything at all)

(The following observations are a bit more speculative. They're best guesses.) There seems to be two types of resistance in playing saxophone. First, there is the stiffness of the reed, which requires a certain amount of embouchure pressure to overcome. Second and related, but not always in lock step, there is a resistance to your airstream or blown air.

When you move the ligature forward, the reed, in essence, becomes stiffer as the fulcrum shortens the amount of reed that can flex and vibrate. However, this also seems to lower airstream resistance at the same time, as if the mouthpiece is letting more air in despite requiring increase embouchure pressure. The reverse is also true. As you move the ligature towards the back of the mouthpiece, its appears that the reed becomes more sensitive to embouchure pressure yet offers more resistance to your airstream, letting in less air.

The above is very consistent with my observations on sound and the principles of saxophone acoustics. The greater the airstream resistance (the further back you move the ligature), the harder you have to blow causing the the reed to slap the mouthpiece harder. This elicits a larger amount of higher overtones in your sound, which we hear in the ping-like attack of each note and the general thickness and focus of the tone. Conversely, with the ligature further forward and a decrease in airstream resistance, you can blow more softly overall, creating a less punchy and more spread tone quality.

Of course, the situation is more complex than this. The observations above assume you have a fairly balanced tip opening and reed size. For example, if your reed is fairly stiff and you move your ligature forward making it even stiffer, you can screw up your embouchure, which deforms your reed and get a distorted rough tone.

Conclusion

Experimenting with where you put your ligature can help you get closer to your ideal sound. However, the above is only meant as a guide for experimentation. You should experiment with different ligature placement and record yourself. Listen for the different traits described above, and find a balance that fits your personal sound and style. Happy sound searching.