François Louis Master Class

Master mouthpiece maker François Louis (FL) explains his philosophy, mouthpiece mechanics and the basics of how reed choice effects sounds. Here are some excerpts of M. Louis masterclass. If you are not familiar with him or his pieces then you may be familiar with his sound. Baritonist Ronnie Cuber has played FL mouthpieces for a large part of his career and swears by them. Other great musicians playing his pieces include Jerry Bergonzi, Bob Sheppard, and Joe Lovano. Obviously these great names in the art of saxophone playing could play just about anything they wanted and they chose his mouthpieces. Keep that in mind as he shares his passion.

Choosing your saxophone mouthpiece. François Louis’ master class at Mariachi from dmitry semaev on Vimeo.

Not sure if you want to watch the entire 1 hour video? Here is a sample from the first 7 minutes.

François Louis {FL} on choosing a reed

00:05:39 – FL: “..the reed will be comfortable according to your natural air pressure. There are people who blow with a lot of pressure and they will need a hard reed, and if it’s natural for you to play with little pressure you will comfortable with a soft reed. So it doesn’t make a bigger sound because it’s hard reed. So what I say to have a reed which is comfortable, is that you would just blow naturally, no forcing at all. <blows out> Just relaxing and you should have no sound if you do that in the saxophone. But as soon as you push a little <more intense air puff> you get a sound. That is the perfect balance of resistance that you will control perfectly.

Modern Bari Sax (MBS) interpretation:  The right reed strength is one where upon taking a relaxed breath through the horn creates no sound but when the air stream is intensified slightly creates a sound.

FL on ligature placement

00:06:31 – FL: “Put the ligature on the mouthpiece, if you put the ligature on the front of the mouthpiece this distance will be short. <gestures to distance from front edge of ligature to tip of reed> If you put it on the back like Dexter (reference to Dexter Gordon) This point will come to here. <gesturing to diagram>.. And what is the main quality of Dexter Gordon’s sound? A very fat buzz, and its the back of the reed that really hits the beginning of the table. 

MBS:  The ligatures placement along the reed can effect the qualities present in the tone. In the case of Dexter Gordon, his fat buzz was in part due to his placement of the ligature very far from the tip of the reed.

TAKE AWAY: This video is worth watching because if you listen and use some of his knowledge it could help you identify traits you like in your current setup or help you in selecting your next setup.


Photo by keisis44, Flickr

I have had the absolute pleasure to exchange messages back and fourth with Denis DiBlasio over the past few months and it is my great pleasure to say he seems to be a quite pleasant person. He has entertained my questions both silly and serious with great humor. I will go on record to say that he was the first baritone saxophonist I had ever heard and enjoyed. I heard him first during his stint with Maynard Ferguson and have been a fan since.  I am a fan of Bruce Johnstone but i don’t have anything by him other than the Maynard Stuff.

What have I learned? Firstly he is still using the Vandoren V16 – B9 with Vandoren Traditional blue box reeds. That would help to explain his full, focused, and warm tone when compared to someone like Gary Smulyan. Secondly he has another recording ini the works but he didn’t give any details. It  is my hope that he will bring in another Bari player like Smulyan or Jason Marshall to have a bit of a dueling thing happening.

That’s the little bit that I have for now but as I learn I will pass it along. By the way if  you haven’t had the chance to listen to his album Where the Jade Buddah Lives, you are missing some fantastic playing and I will be sharing my experience with the album as I continue to digest it.