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How Do I Choose the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces?

Saxophone mouthpieces will have an effect upon musical tone.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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Determining the best saxophone mouthpieces is largely dependent on the individual player’s personal preference and the type of sound they are looking to get out of their saxophone. Generally, beginners should choose a mouthpiece with a smaller tip opening, and more advanced players should use a wider tip opening. The best material for saxophone mouthpieces depends on the tone the player is looking for, but ebonite is a popular choice. It may be a good idea to try out several different saxophone mouthpieces in the music shop prior to purchasing one.

The saxophone is an instrument in the woodwind family that makes noise through the vibration of a reed, which is controlled by the player’s breathing. The saxophone has buttons on the left and right hand side to change the note produced, but the tone of the instrument is largely determined by the mouthpiece. Many saxophone players have multiple mouthpieces.

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One factor in choosing the best saxophone mouthpiece is the material from which it is made. Most players use ebonite mouthpieces, which is a type of vulcanized rubber. These mouthpieces produce a consistent tone, only slightly dampening high-end sounds, and are extremely durable. These saxophone mouthpieces are best suited for playing classical music. Anybody interested in playing solo jazz music should consider using a metal mouthpiece, which provides more attack on the high notes, and stands out from an ensemble. The downside to this type of mouthpiece is that it is expensive and relatively hard to maintain. Plastic saxophone mouthpieces are cheap but are generally considered the worst in terms of tone.

Another important factor for deciding on the best saxophone mouthpieces is the size of the opening in the tip of the mouthpiece. The tip is the portion of the mouthpiece that goes into the player’s mouth, and the tiny hole in the end is referred to as the tip opening. Smaller tip openings are better for beginners because they make it easier to get a nice tone. Advanced players, with a better embouchure, or lip strength, can afford to choose a mouthpiece with a wider tip opening. Wider openings provide more volume than smaller ones.

The best tip for choosing saxophone mouthpieces is to spend time in the shop and try out several different mouthpieces before making a decision. Each player will likely be looking for different things in a saxophone mouthpiece. Players should listen to advice they receive from fellow players but ultimately make the decision based on which mouthpiece they prefer. When shopping for mouthpieces, saxophonists should see which mouthpiece they can use to produce a clear tone with the least difficulty.

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serenesurface
Post 4

@ddljohn-- I'm a beginner too. I looked at a saxophone mouthpiece guide and checked out different ones at the shop. But I didn't think I understood the differences well enough, so I let my instructor select one for me. Some classes and bands actually require a specific mouthpiece, so it's a good idea to ask first.

bear78
Post 3

I don't know why people only care about the size of the opening of a mouthpiece when they're shopping for one. Of course, the size of the opening is important. Larger tips are better than smaller tips. But this is only one factor that affects how well a mouthpiece works. Other factors are the baffle, the chamber and the facing curve. The mouthpiece has to be shaped correctly. If not, it's going to be difficult to play and the player won't have as much flexibility with the notes.

The other issue that I see is that players think that they can play better or achieve a specific sound simply by changing the mouthpiece. But that's not true. Technique is what's important in achieving sound, not the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece can't make anyone play better. So just because you have a tenor saxophone mouthpiece doesn't mean that you will play tenor well.

ddljohn
Post 2

I'm a beginner and I know that I need to start out with a narrow mouthpiece. But should I go for a plastic one or hard rubber?

And how much experience do I need to have to order a custom, handcrafted saxophone mouthpiece? I heard that those are the best but they're expensive. So I definitely wouldn't want to invest in one until I'm fairly good on the saxophone.

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