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Guardala Saxophone Mouthpieces Review

By February 4, 2016saxophone articles

Probably the question I get asked the most is “what kind of mouthpiece are you playing on?”

It’s a very valid question because we all understand that the saxophone mouthpiece is the most important piece of gear that can help anyone to improve their tone. Our sax, embouchure, air support, reeds and even the ligature all add to our quest as saxophone students to improve our overall sound. Make a drastic change with the mouthpiece and BAM! Everything can change drastically… for better or worse. I hope you learn something from this Guardala saxophone mouthpieces review.

Just like everyone else who decided to pick up this great instrument, my first mouthpiece was the one that came with the sax

Who are we to question anything before even blowing out the first note? A cheap mouthpiece can suffice for those first few weeks or months because there’s not a lot of pretty sounds coming out of that horn yet anyway, no matter what you’re blowing on.

After a year or two though, things do change and any serious student will start asking questions. Of course reed strengths and makes are an important factor but the mouthpiece is the most obvious element here that can make or break you during this next important phase of possible progression.

Depending on who, or what types of music you’re listening to can steer you in the direction of which mouthpiece type you’ll go towards. Classical players will be drawn to a darker sound and a hard rubber mouth piece. Jazz fans tend to go for a sound that projects a bit more while not sounding too bright. Rock and blues players will want a full but slightly brighter tone to blend in to the genre better.

Before my 2nd anniversary of studying the sax I was already trying the few brands of metal mouthpieces available to me at the time. The time was the late 1970’s and I can only remember a few options that the local music store had. Now this was a major city and a rather large music store specializing in band instruments so they were usually stocked pretty well.

The most talked about piece was the Otto Link. After that was the Dukkof and the Berg Larsen

It wasn’t before long that I had at least one of each of these. About a decade later I was introduced to a Guardala Michael Brecker model, now known as the MBI. When getting a new piece it takes a little while to fully get used to it, especially if it’s very different from your previous one, but you can tell if you’re gonna love a mp by how it feels right off the bat. As soon as I blew the first note I could tell it was far superior to anything I had been playing on so far.

I immediately telephoned Dave Guardala and ordered one. In those days there wasn’t any online shopping of course and these mouthpieces weren’t even available in many retail stores so you had to phone Dave himself. This was very cool though because Dave was the guy who worked closely with Michael Brecker in customizing this great mouthpiece, which was originally designed from an Otto Link Florida model I believe.

Dave Guardala also told me to use the Vandoren Java cut reeds with this piece because that’s what Michael uses and they work really well together. I told him that I didn’t really like Vandoren reeds but I’ll experiment with a few things when I get it. We had a light argument over this for a couple minutes and ended it there. Then it came in the mail and when I opened it there was a Vandoren Java #3 reed already on the mouthpiece ready to go! I had to chuckle at Dave’s persistence but this has been the set up I’ve been using for the last 25 years or so and have been grateful to him ever since.

Guardala Mouthpieces Have been Hard To Find

At some point Dave Guardala ran into some difficulties with his business as he expanded into the saxophone market as well and was forced to stop. I have heard he got into some legal problems as well but I don’t know because that one phone call was the only contact I ever had with him.

At this point just about every sax player wanted one of his mouthpieces for good reason, they were simply the best. The problem was that they weren’t being made anymore.

Michael Brecker Models Going For $2000 to $3000 on eBay!

Once in a while you’ll find this model on eBay at outrageous prices anywhere between 2 and 3 grand…that’s US dollars folks! Now when I bought mine new it was around $250-275, mind you, an Otto Link in those days was about $75 so the Guardala was considered the most expensive mouthpiece around.

Here’s an actual eBay ad for the same mouthpiece I have:

guardala-mb1

Original Handmade Guardala MB1 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Price: US $2,500.00

26 Comments

  • Jeff Jeff says:

    Hi Johnny, excellent comparative video. One can really hear the difference between the models. My favourite is the MBII

  • Vincent Gaglio Vincent Gaglio says:

    I will have to look at researching and possibly getting the Fat boy seeing as I play Alto

  • sxpoet says:

    Thanks for doing that, the pro i learn from a few months back was hunting for a new mouthpiece and i listened to some of the ones he was trying out, and we discussed back then what we thought of them.

    the MB1 – seems to have the most resistance, sounds like you are fighting it. Its got a great sound for the room size, of all 4 models it sounds the most in tune. Its got some serious sound beat/groove makes you want to dance

    King – the sound sounded a bit forced, good for screaming, but sounded more off key, probably the higher partials starting to interfere with the overall pitch – but hey thats screaming

    Mbii – in terms of screaming this one sounded more in key and sounded better than the king also fitted the room sound better than the king,
    and it sounded more resistant, again faint fighting it feel.

    Mbfat – again sounds forced, good for screaming, thought i heard a few squeeks?
    does sound slighly off key (which again happens in screaming) , interestingly this one sounded more breathy

    Thats a lot if differences in sound, and thats not with backing music, put the music in and they would all sound very very respectable.

    the mb1 – is my choice

  • Michael Bishop Michael Bishop says:

    Hi Johnny,
    Thanks for posting this 🙂 Seems like everyone is hearing things slightly different by reading the above comments; but to my ears I think the Fatboy suites you the best the other Guardalas. Isn’t the Fatboy the one you chose are your new favorite MP? To my ears, you’re getting a sound with loads of projection that is full/edgy without being overbearing or harsh. You sound fantastic on any of those MPs–but the Fatboy just seems to have all of the elements of the other MPs combined together. To my ears, it the most versatile of them. Like with the King Model, it sounds great for Altissimo, but lacks the “full” element for the lower range of the Sax. The other MPs were great, but they didn’t have the projection of the Fatboy. It seems like with the Fatboy you could do just anything from Scream Altissimo, play quiet subtones without sounding harsh, etc.. The demo you have at the beginning of the Selmer and Otto LInk is exactly what I was just talking about in my video update I made for friends, they’re what my new Instructor described as being ‘incompatible” with players who play Blues, Rock, Altissimo, etc.. The man who made those Guardalas definately knows what he’s doing….wow.

  • RRafael Ryan Rafaelsen says:

    Thanks for the demonstration. I’ve been waiting for that for the last 2 weeks. All of those pieces sound awesome! I am really digging the sound from the MB2 and the Fat Boy. Really torn on which way to go. They both sounded good in all the registers and had a nice edgy tone but you were also able to play them more mellow than the King too. Good full range. Gonna be a tough decision.

  • saxjohnny saxjohnny says:

    Here’s the thing guys, I wasn’t even looking for a new mp but only hunted down Nadir’s link because several people have been emailing me on where to get a Guardala. After I found the link I was very curious so I had to order the MBII and Fatboy, just hoping they would be close to my 2 originals (MBI and King) so I could comfortably finally be able to recommend “new” Guardalas to my students and members here.
    well, not only were they made of the same or even better quality, they sounded just as good and for me the FatBoy is almost a perfect combination of my old MBI and King…meaning I get the nice fuller tone with a slight added bite on the top for brightness.

    • Richard Richard says:

      I just listened to Mercy, Mercy …. with your Fatboy II several times. I think this recording demos the fuller, warmer sound better than the video review recording of the Fatboy II. It looks like you are also using the Fatboy ligature on Mercy, whereas on the video review you’re using the “regular” DG ligature. Maybe you had a few more days to work with your Fatboy before recording Mercy, Mercy..? Anyway – very nice sound.
      Question: Your soprano recording of Mercy, Mercy.. sounds great also. What are the brands of soprano, mp, ligature and reed?
      Another Question: Your email of Feb 13 lists discount codes – What is the difference between the MBII Fatboy and the Studio Fatboy mouthpieces?

      • saxjohnny saxjohnny says:

        Hi Richard, sorry bout the late reply…
        You’re right about the ligs, I was alternating them a bit but to be honest didn’t notice any big enough difference to care, and ya I was getting a bit more used to it by the time I recorded mercy a while later.
        The soprano set up is what I was using many years ago when I still owned a Selmer Mark 6 and that is regular Vandoren #3 reeds on a Selmer Metal E mouthpiece with it’s own lig.
        The mouthpiece was on the sax when I bought it off a jazz player, I think John Coltrane played on these mp’s so they were very popular with many soprano players. If I still owned a sop I would be looking into the Guardalas these days.
        Yes I have some discounts on all the Guardalas and I think those 2 models go for about the same price and the discount is about $30. Mind you, the Studio Fatboy model is only available for alto I believe.

  • sxpoet says:

    after listening to the 2 very bright mouthpieces, i can understand why underdevoloped sax players can sound so badly out of tune higher up when they get hold of one.

  • RRafael Ryan Rafaelsen says:

    Thanks for the demonstration. I’ve been waiting for that for the last 2 weeks. All of those pieces sound awesome! I am really digging the sound from the MB2 and the Fat Boy. Really torn on which way to go. They both sounded good in all the registers and had a nice edgy tone but you were also able to play them more mellow than the King too. Good full range. Gonna be a tough decision.

  • Vincent Gaglio Vincent Gaglio says:

    I believe the Fat Boy is made for the Alto which I play, I am interested in looking at getting one. Vinny

  • saxjohnny saxjohnny says:

    yes Vinny, it’s called the Studio Fat Boy. I’ll have the prices and buy links set up in a couple days for these mouthpieces.

    cheers
    Johnny

  • Jack Inghram says:

    Hi Johnny! Thanks for demonstrating the Guardala mouthpieces. I really would like to get ahold of one of the FATBOY pieces. Can you get me the ordering and price information? Incidentally, I don’t think that WWBW offers these great mouthpieces anymore. At least I couldn’t find them on their website.
    Jack

    • saxjohnny saxjohnny says:

      Sure Jack, I’m getting that stuff together over the next few days.
      The WWBW ones that were on amazon were cheap knock-offs that disappeared.
      The ones I showed are made by the guy who bought Dave Guardala’s design and name and not only re-doing his exact original’s but expanding upon them as in the Fatboy’s etc.

  • Walter George says:

    Thank you for sponsoring this discussion on mouthpieces. I am a soprano sax player and have spent a year trying out different mouthpieces and have learned a lot. . Yes the mpc makes a difference, as do the ligature, reeds,horn and the player. Johnny did everyone a good service suggesting people first take a look at budget mpcs like the Yamaha 4C or Selmer S80. I personally was impressed with the 4C but found the 6C a lot better. Sax on the web site mpc section had a lot of discussions on mpcs and listed some of best bargain ones to consider that one might consult. I found success with the Vandoren mpcs. The idea you need to spend $500 to $1000 for a mpc to get the best sound is just not true. You can get a good sound and spend a lot less on mpc. You just have to try out mpcs before you buy. There is no subsitition for this. You also need to be aware that copies of the same mpc can vary so try out several of the same model. There are so many variables too that you need to consider before spending big bucks on the mpc. The ligature can make a huge difference, too. that you need to be aware of. Try the latest Francois Ultlimate ligature or Theo Wanne Enlightened one and see for yourself. Good luck!

  • sxpoet says:

    true you can get good sounding mouthpieces that cost a lot less i use a selmar solo and it sounds as good as any person playing a sax alongside me in an orchestra. I also bought 2 theowanne mouth pieces for mega bucks – lent them to a pro gig player and he was impressed with both of them, i even got offers from other pro’s wanting to buy them off me . so i can say some of these higher costing mouthpieces do the bizz and kick butt.

  • Rick Wysynski says:

    Hi Johnny. I have been playing my new MB2 FstBoy mouthpiece. It plays similar to my Dukoff but better. Better sound easier to play better range deeper tone and easier in the altissimo range. Should have ordered one years ago while playing. Really enjoying this mouthpiece. Thanks again for everything. Rick W

  • William Cingolani William Cingolani says:

    Hi Johnny,
    My Fatboy arrived today, April 26. Sounds great. I recorded myself using garage band. sounds great on the replay. I put the ligature on with the screw on top of the reed. I noticed what presses down on the reed is a center bar meaning the pressure on the reed is down the center, not on four corners. The lig does not fit with the screw on the bottom and there is no suck pop with the screw on the top. Maybe the suck pop is not so important. I have other Rovers that fit. The fatboy sounds great with the screw on top. The Winslow can be set up with the pressure points down the center of the reed. Like Rick Wysynski says the fatboy is easier to play and I can play it softer, not so loud and then I can blow it very loud. Back to the Lig. None of my reeds are thin enough for the lig screw to fit on the bottom of the fatboy. I tried a java, Rico Royal, D’Addario, Rico Select, so I think the screw goes on top of the reed. The Fatboy wins 1st chair in the orchestra. Thanks for everything Johnny.

  • saxjohnny saxjohnny says:

    I did that too at first, with the screw on top but then changed it to the bottom because I think that’s how it’s supposed to go. They both worked for me and the reeds I was using without any difference. I guess if you don’t tighten it too much it’s all good…..but maybe worth more experimentation.

  • Vincent Gaglio Vincent Gaglio says:

    I finally decided to pull the trigger, I should have done so earlier in the year, with the money I spent on MP’S I COULD HAVE BOUGHT at least 2 of these if not 3 if I am honest. I will look forward to getting the Alto Studio Fatboy Silver, I am very excited.

    Vinny

  • Vincent Gaglio Vincent Gaglio says:

    I received my Alto Studio FATboy yesterday., I will start working with it tonight

  • Vincent Gaglio Vincent Gaglio says:

    it was a sad day recently when I lost the studio FATBOY ALTO model. cant find it anywhere. I really dont even want to mention it however I am looking at getting another one and had a chance to but lost the opportunity. i will look to get one in the beginning of the year if u are still placing orders? Vinny

  • saxjohnny saxjohnny says:

    oh vinny sorry to hear that!
    hopefully it will turn up.

  • Vincent Gaglio Vincent Gaglio says:

    me too. how do you lose a mouthpience what is wrong with my brain

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