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.