One of the first questions that’s asked among sax players is “what’s your set-up?” In other words, what kind of mouthpiece and reeds do you use. Fortunately I found my perfect set-up a long time ago and have no need or desire to try anything else because like I said, it’s the perfect set up… for me.
I’ll tell you what I use but I ‘m not here to recommend anything in particular because everyone should try several kinds of shapes and sizes in a saxophone mouthpiece. Since we’re all different what’s right for one person won’t feel right for another.
There are numerous parts and dimensions to a sax mouthpiece; baffle, tip, lay, rails, chamber, shank, etc. Best thing is to try as many different brands as you have access to then when you find a brand that feels somewhat better than the rest start zeroing in on the particulars such as chamber size, lay opening, etc. For more information check out the saxophone mouthpiece guide
A few of the favorite brands I have used were Dukoff, Otto Link, Berg Larsen, and of course Guardala. When you’re an experienced player no one needs to tell you what’s right for you but as a beginner your instructor will make helpful suggestions; for example, if your tone is thin he might suggest a more opened tip mouthpiece.
Just a Bit About Sax Reeds (for more read the Saxophone Reeds page)
You can’t get too far into a mouthpiece conversation without mentioning reeds. Generally speaking, the more open your mouthpiece tip is the thinner the reed. If you put a #5 reed on a wide open mouth piece you’re gonna have a real hard time blowing on that set-up. You need to find that perfect combination of an opening that gives you your best sound with the reed size that feels comfortable.
As you start out you’ll use a very thin reed like a 1, 11/2 or 2. You’ll know when it’s time to move up another half size by how hard or easy it feels to play. When you finally get that perfect set-up you’ll really start to get a more focused, quality tone out of your horn.
Your Set-Up Is More Important Than Your Sax!
Yup, that’s right. Once you find your perfect mouthpiece and reed combination you’ll be able to make any sax sound good. Of course it has to be in good working condition. Your set-up on a low quality student sax will sound better than if you play a mouthpiece that feel awful with a wrong size reed on a very expensive pro horn.
So, it’s worth trying and experimenting as much as you can with different mouthpieces and reed sizes. Hopefully this won’t be an ongoing thing cause there’s more fun things to do with your horn!
There’s a lot of choices available for Metal Mouthpieces…
Way back when I turned in my hard rubber mpc for a metal one you could probably count the choices on one hand. Today there are so many that it could be good news or bad.
Bad news because it makes the selection process longer and harder. I’ll use the rest of this article to make a list of the best options that are out there.
Yanagisawa (review upcoming)
Dukoff (review upcoming)
Meyer (review upcoming)
Jody Jazz (review upcoming)
These are the parts of the mpc that regulate your tone:
- The Facing
- The Baffle
- The Chamber
The facing means the amount of tip opening between the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece.
Right behind the tip is the baffle. A high baffle will leave less space between the reed and mouthpiece, sometimes causing squeaks quite easily. A low baffle leaves more space and if too extreme can make it harder to blow.
This is where the sound resonates in the mouthpiece. A small chamber going right into the mouthpiece will produce a larger and brighter sound than a large chamber.