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Saxophone Mouthpieces

To be honest, we could sit down for a couple of days and discuss mouthpieces. There are so many to choose from that really, you could own one for every week of the year. I have tried at least 30 over the years. Everything from Classical mouthpieces like the Selmer C* to Vandoren Metal Mouthpieces with the strange V shaped baffle (excellent for Yamaha horns) to the Russeau JDX7 (excellent hard rubber mouthpiece)  to the Dukoff which is what I use now. What is most important is that the mouthpiece feels good in your mouth, that you get a good strong tone from it and that it works well with your saxophone.

There are a lot of things you can change on your horn set up to get a different tone but nothing will affect the tone more than your mouthpiece. The drastic differences you can achieve by changing the baffle on the inside or the tip opening or definitely between a hard rubber and a metal mouthpiece will surprise you. While one mouthpiece might work for you in one situation, you might choose a vastly different one for another. For instance, I would never play my bored out Dukoff 8M in a classical piece, it would just not be the right tone. I would play my hard rubber Selmer C** though, that would be the right piece for the tone I was after. I carry a hard rubber and a metal mouthpiece in my case at all times, as there might be a need for one, or the other.

For a beginner, it is really important to get a mouthpiece that is comfortable for you so try lots before you buy!

There are always new mouthpieces coming out and I admit I have run out and bought the newest, latest and greatest in the past without making sure that it will work well with the horn I want to play it on. For instance I bought a gold plated Vandoren piece once that was just great but for it to be in tune, it hung off the end of my neck and was almost impossible to play in tune because if you needed to pull out even a little bit to play on the flat side, there was just no neck to do it with so I was forced to take it back. In another case I bought a Bari mouthpiece. Loved it. Good full tone, great projection and very rich bottom end. Problem was, there was a lip on the inside of the piece that kept it from being pushed in past the half way point on my neck. I tried it in the store but my horn was warm and I didn’t have to push it in very far. The first time I had to play cold, I couldn’t get the horn to play in tune and I figured out why after a few times.

So, when you buy a mouthpiece, have the horn with you that you intend on using with the piece. Make sure you have access to a tuner. Get the horn up to temperature either by playing it or by letting it warm up in a room. Grab the tuner, stick the mouthpiece on your cork to the halfway point and play an F on the horn into the tuner. Is it in tune? Yes? Perfect. No? How much is it out of tune, if it is a lot, see how far you need to move the mouthpiece to be in tune. If the horn is warm, a mouthpiece that works should be somewhere within a half an inch from the middle of the cork on the mouthpiece to allow you the full potential of tuning if you need it.

Now try some different strength reeds. Can you play with a light reed on the piece? How about a hard reed? If you can get decent tones from both light reeds and hard reeds then it sounds like that will be a good mouthpiece for you to buy! Choose a reed for the mouthpiece by working with the hardest one that you can play with little effort. If it is too hard, you will not get a great tone, it will be too breathy and your mouth will not be able to hold the tone for long enough. If it is too soft you will squeak and squawk. Even if you end up with a 1.5 or even a 4, it all depends on the opening of the mouthpiece and the strength of your embouchure.

If you have a hard time finding something that works well, don’t worry, you will. keep working with what you have to strengthen your embouchure and keep trying new pieces until you find one that works for you!

Here is a list of mouthpiece makers and the saxophone players that use them, not complete by any stretch, but will give you an idea of what to ask for.

Name Soprano Alto Tenor Baritone
Cannonball Adderley Gregory 4 or 5, New York Meyer 5, Rico 2 or LaVoz Medium Reeds – King Super 20 alto
Gerald Albright Dukoff D7 Metal Beechler 7 Dukoff 7
Justo Almario Selmer D, Rico or Hemke Reeds Metal Beechler 6, La Voz or Hemke Reeds Metal Otto Link 8, Rico Reeds
Harold Ashby Otto Link
Gabe Baltazar Lakey 4*3 or Beechler S8S
Gato Barbieri Metal Berg Larsen – Selmer Mk VI
Gary Bartz Vandoren A45
Bob Berg Metal Selmer G Metal Francios Louis, Rico Select or Medium LaVoz Reeds – Selmer MkVI
Jerry Bergonzi Super Gonz 1, Copper or Grenadilla (.110 tip), Rico Reeds
Jay Beckenstein Selmer C*, Van Doren #3 reeds Beechler 6, Vandoren #3 Reeds
Tim Berne Rubber Berg Larsen 95/2, Vandoren Reeds
Jane Ira Bloom Metal Selmer D
Hamiet Bluiett RIA Medium / Lawton
Arthur Blythe Metal Berg Larsen 95/1, LaVoz Reeds
Arthur Blythe Metal Berg Larsen 95/1, LaVoz Reeds
Arno Bornkamp Selmer metal c**, Selmer S90 200, Mark VI Vandoren AL3, Otto Link 5*, Ebonite, Buffet Crampon Prestige Semer C*, Otto LInk Metal 7* Tone Master, Selmer MarkVII
Earl Bostic Hard Rubber Beechler, Martin Committee Model
Mike Brignola Lawton 6 La Voz Medium Hard Reeds
Nick Brignola Runyon 7 Runyon Bionix 8* Runyon Bionix 8* Lawton 8*BB
Michael Brecker Guardala 8 Guardala Brecker Model, LaVoz Reeds – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Nick Brignola Runyon
Don Byas Metal Otto Link Florida Super Tone Master 3*, Rico 3 Reeds
Ace Cannon Rubber Berg Larson 80/1 Rubber Berg Larson 90/1
Benny Carter Arnold Brilhart Ebolin
James Carter Lawton Metal 7*BB, Rico Plasticover Reeds
Pete Christlieb Metal Berg Larsen 130/0, Rico Plasticover #2 Reeds – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Clarence Clemons Dukoff D9, D11 Rico Plasticover
Arnett Cobb Otto Link (9?) Rico Royal 3
Mark Colby Selmer H Hard Rubber Otto Link 8
George Coleman Vandoren A25 Meyer 5 Otto Link 7*
Steve Coleman Vandoren A55 – Vandoren Java 3 Reeds
John Coltrane Metal Selmer E Metal Otto Link 5 star – Rico #4 Reeds
Jay Corre Berg Larsen 110
Hank Crawford Barret Stock 5, LaVoz Medium Reeds
Ronnie Cuber Otto Link 8*
Eddie Daniels Metal Otto Link 7* – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Jay Davidson Dukoff Guardala Guardala MB Berg Larsen
Paul Desmond Gregory 4A-18M Rico 3 1/2 Reeds – Selmer Super Balanced Action #43,xxx
Dennis Diblasio Lawton 8*B Lawton 7*B
Lou Donaldson Meyer 5, Rico 2 Reeds
Paquito D’Rivera Otto Link 6 Metal Selmer F, Rico 3 Reeds
Candy Dulfer Saxworks, Rico Jazz Select Medium filed Reeds
Malcolm “Molly” Duncan (Average White Band) Otto Link NY 7, Rico Jazz Select 3 or Van Doren Java 3 Reeds – Selmer Mk V1 (1957)
Richard Elliott Strathon 8*, Saxtech reeds, LA Sax
Bill Evans Guardala Studio Model, Vandoren Reeds – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Herschel Evans Otto Link “Master Link”
Lawrence Feldman Selmer D NY Meyer 6 w/wedge Otto Liink 7 – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Brandon Fields Selmer E Metal Beechler 8, Hard Rubber Berg Larsen 90/2 Metal Florida Otto Link #7 – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Med Flory Brilhart 5*
Frank Foster Yanigasawa 5 Lawton 10*B
Gary Foster RPC 95F, Vandoren Java 2 1/2, Yamaha Lawton 10*B
Kenny Garrett Selmer F Vandoren 3 Reeds Selmer E Hemke 3 Reeds – Selmer MkVI
Stan Getz Otto Link 8*
Dexter Gordon Metal Selmer C* Various Otto Links
Kenny Gorlick Dukoff metal D8, Hemke #2 1/2 Reeds Beechler hard rubber S5S, Hemke #3 Reeds RIA metal 5, Hemke #3 Reeds
Johnny Griffin Metal Otto Link (.150 tip) LaVoz Medium Soft Reeds
Jimmy Giuffre Metal Berg Larsen 130/0
Scott Hamilton Otto Link Super Tone Master, refaced to 12 – Selmer Super Balanced Action
Craig Handy Vandoren S25 Berg Larsen 105/1
John Harle Selmer Soloist B, Vandoren #3 Reeds Selmer S-80 C*, Vandoren #3 Reeds, Meyer 5M, Rico Royal #3 Reeds Selmer Solist B or S-80 C*, Vandoren #3 Reeds
Coleman Hawkins Metal Otto Link
Jimmy Heath Selmer D, Marca Reeds Hard Rubber Ron Coelho 105, Vandoren Reeds
Joe Henderson Semer Soloist D (Short Shank refaced to H or I?), LaVoz Medium Soft Reeds
Vincent Herring NY Meyer 5M Alexander Superial 3 1/2 Reeds Gold Plated Yanigisawa 991
Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson Otto Link 12*, Rico Plasticover 4 Reeds
Plas Johnson Berg Larsen .160/2, Rico Plasticover 2 Reeds
John Klemmer Yanigasawa #7 Metal ARB #7, LaVoz Medium Hard Reeds Metal Brilhart Level-Air #5
Dave Koz Couf 8 Metal Beechler 7 Hard Rubber Berg Larsen
Steve Lacey Otto Link 12
Oliver Lake Selmer RIA 7
Don Lamphere Couf 7* Couf 5* Couf 8*
Dave Liebman Sugal Freddy Gregory
Joe Lovano Otto Link 9* Ebony Francois Louis 10* Superial DC 3.5 & 4 and Classique Reeds Selmer Super Balanced Action, silver plated
Joe Lulloff Selmer S-80 C* Selmer S-80 C**Meyer 5M Beechler 7 Rousseau Otto Link Selmer S-80D Berg Larsen
Bob Malach Metal Otto Link 8* – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Eric Marienthal Metal Beechler 8, Vandoren 3 Reeds Metal Beechler 7 Berg Larsen 110/2, Vandoren 3 Reeds – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Branford Marsalis Bari Branford Marsalis Guardala – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Mel Martin Peter Ponzol Classic #70 – Vandoren blue box reeds Peter Ponzol Custom #85 Peter Ponzol Custom #110
Jackie McLean Berg Larsen – Bari Reed
Charles McPherson Meyer 5 Arbex 7*
Bob Mintzer Berg Larsen 95/0 Hard Rubber Freddy Gregory – Selmer MkVI Tenor
James Moody RPC 150M, Rico Jazz Select 2H Baritone sax reeds
Lanny Morgan Selmer F w/Oleg ligature
Gerry Mulligan Gale 5
Tommy Newsom Selmer S 80 Leonard Gullota 5* Brilhart 5* Hard Rubber Otto Link 6
Dick Oatts Wolf Tane 7 Berg Larsen 90/2 Otto Link 8 – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Scott Page Hard Rubber Otto Link
James Oppenhiem (Boney James) Guardala King/R&B, Vandoren V16 3 1/2 reeds
Charlie Parker Brilhart 5?
Maceo Parker Brilhart Ebolin
Ken Peplowski Beechler 5 Berg Larsen 110/0
Houston Person Lawton 10 metal
Lenny Pickett Selmer C* Meyer 5 BergLarsen 130/0 SMS Vandoren Reeds – Selmer MkVI Tenor Hard Rubber Berg Larsen 115/0
Courtney Pine Freddie gregory Courtney Pine custom model – 110 tip – Vandoren 2 reeds Lawton 11bb tip – Vandoren 2 1/2 reeds Freddie Gregory Courtney Pine custom model – 120 tip – Vandoren 3 1/2 reeds Lawton 11bb tip – Vandoren 2 reeds
Bobby Porcelli Meyer 6M Alexander Superial DC 3 1/2
Boots Randolph Dukoff D9, La Voz Med Reeds
Joshua Redman Selmer Soloist Hard Rubber G,Vandoren 2 Reeds, Selmer Mark VI Meyer New York USA 6 Hard Rubber,
Vandoren 2 1/2 Reeds, Selmer Balanced Action
Metal Otto Link 9* – Selmer Relacquered Super Balanced Action Tenor Saxophone(48,000)
Jerome Richardson Selmer Hard Rubber Otto Link Metal Otto Link
Scott Robinson Vandoren?
Sonny Rollins Berg Larsen 130/2
James Rotter Selmer S-80 E Vandoren 4 Reeds, Selmer Mark VI Selmer S-80 C** Vandoren 5 Reeds, Selmer Mark VI (gold plated)
Note: Mr. Rotter uses #5 Vandorens as finished blanks and adjusts them significantly before playing
Selmer S-80 C* “Soloist” Vandoren 5 Reeds, Selmer Mark VII Selmer S-80 C** Vandoren 5 Reeds, Selmer Mark VI
Marc Russo Yanigisawa 9 Meyer 6, Rico Plasticover Reeds Dukoff D9
David Sanborn Dukoff D7, D9
Pharoh Sanders Metal Selmer Metal Selmer
Tom Scott Guardala Studio
Andy Shepard Bari
Wayne Shorter Hard Rubber Otto Link 10 Hard Rubber Otto Link 10 – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Lew Tabakin Otto Link 6 – Rico #4 Reeds – Selmer MkVI Tenor
James Umble Selmer C* Morgan 3C Vandoren 3 1/2 Reeds Selmer C* Vandoren 3 1/2 Reeds, Selmer Super Action 80 Series I, Winslow ligature Selmer C* Vandoren 3 1/2
Chris Vadala Selmer C* Meyer 7 Otto Link 8 – Selmer MkVI Tenor
Junior Walker Metal Lawton – Selmer Mk VI
Bennie Wallace Florida Otto Link Super Tone Master, Selmer MKVI Tenor, Rico Jazz Select reeds
Sadao Watanabe Meyer 5
Bobby Watson Vandoren A35
Ernie Watts Runyon 9 Lawton 9*, Barone Metal Metal Otto Link 13 – 160 tip, Keilworth Saxophone
Ben Webster Metal Otto Link 9, Rico 3 1/2 Reeds
Kirk Whalum Dukoff 8* Sugal, Keilwerth Black Nickel
Edgar Winter Brilhart Level Air 6 Brilhart Level Air 6
Paul Winter Selmer D, Winslow ligature, Vandoren #4 reeds – Selmer Mark VI
Phil Woods Meyer 5, La Voz medium reeds
George Young Beechler – Selmer Mk VI
Lester Young Otto Link “Master Link”


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