Tip opening of saxophone mouthpiece
The mouthpiece tip opening corresponds to the distance between the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece. A simple way to visualize is to lay the mouthpiece flat on a table: then we see a few millimeters separating the mouthpiece of the table, that is the tip-opening. This distance is very important for the physics of the instrument since it represents the
What are the possible tip openings?
Hard to navigate because each mouthpiece brand has its own scale to define the tip openings of its different models. The tip opening is often indicated by a number or a letter (for example 5, 5 *, T95 or C *, F ...). In terms of the dimensions of the mouthpiece, this translates into a distance from the reed to the mouthpiece varying according to the saxophone models:
|Mouthpiece||Variation range in mm||Variation range in inches|
|Soprano||0.90 to 2.50 mm||0.035 to 0.100 inches|
|Alto||1.40 to 2.80 mm||0.055 to 0.110 inches|
|Ténor||1.60 to 3.80 mm||0.065 to 0.145 inches|
|Baryton||1.80 to 3.90 mm||0.070 to 0.150 inches|
The most commonly used unit of measurement is 1/1000th of an inch (for example, 90, 95, 100, 110 ...). Brands like Berg Larsen, Bari or Ponzol use the value directly in thousandths of an inch for their scales. Other brands use a simple number but be careful! the values can vary from one brand to another: for example the 7 at Meyer corresponds to 80 (or 2.05 mm) while the 7 at Otto Link corresponds to 90 (2.3 mm)!
At Syos, we prefer to use the value of the tip opening in 100ths of millimeter. When you receive a Syos custom saxophone mouthpiece, this value is carved inside the mouthpiece shank (first three numbers following the model reference are the opening), for example 254, 292... Dor signature saxophone mouthpieces available on our online shop, you can choose the tip opening in the millimeter (equivalences are given) for the soprano signatures, the alto signatures, les tenor signatures et les baritone signatures.
Tip-opening and manufacturing
Between the smallest and largest tip-opening, there is only 2 mm difference. And between these extreme values one generally finds more than a dozen intermediate openings. It is therefore important to precisely control (at least 1/10 mm) the manufacturing process.
Hand finishing processes can easily change the opening of the mouthpiece. A difference of 0.1 mm (one tenth of a millimeter, do you realize what it represents?) appears very quickly polishing or sanding the tip of the mouthpiece or even the table. This explains why trying several same mouthpiece models of the same brand does not necessarily find the same feelings.
What is the influence of the tip-opening on the sound ?
You will not be able to play on a saxophone mouthpiece too open for you, and will find it difficult to play on a mouthpiece too closed. The tip-opening of the saxophone mouthpiece will impact both the comfort of play, the sound volume and the tone-colour of the instrument. For the same reed strength, increasing the tip-opening of the saxophone mouthpiece will allow to have more sound volume and give more body and width to the sound. In return, a more open mouthpiece requires an effort of adaptation, and appears from the outset more difficult to play.
The goal is not to play on the most open mouthpiece possible: you have to find your optimal comfort zone. Famous saxophonists such as Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz or Charlie Parker played very closed mouthpieces (3*, 4, 4* ...) a good part of their life as a musician.
The opening is the distance between the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece. Very small variation (<1 / 10th mm) will completely change the sound and playing comfort
An open mouthpiece will be more difficult to control, but allows for more power and more flexibility in the handling of sound.
Just like everyone has his shoe size, each saxophonist has his/her tip-opening area in which he/she is comfortable.