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The saxophone mouthpiece and the tone characteristics
The sound is created inside the saxophone mouthpiece. Mouthpieces lengths are different for each type of saxophone (alto, baritone, soprano, tenor). For a given type of mouthpiece, the shape of the cavity inside the mouthpiece determines its acoustic properties. The mouthpiece tip opening (the distance between the reed and the mouthpiece tip) has a different range of variation depending on the saxophone: for the soprano saxophone mouthpiece, the variation range is 0.90 to 2.50 mm ; for the alto saxophone mouthpiece, its 1.40 to 2.80 mm ; for the tenor saxophone mouthpiece, its 1.60 to 3.80 mm and for the baritone saxophone mouthpiece, the range is 1.80 to 3.90 mm. The measurement unit which is the most used is the thousandth of an inch, but some mouthpieces makers are using their own scale (6, 6*, 7…).
Saxophone mouthpiece material: metal mouthpiece? Plastic mouthpiece? Hard rubber? Wood?
The sax mouthpiece can be made in different materials: metal, plastic, hard rubber, wood or cristal. There are three major criteria for the material choice:
- Comfort in the mouth
- Mechanical resistance
The solidity of the material is important, but the mouth comfort and the non-toxicity are even more. For that, Syos ABS plastic mouthpieces are a very good option. In addition to their customization possibility and their affordable price, they received the "non toxic" certification. The metal saxophone mouthpiece, mostly used by jazz musicians, is not very comfortable in the mouth, especially when played outside in the cold. The hard rubber is a material which belongs to the family of plastic. It’s made with natural rubber vulcanized with sulfur, a method invented by Charles Goodyear. Hard rubber mouthpieces have good comfort, their main inconvenient is that when aging, the sulfuric acid inside the mouthpiece escapes (which makes the mouthpiece turn yellow-green). Saxophone mouthpieces made with wood are very uncommon but are appreciated by some saxophonists. Cristal mouthpieces are very aesthetic, but are rarely used because they are easily breakable. The best saxophone mouthpiece is a mouthpiece that can resist impacts and scratching. Such impacts, even weak, can damage the mouthpiece shape and thus the sound quality.
Choosing the best saxophone mouthpiece
When choosing a mouthpiece it is important to know and understand all the saxophone mouthpiece parts: the table, the chamber, the tip opening and the baffle. The table is the flat surface where the reed lies on the mouthpiece. It ends with a curved part which goes to the mouthpiece tip. The length of this part is called the "table length" or "facing length" ; the longer it is, the more freedom the reed has when it vibrates. There are several interactions between the table length, the tip opening and the baffle. For example, a short facing with a high baffle results in a free-blowing feeling similar to a medium facing with a medium baffle. The "chamber" is the first circular section inside the mouthpiece, located under the table at the entrance of the part that goes on the saxophone neck (the bore). The chamber can be small, medium or big. The tip opening is the distance between the reed and the mouthpiece tip. With a big opening, the reed has a bigger oscillation range. A small tip opening gives softer, rounder and more focused sounds, which is better for classical music. A bigger opening gives more powerful and flexible sounds, which is more suitable for a jazz mouthpiece. The baffle is the part inside the mouthpiece going from the tip to the chamber. Its shape and its inclination are what defines the mouthpiece tone: straight baffles give dark and warm tone, curved baffle bring brightness to the sound. Step baffles give the sound a lot of power. The angle of the baffle also determines the harmonic richness of the sound.
Choosing a saxophone mouthpiece brand
First, the most important choice is the choice of the saxophone mouthpiece tip opening. A mouthpiece which is too open or too closed for you will not work at all. Each mouthpiece brand has its own scale to define the tip opening, often identified by a figure or a letter (ex: T95, C, 110, 5, 7…) which indicates the distance between the reed and the mouthpiece. If you want to find the best tip opening for you, it’s better speak to an acoustic expert: cutom mouthpiece is then the best choice. Famous saxophone mouthpieces brands are Berg Larsen, Brancher, Brilhart, Dukoff, Meyer, Otto Link, Selmer, Vandoren and Syos.
Selmer mouthpieces are the best alto saxophone mouthpieces for classical music. They have a very good accuracy and gives a rich, soft and focused sound. Vandoren mouthpieces are also good for classical music and some of them can be used as jazz mouthpieces. If you’re playing jazz on the alto, well-known references are the meyer mouthpiece, the otto link mouthpiece or the brilhart mouthpiece. Unlike those historical brands, Syos is new on the market and brings a touch of innovation to the saxophone mouthpiece thanks to technology and scientific experience drawn from the IRCAM, one of the finest acoustic research center in the world.
Syos, the new mouthpiece expert!
Syos is the first custom mouthpiece maker to use a high-tech process to design its products. It is different from all the other brands who only make standard series of mouthpiece models. Syos gives you the possibility to have your custom mouthpiece created on-demand according to your needs and preferences.
- You are helped by an acoustic expert who will help guide yoàu in your sound research.
- You can test the mouthpiece(s) at home or in rehearsal without having to go in a shop.
- You can try your custom mouthpiece for 30 days, with the possibility of requesting adjustments on its shape to modify the sound, to get it even closer to your need.
Simply fill out the customization form on our online shop: you tell us about your saxophone level, the music you like, your favorite sound, which kind of sound you are looking for (bright? Dark? Powerful? Warm…) and we design your mouthpiece based on that. With Syos, satisfaction is guaranteed. If you have any question, we can answer you on the mouthpiece chat, or you can give us a call: we will help you define your requirements.
Describe your favorite artist's sound!
Analyze the sound of famous musicians, describe it, and compare with other saxophonists!
Why saxophone mouthpieces have different lengths?
Two tenor sax mouthpieces can have a very different length. Do you know why? Read this scientific article on Syos blog to check the answer!