Mouthpieces Alto mouthpiece question?


New Member
Hello there,

I'm a relative beginner to alto sax playing - currently renting a Yamaha YAS 62.

This came with a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece but I started playing it with a Vandoren V16 mouthpiece and V16 #2 reeds.

I played that sporadically for a while and for the last few months I've been having more frequent lessons and was moving up to using V16 #2.5 reeds.

I was sort of getting used to this when I left the mouthpiece behind at a lesson a few weeks ago.

I wasn't able to collect this, so used the Yamaha 4C instead - and found this instantly easier to play. I'm also now try Vandoren Java Red #2.5 reeds.

The sound isn't as 'dark' as I imagine I'd like my playing to sound but it certainly feels more responsive/immediate and I'm getting less squeaks/squawks.

If I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure why I'm posting this - I just wasn't sure if this suggested anything at all about my ability and whether I should really persevere with the V16 or - for now - enjoy the 4C and see how things develop.

I'd recommend any feedback!

Thanks in advance,

The yamaha mouthpiece with the 4C lay is very popular when starting out. I would stick with it if it's the mouthpiece you're enjoying and getting best results from. There's enough to learn when starting out and having one less thing to worry about will let you concentrate on other areas and will speed your progress.

When your embouchure develops and has reached a stable plateau you'll know what you want and that would be the time to search for a different or more comfortable or more versatile sound by changing the mouthpiece.

Dont get distracted by thinking that the harder the reed the better the player. Each player mouthpiece reed combination is very individual. I've played alto for 30 years and use a classic blue vandoren 2.

Predictability, reliability and tone is everything for me. It leaves you free to concentrate on playing music.
Now you know why the Yamaha 4c is so popular. I would stick with it for the time being if it suits you better. I've been playing for a long time as well and I use Rico Royal #2 reeds. I bought a Yamaha alto from a friend recently and it plays great with the 4c mouthpiece that came with it.

I use a Vandoren #6 on my other alto and I'm sure you will enjoy the V16 in the future.

Keep having fun.

Hey there simonlewin,

I second what Colin the Bear has to say about your mouthpiece/reeds. By all accounts, the Yamaha is a really good mouthpiece. If you have reeds that don't feel like playing a plank of wood, there's no rush to get harder reeds. In order to get the sound you want, chopping and changing reeds and mouthpieces sometimes feels like progress....however.

My personal experience has been that once you have a mouthpiece and a reed combination that works reasonably well, chill for a while and work on other things that influence your sound. Long tones and overtone exercises (I recently started using ‘Top Tones’ by Sigurd Rascher) have done wonders for my sound. Learning not to bite on high notes, opening up my throat and using proper air support for my notes has made big improvements.

I would love to say I am just wise and know all these things, but I was afflicted with serious GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) like most other sax players I know and went through Links, Meyers, Morgan Excaliburs and Vandoren mouthpieces with Rico, Rico Royal, Vandoren Blue, V16, Java, Alexander Superials, La Voz reeds to name a few. A lot of money spent chasing something that I thought I could buy and only now, years later, I realise that it didn’t need to be such an arduous and expensive route.

Bob Reynolds (a sax player/educator I am a big fan of) once said the best mouthpiece you have is usually one you’ve got. The ‘improvement’ you sometimes perceive when you get a new mouthpiece actually comes from spending more time and trying harder with your new ‘toy’.

I think I read somewhere that your sound is like a plant. With a little daily care and practice, it’ll grow into something beautiful. Spend the time, save the cash.

In all cases, continue to have fun and keep it up :)
The Yamaha 4C has a small tip opening - 0.063", which is like many beginner pieces at 0.065" and designed for people who have not yet developed their embouchure. The smallest V16 mouthpiece is 0.074" (A5) and the most common V16 A6 and A7 are 0.077" and 0.080" respectively. So the Yamaha 4C IS going to be a much easier blow. As your main task at the moment is developing your embouchure than playing a smaller tip opening sounds most helpful, and if you played softer Jazz Reeds on the V16 you would also find that an easy blow. I generally find Vandoren reeds quite hard and not that responsive (though like the ZZ reeds) and have stopped buying them, preferring "Jazz" reeds such as Marca Jazz, Francois Louis Excellence, Rigotti Gold, and Rico Jazz Select.

So smaller tip and harderr reed or larger tip and softer reed. The first is likely to produce a quieter clearer sound, the latter a louder more dynamic/characterful sound. I'd get some softer jazz reeds to try on the V16 and then see which set up you prefer. Otherwise just stick with the Yamaha until curiosity ever gets the better of you.

I played a V16 for several years and it was a very good piece at the time - though have moved on since.
Finally this is one of the best charts on reed strengths:
In addition to the detailed posts above I just want to add that you may also be positioning this mouthpiece a bit differently in your mouth, due to how it's made, and that can also have a positive effect and result in less squeaks/squawks.

Too much mouthpiece in your mouth: You sound like a duck and not like a sax player (easy to get squeaks/squawks)
Too little mouthpiece in your mouth: you get a mellow non distinctive sound.

When you find the "sweet spot" you'll be sounding the best!

As long as you have followed the tips in the previous posts as well.

Play on!

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