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M/Pieces - Ligs Baritone Mouthpiece Comparison

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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Background:

I have been thinking about a possible alternative to my PPT mouthpiece for playing baritone sax in a big band.

The PPT is a very good mouthpiece. When I got it, several members of the band commented positively on the improvement in sound. And it lets me honk out the low notes when I need to. But it seems to be a bit unforgiving - if I am not playing well, it lets me (and others) know, by sounding hard or squeaking in the upper register. After Christmas I neglected my bari practice, and it showed. I can imagine readers saying that this is my fault, and it is. But I’m an amateur and it happens sometimes.

So I have been looking for a more forgiving big-band mouthpiece. (I use a different mouthpiece for classical quartet playing.) The bari sax in a big band needs to blend in with the other saxes, but sometimes it should be heard clearly through the band, usually playing deep notes. In addition, sometimes the bari plays high, as an extra tenor sax voice, and quite often it is with the brass, like a bass trombone, in which case a percussive attack is needed.

Our band is a community band - anyone can turn up, so it is huge by normal big-band standards (8 altos, 4 tenors) and at present I am the only bari, though at one time there were three of us. So I need to be flexible in terms of volume. The best players in the band are very good, and they seem to succeed in pulling the rest of us up to their standard, rather than the other way round.

For what it’s worth, my experience is that my choice of baritone mouthpiece is based very much on the high notes (above G), rather than the low ones. Any good mouthpiece can do a reasonable job on a low B, but I have found that mouthpieces that have volume for the low notes can sound rather metallic and hard when playing high notes. Some people may like this - more projection - but I don’t. And I don’t like buzzy high-baffle mouthpieces.

@rhysonsax very kindly offered to let me try some of his baritone mouthpieces, so he and I arranged a mouthpiece comparison this week, and I thought I would report on what I discovered.

Caveats:
  1. I am a relatively inexperienced saxophone player (4 years) and have been playing bari for 2 1/2 years. So this is in no way an expert review.
  2. The comparisons were done in a single evening, so I couldn’t spend much time on each mouthpiece. I rejected some of the mouthpieces immediately.
  3. My conclusions reflect my personal preferences, of course, and other people will think differently. However, Rhys heard me play, and his conclusions were pretty much identical to mine.
  4. I only used one type and strength of reed, because of time and because I didn’t want to add an extra variable into the test. It is possible that some of the mouthpieces would have played better with another reed.

The Candidates
The candidate mouthpieces were a classy bunch:
  • Berg-Larsen metal 105/2 SMS
  • Berg-Larsen grained ebonite 110/2 SMS
  • Lawton metal 7
  • Lawton ebonite 7 Star B
  • Lawton 7 Star B (refaced by Bill Wrathall)
  • SR Tech metal Pro BP117
  • Pillinger Bronzite L with VBQ facing
  • Drake Contemporary Crossover II
  • RPC 110B with “reflector baffle”
  • RPC 110B without reflector baffle
  • Rousseau JDX 6
All the mouthpieces have similar tip openings, and I used the same reed for all of them - a D'Addario Select Jazz 2M that has been played-in. The ligatures varied. My saxophone is a Yamaha YBS-32.

For me, the Lawton and Berg-Larsen mouthpieces immediately stood out from the pack. So I will give my opinion on the mouthpieces in three parts:
  1. The “also-rans”
  2. Lawton and Berg-Larsen
  3. Comparison of “the winner” with my PPT.

The Also-Rans

These are all excellent mouthpieces, so calling them “also-rans” is unfair. Any of these mouthpieces can sound great and might be just right for a different player, but for me on the night, they didn’t feel as good as the Berg-Larsen and the Lawton.

Rousseau JDX6 - I bought this mouthpiece second-hand, and it is by far the cheapest of the group. I really like this mouthpiece. It isn’t too bright, it plays well from top to bottom, and it is forgiving. But I have already tried it in the big band and it doesn’t have quite the punch that I am looking for - I felt that I was too discreet. (Other band members may have considered that to be a big improvement!)

Drake Contemporary Crossover II - This has bags of volume, but was far too bright for my taste. If you like a buzzy high-baffle sound, then this would be a possibility.

SR Tech metal Pro BP117 - a nice mouthpiece. Normally I would have thought it was very good indeed, but it seemed ordinary when compared to the Larsen and Lawton mouthpieces.

Pillinger Bronzite L with VBQ facing - This has a bullet baffle like a Berg-Larsen. Another very good mouthpiece, but it didn’t have the sheer power and punch of the Berg-Larsens that I was comparing it with.

RPC 110B - The RPC “B” models have a baffle. I tried two of these. My own, which I have recently bought, and one owned by Rhys, which has been modified by Professor Weinberg at Dawkes to have a “reflector baffle”. The two mouthpieces sound very similar, but the reflector baffle model was smoother. RPC’s are good bari mouthpieces, and I had pretty much decided that my RPC would be my new big-band mouthpiece until I compared it with the Berg-Larsen. The high notes on the RPC seemed hard and rather shrill compared with the Berg.


Lawton and Berg-Larsen

These mouthpieces were all just great in my opinion. I would be very happy with any of them.

Lawton mouthpieces come in three versions - Plain, B and BB. The difference is the amount of baffle. The “B” models are brighter than the “Plain” ones, and the BB brighter still. (Information for nerds - the Lawton mouthpieces were all “small font” - made by Geoff Lawton.)

Lawton Metal 7 (Plain) - I loved this mouthpiece as soon as I played a single note on it. Normally I don’t like the feel of metal mouthpieces, but this was fine. Smooth power from bottom to top. No faults. Lovely.

Lawton Ebonite 7 Star B - I think this mouthpiece had the most projection of all the ones I tried. You could really be heard on one of these! It is quite a bit brighter and more buzzy that the plain model. Easy to blow and a great mouthpiece.

Lawton 7 Star B (refaced by Bill Wrathall) - I can’t remember this one. I think it was like the other Lawton B, but not as good.

I preferred the sound of the plain Lawton to the ones with the baffle, but Rhys pointed out that the B model would do a better job of being heard in a big band, and I had to agree with him. So my heart loved the plain model, but my head said that the B model would probably be best for big-band playing.


Berg Larsen mouthpieces come in four “tone chamber” versions, numbered 0, 1, 2 and 3, where 0 is the brightest and 3 the darkest. They also come with two facing lengths - SMS and MS, where SMS is shorter. The first number in the model number is the tip opening. Both of the Berg-Larsens I tried are modern models - not vintage.

Berg-Larsen metal 105/2 SMS - I can’t really remember much about this mouthpiece except that it was good. I immediately preferred the other Berg-Larsen, so I concentrated on that one instead.

Berg-Larsen grained ebonite 110/2 SMS - this was the winner, as far as I was concerned. It has enormous punch for the low notes and I had the feeling that there was the potential for even more. But it also excelled in the high register - effortless without a change in timbre. I also tried playing a very soft low A (starting by blowing air and gradually getting a tone to sound) and the Berg-Larsen was as easy to blow as any other mouthpiece I have tried. It felt like a mouthpiece which I can play today but with a lot of potential for improvement. (Similar to the PPT in this respect.)

As an aside: the loudest mouthpieces in the test were hard rubber, not metal.


Comparison of the Berg Larsen and the PPT

My PPT is a 7* prototype model. Not a hooligan-type.

At the end of the evening I briefly tried the PPT mouthpiece, and it sounded pretty darn good - in the same class as the Berg-Larsen. Rhys has very generously allowed me to borrow the Berg-Larsen, so I took the PPT and the Berg-Larsen to the next band rehearsal.

I played the Berg-Larsen for some pieces and the PPT for others, and even managed to swap during one piece. Both are excellent mouthpieces, but I liked the Berg-Larsen better. It has more punch and less tendency to become hard at the top. If I play the PPT well, it does not sound hard above G, but if I don’t play it well, it can become metallic. I didn’t notice this with the Berg-Larsen, though that may have been luck. I also felt more confident playing the Berg-Larsen, even though I am not so used to it, for example the funny little bari solo in Doodlin’.

So my conclusion is that it’s Berg-Larsen for me. It’s a wonderful mouthpiece. I am going to play it at our gig at the Bristol Jazz Festival next week.

Many thanks to Rhys for letting me try the mouthpieces and for his patience in listening to me.
 
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sax panther

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interesting stuff. I've been on the lookout for a decent bari mouthpiece for a while (not doing much bari playing, I only have a yamaha 5C and a metalite) and managed to buy a vintage metal berg 95/1/M on ebay which I'm picking up tonight. Will hopefully give it a good blow tomorrow or at the weekend.

There's a lot to be said about having a 'forgiving' mouthpiece - it gives you a lot more confidence. On tenor I have a guardala and a berg. I have the same experience with you in that if I'm having an off day, the guardala really lets me know about it! I love it, I just don't trust it.... It's much less reed friendly too, which doesn't help, so I've found myself drifting back to the berg recently.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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There's a lot to be said about having a 'forgiving' mouthpiece - it gives you a lot more confidence. On tenor I have a guardala and a berg. I have the same experience with you in that if I'm having an off day, the guardala really lets me know about it! I love it, I just don't trust it.... It's much less reed friendly too, which doesn't help, so I've found myself drifting back to the berg recently.


Yes, trusting the mouthpiece matters a lot. My experience after Christmas was that I knew I might have problems with the PPT so I started anticipating them, tensing up, and biting, which just made matters worse. Switching to a Rousseau JDX gave me my confidence back, but it isn't the mouthpiece I want to use long-term.
 
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Ivan

Undecided
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...I am the only bari, though at one time there were three of us...
Professional jealousy can be such a powerful emotion

Was it the 'fall over a balcony' or the'swimming in concrete footwear' option?
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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Was it the 'fall over a balcony' or the'swimming in concrete footwear' option?

Entirely natural causes, I can assure you.

Who could possibly have imagined that the balcony railing would be so flimsy?
 

Tomasz

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543
A couple of "outsider" options to consider would be a Rico Graftonite and/or Rico Metalite for bari.

I've got both mouthpieces for the baritone sax, and although I don't play much on the bari I think they're pretty good for the money.

They don't cost much to buy and really punch above their weight.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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Messages
6,393
A couple of "outsider" options to consider would be a Rico Graftonite and/or Rico Metalite for bari.

I've got both mouthpieces for the baritone sax, and although I don't play much on the bari I think they're pretty good for the money.

They don't cost much to buy and really punch above their weight.

Rico Metallite seems to be a Marmite mouthpiece - love it or hate it. I’m in the “hater” camp. It can make a lot of noise, but the noise is unpleasant.
 
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rhysonsax

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  1. I am a relatively inexperienced saxophone player (4 years) and have been playing bari for 2 1/2 years. So this is in no way an expert review.

I was very impressed by the sound @nigeld makes on his Yamaha baritone on all of the mouthpieces. And that's regardless of how long he has been playing.

It was also interesting to be on the outside, listening rather than playing. The differences between mouthpieces were quite striking, especially the shrill, edgy sound in the higher range on some of the mouthpieces (especially the Drake and the RPC). Some of the pieces sounded good, but their character changed through the range. It was an interesting session and almost enough to make me try a bunch of bari mouthpieces, but I am resisting the temptation.

Sometimes when I am auditioning mouthpieces I get a bit obsessed about tuning issues, but Nigel made all of these mouthpieces sound good and musical, and we didn't look at any tuning issues at all.

Rhys
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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The Rico mouthpieces are rather large in the mouth, especially on Bari. My favourite is a prototype PPT duckbill.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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. . . we didn't look at any tuning issues at all.

Yes. it occurred to me afterwards that we hadn't checked any of the mouthpieces for tuning.
Normally I would fuss with the tuner, but all of them seemed OK.
I think that one of us would have noticed if there were any problems.
My YBS-32 is the most "in tune" of all my saxes - intonation is not normally an issue.

The tuning on my Sequoia soprano is also excellent, now that I am used to it.
But if I was trying a new soprano mouthpiece I would definitely get the tuner out.

All of my saxophones are far better in tune than my (expensive professional) bassoon, which is all over the place when I check with a tuner.
There is no tuning adjustment on the bassoon, so we just lip the notes up and down in an attempt to sound OK.
(But since the cellos, basses and trombones in an amateur orchestra never all play in tune with one another, we can just do our own thing. >:))
 
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nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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6,393
As a postscript:

I have been happily playing the loaned Berg-Larsen grained ebonite 110/2 SMS mouthpiece in the big band. It is a great band mouthpiece. But yesterday I tried out a different Lawton mouthpiece - a new (i.e. Jason Lawton, large font) Hard Rubber Plain 7. (Of course, this was nothing whatever to do with GAS!)

It's hard to remember, but I don't think it has quite as sweet a sound as the metal Geoff Lawton 7 I tried in March, but it has more projection without being shrill. For me, it narrowly edges out the Berg-Larsen. I think this is going to be my band mouthpiece in the future.
 
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