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Beginner Is the mouthpiece important for a beginner?

richardfm

New Member
Messages
28
Location
Cornwall
I see lots of discussions about mouthpieces, apparently saying that they are really important but ...

I bought a conn-selmer prelude alto sax about 18 months ago, and have use the mouthpiece that came with it up til now, without any obvious problem.
I've just bought a walstien baritone, and am using the mouthpiece that came with that .. again without any apparent problem.

So, at what point in the learning process does it really become worth looking at alternative mouthpieces? Is this really only an issue for the professional musician?
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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It's when either you or your teacher notice a problem that you would ever need to change.

But if you are a realtive newcomer to the saxohpone and don't have a teacher, it would often be hard for you to know if there are any problems or not that may be caused by the mouthpiece.

e.g. Can you play low notes very quietly?
 

jadoube

Member
Messages
150
Location
Fleet, Hampshire
I see lots of discussions about mouthpieces, apparently saying that they are really important but ...

I bought a conn-selmer prelude alto sax about 18 months ago, and have use the mouthpiece that came with it up til now, without any obvious problem.
I've just bought a walstien baritone, and am using the mouthpiece that came with that .. again without any apparent problem.

So, at what point in the learning process does it really become worth looking at alternative mouthpieces? Is this really only an issue for the professional musician?

When I started my teacher suggested I'd be ok with the piece that came with my sax for about a year and should then get a 'good' one. I did so earlier than that and wasn't good enough to see more than a psychological difference.

You don't have to do it if you're happy as you are. On the other hand many people try out different mouthpieces while still beginners. When I bought my tenor I hardly used the piece that came with it, upgraded immediately, and could tell the difference.

The important thing is to try them out rather than take it on trust. We all have different lungs and lips. I've bought 'good' mouthpieces that I simply was not capable of playing.
 
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richardfm

New Member
Messages
28
Location
Cornwall
It's when either you or your teacher notice a problem that you would ever need to change.

But if you are a realtive newcomer to the saxohpone and don't have a teacher, it would often be hard for you to know if there are any problems or not that may be caused by the mouthpiece.

e.g. Can you play low notes very quietly?
I had a teacher until she moved away from the area about six months ago, and I may have a new one ... still trying to figure out what I want from a teacher and how often I need lessons. Haven't found one who plays baritone yet though.

I've only had the baritone two weeks and haven't got the full range of the instrument yet ... I can slur up to top f#, but can't hit anything higher than top d reliably. At the bottom end I can hit all the notes though there's a tendency to go up an octave occasionally on everything below bottom d (low c# is a particular problem I'm working on), and the low A tends to 'beat'

I don't think I have a major problem playing low notes softly (though playing quieter does tend to make me more likely to go up an octave). Actually, with dynamics i think my main problem is a lack of projection in the midrange.

Generally, I get the feeling that time, and more practice, is what's probably needed, rather than any mouthpiece issue.
 

Mamos

Member
Messages
691
Location
Falmouth Cornwall
Hi Richard

I was going to a teacher over in Redruth for a while and although she does not plat batitone she does play in a sax quartet that I would imagine has a bari player.

If you like I will PM her number for you to have a chat

mamos
 

Linky Lee

Member
Messages
182
Location
Salisbury, UK
It sounds like most of the issues are just general problems that every saxophone has.
Hard to get a good high register, hard to get a good quiet low register and a solid middle register, but not so powerful.

I think you've got it right when you say it's probably a practice thing. A new mouthpiece could definitely make say, the lower register easier, but probably at the expense of the high etc. etc.

If you do go for a mouthpiece I think you'd probably just want something fairly 'standard' but maybe a bit more open (what do you play at the moment?)

It's just about developing your embouchure and tone. Good practice will do a lot more for your sax playing than a new mouthpiece (though a new mouthpiece could be the incentive you need to put the practice in).
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
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3,619
Location
Betelgeuse
Having been through loads of mouthpieces over the years, in my case the reason for changing was more a desire for a slightly different sound than any issues with playing a particular one. If you want to find a different tone, try a different mouthpiece. If you're happy with the ones you've got, and you like the tone, stick with them.

A word of warning, though. Changing mouthpieces can get a bit addictive. :shocked:
 
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richardfm

New Member
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28
Location
Cornwall
If you like I will PM her number for you to have a chat
Yes please. It would be good to get in touch with someone else, though at the moment I'm really not sure what I want a teacher for... I think most likely an occasional check to make sure I'm not going wrong, and perhaps to make contact with other people to start learning to play in a group. I guess a teacher is the best contact point to find people who can tolerate playing with a beginner.
 

kiwi simon

New Member
Messages
26
Location
chch, nz
Hi Richard,

Well, I know a couple of players that still use the stock mouthpiece that came with the sax, and they sound great. There doesn't have to be a problem with a piece for you to change - often saxophonists change because they want a different tone or easier high notes, or simply cos someone they know who plays one sounds amazing so you should be able to as well ... and the marketing of mouthpieces plays on all this of course :)

When you start playing in with a group you start to realise that your idea of 'a suitable sound' and 'dynamics' might be a little on the wrong side, especially if you're up against guys with amps. At this stage a stainless steel high baffle ZX99D 'chainsaw model' could be seen as the solution, but then if you're playing to easily scared people who'd rather hear the intro bari of 'Moanin' on flute, applying a fair amount of 'sonic restraint' re mpc selection would be well in order.

A visit to a mpc shop is worthwhile and I guess there are still some around that'll send pieces out on appro with a restocking fee.

A couple of things re mouthpieces Ive learnt through trial and a fair amount of error:
1. it can take a few months of playing a new mouthpiece before you get what you want out of it
2. just because its expensive doesn't mean its any good to you
3. always play it before buying if possible - and use a new reed

Good luck!
Simon
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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4,448
Location
brighton by the sea
Hi Richard,

Well, I know a couple of players that still use the stock mouthpiece that came with the sax, and they sound great. There doesn't have to be a problem with a piece for you to change - often saxophonists change because they want a different tone or easier high notes, or simply cos someone they know who plays one sounds amazing so you should be able to as well ... and the marketing of mouthpieces plays on all this of course :)

When you start playing in with a group you start to realise that your idea of 'a suitable sound' and 'dynamics' might be a little on the wrong side, especially if you're up against guys with amps. At this stage a stainless steel high baffle ZX99D 'chainsaw model' could be seen as the solution, but then if you're playing to easily scared people who'd rather hear the intro bari of 'Moanin' on flute, applying a fair amount of 'sonic restraint' re mpc selection would be well in order.

A visit to a mpc shop is worthwhile and I guess there are still some around that'll send pieces out on appro with a restocking fee.

A couple of things re mouthpieces Ive learnt through trial and a fair amount of error:
1. it can take a few months of playing a new mouthpiece before you get what you want out of it
2. just because its expensive doesn't mean its any good to you
3. always play it before buying if possible - and use a new reed

Good luck!
Simon
Wise words, but I would query one minor thing... i'd be very wary about using a new reed when trying pieces for the first time. I remember going through a newly delivered batch of mouthpieces at sax.co and coming to the conclusion every single piece was a bit duff. Truth was I'd pulled two dud reeds in succession from the box...
 

Laura-Rose

Member
Messages
39
Location
Hampshire
Hello :)

I'm pretty new to playing sax so couldnt tell you the technicalities! but have been 'musical' for most of my life.

I was using the standard mouthpiece and didnt particlarly have any problems with it, but my teacher reccomended that I get a new piece for a better/clearer sound... (which i wanted)

I got a really nice Vandoren mp, and it has made a huge difference (mainly to my confidence!) but I personally think it sounds much better!

I guess it depends how much money you want to spend? And what you want to get from your sax playing?

Cheers,

Laura :)
 
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richardfm

New Member
Messages
28
Location
Cornwall
Thanks for all the replies everyone. I think what I'm getting in summary is that, while I could probably shop around for a mouthpiece and find a better one for me than the one which came with my sax, there's no real need to do so. The point to go shopping is when there's good reason to feel I've hit a problem with the current one, or when I have money and want to treat myself ... neither seem to apply at the moment.
 

Col9

Member
Messages
58
Location
Northants, UK
Hello, I also have a Walstein bari. I used the stock mouthpiece for ages it was OK. The only problem I noticed was that upper register was a bit thin as it went up with it. I bought a Yanisigawa 5 rubber mouthpiece. It feels the same as the stock just as easy to blow etc in the lower register but the higher register is great as well.

I tried a jody jazz classic 7 which sounded great but was such hard work. The JJ baffle/spoiler did improve the walstein mouthpiece across the range when I tried it, but still not as nice as the Yani.

col.
 

Phil

Member
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
546
Location
France
If it plays well there is no compelling reason to change it. Being on sax forums can lead you to feel you need a lot of gear. You dont...unless of course your buying it from me...then you need lots :D

The other issue is to not fall into the trap of feeling you need bigger tip openings just because thats what some of the pros may use. If you get too caught up in the gear runaround it will impact your playing and it becomes easy to look for the answers in your wallet rather than in your practice sessions.

That being said, poor gear can make it more difficult than it should be. Thats where a friend or teacher who plays well and can test your equipment becomes very valuable.
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,606
Location
Out in the Countryside of Nelson NZ
Hi Richard, all good advice above.

My procedure is to ask the assistant for advice telling them what I'm currently playing, and what sort of sound I'm after. Then get them to recommend mouthpieces. When I have a selection, I head to the practise room. I set my mini disc recording and trial test for volume and clarity with my basic (current set up) Once I'm happy... as your recording mention the various set ups and comments, this will be helpfull later when your listening to finalize your selection.

I take notes starting with the basic set up!

I play a basic scale, arpeggio.

Next Lowest to highest notes.

Simple tune in 2 octaves (Pink panther)

then softest, to loudest and back to softest.

Ease of starting a note. Low and High notes

Overtones on C, low to high, high to low.

Alter distance into mouth, long notes & vibrato.

I give each one of the above a 1-5 score (5 being fantastic) as I do them, also note lastly (general comments) how this Mouthpiece performs in relation to the Standard set up.

Once I have my top three, I then shoot out which one of these is the best...select that one, then shoot this one out with my current mouthpiece.

Although I haven't done allot of mouthpiece testing, sometimes I've found nothing better than my current set up.

I have the luxury of not needing to make a decision there on the spot and can and will return another day to shoot out my possibles then choose one.

I posted this before on the old Forum and Nachoman suggesed using a tuner, so take some paper and set up a check sheet

Listening back to the recording later can be really suprising as one tends to get easily confused with sounds and which was which!

Also the ligatures can have quite an effect so trial some out on your final top shoot out.

Hope this helps

Cheers
Jimu:mrcool
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
696
My Yamaha baritone came, as they all do, with the Yamaha 5C mouthpiece. After I'd played with it for about eight months I concluded that its tip opening was too wide for me sine I seemed to need a lot of air. I then bought a Vandoren BL3. This was a find. Everything got much easier. Today, just to see whether I could still notice this problem, I did the first half of my practice on the BL3 and the second on the 5C. I was truly amazed at how well I went on the 5C. It still seems to need a little more air than the BL3, but otherwise it seems to be perfect for my needs.

Maybe I could have saved myself the purchase of the BL3, but I am not sure whether the struggle would have been worth it. In any case, I suppose the experience is some indicator of progress.
 

Rogerb

Member
Messages
766
Location
Costa Blanca, Spain
Yes, I was going to suggest a newly 'played-in' reed or two, rather than straight from the box, and hence of unknown quality.

We are indeed all very different. The 'yamaha type' 5C which came with my BW M2 seemed very 'closed' to me, but I was surprised how easy to blow the 7*PPT is, for a relative beginner(in terms of 'chops strength' ) and a complete newbie to tenor.
 
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TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,232
Location
Skabertawe, South Wales
Hi There!

My contribution would be as follows. When we start learning/playing, the sound of the sax/mouthpiece set-up which we have will usually be taken for granted - we may not have any point of comparison and usually just get on with it. After a while we may be aware in our listening that different sax players produce different sounds, and may feel that we don't quite produce the tone/sound that we would like. Others are just curious, and want to have a point of comparison. All of this is quite natural and common, without having to identify a "problem" in our equipment. For me I started with the stock mouthpiece on my Alto (albeit a Selmer Super Session) and was very happy with that for a couple of years. Since appreciating what I wanted to sound like/preferred it has been relegated to number 3 as I find it a little too mellow for what I like. If I liked "mellower" then it may well be my mouthpiece of choice. At no time has it presented a problem, but I feel that I have clarified my sound, and also ended up playing a "cheaper" mouthpiece.

Similarly on my Soprano and Tenor it has been a challenge to find something that feels right. Commonly stock mouthpieces have a narrower tip opening which does influence the sound. On Tenor I had a Yanagisawa HR 5 as stock mouthpiece, but play mouthpieces with an 8 - 8* opening. Generally the larger the tip opening the more flexible the sound you are likely to achieve, which is why "classical" sax players usually use a narrow tip opening, so that the sound is purer. Jazz players aren't particularly after a pure sound (some are, but most aren't - Wayne Shorter played a 10 opening, for example).

Most mouthpieces will function OK, though some can be a little unplayable in my experience or have a neutral sound. The point is that all have an influence on the sound, and I do think that it is worth trying out some others at some stage in order to have a comparison, if you are interested/curious. Similarly as we develop we may explore different reeds - softer/harder/different makes, as these can all have some impact on the sound. It is a very subjective thing. Some are very curious, some aren't.
If you ever want a cheap comparison try a Rico Graftonite mouthpiece - available from Trevor Jones in Bristol for about £16 - especially produce a good Baritone, from what I hear.

On the teacher front - it is important to identify what you want from a teacher. At the same time a decent teacher will be able to help us with things that we are often unaware of - timing, note production, certain tendencies in our playing/stance/breathing. I have learnt a lot from my music teachers but always useful to clarify aims/purpose. If we are unclear about what we want from a teacher it may mean that we are unclear about what we want from our sax playing. Some want to learn sax to the degree that they can play professionally/in public/in a band/achieve Grades. Some just want to play some tunes for their own pleasure. Our aims can change over time, and be influenced by others. I was always pleased when my teacher gave feedback about my playing that was really encouraging, and opened my eyes to how I had progressed!
Anyway those are some of my thoughts. Glad you enjoy playing the sax unproblematically!:w00t:

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 
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