M/Pieces - Ligs Mouthpiece parameters and how they affect the sound

randulo

Playing saxophone 20 months - 2.3% of my life
Subscriber
Messages
1,967
Location
France
Question: Can someone explain to me how the various known mouthpiece parameters affect the sound you can expect to hear when playing them?

We all know that breathing, facility, embouchure and the instrument itself have the largest effect on what a player sounds like... I think? But for someone like me who hasn't been playing long, how do we know what we need? What might be helpful is a kind of compendium of "famous" saxophonist sounds and their mouthpiece parameters revealed. Is that even possible to know? I put "famous" in quotes because I don't mean necessarily household names like Bird or Trane, by famous I mean recordings are available free to compare, such as on YouTube.

I would love for one the very knowledgable players or mouthpiece makers on the Café to help me and others understand how the aspects of a mouthpiece, rather than the name of the maker) give a particular saxophonist's sound. It's possible that the parameters have widely varying effects to the point where such a correlation actually makes no sense, i.e., is anecdotal.

I've listened to great players for over 50 years, but I have no idea what mouthpieces any of them use. It never occurred to me to care about that. But now, as the saying goes, "I are one". Anyone have any resources to refer to? Are there articles or videos that get into this with aural examples? Does anyone have even a candle to light this little area up?
 

apinter

Member
Messages
36
Location
Milan, Italy
Not that I am experienced player.
Yet I am committed student :).

Basically parameters are:

Larger chamber —> deeper darker sound
Smaller chamber —-> brighter sound

Higher baffe ——> power and projection
Lower or no baffle ——> rounder and smoother

And here comes question on my mouthpiece, a Berg Larsen (ebonite) 105/2

2 goes for rather low baffle so rounder sound. But what I see in it is a quite unique transition from the baffle to the chamber, a semicircular pre chamber, let’s say. While I know how the mouthpiece sounds for me, I don’t have an idea of what this configuration is theorically meant to achieve. I’d be happy somebody explaining me.
 
OP
randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 20 months - 2.3% of my life
Subscriber
Messages
1,967
Location
France
I think the bigger ambiguity for me is what dark or round means.
Can someone narrow that down to a sound sample or dark and less dark, round or not round?
I realize this is really hard to do. If someone has various mouthpieces that could show that being played by the same person on the same instrument and reed, that would be unlikely as well as time-consuming for them. Since that is fairly unlikely, perjaps a couple of YouTube links to show dark and round and the opposite? I'm really lost in that area of sound. I know soon I will visit a shop where they can help me with this. Perhaps I can record some of that process.
 

Saxlicker

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,862
Location
Breakfast room since '06 UK
But what I see in it is a quite unique transition from the baffle to the chamber, a semicircular pre chamber, let’s say. While I know how the mouthpiece sounds for me, I don’t have an idea of what this configuration is theorically meant to achieve. I’d be happy somebody explaining me.
I think you are describing what is commonly called a 'Bullet Chamber'.
As far as design goes its kind of middle ground between long high to medium wedge shaped baffles that drop off a straight edge before the baffle and Long low baffle that just blend into the chamber.
Quite what the intention is I don't know as both the other designs work so perhaps it just removes the more extreme playing and sound characteristic of the other 2 and once again becomes middle of the road in this sense?
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,119
Location
Liverpool ( Pool of Life )
I realize this is really hard to do. If someone has various mouthpieces that could show that being played by the same person on the same instrument and reed,
There’s this Alto shoot out by @Pete Thomas perhaps he could describe his interpretation of the mouthpieces ie bright dark round smooth etc

 
OP
randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 20 months - 2.3% of my life
Subscriber
Messages
1,967
Location
France
I wonder if anyone can agree on roundness are darkness on the sounds of any given player on any song that we can listen to?
(posted before the link to Pete's thing)
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,119
Location
Liverpool ( Pool of Life )
I wonder if anyone can agree on roundness are darkness on the sounds of any given player on any song that we can listen to?
That’s the problem, we all hear sound differently because we are all different.
I still struggle to describe a sound i hear

Edit...
My favourite alto player is Art Pepper ask me to describe his sound, haven’t a clue :confused2: just know i love his sound
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,438
Location
Sweden
Read Modelling Perceptual Dimensions of Saxophone Sounds

 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
Subscriber
Messages
3,290
Location
France
Question: Can someone explain to me how the various known mouthpiece parameters affect the sound you can expect to hear when playing them?
If it was simple to explain, I guess SYOS would have done it to help their prospective customers choose their mouthpieces.

After indicating your level and type of music, they offer you to choose how dark or bright you want your piece. How loud you want to be. And who your favorite players are with samples and brightness/power levels.

But that still leaves me wondering what I want...

They obviously have their own formulas, but it is not an exact science. Is it?
 

apinter

Member
Messages
36
Location
Milan, Italy
I wonder if anyone can agree on roundness are darkness on the sounds of any given player on any song that we can listen to?
(posted before the link to Pete's thing)
I think that is quite possible to do that, even if mouthpiece has minor part in the sound of a musician (much less than the musician itself in any case).

For a big dark sound rich of bass harmonics, pribably Sonny Rollins in his best years 1955-1960 is the symbol.

Coltrane or Wayne Shorter have a bright sound.

Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins have power and projection. Hank Mobley is dark but rounder and all the school of Lester Young (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Warne Marsh & Co.) have a bright round sound.

These would be my definitions at least
 
OP
randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 20 months - 2.3% of my life
Subscriber
Messages
1,967
Location
France
I think I do understand the Sonny Rollins sound, it's very personal isn't it? And I'm very familiar with Coltrane, too.

But I am also embarrassed to admit that listening to Pete's excellent comparison recordings, I can't hear much difference between them. I haven't yet read the PDF paper on this, but I will when I get the time. Gotta practice right now, too much time on the forum!
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
Subscriber
Messages
3,290
Location
France
I think that is quite possible to do that, even if mouthpiece has minor part in the sound of a musician (much less than the musician itself in any case).

For a big dark sound rich of bass harmonics, pribably Sonny Rollins in his best years 1955-1960 is the symbol.

Coltrane or Wayne Shorter have a bright sound.

Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins have power and projection. Hank Mobley is dark but rounder and all the school of Lester Young (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Warne Marsh & Co.) have a bright round sound.

These would be my definitions at least
Have you tried to simulate a custom SYOS order? If not check it out and see how they rate a few tenor players. You may be surprised.

It's not a universal rating. Just one vision or measure of brightness/Power. But it shows your rating is your own...
 

apinter

Member
Messages
36
Location
Milan, Italy
So I got all wrong?
I’ll for sure check what they say
I checked Sonny Rollins, whose rating is the most surprising for me. But then I looked at the sample and I see it is a 70/80s “electric” Rollins, who I love but also is totally different in tone from the classic Rollins of the 50s (I at least specified that :) ). He plays in those records with a very different mouthpiece from the old recordings (altough it is not the most important parameter I think)
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,103
Location
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
What I have learned in my study of acoustics is that a "spectrogram" of a sound shows its "harmonic footprint" which shows the number of harmonics present, their relative strengths, and their frequencies. Mouthpiece design and interior geometry of course are important, but the embouchure, voicing, airstream, and the related input pitch into the instrument also play a role in shaping the sound. In this second group, the unique physiology of the individual player also comes into play as does that player's "concept of sound".

This is why two different players on the same set-up and instrument do not automatically sound exactly the same. Of course this is bad news for the saxophonists who spend a lot of money to buy the exact same mouthpiece their favorite player uses so they can sound the same---something I myself have been guilty of in the past.
 
Last edited:

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
Subscriber
Messages
3,290
Location
France
I checked Sonny Rollins, whose rating is the most surprising for me. But then I looked at the sample and I see it is a 70/80s “electric” Rollins, who I love but also is totally different in tone from the classic Rollins of the 50s (I at least specified that :) ). He plays in those records with a very different mouthpiece from the old recordings (altough it is not the most important parameter I think)
Your not wrong. But there are so many variables including the players themselves, their equipment, the tune they play, etc... The samples SYOS use illustrate their ratings, but it's only a few seconds in the life of those prolific players... Not necessarily a reflection of their style.

I love many musicians, but not everything they did. The SYOS samples don't reflect what like in each of the ones I like.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,363
Location
leicester
some info on mouthpiece baffles here - Baffle Types | Theo Wanne

Dark implies not bright, or lacking in high frequencies
Round implies lacking in roughness or edginess - similar to dark

these value judgements are subjective, but we could say that dark includes Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Paul Desmond, Lester Young et al and bright might be David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Mike Brecker, John Zorn
of course these a broad generalisations and you can't really describe the complex and subtle tonal differences between different sax players

a lot depends on the player - some people can get a bright sound out of an Otto Link and others can get a fairly dark sound out of a Guardala or Dukoff and some people sound the same no matter what mouthpiece they use

I've got a load of different mouthpieces, but I always end up sounding like me

to quote the butler in Trading Places (appropriately named Coleman) - "Just be yourself, sir. Whatever happens, they can't take that away from you "
 
Top Bottom