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Tone Mouthpiece Tip Opening and Pursuit of a Bigger Sound


I recently got given a Jazz Select 9M mouthpiece as my first upgrade from my 5J Cannonball that came with my Vintage Reborn. I was slightly intimidated by the step up to a 9 from a lowly 5 but it’s surprisingly playable on the 3 strength reeds I’ve been using on the 5. A few weeks of long tones and I’ll be absolutely fine.

I was chatting to the guy who gave me the Select Jazz, he recently purchased a vintage Otto link 12*. The guy he purchased it from said he’d probably want to use a 1.5 strength reed to compensate for the tip opening size. Not knowing he was a pro player and just slapped on his 5 strength reed and cracked on.

This got me thinking. At what point does lowering the reed strength to increase mouthpiece size become detrimental to your sound? Or does it improve your sound? Make no difference?
I know overtones, long tones are key to a solid sound but the sound my friend was making on a 12* link and 5 strength reed was monumental!
It’s a hard thing to judge as he can make any saxophone, mouthpiece sound great. But how much is it the mouthpiece/reed combination and how much is it the years of dedicated practise?

I would never have considered a 12* mouthpiece (I didn’t even know they went that high!) and dropping to a 1.5 just to make it work as the seller suggested.
In my opinion you really do not need a giant tip for a big sound. There is a huge difference between a louder sound and a bigger sound. If I were to guess I would first guess you are responding to it being louder. If not the mpc itself may be a better piece than you had or a little more spread...a wider sound.

I dont know your experience level but can you play quiet on the large tip? If you cant you have sacrificed control and dynamic range for more volume. You are in the US (says your flag). There are plenty of places to try or order mpcs and return them if you dont like them. Why not buy a 6 and 7 in the same model piece and compare the difference. Now if you like the big tip and the buzz of a 1.5 AND you can control it with finesse then go for it...there are different strengths for a reason.

Dont just use a big tip because someone gave it to you. And to repeat and I say this to a lot of players...even more advanced ones...a loud sound is entirely different from a big sound.
Your unique physiology also plays a big role in what set up is going to work best for you. Also, what constitutes a "good" sound is so subjective. As Phil says, regardless of the type of tone you seek, control over dynamics and intonation are vital. I did the big tip, hard reed chase myself and I have settled on a Jody Jazz Jet 7 with a Java Green 2.5 reed. I have excellent control, people have told me I have a big sound and it's bright with a bit of buzz, which is a personal preference.

I'm not nearly as experienced or knowledgeable as Phil, or many forum members, but I just wanted to throw that out there.
You may be correct in that I’m relating a louder sound to a bigger one. The mouthpiece is undoubtably better than anything I can justify paying for and the player does have a very big sound.

My experience is less than two years but 5 months on tenor.

I believe I have fairly good dynamic control of the mouthpiece but my endurance has suffered.

What I’m understanding from your statement is that the tip opening purely relates to the volume potential of the horn?
Bigger tips also tend to get a little darker....but frankly...if you getting tired with a light reed its just too big.

Mouthpieces are like shoes, not jackets. You dont buy them to grow into.

My advice...Put it away....sell it or trade it for something in the world of normal with normal reeds. Im not a teacher but playing a tip that is too big for you is more likely than not to cause a setback. There are some players who play tips that big. Some pros. But MANY, MANY pro players never touch a tip size that big. I really dont think you are doing yourself any favors.

I have been making mouthpiece for 15 years. I cant remember when I can count on 1 hand how many 9's Ive made.
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Please don't fall into the hard reed, open mpc trap, sax playing is not weight lifting.
It's about learning to control your equipment, and you'll get where you want to go a lot more quickly with a "reasonable" set-up
I ended up playing ca. .120 mouthpieces on tenor with max. Nr. 3 reeds for about 30 years.
I've played a DG MBII laser copy for the last couple of years. It has a .114 opening with a medium baffle and a biggish chamber.
I now play 2H reed on it and it took well over 18 months for me to get used to it. It allows me to play very "loud" and very "big" when I want to.
I've been blowing down the bendy tube for a long time now and know that my sound and my tone etc. comes for the most part from me and not the equipment.
Haven't explained myself very well but bottom line is don't go to extremes.
Just take your time and put the time in.
On tenor I am using an 11* tip with a 2 3/4 Legere signature. It gets a bit too buzzy with softer reeds and anything over a 3 I find it hard to play relatively quietly on the bell notes. It has a really broad tonal palette and a really full sound particularly into altissimo.

Its not a setup that I would use if I were playing in a jazz quartet or a sax section environment.
An upgrade is something better. Something bigger may be a down grade. I wonder if small tip openings would be more popular if the numbering system went the other way.

The mouthpiece is the interface between your unique physiognomy the reed and the horn. Just like shoes, you need a fit. Big shoes don't make for a faster runner or clowns would win all the races. ;)
Right now I play a Rovner #10 (0.130") with a #4 plasticover tenor reed. And sometimes I change the reed to a # 4. baritone reed. :rolleyes: Huge sound.
I gather now we are talking tenor...but my position stands...less than 2 years playing and only 5 months on way this makes sense unless you are dirt poor, on a desert island and a 9 is all you have.

I do sell size 9 tenor pieces....but its still very seldom. Way more than 9 on alto.
I see your points and they all make perfect sense.

It got me thinking after hearing someone using a 12* with a 1.5 reed. Perhaps they were misinformed also.
Usain Bolt takes a size 13. They're too big for me. Should I be looking at getting foot extensions.Michael Phelps takes a 14. Maybe a clowns do win all the races. ;)
The loudest I have ever heard anyone play an alto sax was a professional classical player, using a modern Selmer Soloist mouthpiece.
My guess is that it had a C* tip opening.
So I don’t think playing loud requires a wide tip opening.
I'll go searching for a new tenor mouthpiece tomorrow, spend a couple of hours at my local sax-shop to find the right one.

Last week my teacher brought some of his old tenor mouthpieces that we could try out. That was rather interesting.

As I expected, most of his pieces had a rather large tip opening (mostly 7), I had brought a few old reeds (hemke 2) because I thought that I would not be able to play comfortably on such big pieces. I play a (modern) soloist D right now, switched my reeds from Rigotti gold 2.5 strong to 3 medium a few weeks ago. The stronger reeds were rather hard to play (5 or 10 minutes and I had to take a break).

But on those pieces, it went surprisingly well, I even played an Otto Link 9* without any problems (with the Hemke 2 reed). And on an Otto Link 7 I tried my rigotti Gold 2.5 and 3, both played well!

Of course, I didn't play the very long, about 1 minute for each piece, just to get an impression.

I was pleasantly surprised that I could get a decent sound out of those larger tip-pieces. I guess I shouldn't be afraid to try a 7 tomorrow. And probably will be testing them with those 2.5 reeds, not the Hemke 2's that I was thinking of before.

Before trying those pieces I thought that a 7 would be too hard for me.
Hemke are french cut. Take some regular cut to try too. Some pieces favour one or the other.
Just to push the nail a bit further into the coffin. I have been trying to get back to baritone in the last few days without success. I tried what I believe to be my best baritone mouthpieces to date, a PPT 7* and a Berg 115/2. I can play them, but not control them and I failed to record anything decent on Jingle Bell because I went off road at almost every turn!

So today I tried another mouthpiece that I thought was less interesting. An Otto Link Tone Master 6*. Ok, I controlled it better but didn't like the sound I produced with it. Oh, but wait a minute. How long was I at it? Few minutes. Yeah, well, what do I expect? Love at first sight? So, perhaps I should keep trying and find a way to handle that thing. After all I read in the forum recently, I would be pretty thick minded if I didn't take any of these advises into account. And after a deeper exploration, wow, it fell into place and started to sound much better. And I can control it! No more squeaks, low notes sounding full and clear with no difficulty. So I had a very good time playing my baritone and that was the first time in ages.

So, I'll stick to this one for a while. At least I'm enjoying it and I'll most certainly make more progress with it than fighting the other two. At least for now. Then, I guess in a few months, I'll be tempted to give them another try. But if I made a lot of progress, I may be able to control them better. I like their sound, but until I can control them, they are no good to me.

And I'm really delighted to have followed the wisdom of my fellow café masters!

I better do the cooking quick as I feel an urge to get back to my baritone before my wife comes home... :rolleyes:
So today I tried another mouthpiece that I thought was less interesting. An Otto Link Tone Master 6*.

I use a HR Otto Link Tone Edge 5* for bari playing in a small groups, and I think it's great. It's quite dry sounding compared to more open mouthpieces, but I like that. I have something more shouty for big band,
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