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Mouthpieces My impressions on 6 moutpieces


Long Island
A few weeks back, I damaged my mouthpiece, a Vandoren Optimum AL3, by hitting the tip on a bedpost :doh: . Since then, I've been using the Yamaha 4C that came with my sax.

I needed a replacement, but I didn't want to get one blind based on recommendations again, so I decided to go trial many mouthpieces instead of just buy the same thing online. I set up a trial appointment with a music store that has an incredible selection (Weiner Music in Mineola, LI, an hour's drive for me), which consists of an hour to try up to six mouthpieces. I'm no pro, but I enjoy reading what others have to say about gear, so I would like to give my opinion too.

This is the gear that remained constant:
-YAS-62iii alto sax
-The same Vandoren Traditional strength 3.5 reed

And these are the mouthpieces I tried:
-Yamaha 4C (what I came in with)
-Caravan medium chamber (I wanted to try the large chamber, but it was out of stock)
-Rousseau NC3
-Selmer Paris S80 C* (I wanted to try the C but it was out of stock)
-Selmer Paris Concept
-Vandoren Optimum AL3 (The same model I used before damaging it)
-D'addario Reserve D155

So here are my thoughts:

Yamaha 4C
Ya know, it works. It sounds fine really, just nothing spectacular. The response is okay, the tone that it leans towards is kind of neutral. The best way I can describe it is an okay run of the mill mouthpiece, which makes it good as a backup piece in case someone, I don't know, smashes the tip of their main piece into a bedpost or something dumb like that.

Caravan medium chamber
I liked this one. It was incredibly homogenous in tone and response across the entire range of the sax. It was also very easy to blow through and do large interval leaps with. Even altissimo benefited from it. Its tone was nice as well. It was more textured and warm instead of dark and pure, which is not what I go for, but again, in no way bad. I didn't end up leaving the store with it, but it will remain in the back of my mind... I wonder how the large camber would have compared, the caravan website says it should be darker, maybe I'll go back there one day when they have it in stock again.

Rousseau NC3
This one was interesting. Eugene Rousseau the man is a french school player, so I was expecting a fairly bright mouthpiece, which I got, that isn't the surprising part. What got me was that is was so easy to play! You could sigh into the thing and get sound from it! Absolutely fantastic dynamic range and it helped me leap registers with ease, including the altissimo register. It also responded very fast. What I didn't appreciate was the intonation- this is the only one I felt my intonation really changed on- and it was for the worse. the bottom was pretty sharp and the top was pretty flat, but I'm sure it would go away with time (it did have a unique chamber).

Selmer Paris S80 C*
I did not like this mouthpiece. Even just playing the mouthpiece without the sax I had a feeling it wasn't going to be the one. It has a weird feel to it, like a strange sort of resistance that isn't really resistance, just harder to blow through somehow (which of course is the definition of resistance in this scenario, but it did feel like all the air was going through, just... differently). Its response was eh, and the tone was sterile- not really dark or bright, but without any life to it.

Selmer Paris Concept
This was my first time using a piece with that different beak shape that's becoming trendy, and I have decided I like the classic beak better (not a big deal in my analysis though). Its response was good- nothing to rave about, but in no way deficient. I felt the same way about the tone. It seemed somewhere between warm/ textured and dark/ pure, which makes me wonder if I would be able to tap into both of those aesthetics if I spent a lot of time with it, or if more skilled players can. With me attached to the end of it, I thought it was a solid okay all around. I liked it, but not tremendously.

Vandoren Optimum AL3
This is the same model I was replacing and I ended up leaving with this one, I probably have a strong bias towards it because I used one for two years and had no intention to stop using the one I had if I didn't damage it, but the tone it helps me make matches what I want to make- a dark and very pure sound. It responds very well and is homogeneous throughout the registers, and blows consistently no matter where you play. I kind of struggle to describe it well because it is essentially what I am accustomed to.

D'addario Reserve D155
This mouthpiece makes a beautiful sound, very dark, round, and pure. However, its response is less than instant and it creates a lot of resistance and back pressure, even though my reed did not feel too hard. Because of the resistance, the extream registers suffered.

Because I was limited to six mouthpieces to try, I only got to see one tip opening of each, so I hope that they were all close enough and I didn't dislike certain ones because the tip opening and reed strength I was using didn't interact well. If I ever go back looking for a classical alto piece again, I would want to do one of two things (or maybe both, who knows):
-Try more tip openings
-Try the mouthpieces that claim to be designed according to Adoph Sax's patents
The second bullet refers to the large chamber Caravan and the Rasher mouthpiece. No definitive reason I want to, just curious about them.

So that's my little spiel, I hoped you enjoyed reading through it. Please do ask me questions if you wish.


Cafe Moderator
Cheshire UK
Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm sure many will find it useful.

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