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Mouthpieces Otto Link STM advice


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Hello All,

I started on tenor in October and have managed to make some progress. I am now in the upper thirties of Sixty for Sax for studies, and the AB Real Book for pieces (it's Freddie Green's Corner pocket this week). I'm on a Yamaha 62 with Vandoren TL3 and blue box 3 reeds. I'll probably take AB jazz grade 4/5 in the Nov/Dec round.

Now, I was browsing ebay (as you do), and found a 70s-80s period Otto Link STM 6 on sale by a long-time pro player. He said the piece plays really well, and I thought he should know and bought it for a good price. He was right - it plays really well! I tried it with softer reeds than my usual (blue box 2 and Rico jazz select 2). I did not have problems playing the full range, although I could feel the bigger tip opening, and intonation felt a bit harder to control. I can hear the difference in sound, of course, but it's not as different to play as I'd imagined (coming from my TL3).

My question is, do things change at even larger tip openings (say, 7 or 7*)? Does the sound break up and get mixed with air? Also which reeds and strengths are best to try with the STM 6 or wider? I feel adventurous enough to try one more jazz-type mouthpiece if it's significantly different in some way - any suggestions? Should I try any other Links, or Jody Jazz or any of the Vandoren V16 types? Should I go for bigger tip opening than 6? Also, I don't yet have a grip on chambers and baffles, but have read some people saying these make much more difference than tip opening.

Please don't ask me to go to a shop and play as many pieces as I can. I've been through this with my daughter's clarinet and alto sax, and my tenor. Neither of us learns much from these short stints with lots of pieces. Buying good candidate pieces and playing them for a while works better.

I should say that I like the sound of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young the best of all the jazz tenors I've listened to. A warm and full sound is what I'm after - and a bit of soft subtone when can learn to do it.
You have the most input on the sound and so practice will have more affect than mouthpiece. Pick something easy to play with an acceptable sound. What works for me, most probably won't work for you. You can only achieve what your physiognomy will allow. Work it. Develop it. I'm sure we'd all like to sound like Coleman or Lester but there's a reason why they were great. Playing several hours a day for a couple of decades will have something to do with it.

Wearing bigger shoes doesn't make you a better walker. Similarly a bigger tip won't give you a better sound if it doesn't fit and it may be detrimental to your progress. The reason to try various pieces is to find something that fits, just like shoes.
Thanks for your thoughts so far.

I do practise a lot, Colin, around 16 hrs a week. I couldn't do more given my job and kids. I have been playing only the TL3 and blue box reeds. I am not trying to buy improvements by changing my setup. I am just curious about how it feels to play on different mouthpieces and reeds, so I want to buy a couple that are very different in physical characteristics and try them out.

Thanks Kev, I didn't realise that increasing reed strength is what increases breathiness from wide tip mouthpieces. I thought bigger openings are just breathier. I've only tried the Vandoren trad 2 and RJS 2 on the STM so far, and didn't get that effect. I thought this was because the .90 opening of the 6 wasn't wide enough to break up into breathiness.

I'm thinking of exploring a .105 piece, maybe like the V16 T7 ebonite. Any thoughts about the Java, V16 or ZZ reeds with the STM 6 or V16 T7 would be much appreciated.
If you've got a good playing STM, I'd say stick with it for a good six months or so. A 6 is a pretty modest tip opening and should be something you get a good level of control over for all sorts of playing over a period of time. I've got an STM which I'm happy with, of a size that suits me, and I wouldn't consider a different sized STM. Get to know yours and only change if you think you need something different.
If you found a good STM, stick to it. If you try a different one it could be a totally different animal, regardless of tip opening. Otto Links are known for their inconsistency.
Recommendations about reeds could never end, but if you are ok with RJS try the next strength up, of try the unfiled.

If you have to explore with the Otto Link design on bigger tips, I would recommend moving to hard rubber pieces: there are "linkish" pieces that are far more reliable: Pillinger NYT is my personal favourite, but he is not the only one.

I never got along well with Vandoren reeds, but I am an exception.
I used a Vandoren V16 metal piece for many years, At the end there was something missing.

A 9 facing is my favourite, but there are colleagues that play very well with a 7 or 7*

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