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M/Pieces - Ligs Some questions about Berg Larsen Mouthpieces

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
I’m looking at getting another mouthpiece for my Tenor Sax. At present I’m playing an Otto-Link Metal STM 8* (0.115”) which I’m very comfortable with but it isn’t quite the sound I’m after. So it might get demoted to my back-up piece.

I need a little help in deciding which mouthpiece to chose! I’ve narrowed it down to either a Berg Larsen Metal Duckbill or Vintage. Unfortunately I can’t just nip to a big sax store and try out a load of mouthpieces so I need to pick carefully or I’ll end up with more mouthpieces than sax.co.uk :)))

I believe that both pieces have a SMS facing which is the same as an Otto-Link rather than a M which is longer. If not please let me know as this might help make the decision.

Now for the mouthpiece material I have opted for a bronze piece for its resonant qualities. I doubt Stainless Steel would give me the sound I want.

Fortunately for me I have been lucky enough to been able to test play a couple of Berg Larsen Mouthpieces. One was a Bronze Bullet with a baffle height of 3 which I found too dark for my tastes. The second was a standard Bronze with a baffle height of 1 which I found too bright for me.

So I'm guessing I should opt for a baffle height of 2 which would be in between the two (neither too bright nor too dark).

I read some where that the mouthpieces run about 5 thousandths of an inch small, meaning a 115 would actually measure 0.110". Is this true of the new mouthpieces? I am thinking of going a bit bigger anyhow. Can you get these pieces with a tip opening of 0.130”?

So with that in mind and keeping the same tip opening as my link to keep it simple, I’ll be choosing between:

  • Berg Larsen Bronze Duckbill 120/2
  • Berg Larsen Bronze Vintage 120/2
Now before anyone asks me, I tend to play Jazz, Blues, R&B, Soul and Funk mainly. Not that I think it’ll make too much difference the sax is a Yani T901 with a 192 Crook.

Any help in clarifying would be greatly appreciated. Also experiences and / or opinions between the Vintage and the Duckbill!

Many thanks,

Paul
 
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c9off

Senior Member
Messages
604
Now for the mouthpiece material I have opted for a bronze piece for its resonant qualities. I doubt Stainless Steel would give me the sound I want.


It has been mentioned many times that material makes no difference (I agree to this..)... but nevertheless if you know within a few pieces what you are looking for I seem to recall that Howarths London used to/do offer a service that 3 can be 'bought' on approval, on a sale or return basis - perhaps someone can clarify?
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,680
Hi Paul

I must have had about half a dozen Bergs over the years, including a duckbill and a bronze one. Unfortunatley for you, I can only recommend you go for a trip to a sax shop and try a load, as I have found they vary enormously. I had a bronze 090/1 which was actually nearly 105, so I wouldn't assume the info you've had about them running 05 under size is true. Also, although I really don't believe the bull stuff you see on some forums about mass market mouthpieces always needing refacing work, the only mouthpiece I've ever had which was unplayable was a Berg.

I wouldn't, from my experience expect to see much difference between two equivalent spec Bergs on the basis of the metal used, I reckon the bronze and SS sound pretty much identical. You might find a variation based on their manufacture, but not due to the metal.

Having said all this, one of the best mouthpieces I've had was a stauinless Berg duckbill 120/0. Bright but not piercing, full bodied and loud. No, what I mean is LOUD! I only sold it because someone made a ludicrous offer for it.

Jon
 

compound

Member
Messages
457
Hi Paul,
I've played Bergs since i started playing, i've had six in all 5 for Tenor, and 1 for Alto. I had one of the original vintage ss tenor model's which was 105/1/m this had a different sound alltogether from the other Bergs, ie early Junior Walker.King Curtis played a ss Berg which i believe was 130/2 ? for most of his career till he switched to a Berg H/R near the end of his life. If the newer Bergs go up to 130 i dont know, also dont know if the model's you favour do SMS, and M. I've got both at the moment and can play them without any problem, allthough i prefer SMS as they seem better on the high notes. Jules plays a H/R Berg so he might be able to give you some advice. Plas Johnson also played a ss Berg with a big tip opening. Sorry i can't be more help. Rob.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,374
Berg Larsen (not Larsen) pieces were/are good enough for some of my favourite tenor players like Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Jr Walker, Andy Shepherd, so they must have something going for them. I have a couple of old (early 60s) tenors that are pretty good, a similar aged alto (good again), two more modern bari pieces (pretty good) and my favourite soprano piece is also a Berg Larsen.

The rumour mill on them is that they are very variable, especially since the manufacturing moved away from England. I have heard that the difference between S and SMS facings is somewhat random/inconsistent, as is the tip opening size. So, as others have said, the answer is to try them out. I agree that a 2 is a good baffle/chamber spec to go for, but I would suggest trying out the ebonite as well as the metal pieces. Bergs had good quality rubber and the sound is just as good/loud/warm/whatever as metal IMHO.

I've had good experiences with mouthpieces on trial from John Packers and from Howarths, if you really can't get to a decent shop in person. Or you can always go the eBay route and try to remember to sell on the pieces you don't like (that's the bit that I find difficult to do).

Or there are Berg-like pieces available from other manufacturers whose product is a bit more consistent.

Rhys
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Now for the mouthpiece material I have opted for a bronze piece for its resonant qualities. I doubt Stainless Steel would give me the sound I want.


It has been mentioned many times that material makes no difference (I agree to this..)... but nevertheless if you know within a few pieces what you are looking for I seem to recall that Howarths London used to/do offer a service that 3 can be 'bought' on approval, on a sale or return basis - perhaps someone can clarify?
Okay, I agree about the material but the bronzes looks better therefore sound better :)))

Thanks for the heads up about trialing a few pieces :D

Hi Paul

I must have had about half a dozen Bergs over the years, including a duckbill and a bronze one. Unfortunatley for you, I can only recommend you go for a trip to a sax shop and try a load, as I have found they vary enormously. I had a bronze 090/1 which was actually nearly 105, so I wouldn't assume the info you've had about them running 05 under size is true. Also, although I really don't believe the bull stuff you see on some forums about mass market mouthpieces always needing refacing work, the only mouthpiece I've ever had which was unplayable was a Berg.

I wouldn't, from my experience expect to see much difference between two equivalent spec Bergs on the basis of the metal used, I reckon the bronze and SS sound pretty much identical. You might find a variation based on their manufacture, but not due to the metal.

Having said all this, one of the best mouthpieces I've had was a stauinless Berg duckbill 120/0. Bright but not piercing, full bodied and loud. No, what I mean is LOUD! I only sold it because someone made a ludicrous offer for it.

Jon
Thanks Jon! I did read about certain folks wanting to reface but not just with Berg's! Probably the same folks that only get a decent reed every 10,000 :)))

Didn't read about Berg's being inconsistant so thanks for the heads up!

Hi Paul,
I've played Bergs since i started playing, i've had six in all 5 for Tenor, and 1 for Alto. I had one of the original vintage ss tenor model's which was 105/1/m this had a different sound alltogether from the other Bergs, ie early Junior Walker.King Curtis played a ss Berg which i believe was 130/2 ? for most of his career till he switched to a Berg H/R near the end of his life. If the newer Bergs go up to 130 i dont know, also dont know if the model's you favour do SMS, and M. I've got both at the moment and can play them without any problem, allthough i prefer SMS as they seem better on the high notes. Jules plays a H/R Berg so he might be able to give you some advice. Plas Johnson also played a ss Berg with a big tip opening. Sorry i can't be more help. Rob.
Thanks Rob! Nice to know a little more history!

Berg Larsen (not Larsen) pieces were/are good enough for some of my favourite tenor players like Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Jr Walker, Andy Shepherd, so they must have something going for them. I have a couple of old (early 60s) tenors that are pretty good, a similar aged alto (good again), two more modern bari pieces (pretty good) and my favourite soprano piece is also a Berg Larsen.

The rumour mill on them is that they are very variable, especially since the manufacturing moved away from England. I have heard that the difference between S and SMS facings is somewhat random/inconsistent, as is the tip opening size. So, as others have said, the answer is to try them out. I agree that a 2 is a good baffle/chamber spec to go for, but I would suggest trying out the ebonite as well as the metal pieces. Bergs had good quality rubber and the sound is just as good/loud/warm/whatever as metal IMHO.

I've had good experiences with mouthpieces on trial from John Packers and from Howarths, if you really can't get to a decent shop in person. Or you can always go the eBay route and try to remember to sell on the pieces you don't like (that's the bit that I find difficult to do).

Or there are Berg-like pieces available from other manufacturers whose product is a bit more consistent.

Rhys
A spelling mistake! Thanks for correcting me! Duly noted!

Not heard the rumour but good to know.

To get to a decent shop would entail a flight and a stop over costing around £600 including taxi's so thats out of the question.

I might speak to Horwarths about a mouthpiece trial. At least I could sample a few and select the best one for me.

Since I suffer terrible GAS I've tried to steer clear of ebay ;} Like you I struggle to sell things on. So I reckon I'll have a hefty mouthpiece collection within a few years! :shocked:

Berg-like pieces - that's a thought! Pillinger springs to mind. I'll take a look at those!
 

c9off

Senior Member
Messages
604
The rumour mill on them is that they are very variable, especially since the manufacturing moved away from England. Rhys
I have two near identical spec stainless tenor Bergs, ones is good - the other not quite so this rumour is fully supported in my trivial example.

(the reason I have 2 is that I bought the second on Ebay, from a seller in the states, it was an 'alto'. After finding it the best thing since sliced bread blah blah, I checked the tuner..... turns out it is a Tenor Duh! Much better than the other though hence the above.
 

compound

Member
Messages
457
Hi Paul,
On my last post i didn't mention that all my Berg's played well, probably because they were 60s models made in England. All six of them, maybe i've just been lucky. BTW have you considered Thomman internet store, they only do chamber size 2 last time i got in touch, and there's a surcharge of £48 for chambers 0 & 3 which are classed as custom model's. Best of luck in your quest.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,804
I think the old (blue boxes) Larsens are better. I bought a new the other year and the quality was not as good as the old Larsens I have. Maybe some shops have old inventory!?

Clarence Clemons was playing a BL ss 130/0 and Lenny Picket is also on a BL 130/0. Picket use bass clarinet reeds on his mouthpiece.

Thomas
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,374
I think the old (blue boxes) Larsens are better. I bought a new the other year and the quality was not as good as the old Larsens I have. Maybe some shops have old inventory!?
The old (1960s) tenor pieces I have are in black and red boxes. Do you know when they swapped over to blue boxes and what the packaging is now ?

@Paul (OP) Have you seen that the Berg Larsen website has some special offers on it, one of which is a tenor 130/2 SMS in bronze at half price (Euro 130) ? That could be worth a punt, even if it needs refacing, the bronze is OK to work on, unlike the stainless steel which many/most refacers will refuse to work on or charge a lot for. http://www.berglarsen.com/promotions.htm

Rhys
 
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Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
@Paul (OP) Have you seen that the Berg Larsen website has some special offers on it, one of which is a tenor 130/2 SMS in bronze at half price (Euro 130) ? That could be worth a punt, even if it needs refacing, the bronze is OK to work on, unlike the stainless steel which many/most refacers will refuse to work on or charge a lot for. http://www.berglarsen.com/promotions.htm

Rhys
Thanks Rhys! I did come across that the other day and have been thinking about it purely on the price but thought it would be best not too rush!
 
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jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,284
I have owned many Bergs in alto,tenor and sop [still have a couple for tenor],i would go for vintage offset SMS or M,these are more consitent and in my opinion better than the modern Bergs,although i have had good modern ones.
For vintage you will probably have to buy on Ebay or a forum as it is rare to find one in a music shop,good thing is there are plenty around.
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
Messages
4,622
I always end up back on Bergs on my tenor after occasional GAS outings. Yes they're variable but the good ones are unbeatable- I've been using a (very good) grained ebonite for the last few years and its got every bit as much kick as a metal piece, by the way personally I'd always go for a /2 chamber- you've got the brightness if you need it but the thing will 'back off' better than a 1 or 0..... frustrating pieces but worth the hassle....
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Paul!

How would you describe the sound that you are looking for - you mention resonance; do you want brighter/darker, more/less restrained, more punchy/more mellow. Pricewise do look at www.saxheaven.com and also Howarth, who have a sale on Bergs AND do mouthpiece trials (when I chose my Tenor mouthpiece - the Francois Louis ML 280 I tried a number of others by post - V16 HR8, Lomax LA & NY, Lebayle Jazz HR, Brancher L HR & J Metal, and they were very helpful/long-suffering). You might also consider communicating with some of the specialist mouthpiece makers - such as Phil-Tone/Morgan Fry/Ed Pillinger and similar who could make a custompiece to suit. I did that with Phil Engelman (Phil-Tone) and have been really pleased with the results.

Kind regards
Tom

Or a Theo Wanne "Datta" as played by Jan Garbarek......
 
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Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
A Berg is the most common mouthpiece for the kind of playing you do, and can have a great husky sound. AFAIK You can get them in large sizes like 130, in a tip this big I would be more inclined to like a smaller chamber like a 0 or 1. Yes, they do run nominally a bit small, they measure the tip opening from the very end rather than from the inside of the tip rail, but that's no big deal because they vary by more than 5 thou anyway. As far as which model, there isn't a great deal of functional difference on the inside, get whichever has the most comfortable beak shape. As to which facing, they're so inconsistent that I have refaced dozens and still have no idea what the spec is supposed to be for either M or SMS facing, except that they're both too long.

Best thing to do is try before you buy if possible -- go to Howarth or Sax.co and try every big Berg in the shop and see if one works for you. If you're buying sight unseen, get brass if they do it because it's cheaper to get refaced than bronze or steel.
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Hi Paul!

How would you describe the sound that you are looking for - you mention resonance; do you want brighter/darker, more/less restrained, more punchy/more mellow. Pricewise do look at www.saxheaven.com and also Howarth, who have a sale on Bergs AND do mouthpiece trials (when I chose my Tenor mouthpiece - the Francois Louis ML 280 I tried a number of others by post - V16 HR8, Lomax LA & NY, Lebayle Jazz HR, Brancher L HR & J Metal, and they were very helpful/long-suffering). You might also consider communicating with some of the specialist mouthpiece makers - such as Phil-Tone/Morgan Fry/Ed Pillinger and similar who could make a custompiece to suit. I did that with Phil Engelman (Phil-Tone) and have been really pleased with the results.

Kind regards
Tom
Thanks Tom! The sound I'm after that quite a question too answer! - A nice big fat dark tone that isn't too edgy! I'm after a punchy piece but not so much that I can't play a soft ballard as well! I'm looking at a 130/2 because I've got a big set of lungs and I'm finding my Link 8* STM and Link 7* Vintage a bit on the small side!

I'm thinking of trying a few pieces via Howarths in a few weeks to see which one I like best! If I can't find the perfect one I probably ask Morgan Fry work his magic on it :D

I wonder what would happen if the baffle was removed? Would that leave me free to control it better?
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
A Berg is the most common mouthpiece for the kind of playing you do, and can have a great husky sound. AFAIK You can get them in large sizes like 130, in a tip this big I would be more inclined to like a smaller chamber like a 0 or 1. Yes, they do run nominally a bit small, they measure the tip opening from the very end rather than from the inside of the tip rail, but that's no big deal because they vary by more than 5 thou anyway. As far as which model, there isn't a great deal of functional difference on the inside, get whichever has the most comfortable beak shape. As to which facing, they're so inconsistent that I have refaced dozens and still have no idea what the spec is supposed to be for either M or SMS facing, except that they're both too long.

Best thing to do is try before you buy if possible -- go to Howarth or Sax.co and try every big Berg in the shop and see if one works for you. If you're buying sight unseen, get brass if they do it because it's cheaper to get refaced than bronze or steel.
Thanks Morgan! I'll try a few different styles and see which beak shape is most comfortable for me and take it from there.

I'm assuming that you suggest a smaller chamber size in a 130 tip opening as it might be too hard too blow? I tried a Link Vintage in an 8* and found that too small for me.

I had bronze in mind anyhow but nice to know its that better material for refacing if required!

What would be the effects of you removing the baffle?
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
If you remove the baffle, you'll end up with a digeridoo...
:w00t: I would have thought having no baffle might make the tone darker, more lush and warmer. Perhaps harder to control to begin with but I wouldn't expect it to sound like a digeridoo :))) But then again ...
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
I'm assuming that you suggest a smaller chamber size in a 130 tip opening as it might be too hard too blow? I tried a Link Vintage in an 8* and found that too small for me.

I had bronze in mind anyhow but nice to know its that better material for refacing if required!

What would be the effects of you removing the baffle?
I suggested smaller chamber in bigger tip opening because as tip opening increases, so does effective chamber size. So a Berg 90/0 pea-shooter becomes at 130/0 a reasonably balanced mouthpiece.

Bronze isn't any softer than Stainless steel I'm afraid, anybody who does work with it should charge more than for brass. If you're ordering from Berg with the intent to probably have it worked on, best thing is go with ebonite if you're comfortable with the beak. But if you want the smaller bite of the metal ones, whatever's in stock and/or cheaper and/or prettier since they don't do brass.

Removing the baffle -- no point to this IMO. If you don't want baffle play a Link. Sure, a Berg can usually benefit by optimization in this area which often means taking a little away, but the high baffle is necessarily part of the Berg thing.

Hope that helps.
 
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