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Beginner Switching mouthpieces during practice

Al Ex


I started learning alto sax 3 years ago. I took lessons for a little more than a year, working with John O'Neill method. It went rather well, but for various reasons I have not been able to go on practicing seriously for the last year and a half, during which I only took my horn very occasionally out of its case.

I am finally able to practice on a more regular basis, and I have a few questions.

My practice routine is roughly as follow:

  • Long notes
  • Scales and scales related exercises
  • Etudes (this is new to me, I have never worked etudes before this week, and I'm currently waiting for 2 volumes of "80 graded studies")
  • Jazz method
  • Playing along with music for fun

When I got my sax, I bought a Selmer S90 180 mouthpiece, but after a few months I got a Vandoren V16 A5 S+, before being offered a V16 A6 S+, which became my go-to mouthpiece.

However, the more "classical" Selmer sounds nice for working on the etudes, so I wonder: as a beginner, is it "safe" to switch mouthpieces during practice sessions, or is it likely to cause trouble with working on my embouchure ?

Regarding reeds, I sometimes read that some people like to practice on softer reeds. Obviously, a softer reed would require extra care in order to avoid squeaking, but is this useful for practicing, or am I better using my usual read strength?


Well-Known Member
I would not advise changing mouthpieces in a practice session, especially with just 3 years playing experience. A better approach in my view would be to practice everything using your classical mouthpiece for several months. Then put that away and work on just the jazz method and tunes for a month or two using the other mouthpiece. This will allow tone production habits on each mouthpiece to become solid and consistent over an extended period of time.

There is nothing wrong with working to achieve a different concept of tone when playing different styles on the same mouthpiece. I do that a lot---especially on alto.
Al Ex

Al Ex

Thanks to your advice, I went back to my Selmer mouthpiece and have been practicing on a daily basis with it for the last week or so. When I started playing three years ago, I would use Vandoren blue 3,5 reeds, but having used my V16 mouthpieces for months, I have settled on D'addario Jazz select reeds.

I now use 3 medium with my jazz mouthpiece, but I had a few 3 soft remaining. I have been using these happily with my Selmer MP and today I found I was sounding really sweet when working through the etudes and improvising over a few jazz tracks just for enjoyment.

I was practicing in a small room available at my work (not during my working hours, of course ;)), and when I came out, the people who were there thanked me for my playing. So I guess I really did sound nice. Or maybe they were just glad I stopped:p.
Saxholder Pro

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