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M/Pieces - Ligs Why is it so difficult to find the perfect mouthpiece/reed combo?

DavidUK

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
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5,553
Location
Near Lutterworth, Leics.
I found a great way of trying dozens of mouthpieces for free... :w00t:

...buy dozens of used horns and see what's in the case!

Amongst these an early Babbitt STM and a very vintage duckbill Berg, neither of which played for me and, after trying dozens of different MPs for free, the first and only one I've bought brand new worked perfectly for me - PPT 6** alto. How's that for lucky! Why did I plump for the PPT? Well, lots of praise on here I guess. I think there may be a pass around coming sometime soon it you fancy a go on one?

But on tenor, picking it up again after toying with bargain buys over the years, my retained Soloist F (free again) wouldn't work for me and so, like the OP, I went "back" to a 6C and it'll do me for some time to come whilst I decide if tenor is my bag.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
3,020
Location
Hampshire
In the bike world, folks who can really ride, can ride anything well; those who can't and spend lots of cash on big machines, end up in a white van.... Where the analogy breaks down; what's the worst that can happen with a 10** mouthpieces?!
People that can really ride - of course they can ride anything well, but every bike isn’t right for every situation. My analogy is good.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Café Supporter
Messages
7,016
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Bristol, UK
I think there are three separate questions being discussed here:
1. Is one mouthpiece enough?
2. How can I experiment to find gear that I like without wasting a lot of money?
and
3. Is buying lots of gear a bad thing for beginning/intermediate players?

My personal answer to question 1 is "A single mouthpiece is not enough for me." This is for two reasons - firstly because I am not a good enough player to use the same mouthpiece for playing classical quartets and for playing gutsy bari in the big band, and secondly because different mouthpieces sound and feel different and I like the variety.

My feeling about question 2 is that it is difficult. Trying out mouthpieces in a shop should help, but my experience has been that the mouthpiece feels and sounds different when I get home. Other people's views can also be very useful, but the choice of a mouthpiece is very personal. I have found Steve Neff's (@Neffmusic) reviews very helpful, not because I think that buying mouthpiece X will make me sound like him, but because I can compare mouthpiece X to mouthpiece Y as played by him. If X is a lot brighter/darker/pinker than Y when he plays them then there is a fair chance that the same will be true for me.

Buying used mouthpieces and then selling them on seems like a rational approach to me. I know that playing a mouthpiece for a week or two is not going to tell me everything I need to know about it, but it will tell me a lot more than playing it for 30 minutes in a shop. Passarounds are also useful.

Question 3 is more contentious. Some experienced members (I call them the "Puritans") will say something like this: "Constantly changing your equipment is a distraction and it will slow down your development. If you are a beginner, then you should get yourself a beginner sax and a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece and practice long tones for 10 years. Then maybe (only maybe) you can consider changing your equipment. That's how we started and it worked for us. So that's what everybody should do."

This advice may be appropriate if the goal of the beginner is to play like the Puritan as quickly as possible, but not all of us have the same goals. In my case it's the journey that matters, not the endpoint. I am willing to take detours and backward steps if it makes the journey more fun. So frankly I don't mind if buying more mouthpieces will slow down my development, and I rather resent being lectured about it by anyone who doesn't understand my point of view or my ambitions.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
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12,276
Location
London
3. Is buying lots of gear a bad thing for beginning/intermediate players?


Question 3 is more contentious. Some experienced members (I call them the "Puritans") will say something like this: "Constantly changing your equipment is a distraction and it will slow down your development. If you are a beginner, then you should get yourself a beginner sax and a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece and practice long tones for 10 years. Then maybe (only maybe) you can consider changing your equipment. That's how we started and it worked for us. So that's what everybody should do."

This advice may be appropriate if the goal of the beginner is to play like the Puritan as quickly as possible, but not all of us have the same goals. In my case it's the journey that matters, not the endpoint. I am willing to take detours and backward steps if it makes the journey more fun. So frankly I don't mind if buying more mouthpieces will slow down my development, and I rather resent being lectured about it by anyone who doesn't understand my point of view or my ambitions.
That is part of being a teacher.
There is a whole category of classical teachers that consider the C* the one and only mouthpiece one ever needs (without even checking if the table is flat)

Others know when a student can benefit from a change of gear
Until recently I used to go to Howarth, take a bunch of mouthpieces and let my students try them. Now they changed their policy so I just propose D'Addario and Pillinger (I have some samplers).

Sometimes a new mouthpiece makes no difference, sometimes it does
 

mizmar

Member
Messages
481
Location
Trondheim, Norway
Some experienced members (I call them the "Puritans")
Just to say. I stick with the 6C, with no input from experienced players, because I felt I needed to develop my ears and understanding across the board. I've no doubt there are beginners with a much better sense of the direction they want to go then I have and the horn/MP/reed might matter more. I watch the occasional shootout of MPs on YouTube and, normally, can't really tell the difference.
I guess it just depends on the individual.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
3,020
Location
Hampshire
Just to say. I stick with the 6C, with no input from experienced players, because I felt I needed to develop my ears and understanding across the board. I've no doubt there are beginners with a much better sense of the direction they want to go then I have and the horn/MP/reed might matter more. I watch the occasional shootout of MPs on YouTube and, normally, can't really tell the difference.
I guess it just depends on the individual.
Yes I think it does too. But also about how much the individual plays in different scenarios. Easy for the big boys as they are only ever employed to be themselves, not to play lead alto for a Miller band one day and a pop session the next.
 

GCinCT

Seeker of truth and beauty
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1,787
Location
Oneonta, NY
In my situation, one mouthpiece works fine. I'm not a pro. My only playing was lead in a local big band, and now that's on hiatus, so I have no specific requirements. I've been really working on my ears as part of my practice and it's just easier to manage with one mouthpiece.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,469
Location
West Midlands
Question 3 is more contentious. Some experienced members (I call them the "Puritans") will say something like this: "Constantly changing your equipment is a distraction and it will slow down your development. If you are a beginner, then you should get yourself a beginner sax and a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece and practice long tones for 10 years. Then maybe (only maybe) you can consider changing your equipment. That's how we started and it worked for us. So that's what everybody should do."

This advice may be appropriate if the goal of the beginner is to play like the Puritan as quickly as possible, but not all of us have the same goals. In my case it's the journey that matters, not the endpoint. I am willing to take detours and backward steps if it makes the journey more fun. So frankly I don't mind if buying more mouthpieces will slow down my development, and I rather resent being lectured about it by anyone who doesn't understand my point of view or my ambitions.
Nigel if this was meant for me and you thought it was a lecture then I apologise it was not meant to be, it was meant to help with solid tried and tested knowledge of nearly 40 years experience, I'm not sure where the term Puritan comes in to it.
I respect that you have a different journey but it is still true that in most players/teachers opinions that constantly changing gear as a beginner/improving player would be counter productive.
 

eb424

Senior Member
Messages
1,081
Location
london
i think we have all done it under the gas badge.. The irony is for me a beginner the first calling was get a metal piece so I chased that always buying them second hand and selling on if i didn't like the tone. That is all I go on blow an open c do i like the sound. I then realised like many have said there is a lot of difference blowing in the shop, at home or in the church hall where I practice. Mouthpieces that sound great in the shop and loud at home seem to have no projection in the hall...could it be the reeds, see my ad in the yard sale many new unopened reeds tried not suitable try more...lol...I haven't even mentioned saxophones modern or vintage, then theres the ligs its taken ages to find that I like the 2 screw variety they seem an easier blow than the rovner / leather single screw types... Anyhow I mentioned Irony my step up mouthpiece from the Yamaha was a kanee studio cheapish, good quality easy blow, it turned out to be my go to piece when one of the new expensive ones was having an off day (i know it's me)' back to the Kanee, then I started playing at the hall with someone who gigs and has played for forty years. I practice in another room and he has a blast then we play a bit and he gives me advice. He reckons the TJ raw, Kanee 21/2 rigotti gold reed is bar far the best set up in the hall and I think he is right. Puzzling tho... all those expensive mouthpieces and its the kanee that sounds best... I can't help thinking as it is the one i always go to and is the most constantly used whether it is these variables and an improvement in my playing after all...
 

Dr G

Member
Messages
237
Location
Northern California
This is specially a beginners' problem which lasts too long IMO.
Let's start with alto. I tried or bought S80s and S90s, Meyer 6M and 7J, Rousseau and Vandorens which all sounded good in the shop but never worked with my reeds or my The Martin Committee 3...
So all this blah blah to ask one question: Is there a shortcut to finding that mpc/reed combo without spending a fortune on various Mpcs (at an average price of £150 each) and innumerable brands and varieties of reeds which retail between £3 to £5 each.

Yes, there exists a different path. Do your homework to find a consensus on what mouthpiece best fits the sound you are seeking - better still if you can get feedback from experienced players on similar horns (for the instance of catching potential quirks). Meyer 5M or 6M is a solid piece. Then dial in the reeds to work best with the mouthpiece.

If you are trying to match a mouthpiece to your favorite reed... That's not the way to go.

This all underscores what I stopped buying horns a long time ago. Get a decent horn in great condition, find a mouthpiece that gets in the right zone of response and tone, then dial in the reeds. Commit.

If playing the horn is your goal, commit to the horn. If being a gear head is your goal, don't get hung up on crappy intonation, poor response, and weak tone.
 
Messages
157
Location
Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
Lots of interesting comments here.

I'm a beginner (RCM grade 2/3). I have been playing on a Yamaha 4C on my YAS26 rental and now my own YAS62. The 4C is perfectly fine - I have absolutely no issues with it and am happy with it. But I'm also curious how other mouthpieces can sound. I'm not trying to sound like anyone else and I'm certainly not looking for a perfect set-up. I don't believe perfect set-ups exist - I think there are degrees of good. But what I am looking to do is branch out and experiment with how different mouthpieces can change my sound. I think if I don't experiment, I'll just never know. I think trying new mouthpieces is kind of like a part of the learning process.

Of course, the main reason I haven't bought another mouthpiece yet is because they're expensive (a couple hundred dollars per try). And I'm also afraid of buying something I might hate, and therefore, waste money. What a dilemma!

Despite the financial concerns, I'm really itching to try something new. I play lots of classical music within the RCM curriculum so thought a natural mouthpiece to get that classical sound is the Selmer S80 C*. I also play with a concert band and want to join a jazz band, and I think a Meyer 5M or 6M might be good for that. They might not be perfect or everybody's favourite, but they're at least a start? At least that's what many people on the internet and sax.co.uk recommend as first upgrades?

Any thoughts?
 
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peterpick

Member
Messages
633
Location
Lewes, East Sussex
it's a while ago now, but i went to my local (then) dealer/repairer - saxophones, you lot - and there was a man in there playing and playing. i listened for a while and then i approached him and said 'nice tone', which is the sort of thing i say to people. he looked at me with sad eyes; "reeds and mouthpieces can ruin your whole life." he said.
 

eb424

Senior Member
Messages
1,081
Location
london
Lots of interesting comments here.

I'm a beginner (RCM grade 2/3). I have been playing on a Yamaha 4C on my YAS26 rental and now my own YAS62. The 4C is perfectly fine - I have absolutely no issues with it and am happy with it. But I'm also curious how other mouthpieces can sound. I'm not trying to sound like anyone else and I'm certainly not looking for a perfect set-up. I don't believe perfect set-ups exist - I think there are degrees of good. But what I am looking to do is branch out and experiment with how different mouthpieces can change my sound. I think if I don't experiment, I'll just never know. I think trying new mouthpieces is kind of like a part of the learning process.

Of course, the main reason I haven't bought another mouthpiece yet is because they're expensive (a couple hundred dollars per try). And I'm also afraid of buying something I might hate, and therefore, waste money. What a dilemma!

Despite the financial concerns, I'm really itching to try something new. I play lots of classical music within the RCM curriculum so thought a natural mouthpiece to get that classical sound is the Selmer S80 C*. I also play with a concert band and want to join a jazz band, and I think a Meyer 5M or 6M might be good for that. They might not be perfect or everybody's favourite, but they're at least a start? At least that's what many people on the internet and sax.co.uk recommend as first upgrades?

Any thoughts?
Hi ChampagneBears.. I'm only just starting out on the sax journey and think that if that is what you want to do go for it otherwise you will never know.:).. as my post above states it may or may not be ideal re playing and I have found different Mpces respond to different reeds so there is that to consider. I have always used e bay and bought used the financial thump isn't as big you can sell on. Surely exploration and fun have a big part to play in music...
 

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