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I'm essentially a newbie to sax (play other instruments)...bought an inexpensive tenor sax on Ebay awhile ago (Helmke...Chinese), and it never even occurred to me the idea that a mouthpiece is a big deal. Apparently, you can spend a lot of dough. I can't imagine spending as much on a mouthpiece as I did the sax, but would a somewhat better one on the cheaper side still make much difference? How much does one have to spend? I do feel the tone is a little on the harsh side.

Here's the one that came with the Helmke:

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I would say yes, and you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars. You can get something decent for maybe $100 in the buy and sell forum. Another tips to save some money is you don’t need to buy a whole box of reed. Buy the Vandoren sampler, or buy by pieces. Rico reeds never works for me.


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Go to a store and try some mouthpieces out if possible. Any off the shelf Otto Link rubber or Meyer will play just fine and be good for a long time. You could even get a Yamaha 4C that would probably be fine until you develop more. The piece in your picture looks like it has a pretty high baffle, which could be part of the harsh tone you described.

The most important part of learning to play the saxophone is taking private lessons with the best teacher in your area. It will make you a better player faster than any equipment change.

Welcome to the world of saxophone!! :)

- Saxaholic
 

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Also to add some of my personal experience when I started out.

Don’t buy a mouthpiece with wide opening. I remember I bought a Meyer 6M because it is like the de-facto mouthpiece for alto, and I can’t play it with the softest reed. You can try a Selmer C and look up the chart in the link below for the equivalent in other brand.

https://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-mouthpiece-charts

Buy a couple individual reeds and try some mouthpieces at a store. I recommend Vandoren Java red and green, V16, and Rigotti Jazz medium.

For mouthpiece, I like Selmer and Vandoren. I especially like the Selmer Larry Teal. Don’t be discouraged by the price tag, you can easily find a used one.




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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Ray; just for your info; it has been common for pro players to throw away the stock mouthpiece with a new sax, even Selmers. They always have been basically a joke. Now we're talking about the stock mouthpiece with a Chinese sax? Well, it may not be that cut and dried - Chinese mouthpieces have been improving lately and the design of yours looks like it was at least copied from a known piece.
I'd suggest not embarking on the 'mouthpiece quest' before you try some different reeds, mainly softer ones. This is because I think you might be using perhaps a #3 or higher, and a #1 1/2 is more suited to beginners. However, the mouthpiece might actually be faulty - many Chinese saxes in the past came with unplayable mouthpieces.
If different reeds don't help, maybe you should have someone look at the sax to see if its really playable. Leaks can cause a thinner, harsher tone.
 

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I usually tell people just to stick with their original mouthpiece for a year or two if you are a beginner. There is so much to learn and work on and you have enough to keep you busy. In this case though, I would make an exception in that the mouthpiece you have has a really high baffle. I don't think beginners should start on a high baffle mouthpiece just because they don't learn to play with the air and support they should have to play the saxophone. I have had a few students come in who started on high baffle pieces and wanted to switch after years to another mouthpiece and it was incredibly hard for them. They had been playing with minimal air and support for years but getting by because of the high baffle. They tried to play a more moderate baffled piece like an Otto Link and they couldn't even blow enough air to get a half way decent sound. Getting them to blow with enough air was like torture for them because they had never done it before.
 

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A bad mpc will hinder your learning.
If you are already a musician you can and should upgrade from what came in the case.
You can go the Yamaha 4/5C route for under $50, if you are not sure if you are going to keep at the sax.
If you think you will play for a while, worth it to check out bettersax on YouTube for comparison videos of lower cost alto and tenor mpcs and go with one that sounds good to you.
These are all lower cost and some really good upgrades from even the Yamahas for not a lot of $.

And yes, I have spend 2x on a mpc for a sax (then upgraded the sax too, but I am all in here, Hahahaha), you don’t need to do that....yet.
But the mpc is more important than the horn (if horn is in good condition and no leaks, etc).
What is most important for you at this stage is a mpc that does not get in your way.
I learned this quickly, started on Yamaha 5C/4C across the board and quickly needed to upgrade but also knew what i wanted to sound like and what i needed, etc (I came from the world of trumpets)
 

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I'm essentially a newbie to sax (play other instruments)...bought an inexpensive tenor sax on Ebay awhile ago (Helmke...Chinese), and it never even occurred to me the idea that a mouthpiece is a big deal. Apparently, you can spend a lot of dough. I can't imagine spending as much on a mouthpiece as I did the sax, but would a somewhat better one on the cheaper side still make much difference? How much does one have to spend? I do feel the tone is a little on the harsh side.
Bottom line though could be "If it aint broke, dont fix it!"

The concern with no name mouthpieces that come with cheap horns is that they are often not well made, with uneven rails and/or weird facing curves that affect how a reed wants to respond, and that can really hold a beginning player back. This underlying concern is what leads to the default recommendation to start on a Yamaha 4C to learn the basics as they have a reputation for being very consistent from piece to piece to piece for a relatively small cost. The other common recommendation on Tenor is a more "sophisticated" upgrade like a Otto Link. (people will argue how consistent those are made!) but for anyone on a tight budget those cost real money!

If you havent been aware of the mouthpiece as a big deal then what you have is probably working OK. Tone is something that the mouthpiece will influence (read up on baffles and chamber sizes etc), but its also something that players learn to control too. From the third picture it looks like the inside of your piece has something of a step baffle to it (could just be the picture though as its not all that clear), and that design can result in a more brash treble heavy tone for sure.

Probably the most cost effective change you could try is a Yamaha 4C. Better yet do any of you sax buddies have pieces you can try out? Also bare in mind that if you change mouthpieces the size of the tip opening is probably going to change (we dont know what size your current piece is, but its probably around a 3 or 4), and that will affect whether your current go to reeds will work well with it, so some patience and experimentation will likely be needed.
Ray,
Do you live in the states?
If so, I’ll send you a mouthpiece as a holiday gift. 😀


Just send me an email: [email protected]


All the best, Mark

But if Mark can hook you up then Id be all over that as he will eliminate the mouthpiece as a source of uncertainty for you. Hell, his generosity to an internet stranger has made my day, never mind the lucky recipient of his kind and generous offer!
 

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It takes years to develop your sound and to really know what you want/need out of a mouthpiece, so to me it really doesn't make sense to spend a bunch of money during the first year or two of playing. It's better to just get a relatively cheap, decently made, sonically neutral (by which I mean it's not imposing a certain sound on you) mouthpiece to start with. I would just get 4C for $50, work with that for awhile, and then take stock in a year or so. If you feel like you just have to get something fancier, Vandoren makes a number of tenor mouthpieces that sell for less than $150, and they're all pretty good.
 

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I will be the odd man out here. Learn on equipment that is limited. The Chinese saxophone and mouthpiece is perfect for this. Develop your technique and knowledge until you can make it sound good. Figure out what the problems are and develop the ability to compensate. You will learn a lot more. Only then upgrade.

This could be true, but a high baffle mouthpiece with questionable construction may squeak and play out of tune. Playing on questionable equipment could teach bad habits that could take years to erase.
I would definitely take 10mfan's offer.
 
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