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This research article link may well have been posted on this forum before (I couldn't find it here- if so I apologize for redundancy). I found it interesting and I thought worth sharing: http://hal9000.ps.uci.edu/Does Saxophone Mouthpiece Material Matter.doc.pdf

Major conclusions:
1. There is no subjective difference to the listener between an identically shaped rubber vs metal mouthpiece
2. There is no appreciable difference in spectroscopic quality (ie no technical difference) of the sound of an identically shaped metal vs rubber mouthpiece
3. There may be perception of appreciable differences to the sound of identical shaped mouthpieces as heard by the PLAYER that are due to differing conduction of sound through teeth, bones, etc
4. A wider beak can open the oral cavity which will bring notes in the higher registers, that can otherwise play sharp, closer in tune. This effect is much greater with smaller saxes such as sopranos, and may be why many soprano players prefer rubber over metal, since rubber mpcs. often are larger and have wider beaks. It is much less perceptible with larger saxes, and probably would not significantly influence your tenor intonation.

What I take from this is, don't be fooled by your own ears while playing. If I wind up blowing the big bucks on a Theo Wanne mouthpiece, I will probably save close to $200 by going rubber. (In fact, Theo makes a rubber, but not a metal, soprano mouthpiece, and I wonder if my conclusion #4 above is the reason why. I intend to ask him).
 

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Yes, that article has been posted and discussed before, as has the whole topic of difference or not between materials. But is is an interesting topic, given that so many people refuse to believe there can be no difference.

One problem is that it is so hard to disprove, as it's rare to find two identical mouthpieces, one of metal and one of HR.

I make mouthpieces from various different materials, and am of the opinion that there is no significant difference, but I'm always open to being proven wrong.

It's also interesting the point about the thickness of the beak affecting the oral cavity. I've done (somewhat basic) some testing in this regard using beak differences of up to 1/4 inch and found that although my teeth are obviously further apart, it doesn't really affect my sound - and bear in mind 1/4 added to a beak is very radical.

I think your point about people preferring HR on soprano due to metal being too small in the mouth has some credibilty, but have known plenty of soprano players who love a metal mouthpiece. Having said that, if I was to make a metal soprano, I would probably make the external dimensions the same as a HR or resin mouthpiece.

Again there may be a point about sopranos and beak thickness, and I find it interesting that on soprano I take in a lot more mouthpiece (relatively) than I do on tenor or baritone. This may be related but I suspect it's more to do with articulation.

Currently I am working on a new mouthpiece, which is a metal version of the Onyxite resin piece I currently produce. The internal measurements are exactly the same, but the external dimensions are not. I'm not expecting any significant difference, although I concede that it is possible if the beak is thin enough then there could actually be some amount of vibration at the tip, which (theoretically) may function in some way similar to a reed.
 

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We make our A Series pieces in the same exact way out of rubber and metal. The difference is in the players perception and feel. It is very hard if not impossible to hear a difference as an audience member.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
By the way, Pete, we have a Southampton here in Massachusetts as well. It's not too sunny either.
 

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I agree. I think the biggest difference outside of vibrational feedback is that the larger piece (which is usually hard rubber) tends to force the throat to be more open and thus leans towards a different tonal response. I like metal and hard rubber. However, from a standpoint of economy there is more bang for the buck in hard rubber pieces. There may certainly be exceptions. I state this as a general rule of thumb.

On the whole I think that its easier to get a big tone out of hard rubber because of this. For an aware and highly accomplished player the differences become less pronounced. Generally speaking, great players can sound fantastic on anything you can strap a reed to. The rest of the universe really benefits from good gear (not to say great players dont want good gear). Still, as Doc says, you wont find chops in a box.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
as Doc says, you wont find chops in a box.
Very well put, and very true. Still (as an intermediate amateur who is still learning), I wonder if good equipment is more critical to a player who is learning, and does not yet have the "chops" to intuitively correct for flaws in his/her setup (such as the natural high register "sharpening" of the smaller saxes with narrower mouthpices described in the referenced article above), than it would be to the seasoned pro. Max Roach sounded a million times better when I saw him pounding on a paint bucket than most professional drummers who pay more for a high hat than any mouthpiece and half the saxes out there! Learning is so much harder when you are fighting with your equipment. I also find that human nature dictates with sax, sex, the Sox (for us New Englanders) and pretty much everything else in life that matters, you are only as good as your last performance. So the more you love your sound, the better you sound and the more you want to play.
 

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I hear a difference so thats all that matters to me.Metal on tenor,hr on alto and soprano.
 

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3. There may be perception of appreciable differences to the sound of identical shaped mouthpieces as heard by the PLAYER that are due to differing conduction of sound through teeth, bones, etc


I think here in is the ultimate answer. We often shout in chorus "material makes no difference" while talking from the other side of our mouth saying - "the determining factor is what is comfortable to you - or gets you closer to your sound."

If the players perception is altered by the material through vibrations, etc.. (and I feel it very much is for me) then there actually IS a difference. When we shape or make our sound - it is often in response to what we perceive our sound to be. That's why someone who has played a certain style of mouthpiece most of the time may not sound very different on a different material but will end up playing differently. At least this is my experience. I've played some pieces that appear to be identical in metal and HR (Like Theo Wannes pieces) and though I contend that the liteners experience my not differ, I do contend that my playing and listening/adjusting was significantly different.

I do believe there is more psychology related to these things as well. So, when we are talking about the idea of prception vs fact/fiction it is too subjective to be conclusive in any direction. It's just like supertitions. A ball player may have a lucky shirt and feels they can't play without it. Well, take away the shirt and you will almost invariably have a poorer performance from that athlete.

So, the question is. Does the shirt actually help the players performance? Scientifically - it should have no effect whatsoever. But, the reality appears to say, yes - the shirt is a significant factor. Which one is true?

I agree that people should not be mislead into their supertisions - "metal and hard rubber, plastic, etc... are different" but shouting down those who feel it is differnet for them is hardly based in as much science as we would like to think.

A persons perception is all the difference in my opinion.
 

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Swamp. I do agree on that point completely. If you are getting the kind of feedback you want (regardless of what the listener receives) it makes a huge difference in where you go with your music. Therefore, material does matter. From an objective perspective, from the receiving end, it matters less....except when it leads a player to go down paths he or she may not were they playing on different material.

There is no absolute here. I think the primary point is that material does not dictate a certain tonal palate. It does, however, create different experiences. Does it matter to the music? Of course. Everything matters in the creation of music...including that good looking girl in the front row :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
3. There may be perception of appreciable differences to the sound of identical shaped mouthpieces as heard by the PLAYER that are due to differing conduction of sound through teeth, bones, etc


I think here in is the ultimate answer. We often shout in chorus "material makes no difference" while talking from the other side of our mouth saying - "the determining factor is what is comfortable to you - or gets you closer to your sound."

If the players perception is altered by the material through vibrations, etc.. (and I feel it very much is for me) then there actually IS a difference. When we shape or make our sound - it is often in response to what we perceive our sound to be. That's why someone who has played a certain style of mouthpiece most of the time may not sound very different on a different material but will end up playing differently. At least this is my experience. I've played some pieces that appear to be identical in metal and HR (Like Theo Wannes pieces) and though I contend that the liteners experience my not differ, I do contend that my playing and listening/adjusting was significantly different.

I do believe there is more psychology related to these things as well. So, when we are talking about the idea of prception vs fact/fiction it is too subjective to be conclusive in any direction. It's just like supertitions. A ball player may have a lucky shirt and feels they can't play without it. Well, take away the shirt and you will almost invariably have a poorer performance from that athlete.

So, the question is. Does the shirt actually help the players performance? Scientifically - it should have no effect whatsoever. But, the reality appears to say, yes - the shirt is a significant factor. Which one is true?

I agree that people should not be mislead into their supertisions - "metal and hard rubber, plastic, etc... are different" but shouting down those who feel it is differnet for them is hardly based in as much science as we would like to think.

A persons perception is all the difference in my opinion.
Good point, Swampcabbage!! After all, a big part of improvising is responding to what we as improvisers hear and feel, so it well could be that we "compose" differently based on our own feedback. Though the audience may not be able to tell rubber from metal (or whatever), if we PERCEIVE a difference as players, the dynamics or tone of our next note may be altered to reflect that subjective difference that we are picking up via our teeth, bones, etc.

I don't think that would convince me to pay $200 more for a metal mouthpiece based on my personal feedback mechanisms to metal. But it is a valid argument to do so, not just superstition.
 

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Good point, Swampcabbage!! After all, a big part of improvising is responding to what we as improvisers hear and feel, so it well could be that we "compose" differently based on our own feedback. Though the audience may not be able to tell rubber from metal (or whatever), if we PERCEIVE a difference as players, the dynamics or tone of our next note may be altered to reflect that subjective difference that we are picking up via our teeth, bones, etc.

I don't think that would convince me to pay $200 more for a metal mouthpiece based on my personal feedback mechanisms to metal. But it is a valid argument to do so, not just superstition.
And if your perception is that it does not justify you spending the extra cash on a mouthpiece, then I would agree whole heartedly. Where as my perception breaks down, perhaps differently, perhaps similarly. My perception math goes like this; "I might play 100 shows this year at an average of 300 for a show; I could purchase the mouthpiece that I like well enough for 200 or the mouthpiece I LOVE for 800. Is it worth $6 a show for this year alone to have that kind of piece of mind? Are there what about practicing? What if I break it down for 2 years, 3, or 4?"

I ended up going with the "Top drawer" ideal for me and I have never been happier. Is it a holy grail for others or even me - perhaps not. But when I finally went with the setup that had my heart - I never regreted it. Not once. And I contend that had I been aware of how profoundly relieving it is day in and day out - I think I would have paid many more times than I did for it. Thank goodness I didn't have to.

I stongly believe in practicing ones behind off. I happen to love to practice on my setup more than ever. Strange how that works. And so I have to measure the true impact of my personal feedback mechanism for me - what is the aggregate impact?
 

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Very well put, and very true. Still (as an intermediate amateur who is still learning), I wonder if good equipment is more critical to a player who is learning, and does not yet have the "chops" to intuitively correct for flaws in his/her setup (such as the natural high register "sharpening" of the smaller saxes with narrower mouthpices described in the referenced article above), than it would be to the seasoned pro. Max Roach sounded a million times better when I saw him pounding on a paint bucket than most professional drummers who pay more for a high hat than any mouthpiece and half the saxes out there! Learning is so much harder when you are fighting with your equipment. I also find that human nature dictates with sax, sex, the Sox (for us New Englanders) and pretty much everything else in life that matters, you are only as good as your last performance. So the more you love your sound, the better you sound and the more you want to play.
That is an interesting question. I think that what can be great gear for a good player can be a really bad choice for a less experienced player. Some of the pieces that allow us to sound the biggest and best on take very mature embouchures. Some players that are still developing might be better off with gear that is a little less extreme, like smaller chambers and tip openings. Even certain horns might be a great choice for a pro but not so good for an up and comer. The other side of the coin is if you just go for it and get some gear that will challenge you early on will it help you develope faster? I don't know what the answer is but it has me thinking for sure. Do you give a high school kid a good link type of piece and a mark VI or do you give him a Yamaha and a more moderate medium chamber piece that he will sound better on now?
 

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Sorry if I derailed the thread a little. I think the materials matter most on a comfort level for the player. I like metal because they are stronger and usually smaller. Hard rubber usually feels big and clumsy in my mouth. I do like hard rubber on alto but I have a Jody Jazz DV so I guess I'm pretty flexible on alto as to what I feel good on.
 

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Some great thoughts and point of views here.On my level of likes and thoughts i never realy care about the science factor,i just try loads of gear and what i like i buy and its always metal for tenor,can never seem to get away on metal on alto,soprano and i find a greater warmth on HR on alto,sop.Each to his own and we all hear our own thing.
 

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That is an interesting question. I think that what can be great gear for a good player can be a really bad choice for a less experienced player. Some of the pieces that allow us to sound the biggest and best on take very mature embouchures. Some players that are still developing might be better off with gear that is a little less extreme, like smaller chambers and tip openings.
I agree with you, stormott. I was arguing for buying what you feel the best with, what you sound the best with, and with what makes you the happiest at your level of playing, which for a beginner will not be a Lawton #11 with a #5 reed. I also was thinking more of players with enough experience under their belt to make a good informed decision, not a very beginner.
And if your perception is that it does not justify you spending the extra cash on a mouthpiece, then I would agree whole heartedly. Where as my perception breaks down, perhaps differently, perhaps similarly. My perception math goes like this; "I might play 100 shows this year at an average of 300 for a show; I could purchase the mouthpiece that I like well enough for 200 or the mouthpiece I LOVE for 800. Is it worth $6 a show for this year alone to have that kind of piece of mind? Are there what about practicing? What if I break it down for 2 years, 3, or 4?"
Thinking about it more, Swampcabbage, I do believe I spoke flippantly and too soon. Though I am not a pro like you, I do play a lot, and it is very important to me. My approach is, in fact, the same as yours, and if a metal Gaia sounds and feels significantly better to me than a rubber Gaia I would probably buy the metal, or vice versa (this is how I chose my Yani 9930 soprano sax, though I still find the hype about the metal hard to believe, and originally wanted to save $2K and buy a 901). Still, knowing the facts can influence the degree to which you can be misled by hearsay, marketing, etc. about what certain materials, ligatures or whatever will do to improve your sound. IMHO, If, knowing the facts, you still feel you prefer one over the other, and if playing is REALLY important to you, the sensible thing to do is to go for it if you can.
 

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I didn't think you were being flippant at all. I totally get the economical view in a sense that my perception of what I like and want seems to own me more than maybe someone who is more profoundly attached to an aesthetic that is less dependent on such data.

I am not really a pro (I work a lot but am not a full time player - I work a corporate day gig). I know plenty of cats who blow on cheaper gear the tag is not the answer. It is all personal comfort.

Recently I was having struggles with alto mouthpieces. I decided to rummage through an old horn case a found a Brillhart (no serial number nothing special vintage - just a what, $40 Brillhart) and it blows away all the other pieces I've been using on my alto. Jody Jazz DV, Meyer's, Barone's, Selmer Scroll Shanks, etc... I can't believe it. It's all about being in touch with your personal feedback and willing to remove the personal prejudice based on price tags, material, looks, etc... and that goes in any direction. Prejudie against higher prices is still a prejudice whether it is valid or not. Just as prejudice against "no name" or Taiwan made horns can be. The proof is only in the puting.
 

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I doubt if I will ever buy another saxophone, and am fairly convinced that I will be happy with my current soprano and my current tenor for the rest of my life. I have not reached that point with mouthpieces, and it may be a bit harder with mouthpieces, but that is my goal- one soprano piece and one tenor piece, no more shopping.
 

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Recently I was having struggles with alto mouthpieces. I decided to rummage through an old horn case a found a Brillhart (no serial number nothing special vintage - just a what, $40 Brillhart) and it blows away all the other pieces I've been using on my alto. Jody Jazz DV, Meyer's, Barone's, Selmer Scroll Shanks, etc... I can't believe it. It's all about being in touch with your personal feedback and willing to remove the personal prejudice based on price tags, material, looks, etc... and that goes in any direction. Prejudie against higher prices is still a prejudice whether it is valid or not. Just as prejudice against "no name" or Taiwan made horns can be. The proof is only in the puting.
Yes!
 

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On the listener vs. player's appreciation of sound, this (tangentially) reminds me of a horn I once had, a late '30's King Zephyr alto. Playing mid-register E and F, some part of of the horn would sympathetically vibrate with the note. It was incredibly distracting; it sounded (felt) to me like I was at the dentist, and fixing to get to get a tooth drilled. Worse, the tone it produced sounded (felt) about 1/4 tone flat of the note I was playing. Arghh!! Thing is, nobody listening to me play could hear it at all, which astonished me because while playing it felt like it was filling my skull. It was being transmitted to me completely through the neck and mouthpiece. Finally, I figured out it was the side Bb key lever vibrating. I wrapped a thin rubber band around part of it, and that, I guess, put enough dampening weight on it to stop the vibration. But it just killed me that nobody else could hear what to me, the player, was an incredibly loud, thrumming noise.

So it is to mouthpieces, I believe - the material may make the player's appreciation of tone vary (rubber is darker, metal brighter, etc.), but to the hearer that distinction may not be evident at all.
 

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3. There may be perception of appreciable differences to the sound of identical shaped mouthpieces as heard by the PLAYER that are due to differing conduction of sound through teeth, bones, etc


I think here in is the ultimate answer. We often shout in chorus "material makes no difference" while talking from the other side of our mouth saying - "the determining factor is what is comfortable to you - or gets you closer to your sound."

If the players perception is altered by the material through vibrations, etc.. (and I feel it very much is for me) then there actually IS a difference. When we shape or make our sound - it is often in response to what we perceive our sound to be. That's why someone who has played a certain style of mouthpiece most of the time may not sound very different on a different material but will end up playing differently. At least this is my experience. I've played some pieces that appear to be identical in metal and HR (Like Theo Wannes pieces) and though I contend that the liteners experience my not differ, I do contend that my playing and listening/adjusting was significantly different.

I do believe there is more psychology related to these things as well. So, when we are talking about the idea of prception vs fact/fiction it is too subjective to be conclusive in any direction. It's just like supertitions. A ball player may have a lucky shirt and feels they can't play without it. Well, take away the shirt and you will almost invariably have a poorer performance from that athlete.

So, the question is. Does the shirt actually help the players performance? Scientifically - it should have no effect whatsoever. But, the reality appears to say, yes - the shirt is a significant factor. Which one is true?

I agree that people should not be mislead into their supertisions - "metal and hard rubber, plastic, etc... are different" but shouting down those who feel it is differnet for them is hardly based in as much science as we would like to think.

A persons perception is all the difference in my opinion.
You hear a difference because there is one. They tested two identical mouthpieces from different materials. If you hear a difference between a hr link and a metal one is because is not the same mouthpiece. I suspect that the material influences the shape of the mouthpiece. You don't see many metal mouthpieces looking exactly like hr ones and visa versa.
 
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