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I'm wondering why metal mouthpieces seem to be much more popular on tenors than altos. At least that is an observation I have made (perhaps incorrectly). I always thought using a metal mouthpiece would make you sound "brighter" and give you more volume. It certainly seems true of my metal Jody Jazz on my alto (which I rarely ever use now since I prefer a warmer and rounder sound for "jazz standards" type of stuff). Since I am thinking of getting a tenor, I went into a Music and Arts store just to try one out, it had been decades. I tried a rubber Jody Jazz and loved it. Then I tried an Otto Link metal and it was actually more "muted" and less "sharp" than the rubber. I was pretty shocked as I expected the opposite to happen.

So...to my question. Do all metal mouthpieces have certain consistent properties "always unique" to metal, or does it really come down to "This is the mouthpiece that delivers the sound properties I like, it just happens to be metal"?
 

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I'm wondering why metal mouthpieces seem to be much more popular on tenors than altos. At least that is an observation I have made (perhaps incorrectly). I always thought using a metal mouthpiece would make you sound "brighter" and give you more volume. It certainly seems true of my metal Jody Jazz on my alto (which I rarely ever use now since I prefer a warmer and rounder sound for "jazz standards" type of stuff). Since I am thinking of getting a tenor, I went into a Music and Arts store just to try one out, it had been decades. I tried a rubber Jody Jazz and loved it. Then I tried an Otto Link metal and it was actually more "muted" and less "sharp" than the rubber. I was pretty shocked as I expected the opposite to happen.

So...to my question. Do all metal mouthpieces have certain consistent properties "always unique" to metal, or does it really come down to "This is the mouthpiece that delivers the sound properties I like, it just happens to be metal"?
It's a myth that metal mouthpieces are brighter (or darker) than hard rubber mouthpieces but that's getting dispelled as the internet has taken over. I've made mouthpieces from six different materials, hard rubber, brass, copper, stainless steel, solid sterling silver, and black ebony and when the designs are the same they all play exactly the same as long as the facings and chambers have the same dimensions. However, your mind messes with you and leads you to believe that they're different but I've done blindfold studies with God knows how many people and when a person that swears he can tell the difference between two materials is blind he can't tell. And for some reason they hate that and they will still swear that they're different, I think people just like to argue. I've done a lot of blindfold studies and they've been very valuable in studying the saxophone and human behavior which I enjoy since mouthpieces can be so elusive and people have come to me distraught over them and are totally confused.

For some reason mouthpiece makers tend to make their metal mouthpieces with high baffles, thus they are brighter but if you play a metal Otto Link you'll find it's very dark, maybe why it never got too popular. It's an extremely dark mouthpiece, even stuffy. But try a Vandoren Jumbo Java which is made out of composite and you'll find it to be pretty bright. Also, Dukoff used to make plastic mouthpieces with very high baffles and they were extremely bright. For some reason when we try something we tend to make assumptions based on limited experience not being able to see the whole picture, it's ignorance manifesting itself. I hope I've been helpful. Phil Barone
 

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Phil

Very helpful. That is an amazing test, but if you stop to really think about it, the mouthpiece is just a "cavity" air is passing through, so as you say if all the designs and the facing etc. are identical, why wouldn't they sound identical. I guess the argument might be that air passing over metal somehow "changes" (speed, density, whatever). Or perhaps that reeds vibrate differently against a metal surface vs. a plastic one. I'm no physicist, but I certainly buy what you are saying. And that is exactly how I would describe the metal otto link I tried...dark and stuffy. Not necessarily "bad", just not what I expected at all. Great info!
 

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I'm wondering why metal mouthpieces seem to be much more popular on tenors than altos. At least that is an observation I have made (perhaps incorrectly).
I think the observation is correct. But as Phil has explained, it's because of the mouthpiece designs that tend to be made in metal. Alto saxophones are inherently brighter than tenors, so alto players on the whole have less need for very bright, high-baffle mouthpieces. Alto players in smooth jazz or funk may use metal, but those mouthpieces seem to be collectively judged unsuitable for traditional jazz, big band work, pit orchestra playing, etc. The metal alto mouthpiece is close to extinct among classical players.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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There can be slight differences between materials due to vibrations, but only at the tip and only if the tip is quite thin - so a mouthpiece type with any kind of significant baffle or thickish beak would probably not manifest any differences due to material. Any differences there may be would be not so much due to an actual material, but due to the mass and/or rigidity of a material.

I've done recordings with metal vs HR medium baffle exact same mouthpiece dimensions and I think very few people could tell. Possibly nobody, can't quite remember now.

See/hear the test here:

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

And the subsequent discussion:

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?201808-quot-The-Horse-Is-Dead-quot-Back-on
 

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There can be slight differences between materials due to vibrations, but only at the tip and only if the tip is quite thin - so a mouthpiece type with any kind of significant baffle or thickish beak would probably not manifest any differences due to material. Any differences there may be would be not so much due to an actual material, but due to the mass and/or rigidity of a material.

I've done recordings with metal vs HR medium baffle exact same mouthpiece dimensions and I think very few people could tell. Possibly nobody, can't quite remember now.

See/hear the test here:

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

And the subsequent discussion:

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?201808-quot-The-Horse-Is-Dead-quot-Back-on
In general the exterior dimensions of metal MPs where they interact with the embouchure are a bit smaller, so your jaw would be a bit less open. At least in theory this COULD lead to subtle tonal differences even with identical interior dimensions and facings; but I suspect the subtle theoretical differences would actually turn out to be so subtle as to be inaudible (that's very subtle indeed).
 

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I tried at least a dozen mouthpieces at my local music store--metal, hard rubber, plastic. I thought I sounded the same on all of them. (I bought a metal one because it had the most comfortable bite.)
 

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There is also a big difference in the amount of feedback the player gets standing behind the horn and the amount of feedback listeners get standing in front of it.

Some people choose a set up where there is a lot of perceived vibrations or sound from behind the horn. Others don't worry about that as much. Neither is right or wrong. But the material of the mouthpiece does have a impact in this area specifically.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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In general the exterior dimensions of metal MPs where they interact with the embouchure are a bit smaller, so your jaw would be a bit less open. At least in theory this COULD lead to subtle tonal differences even with identical interior dimensions and facings; but I suspect the subtle theoretical differences would actually turn out to be so subtle as to be inaudible (that's very subtle indeed).
Yes, I've read people say that. I did a test adding a huge 1 cm to the beak. It made no difference at all to the sound, so the slight difference due to your normal HR beak extra thickness would IMO be nothing.

However as you can see in this test the dimensions are the same inside and out.
 

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Yes, I've read people say that. I did a test adding a huge 1 cm to the beak. It made no difference at all to the sound, so the slight difference due to your normal HR beak extra thickness would IMO be nothing.

However as you can see in this test the dimensions are the same inside and out.
Well, as I had noted, "zero difference" is simply the limit condition of "very small difference".

In the end, it's not something to be concerned about, in my opinion.
 

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To the observation that there are more playing metal on tenor than alto has been partly answered by DCA and others. The smaller bite makes a big difference in the feel and perhaps in controlling one's embouchure on tenor and baritone. Smaller bite on alto might seem too small for many players.
 

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To the observation that there are more playing metal on tenor than alto has been partly answered by DCA and others. The smaller bite makes a big difference in the feel and perhaps in controlling one's embouchure on tenor and baritone. Smaller bite on alto might seem too small for many players.
I believe that is the answer to the OP question. Metal allows for smaller/thinner external dimensions on the mouthpiece, which is more of a factor on tenor then alto, just because of the mouthpiece size being bigger.
 

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As a retired neuroscientist, my explanation is the integration of auditory and visual inputs in the thalamus. If metal mouthpieces look brighter, they have to sound brighter, too than black rubber. Multimodal integration of sensory inputs is actual a very well established phenomenon and Oliver Sacks has written many books on the subject so it is not as dumb as it may sound at first glance.
 

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As a retired neuroscientist, my explanation is the integration of auditory and visual inputs in the thalamus. If metal mouthpieces look brighter, they have to sound brighter, too than black rubber. Multimodal integration of sensory inputs is actual a very well established phenomenon and Oliver Sacks has written many books on the subject so it is not as dumb as it may sound at first glance.
Wow, that doesn't surprise me at all and makes sense. Phil
 

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The absolute brightest and loudest tenor mouthpiece Ive had was a Chedeville Trompette. I was narrow like a Dukoff and had a small oval chamber.
There is a difference between metal and hard rubber in the way they feel and vibrate when you’re playing them.
With me it seems I feel the metal mouthpiece vibrations are more in the mouthpiece and the hard rubber the vibrations are more in the sax.
 

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I play on metal links mostly but sometimes i try Hr Link style pieces too and everytime i hear them as darker even though they sometimes have an edge to them they often play darker ,especially less high end overtones. I would love to try two pieces ,one metal and one hr with the exact same internal and external dimensions to see how it goes.
 

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I thought we'd have a chance to experiment with this when 10mfan started producing his old metal Robusto model because I knew that if anyone could reproduce rubber and metal piece to the exact same dimensions, Eric Falcon could. I was looking forward to hearing side-by-side sound clips and player's testimonials. Come to find out, they were purposely made with different specs — thwarted, once again!

Basically, I just prefer metal. It's durable, and for me, more comfortable. And, as someone who started on clarinet, I like it do it just because I can.
 

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It is really really difficult to be un-biased,... if not entirely impossible. The appearance of anything, how much it weighs, how it feels to the touch will surely influence the way you hear it. Not to mention the huge influence on how you play it and make it sound, based on your expectations.

If you spend enough time getting to know practically ANY piece (that plays OK and doesn't have huge design flaws or damage) I think it can be made to sound a way that suits you. That requires reed matching of course and discovering what that paticular piece offers and how to manipulate it.
 

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I have EB Tone Edge and STM 6s that I play. The baffles are very similar and both have the same higher floor. I’d hazard to guess they’re fairly close in inner dimensions but the profile (beak) is lower on the STM. That may have more to do why the STM is brighter than the material.
 
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