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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As far as I can tell, there is no alto equivalent to the "NY" series STM Links that are made for tenor. Is this correct? I have an NY link for tenor that I love, but my STM on alto lacks a bit of the warmth and fatness the tenor NY has.
Assuming there is no alto NY, anybody have recommendations for a similar thing for alto, hopefully not super expensive? I have a Bari WTII, and that has a great sound overall, but I think something about the shape of the baffle (or who knows what) seems to be a hindrance in the upper and lower register (esp. altissimo), and while it projects much more than the Link at normal volumes, it doesn't seem to really get bigger as I push more air through it like the Link does.
Another good option from what I can tell seems to be the Theo Wanne Gaia 2, but man those are expensive (even with an artist discount). FWIW I tried out the Gaia or Gaia 2 (don't remember which) on tenor at NAMM, but didn't like it quite as much as my NY tenor Link.

So, any suggestions, hopefully something cheaper than the Gaia 2? If not I might just bite the bullet...
 

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Well, the trouble with these kinds of questions is (a) you'll get other people's opinions, and we all know what opinions are like... and also (b) even if their opinions are spot-on, it's spot-on for them, whereas no one can know what it's going to play like in your mouth except you.
So with that caveat, I'll say FWIW that I had the good fortune to be able to try out a whole lot of alto mouthpieces recently after I bought an alto.
When you use the terms warmth and fatness, it sounds like what I wanted, and found lacking, in a lot of alto pieces, some of them very good.
I started with reading the reviews and listening to the sound clips on Steve Neff's (Nefertiti on SOTW Forum) website.
http://www.neffmusic.com/blog/mouthpiece-review-list/
You have to bear in mind that you're hearing what Steve sounds like, not you. But it's helpful because you can hear the relative differences in pieces as played by the same guy.
This was very helpful in narrowing down and ruling out what I didn't want to waste my time trying (Hint: after a few sound clips I knew I didn't want anything in his "high-baffle" and "medium-baffle" categories). After listening to every last "low baffle" sound clip, the Otto Link stood out for me. It was a Florida hard rubber piece, and I was able to play-test several of those, along with a New York hard rubber Link and I think an Early Babbitt one as well. In my play-testing, I found that nothing else sounded or felt as good as any of those Links. The problem was that they were all either too open, too close, or a bit too expensive for me. But I got very lucky and found on here, in the Marketplace section, a very, very nice Florida "USA" alto Super Tone Master... which has "warmth and fatness" that I think is, for me, even nicer than the old hard rubber Links.
I was a bit reluctant to try the metal Link, thinking "nobody plays those" (we should never think this, because "everyone else" is not us!). Actually, I could find very few famous alto players who played any kind of Link. I did, however, notice that Sonny Stitt played them! And specifically a STM. And Sonny Stitt is not exactly "nobody". So that unhealthy psychological need for "affirmation" (about as valuable as superstition) was satisfied.
You will find older alto Links, like older tenor Links, can be on the pricy side but not crazy stupid pricy like some of the tenor pieces.
I was very fortunate to find the one I got, refaced by Eric Greiffenhagen with a perfect-for-me 0.072" tip, for $175, a great price.
My second-favorite alto piece is a Vandoren V16 with the newer "S+" chamber. But it is more of a lead alto piece. Not so "warm". Very, very pretty, but with lots of penetrating, singing vibe. I will say that, based on this piece, which I bought new, Vandoren make a very, very, high quality piece. The workmanship and the facing are VERY well done on this one. So you may want to try one of their other alto pieces... either the V16 "M", the standard V5, or the V5 "Jazz" model might be nice.. I don't know. The only Vandoren alto piece Steve Neff plays on his website is the V16 "S", which I think is even more in your face than the S+.
Don't buy anything unless you can play it first, in the store, or on a trial basis.
It's also a good idea to record yourself in a good room and listen to the playback, so you can get a better idea of the true sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'll check out Steve's database, thanks for the tip. And yeah, likewise in my experience I've almost never liked a mouthpiece with much more than the slightest baffle. I tend to use darker setups and then brighten them up myself with voicing/embouchure as a situation calls for it, or even with a makeshift temporary baffle in extreme cases (try playing a Link in a horn section with a metal band :lol:), seems like it's much easier to do that than the reverse (trying to play darker on a bright mouthpiece). I do like a little bit of ring or liveliness in the sound though, sort of a bell-like clarity that I've usually only achieved with metal pieces. I too was hesitant at first to try a metal piece on alto after playing on a Meyer and an old Bari hard rubber, but the Link I got for $65 on ebay got me a step closer. Only problem is it can be a little dead or hollow sounding at times...of course, it has its own set of table/rail issues that I'm hesitant to spend money to get fixed, but maybe I should.
I've tried out hard rubber Links on tenor and didn't like them much at all, maybe I should give em a shot on alto. And I could check out Vandorens too, never played one I liked but don't remember which chamber(s) those were. Did you find a difference between the older and newer alto STM's? Or maybe you didn't try any newer metal ones, not 100% sure from your post.
And yeah, using words to describe sound is a special kind of hell......just think somewhere between like...Oliver Nelson, Jackie McLean, and Eric Dolphy, haha.
 

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....just think somewhere between like...Oliver Nelson, Jackie McLean, and Eric Dolphy, haha.
OK! I'm trangulatin! I'm triangulatin!
That's funny.
So anyway:
I think the reed is key in "brightening things up". Yes, voicing/embouchure too. But both the strength and the cut of the reed are important. I kind of like Javas or similar on this alto Link, I think.
The "ring" coming from metal... Well, that debate is on another thread or two, or nine-hundred eighteen... I personally find the geometry to be at least the main factor if not the entire story... But I'm not convinced that material is entirely immaterial..
Newer rubber Links leave me unimpressed, except for one made by Eric G. himself from a Tone Edge blank, for Jerry Bergonzi... The factory ones are not so hot, in the opinion of many. Same for the metal ones. I haven't played a newer alto Link so I don't really know what I'd think. But... they can be very different from one another, just like the old ones, so don't make a blanket judgment based on one piece.
Facing is SO important. I recommend having Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness look at a piece... He will tell you if it needs work and he's as honest about it as the day is long.. He is also the guru for refacing, I think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah, I don't really have an opinion on whether the material actually makes a difference....just know what I've found in my own experimentation. And yeah, reeds of course...I tend to use Alexander NY's, which seem to have a good balance of being a relatively thick cut with a deep core to the sound, but also just enough of the right overtones to give it some life. They can err on the buzzy side though, and tend to wear out quickly. But Javas and things of that nature (ZZ's, V16, Rico Jazz Select) are all either too thin-feeling or too bright for me. I also usually play tenor reeds on alto, but hey, that's a whole different story.
I checked out a lot of Steve Neff's recording samples, but while I heard a lot of good tenor examples, wasn't really very impressed by the alto selection, except for maybe that Versitone Acoustimax. I'd be curious too about the Acoustimer that he mentions as being darker, but it seems those are discontinued.
 

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So with that caveat, I'll say FWIW that I had the good fortune to be able to try out a whole lot of alto mouthpieces recently after I bought an alto.
Thanks for all the observations. Just a thought, but what makes a tenor STM NY different from the STM? Could those differences be modded on an alto STM?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the observations. Just a thought, but what makes a tenor STM NY different from the STM? Could those differences be modded on an alto STM?
Not really....as far as I can tell the main difference is that the NY is wider overall, allowing for a larger chamber.
 

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You should ask a mouthpiece expert like Sebastian Knox if it is possible to modify a Link STM alto chamber to be more the NY STM tenor. He probably could recommend a few different solutions. I have two STM Link tenor mouthpieces he worked on. They are amazing pieces.

What brand alto are you playing on?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm out here in LA, so it's a little difficult/risky/time-consuming to be mailing things around having modifications done, at the risk of having something done to my main piece where I end up liking it less.
I've traded through a few altos (Couesnon, The Martin) over the past several months in the process of upping my alto situation, currently playing on a transitional 1930's Conn naked lady pre-6M that I like a lot.
 

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Thanks for all the observations. Just a thought, but what makes a tenor STM NY different from the STM? Could those differences be modded on an alto STM?
The interior width inside the throat area is about .100” wider in the STM NY. Yes an alto STM could be hogged out in a similar way. I can do it for $35.

On the tenor STMs, I usually find that the facing quality is a bigger deal the the width of the throat. If I have a STM to try vs a STM NY, I will pick to play whichever one has a more responsive facing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The interior width inside the throat area is about .100” wider in the STM NY. Yes an alto STM could be hogged out in a similar way. I can do it for $35.

On the tenor STMs, I usually find that the facing quality is a bigger deal the the width of the throat. If I have a STM to try vs a STM NY, I will pick to play whichever one has a more responsive facing.
Interesting...that doesn't make the walls too thin?

And I know facings are a whole other can of worms too complex to narrow down to a simple answer, but is there a simple answer to what you mean by "more responsive"?
 

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I hesitate to post this because I don't know how effective it might be for you. I have taken a metal tenor mouthpiece and reduced the exterior sides under the beak. This seems to brighten the tone, because the the embouchure changes and it seems the tongue position does as well.

I tried the reverse on a bunch of alto mouthpieces by layering surgicial tape on the sides under the beak.. I am thinking it is not food grade tape, so this is just for experimenting. Overall I have added up to to 2.5 mm of tape measured with a pair of calipers. For me, it seems to make the tone fuller on hard rubber modern mouthpieces, like a Meyer and a Barone NY.

I don't have a Link STM alto but I do have a Link MasterLink alto 3* metal and a few Lelandais Super Jazz metal alto mouthpieces with rounded chambers. I am going to try adding tape on those mouthpieces. I willl be play testing on a Conn New Wonder.
 

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I'm out here in LA, so it's a little difficult/risky/time-consuming to be mailing things around having modifications done, at the risk of having something done to my main piece where I end up liking it less.
I've traded through a few altos (Couesnon, The Martin) over the past several months in the process of upping my alto situation, currently playing on a transitional 1930's Conn naked lady pre-6M that I like a lot.
Go find John Reilly, aka The Mouthpiece Dr. He's in the greater SoCal area - not sure exactly where he lives now, but his contact info is on his page: https://www.jrmpcdr.com/ Don't be put off by the picture on the front, he's one of the best refacers out there when it comes to Links.
 

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I thing its likely that There are few alto stm pieces that have enough baffle to support making then chamber larger. They can be good pieces but a heck of a lot of them dont have much baffle and they play dead as doornails. Better find a lively one first and think hard if you want the chamber bigger.

Frankly...trying tmgo this route seems logical...it works on tenor so it will work on alto? Sorry...logic sometimes screws us.

Often one solution for one horn is not the answer for another pitch horn.

The best solution is to start from scratch each time. Play a buch of pieces...buy the one you like and hit the shed.
 

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I thing its likely that There are few alto stm pieces that have enough baffle to support making then chamber larger. They can be good pieces but a heck of a lot of them dont have much baffle and they play dead as doornails. Better find a lively one first and think hard if you want the chamber bigger.

Frankly...trying tmgo this route seems logical...it works on tenor so it will work on alto? Sorry...logic sometimes screws us.

Often one solution for one horn is not the answer for another pitch horn.

The best solution is to start from scratch each time. Play a buch of pieces...buy the one you like and hit the shed.
Yes. ^^^
What Mr. P.T. says.
A whole lot of variables. Play it and feel it and listen (record your bad self). And check tuning vis a vis your axe. Seriously.
As for the outside girth of the mouthpiece and stretching your lips and stuff, that's interesting pseudo-science. I think our mouths/lips are so flexible and adaptable that shape/size of outside of MPC makes little difference. I go from a Link-type tenor piece to a Berg metal piece on baritone (much smaller)... Because: Facing. Baffle. Chamber. Those are where it is at. This concludes my bloviation.
Dis-missed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Yes. ^^^
What Mr. P.T. says.
A whole lot of variables. Play it and feel it and listen (record your bad self). And check tuning vis a vis your axe. Seriously.
As for the outside girth of the mouthpiece and stretching your lips and stuff, that's interesting pseudo-science. I think our mouths/lips are so flexible and adaptable that shape/size of outside of MPC makes little difference. I go from a Link-type tenor piece to a Berg metal piece on baritone (much smaller)... Because: Facing. Baffle. Chamber. Those are where it is at. This concludes my bloviation.
Dis-missed.
Yeah, I agree with both of you.....moreso looking for any suggestions of any other mouthpieces that might down my alley on alto. Seems like most everything available for alto either goes the direction of a Meyer type thing or in a high-baffle kind of direction. Doesn't seem to be a lot of information or anecdotal experience in the way of Link-ish things....I'm sure there are plenty of them out there, but just trying to get pointed to some reputable sources.
 

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For something outside the usual Meyer or baffled deer whistle, I suggest you check out the Phil-Tone “Intrepid”. Phil (aka Sigmund 451) is too humble to suggest his own work, but I will. Check out the threads on his “Intrepid” and then see for yourself.
 

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Phil-Tone's stuff is very good and super high quality, which is often not the case even on high-dollar pieces these days. I've played a couple of his tenor pieces and they knocked me out.
Another thought is that there were many odd and not-so-odd brands of pieces back in the day, most of which leaned "darker" by today's standards.
One that I tried out and really liked was an Ivan C. Kay (Detroit) piece, which it turns out Ed Zentera still has for sale:
http://www.ezmpc.com/alto/
Ed is a great guy to deal with and does great facing work. This Kay was just a bit too open for me. He also has a Lawton alto piece that was killer, but way too open for me.
Another off-brand piece that was very interesting was also made in Detroit, a Kay O'Brien piece that Detroit Saxophone Center (Detroit Wayne Music) had for sale. He may still have it - I don't know.
There are thousands of old pieces, from hundreds of mfrs., laying around in sax shops and pawn shops, if you can travel or try out on a trial basis.
Woodwind Co. (NY) made a buttload of pieces, in many different chamber designs. Some of those were really cool.
Check out junkdude.com. He has a lot of nice old stuff and is also the official outlet for Morgan mouthpieces, which are very highly regarded, hand-finished, and not too pricy, and they do have models (e.g. the Vintage one) that are of the dark old school.
All the best in your pursuit of great sound.
 
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