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I'm a tenor player and I just bought a new horn, a Conn 10M. I'm now thinking about changing my old standby mouthpiece, a Meyer 5M but I'm a little apprehensive about the process of lugging my horn to the store and trying out as many mouthpieces (or as few most likely) as I can in what little time the clueless store clerk will give me.

What do you guys do when you're looking for a new mouthpiece? I live in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area if that helps.

Is a general music store my best bet? eBay? Someone give me a hint as to what people do. Much appreciated.
 

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1. I take my horn to a store and try the pieces that interest me.

2. I buy the pieces sight-unseen if they have certain characteristics or a reputation that interests me (mainly a large tip-opening).

3. I order pieces that interest me from a source that allows returns (WW&BW, some mouthpiece dealers on SOTW, JodyJazz, etc.).

I have boxes filled with less-favored mouthpieces. DAVE
 

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Othello3 said:
I'm a tenor player and I just bought a new horn, a Conn 10M. I'm now thinking about changing my old standby mouthpiece, a Meyer 5M but I'm a little apprehensive about the process of lugging my horn to the store and trying out as many mouthpieces (or as few most likely) as I can in what little time the clueless store clerk will give me.

What do you guys do when you're looking for a new mouthpiece? I live in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area if that helps.

Is a general music store my best bet? eBay? Someone give me a hint as to what people do. Much appreciated.
Go to a place like Roberto's in NYC and try a bunch of mouthpieces. They'll give you time, and they have a good selection. I've never been there myself, but I've heard good things, and I wish there was a place like that in San Francisco.
 

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This topic caught my interest because I just came back from the mouthpiece shop with a Babbit Link STM 7* and a Ponzol metal 0.110" after play-testing around 20 different pieces, Links mostly. You can never tell until a couple weeks practice whether you're really going to like the piece long-term, but I did think these were two of the best pieces of the bunch. Well, an early 70's Florida Link was pretty sweet but would've broke the band account.

Let me expand on the first two points made by Mr. Dolson ...

Finding a dedicated saxophone mouthpiece shop would be your #1 preference. These kind of places are sometimes run by people who do refacing and repair work, also. For instance, I'm in the Bay Area, and there is a nice mouthpiece shop run by Erik Drake (who is Joshua Redman's tech). He has probably 30+ vintage Links and several hundred saxophone mouthpieces total. Especially if you are willing to spend a little extra money, this provides a great environment for testing. You basically just say what you're looking for and get hooked up. Additionally, the stock pieces are worked-on so the sound is improved and the proprietor can hand-tweak the pieces if you have preferences. There must be a similar store in the NYC area, yes? Don't be apprehensive about bringing the horn to the shop; most places that sell a lot of mouthpieces expect this. Make sure to bring your tuner.

My secondary preference is ordering from WW&BW. They will send you up to 4 pieces at a time, and you may get deferred payment on your credit card if you decide not to buy or buy only one. You send the rejects back (have to pay for shipping yourself) and they charge $4 or 5 a mouthpiece for restocking and cleaning. The problem here, at least to my aural perception, is that a lot of pieces straight out of the factory, i.e. new Links, tend to have issues and you will want to get them worked on. If you can try say 6 or more pieces of the type you want for new models, I would recommend it. I tried a bunch of Link NY pieces recently, and I thought each of the three 7* I tried had different overtones in the sound that was quite noticeable. Seems to me that some of the pieces also had uneven tone throughout the register and difference altissimo response. For this reason, it seems better to have access to a large number of mouthpieces when play-testing in order to pick out the best of the bunch.

I have never bought a piece sight unseen, and I don't think it is something I would do except in special cases or if I really trusted the seller's description. But to each his own. I can see going that way if you're looking for a specific rare/vintage piece and have to purchase via mail. But otherwise I'd avoid this as there seems to be variability in sound even with mouthpieces of the same make and tip opening, to my ears. I would always want to try before I buy.

Don't get too discouraged. I think it can sometimes take awhile to find a piece you really like and want to stick with for some years.

BTW, can someone on the board help this guy out with information about mouthpiece/saxophone shops in the NYC area? I'm willing to bet there is at least one good saxophone mouthpiece shop out there.

Good luck!
 

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Buy or borrow anything you are seriously interested in investigating. A few honks in a store is worthless. If you are serious about investigating a mouthpiece, you've got to spend some time with it to allow yourself to adjust to it, find appropriate reeds, and so forth. If you are judicious and lucky in your eBay or other second hand purchases, you can recoup most or all of your cost by reselling those that don't work out for you.
 

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The one thing you can do in a store is compare mpcs, since you can play them side-by-side. As others here have stated, you have to live with a mpc and play it for awhile before you know it's full potential. But I do think you can separate out the one(s) that you like or don't like to some extent in the store.

Hey Jeremy, which Ponzol did you get? M1, M2...? I gotta check out Erik's place in Berkeley, but I'm afraid to go in there! I'm pretty happy with my RPCs and I don't need to complicate the picture. Still......
 

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JL, hello.

I bought a Ponzol "ii-V-I" (cute name eh?) which has a Link-like chamber, except it is a lot longer and has almost no baffle. It sounds very mellow and full and speaks well in the altissimo. Would this be the "M2" or something different? I know next to nothing about Ponzols, but I just really liked this piece because of the tone quality. The other was (some period I can't remember) Babbit STM 7* I picked out of about 10. If money was no object, I probably would have picked out one the Floridas, but they are insanely expensive these days.

Erik has a great little shop. He doesn't really have much by way of new mouthpieces but has a good collection of vintage Links, plus some other metal brands, and a very good collection of hard rubber pieces. He is also a meticulous refacer and mouthpiece adjuster and will work with you to tweak a piece for your preferences. There is a room in the back where you can play-test in relative privacy. It is worth a visit at least. Funny thing, JL, you're the one who told me about Eric's shop in the first place I think. =)
 

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chitownjazz said:
A few honks in a store is worthless.
I completely agree with this sentiment. When you pick up a mouthpiece in the store, you are trying it out with the reeds and embouchre that have been developed for your existing setup (at least most folks do). Different facings and chambers work better with different reeds (strengths and cuts) and embouchres (more or less in mouth, blow vs. squeeze). If you are really open to change, you need to get a concept, get hold of a mouthpiece that is verified playable (either custom faced or clearly playable by someone used to the particular style) and try it in several situations with a variety of reed strengths and cuts. Otherwise, you will end up migrating back to your existing setup all the time.
 

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Well . . . I respectfully disagree that a few honks in a store are worthless. But at the same time I agree that it takes more than a few honks to decide that the tested piece is a main player.

For instance, I've selected several mouthpieces at the front counter, gone back to the rehearsal room, and started playing them. It doesn't take me but a few notes to tell if I want to pursue certain pieces or return them to the front counter. I set those aside and keep on setting up, blowing, taking them off and repeating the process. I place the mouthpieces in order of initial playability, discard those that I did not like, and go through the rest again.

I usually buy one or two for further testing at home (and at the gig). I realize that some posters don't have the disposable income that some of us have, and for those on a tight budget, it might be wise to play a good piece longer than "a few blows" before buying. But for me, a few blows aren't worthless - I can tell right away whether or not the piece is a keeper. DAVE
 

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In defense of music store workers, yes many are clueless, however don't assume that everyone is. I work part time at such a store, and since I have personally tried just about every type of piece there, I can be fairly helpful if someone wants some mouthpiece info or advice; at least I am putting some of my obsessive interest in mouthpieces to use...

I sold a guy a mouthpiece a few weeks ago, and then he happened to be in the crowd at a gig I was playing later that night. He came up and was suprised to see and hear me there. He said, "Hey, why didn't you tell me that you can play!". (What I am supposed to do, say "Hey man, --check out this piece...but first, check out MY chops!"?)

And, as to trials, you have to understand how to play test a mouthpiece, and be at a level high enough to appreciate some of the subtleties. You can eliminate a lot of pieces right off the bat if you are being objective and using a new reed, not an old broken in reed. At least it increases the chances you will like it down the long haul. And for me, most pieces I have ended up liking the best take time to grow; invariably the piece I like right off the bat doesn't seem so hot after a few days...
 

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There's not enough time in a shop and i feel too self-conscious (i'm english, you see). A selection on approval hasn't worked for me becos you end up swaping around too much and the one that's best may need some adjustments in terms of technique. So my top tips are these: find out what others used to get sounds you like, always work from smaller tip to wider and softer reed to harder, and get an extra part-time job to finance the spending and/or get ready for many weary hours trading on ebay.
 

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sorry, but if you're too self conscious to play in a store trying horns or mouthpieces, maybe you should gravitate towards a more self conscious instrument :p

anyhow, i do share some of the sentiments. i love going to a store and playing mouthpieces, but i dont go in with good reeds of every strength and cut. i have also bought a couple pieces (jodyjazz) before playing and ended up keeping both. it's not something i'm too likely to do in general, however.

i find that the process isn't a big change, but a few small steps. first you might find yourself wanting to find a new reed or mouthpiece, or something in general. rather than buying a new piece off the bat, you might first experiment with reeds and find a new kind you prefer over the old. soon after, you might feel inclined to try some new mouthpieces now that you got a reed cut and strength that youre diggin.

it's sort of like several variables all josteling around. don't be afraid to play loud and see what mouthpieces and reeds to. you'll settle in one setup and move around eventually, and thats part of the fun!
 
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