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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I have been playing the sax for almost 7 years now and, ever since I learned why a good mouthpiece was important, there hasn't been a day where I haven't felt hindered in some way by my mouthpiece choice. My current struggle has been finding a classical mouthpiece for tenor. The Vandoren Jumbo Java T55 that I've been playing on is great and works perfectly for jazz, but even that one has its flaws (notes lower than low C are a serious struggle to get out). Yes I'm aware that there are probably hundreds of other posts about that same topic but I seem to struggle to find many suggestions for classical. An obvious choice would be an S-80 C*, which I had heard many good things about so I eventually went to try one at a local music store. No dice. Playing it (on my Rico 2.5 reeds which I love) was more than difficult; there were times when it was even hard to get a middle C out of the horn. Before you ask, no, the reed was not aligned wrong. I checked it multiple times because I was obviously suspicious of the same thing. So clearly, that mouthpiece was not for me.

However, this is where things get somewhat confusing for me, as I don't know if the problem was the C* tip opening or the mouthpiece itself. I'm inclined to believe the latter, as I tried the piece with different strengths of reed (2.0 and 3.0, because I was so confused why I was having so much trouble with a mouthpiece that seemed generally well-liked), but no strength seemed to help get everything. I could play fairly well on the 2's but I couldn't stand listening to my tone, and on the 3's the piece was only harder to play, and I could tell most of my air was not being used. Overall, the experience left me with more questions than answers.

My biggest one is this: Is there such a thing as a mouthpiece that is good all-around? I used to think that this was a given and that I would find it in time, but now I'm not so sure. Am I ever going to find a mouthpiece which has a decent tone, is accurate throughout the entire range, and is easy to play at multiple dynamic levels? This sounds like a lot but I genuinely feel that it is not too much to ask of a mouthpiece. I understand that the mouthpiece search is very extensive and I'm willing to commit to that, as long as it's gong to yield some results.

I'm not saying I want the mouthpiece to do all the heavy lifting for me either. Of course I understand that all of those aspects of playing that I previously mentioned have just as much to do with my embouchure and style as they do with the mouthpiece. However, at this point in my playing I can tell that I'm not the biggest problem. And it's slightly worrying to me since, based on my research, there are a lot less options I can choose from for classical than there are for jazz. Oh well, back to searching for now I suppose...

TL;DR - Have you ever found a mouthpiece that you've felt is perfect in every aspect (for what it is being used for, i.e. classical/jazz), or am I asking for too much?
 

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About the selmer, maybe because it has a more closed opening than what you are used to, you were actually biting with too much force on the reed against the mpc and making it hard for the reed to vibrate. That way, the low notes wouldn't speak. If you try again, use a more relaxed embouchure, and keep in mind that when not accostumed to switching mpcs, it can prove tricky.

You can play jazz on a classical mpc, just probably not have the same amount of volume and brightness, it depends on the type of sound you are looking for. There are people here more knowledgeable than me about right choices for classical mpcs, and because I'm not one, I'll keep myself from suggesting any.
 

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There have been threads regarding classical tenor mouthpieces. I usually reply Morgan “C” series. I used a 3C refaced to a .090” for years before they added a 6C to the line (.090”). Now you can just order one.

If you want a crossover ‘piece, the Morgan 5L works very well.
 

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Take the most experienced player you know with you next time and see if they struggle with the same mouthpieces.

The Jumbo Java and the C* are about as opposite as you can get in terms of mouthpiece design. Perhaps that is why you struggled. I have played a Jumbo Java T55 on a tenor, and had no issues getting low notes out...I normally play on a mouthpiece with a lot less baffle. I am wondering why you have issues with the low notes. It could be anything from reeds, to the horns regulation, to your embouchure, to the piece itself.

My recommendation is to get a professional saxophone player to give you a lesson or two and discuss your concerns with them and see what they recommend.

As far as your question, the Vandoren Optimum performs well in my experience for classical on tenor.

A do it all mouthpiece?? I would imagine it's possible with any moderate mouthpiece. Reed and lig changes can help with the brightness/darkness ratio.

- Saxaholic
 

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Endpar,
You need to educate yourself about the properties of different mouthpieces to understand what to look for in a mouthpiece. While asking people on this forum may give you food for thought, most of that advice will be hit and miss because everyone is different and everyone gets different results. Early on I tried many mouthpieces that I couldn't play a lick on until I worked out the type of mouthpiece that worked for me. You need to take into consideration the chamber, baffle and tip opening ect to find the kind of mouthpiece that suits you best and then you can play on that type of mouthpiece no matter what brand it is. If you check out the resources section of Theo Wanne's web site you can see the various properties of mouthpieces and that can help you make an informed decision. https://theowanne.com/
 

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My current struggle has been finding a classical mouthpiece for tenor...

I seem to struggle to find many suggestions for classical...
So many words in your posts, I can understand why people don’t respond to the questions buried in the midst, so I’ve trimmed your opening post to what, I hope, represents what you are asking.

Am I ever going to find a mouthpiece which has a decent tone, is accurate throughout the entire range, and is easy to play at multiple dynamic levels?
That is the definition of a good mouthpiece - those are the bare minimum requirements.

TL;DR - Have you ever found a mouthpiece that you've felt is perfect in every aspect (for what it is being used for, i.e. classical/jazz), or am I asking for too much?
Yes. After decades and thousands of dollars, I have found what works for me. I have one mouthpiece for classical, one mouthpiece for everything else. If you are looking for a mouthpiece that covers most everything from funk to rock to jazz to classical, well, that’s on you as a musician. The more you get out of your mouthpiece, the less you rely on the mouthpiece to do the work.
 

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My current classical tenor piece is a Caravan that I had "rebalanced" by Joe Giardullo at Soprano Planet. Gorgeous tone top to bottom. I also like Raschers. These two pieces are quite dark and have really closed tip openings, not really appropriate for most styles other than classical. Maybe some trad jazz. Maybe.

My favorite "crossover" pieces are a 60s/70s Selmer "Soloist Style" in an E tip and a similar vintage Selmer Larry Teal.

The Soloist Style pieces (not marked "Soloist" on the table, but look similar to a long shank Soloist) are usually reasonably priced, though larger tips can cost a bit more. The scroll shank Teal pieces are all over the map, and usually don't come up very often. Several people have compared Selmer's current Soloist line to the Soloist Style pieces (i.e. darker than 50s/60s era Soloist pieces). While I can't speak to that, I really dig the Soloist Style and don't consider that a fault. A 'D' or 'E' tip would be a good place to start. I've heard mixed reviews on modern S-80 style Teal pieces, but never really heard any negatives about the scroll shanks.

Another good option might be a Selmer Concept. I haven't tried the tenor version, but I have them for alto and soprano and despite the fact they have smaller tips I really like the jazz sound I get on them. A little bright for my classical tastes, but I could get used to it if I wanted to focus on just one mouthpiece per horn.

This might be a bit of an oddball suggestion, but a vintage Brilhart Tonalin or white Personaline with a darker reed might give you a nice classical sound that's still appropriate for jazz. Their prices have started to climb recently, but they're still usually somewhat affordable.

None of these pieces will take you into an extreme brighter tone like a small chamber/high baffle piece would, but should still work for most middle-of-the-road stuff.
 

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The fact that your thinking about your sound and play ability of your mpc is a good thing. Just don't get too caught up in finding the magic bullet, a mpc will only get you so far, then its your commitment to the piece you've found. You asked the question, "am I going to find a mouthpiece which has a decent tone?" The answer is no, because you're the one who creates the tone, your trying to find a mpc that will help you create your sound.

A few years ago I started wanting something more flexible in my tenor piece as my job, Military Musician, required me to play more concert band material. So I was thinking to myself that I'd need another piece for concert band. I had been using an STM 7* for 25yrs, it just played and played and it worked, but it was a struggle in CB, I mean, I realized it won't work.

I had a pretty firm idea that I'd need two pieces, but over a two year period of trying lots of mpcs I found what, to me, is an extremely flexible mpc.

Enter Morgan 5C, easy to play, reed friendly, right amount of resistance, flexible and not crazy expensive. I now use this for CB and Jazz playing. My tonal concept has changed with this piece too, I'm now thinking more colourful, darker, warmer, but I can still get edge out the 5C when I need it.

If was playing hard core funk or rock, I'd probably want something more aggressive.

You're asking the right questions, keep on with the inquisitive nature, listen,listen and listen some more. You'll figure it out...and what about reed selection???lol oh ya, Have fun!
 

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One that is rarely mentioned, despite being an awesome mouthpiece, is the Pomerico crystal (classical) mouthpiece. They are not for everyone, though, so try them before you buy one. They are also cheap (unless you drop them...).


As for your last question, yes, I found the perfect mouthpiece for myself, for clarinet at least. It was the third mouthpiece I have ever played. I found it after playing 20 years on the wrong mouthpiece and learning to still make things work. I also have very good ones for alto and tenor sax, but I don't yet have enough experience to tell if they will last or not.

Good luck with your quest!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Wow, that's a lot of responses!

First off, I do realize my thoughts are not particularly well-structured, just something to work on.

As for everything else, thank you all for your advice. Before trying that S-80 C* out, I had little knowledge of tip openings. But looking back on the experience through that lens now, it was definitely a massive jump to make, and that definitely contributed to my struggle with the mouthpiece. Going forward I will try to look for a classical piece that is much closer to the T55 in terms of the tip opening.

Most of the mouthpieces recommended are ones that I have looked at previously or heard about on this forum (with the exception of the Pomarico crystal, definitely an interesting one), and they all look good, though a few, namely the Morgan Classical, are out of my price range or on the very upper end. Thank you all for your suggestions, clearly I still have plenty of options.

Going forward I will make sure to keep the tip opening and other physical elements of the mouthpiece in mind, and will make sure I try everything I can. Thank you!
 

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Wow, that's a lot of responses!

As for everything else, thank you all for your advice. Before trying that S-80 C* out, I had little knowledge of tip openings. But looking back on the experience through that lens now, it was definitely a massive jump to make, and that definitely contributed to my struggle with the mouthpiece. Going forward I will try to look for a classical piece that is much closer to the T55 in terms of the tip opening.
That's unlikely to work, classical piece tend to have smaller tip openings. However the elephant in the room for me is this:

Wow, that's a lot of responses!
I've been playing on is great and works perfectly for jazz, but even that one has its flaws (notes lower than low C are a serious struggle to get out).
That problem is NOT the mouthpiece. i've played on a T55 and could play down to Bb with any dynamic range. So this issue needs sorting out before you eben think fo experimenting furtyer with mouthpiece.

The issue could be aleak in the instrument. Your embouchure or bad reeds. I suspect as ytou've been playing 7 years, it can't be 7 years of bad reeds.

So I would find out what is wrong there, and only then think about a different mouthpiece for classical. It could be the C* willl work fine onec you have addresd that issue. Of course, you will need different reeds - not necerssarily harder because the toip is smaller, just different reeds because your current reeds will have formed to the current T55 tip and curve, so probably not work too well on a mouthpoece with smaller tip.

Personally I prefer not too big a change, hence I would use a wider tip for classical, however I'm not what you would call a specialaist classical player, I might do something that is more of a classical flavour if I'm asked to on a recording session and mostly I would be able to do that without changing mouthpieces, just changing sound and attitude.

BUT AGAIN:

before doing anything, find out why you are having issues with those low notes and address it.
 

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+1 to Pete Thomas's answer...
When you will have addressed this issue, if the S80C* is still not your cup of tea, James Houlik makes a classical mouthpiece with a larger tip opening.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you guys, I have been meaning to get the horn checked out recently too so I will make sure that I do so very soon. As for more mouthpieces, I will be trying some out soon, so hopefully I will find something there that works for me.
 

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Well, after decades of playing and tens of dollars, I use a Selmer Soloist C* on both tenor and alto for anything related to "classical", or, for that matter, for real quiet jazz gigs. Actually, these two mouthpieces came in the cases of the first alto and the first tenor I ever owned.

I have a few mouthpieces for both, but my standard jazz piece for both is the Meyer hard rubber - #7 for alto and #8 for tenor.

No problems with low notes.

I would prioritize as follows:

1) Check the horn, sounds like lots of leaks
2) Embouchure and airstream building exercises
3) Learn how to adjust reeds so a too-stiff one can become just-right in 5 minutes.
4) Pick a good quality standard hard rubber mouthpiece (Vandoren, Selmer, Caravan, Rousseau) and practice.

No, the mouthpieces I use aren't "perfect" but I don't expect them to be. They work fine. The rest is up to me.
 

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For classical, I would pick something in the .085"-.090" range.
I currently play a Selmer Concept for tenor with a Vandoren Optimum ligature for Classical. I found it far better than a whole host of other mouthpieces.....much better than the C* and a bunch of Vandoren and Meyer pieces. Sound is quite full/pure and less 'airy'.

Three notes based on my experience 1) It is not in the $0 - $200 range. 2) I sat and played 6 or 7 good ones at Meridian Winds in Okemos, MI until I found one that fit best, and 3) It is not tolerant to Jazz reeds.....so you will need a reed with a different cut, not just a different hardness.
 
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