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Discussion Starter #1
I've been thinking about getting a new mouthpiece for a while now, but I'm not really sure which brand to go with, or even whether to get a metal or hard rubber mouthpiece. Right now I play on a hard rubber Otto Link tone edge, 5*, but I feel that I'm getting a bit of a stuffy sound when I play, and am aiming for a smoother tone. I was looking at a Vandoren Java, either T55 or T75, any advice/suggestions?
 

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First, make sure that your sax is in perfect working condition. That is no leaks, smooth action and key heights set for proper venting and intonation. Just make sure that the perceived stuffiness is not coming from sax itself. How do you check for this? Put your sax in the hands of someone you know plays at a fairly high level. Maybe its a teacher or some music associate you may have. Once that is sorted then start to think about mouthpiece experimenting. Don't make the mistake of trying different mpcs on an inferior playing instrument. You will never find a piece that will suit you!

If you are like most of us on this forum and if you are just starting out, you WILL fall into the trap of trying and buying different mpcs just to see what they feel like, play like and sound like. To that end I wish you happy hunting and a holey pocket book because you will spend the $$$. I will give you advice that will save you money if you decide to take it.

I searched for 10 years before I found the one piece that I cannot be without. Before it I had tried some really expensive boutique brand pieces and well as some popular store brand pieces and have easily spent two grand over the 10 years. And that is just on tenor because I play alto too! I have also tried others since I got my number one piece and I keep returning to it. I have stop experiementing now because I know that it will be difficult to find something better. I have gotten the best compliments from audiences while playing this piece and that is proof enough for me.

The piece I am reffering to is a Phil-tone custom Hard rubber piece. It has been the best piece for me. I suggest you contact Phil to have him make you one of his. Trust me, hand made and customized is the best way to go and it will cost you under $200. For how these things play Phil could easily ask for $300 plus. Better yet, if you send your otto link to Phil he will reface it and return it to you and you won't believe that it is the same mpc that you sent to him.

Even if you don't prefer the sound of his pieces you will be hard pressed to find a piece that is better performing! When I play his pieces I just forget that there is a mouthpiece on the horn. It simply does what you want it to do and gets out of the way.

For what it is worth I play on a SX-90 Keilwerth tenor and use rigotti gold reeds. And I've been playing sax for 20 years. That's my 2 and a half cents!

Good Luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
thank you for the advice! yeah I definitely should make sure my horn is in good working condition before i start experimenting with mouthpieces. how do I contact Phil?
 

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Really, this is a nearly impossible question to answer, since there is no more a "best mouthpiece" than there is a "best song" or "best food." It all comes down to your own personal taste and then trying lots of mouthpieces out until you find one that's a fit for what you're hearing.

If I had to suggest anything, I'd say find out what mouthpieces the players whose tone you admire are playing on, and start out by trying those.

Best of luck my friend!
 

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I have tried all the expensive boutique pieces working real hard to avoid the so-called "generic" pieces like Meyer and Otto Link, and now I find myself after 30 years of playing using Otto Links STM's on alto and soprano. I also use a 20 year old Ponzol M6 that is a Link style piece as well.

Extremely inexpensive but beware that the quality control is not that good so they generally need a refacing by a professional to be perfected.

B
 

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I've been thinking about getting a new mouthpiece for a while now, but I'm not really sure which brand to go with, or even whether to get a metal or hard rubber mouthpiece. Right now I play on a hard rubber Otto Link tone edge, 5*, but I feel that I'm getting a bit of a stuffy sound when I play, and am aiming for a smoother tone. I was looking at a Vandoren Java, either T55 or T75, any advice/suggestions?
Well, what do you mean by smooth, like Stan Getz? The first thing you have to do is speak the same language that someone will understand because what smooth means to you may mean something else to another person so keep it as simple as possible such as dark, bright, spread (wide) focused and the like. Once you understand then decide how much you want to spend then get in touch with someone that makes mouthpieces in your price range then call them up and have a conversation with this person. Hopefully he will understand what you want if he's a good player or if he played well at some time in his mouthpiece career he will understand your needs. Unfortunately there's very few people like this, I know of three.

After you get your mouthpiece don't rush to judgment because it takes some time before it maximizes but within a few days you'll find yourself choosing the best reeds for it and by that I mean reeds that respond best on it and you may also find you want to switch to a darker or brighter reed. Another thing that may happen is you'll find the optimum spot in your mouth where it plays the best and once you do that it may get a little brighter. That's very common. Many players come to a crossroads with their new mouthpiece at this stage because many players decide that the mouthpiece is just too bright and the new mouthpiece ends up on eBay or in someone else's hands. This is a mistake because if a mouthpiece is just a tad too bright it can be fixed in a number of ways. Then, once that's done, you may find something else goes wrong. That's the time to give it to a great mouthpiece maker again and keep doing in until it's just right because eventually it's going to evolve into a perfect piece. What you don't want to do is go and buy a whole new mouthpiece because when you do that you change every variable and if you think you were confused before your head is going to spin when you start changing the mouthpiece every time something isn't quite right instead of just isolating the single issue that's bothering you.

One of the problems that exists is that players think that making or dialing in a mouthpiece is luck or mystical when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that a mouthpiece is a mechanical object, as much as a car or any mechanical thing and in fact it's much simpler than most other mechanical things because there's no moving parts and nor is it very large or complex. It's just that once you stop playing it, the rule of measure is gone, disappeared into the air and recordings don't capture how the mouthpiece feels to play nor do recording give a very accurate description of how they sound and to really screw with things, the longer the reed is played, the more it continues to change and once the reed is used up we find ourselves having to put an entirely different reed on it.

Then, to make matters worse the guys I've known that have worked on mouthpieces don't understand enough about them to correlate a particular problem or the change they want to make to a mouthpiece to the adjustment that has to be made to get the desired result(s). It's a complicated task you have at hand. Good luck! Phil Barone
 

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"....recordings don't capture how the mouthpiece feels to play nor do recording give a very accurate description of how they sound and to really screw with things, the longer the reed is played, the more it continues to change and once the reed is used up we find ourselves having to put an entirely different reed on it."
I have to say, that statement is a gem! So, so true, and I wonder how many who listen to sound clips, or pick a mpc based on how someone else sounds, realize this.
 

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I wonder how many who listen to sound clips, or pick a mpc based on how someone else sounds, realize this.
And this statement is a gem and is exactly why I don't have any sound clips. They're useless and they don't even put you in the ballpark. It's mostly kids and inexperienced players that ask me for them but I really wish they would realize how useless they are. However I would make a lot more sales if I used them. Phil Barone
 

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GFakesJazz,
PMed.
 

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I agree on the Vandoren line, but I think a V75 may possibly be a too great leap. For smooth playing I would suggest the Optimum. You then only have to choose between the TL3 and the TL4 - both are excellent!
 

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I hear what you guys are saying about sound clips but at the same time I have received hundreds of emails from players who listened to a sound clip.........bought a mouthpiece and totally loved it. Of course, if you buy a Guardala, you won't automatically sound like Brecker but it helps as motivation to listen to a clip and think "OK, this guy sounds like this on this mouthpiece, How can I get that sound? What can I do or change to get it" I think a clip tells more about a mouthpiece than all the words and abstract thoughts and descriptions that people put on them to sell them. If anything, it takes away the myth that the mouthpiece does it all. The magic happens when we find that connection between us and the mouthpiece we choose.
 

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I hear what you guys are saying about sound clips but at the same time I have received hundreds of emails from players who listened to a sound clip.........bought a mouthpiece and totally loved it. Of course, if you buy a Guardala, you won't automatically sound like Brecker but it helps as motivation to listen to a clip and think "OK, this guy sounds like this on this mouthpiece, How can I get that sound? What can I do or change to get it" I think a clip tells more about a mouthpiece than all the words and abstract thoughts and descriptions that people put on them to sell them. If anything, it takes away the myth that the mouthpiece does it all. The magic happens when we find that connection between us and the mouthpiece we choose.
I think your clips are great. I find the utility in them for me is not so much the absolute sound but the relative differences. Since the same (highly skilled) guy is playing them all it takes a lot of the variables out of the picture. I have no misconceptions that I will ever sound the way you do on any of the pieces you review but I can listen to the different clips back to back and judge, to some extent, their relative sounds based on your playing.

From Phil's standpoint what would be interesting is "uncomparison" clips- where two different guys play exactly the same mouthpiece and sound totally different on it. This would pretty clearly illustrate that just uisng the same equipment as player X is not going to make you sound like them.
 

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I think your clips are great. I find the utility in them for me is not so much the absolute sound but the relative differences. Since the same (highly skilled) guy is playing them all it takes a lot of the variables out of the picture. I have no misconceptions that I will ever sound the way you do on any of the pieces you review but I can listen to the different clips back to back and judge, to some extent, their relative sounds based on your playing.

From Phil's standpoint what would be interesting is "uncomparison" clips- where two different guys play exactly the same mouthpiece and sound totally different on it. This would pretty clearly illustrate that just uisng the same equipment as player X is not going to make you sound like them.
That is true. I have heard players play mouthpieces in the same room as me and sound totally different. A couple of months ago I sold a JVW baffled link that I got the brightest sound out of. I didn't like it at all. The guys who bought it was a student of mine that plays professionally. The minute he played it my jaw dropped. It sounded perfect for him. Not bright at all. Deep powerful full sound. I hear him playing it every once in awhile and he sounds great!
 

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I actually wound up picking up a Drake and a Vandoren T95 mouthpiece from listening to clips from neffs site. I will always sound like me, but the clips gave me an idea of some of the mouthpieces potential. I ended up not liking the Vandoren, and loving the Drake and is my main Tenor piece now.But in the end had a good time experimenting with them.

GAS can be fun if you treat it right. Find a few mouthpieces you really like and can stick with at all times, and then just keep playing around and experimenting with others as they come around. You may never find "the one" or you might. But part of music is the fun of doing all this. I have found that I may change my main mouthpiece several tines, then it seems 10 years later I may be playing the same one again, and forgot how much I loved it.
 

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I have heard players play mouthpieces in the same room as me and sound totally different. A couple of months ago I sold a JVW baffled link that I got the brightest sound out of. I didn't like it at all. The guys who bought it was a student of mine that plays professionally. The minute he played it my jaw dropped. It sounded perfect for him. Not bright at all. Deep powerful full sound. I hear him playing it every once in awhile and he sounds great!
This is the point I was making, Nef. What you do really is a great service because it is all you playing and is very comprehensive. I still don't think it's the way to choose a mpc (simply listening to clips) but it can be a way to identify some possibilities.

The other, larger point (and I think Phil was implying this also) is there is no way, no how anyone can know how a mpc will FEEL and play for them by listening to a clip.
 

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This is the point I was making, Nef. What you do really is a great service because it is all you playing and is very comprehensive. I still don't think it's the way to choose a mpc (simply listening to clips) but it can be a way to identify some possibilities.

The other, larger point (and I think Phil was implying this also) is there is no way, no how anyone can know how a mpc will FEEL and play for them by listening to a clip.
Exactly, the only way to choose is to play. The descriptions of the mouthpiece sound are just as nebulous though. You read that they are dark, bright,velvety,fat,laser-like,abrasive,bluesy...........the words don't really fulfill their purpose in my mind. I would rather hear a clip without words and make my own decisions. That's how my whole website started. I had that purpose in mind and wanted to do it for me as much as anyone else. That's what sells a mouthpiece.

I think it is a wake up call to some players to buy a mouthpiece that another player sounds great on. When you do that, you really can't blame the mouthpiece. You have to put in the time with it. I've had many students who have woken up to that fact and are now putting in the time.
 

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Really, this is a nearly impossible question to answer, since there is no more a "best mouthpiece" than there is a "best song" or "best food." It all comes down to your own personal taste and then trying lots of mouthpieces out until you find one that's a fit for what you're hearing.

If I had to suggest anything, I'd say find out what mouthpieces the players whose tone you admire are playing on, and start out by trying those.

Best of luck my friend!
Very good advice! Follow it. And work on your long tones, trying as best as you can to get a sound that very close or even identical to the tone that you like to listen to.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thank you everyone for all your advice! I haven't ordered it yet, but I am probably going to order a vandoren java mpc, see how that feels playing it, and go from there.
 
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