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Discussion Starter #1
Good morning, guys!

Being in the business of designing and selling a lot of mouthpieces, I am always internalizing what’s going on in the marketplace and constantly prototyping different original designs, and all of that stuff. It’s a lot of fun and one thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is tip openings.

As many of you know, I have been on an experiment for almost a year and a half now, where I have gone down a half size in mouthpiece every month and a half to two months, using my mouthpieces, from my 10* to currently a 5*. It’s been a great experiment for me and I have another post up about that.

This post is related, but in a very different way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the players who buy at the music shops, and how the tip openings alot of players use today are heavily dictated by what the music shops are carrying in stock. Most of these shops for tenor want to carry 7*-8*, and that has become the norm out there. I get plenty of orders for smaller tip openings and some bigger tip openings directly, but the music shops stay away from those and they just carry the typical sizes. Unfortunately, this is a real sad development for players out there because they can’t go to the shops and try a 5 tip or a 9*, typically.

The way dealers have ordered and what has become the norm, has really taken away a lot of opportunities for players growing up today who have never tried a smaller tip or a larger tip in contrast to what they normally get the opportunity to try. I believe firmly that more players would play smaller tips or bigger tips if they were available at the stores for them to try. Everything has become normalized in terms of tip openings, so that’s what most of these players today are using.

Having gone to the smaller tip openings myself, it has been a real revelation and I just feel bad for players out there today who can’t go into a store and try a larger variety of tip openings. I understand that the stores can’t carry everything, but it’s too bad tip opening choices have become so limited and so normalized.
Even on alto, most of the stores will buy 6 and 7 tip openings and occasionally a few 5’s. I don’t get any orders from dealers looking for size 4 or size 8. I sell a lot of 8 tip openings for alto, so again, I feel bad that people can’t get this opportunity at the stores.


Today’s players who will only buy at their local stores because they want to try something out in person and compare to other pieces out there, are really limited and basically forced into certain tip sizes because of the finances to carry a bigger variety of tip sizes.

I understand it, but It’s sad this has happened!

I say this because of my personal experience getting down to the 5* tip opening, and how joyous it has been for me.
Yes, you can order directly from your favorite mouthpiece makers, but a lot of guys will only buy in the stores these days, so I just feel bad for them.
Look at how many of our saxophone heroes used smaller tenor tip openings than a 7*, and bigger tip openings too.

Just an observation.
 

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Good morning, guys!

Being in the business of designing and selling a lot of mouthpieces, I am always internalizing what’s going on in the marketplace and constantly prototyping different original designs, and all of that stuff. It’s a lot of fun and one thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is tip openings.

As many of you know, I have been on an experiment for almost a year and a half now, where I have gone down a half size in mouthpiece every month and a half to two months, using my mouthpieces, from my 10* to currently a 5*. It’s been a great experiment for me and I have another post up about that.

This post is related, but in a very different way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the players who buy at the music shops, and how the tip openings alot of players use today are heavily dictated by what the music shops are carrying in stock. Most of these shops for tenor want to carry 7*-8*, and that has become the norm out there. I get plenty of orders for smaller tip openings and some bigger tip openings directly, but the music shops stay away from those and they just carry the typical sizes. Unfortunately, this is a real sad development for players out there because they can’t go to the shops and try a 5 tip or a 9*, typically.

The way dealers have ordered and what has become the norm, has really taken away a lot of opportunities for players growing up today who have never tried a smaller tip or a larger tip in contrast to what they normally get the opportunity to try. I believe firmly that more players would play smaller tips or bigger tips if they were available at the stores for them to try. Everything has become normalized in terms of tip openings, so that’s what most of these players today are using.

Having gone to the smaller tip openings myself, it has been a real revelation and I just feel bad for players out there today who can’t go into a store and try a larger variety of tip openings. I understand that the stores can’t carry everything, but it’s too bad tip opening choices have become so limited and so normalized.
Even on alto, most of the stores will buy 6 and 7 tip openings and occasionally a few 5’s. I don’t get any orders from dealers looking for size 4 or size 8. I sell a lot of 8 tip openings for alto, so again, I feel bad that people can’t get this opportunity at the stores.


Today’s players who will only buy at their local stores because they want to try something out in person and compared to other pieces out there, are really limited and basically forced into certain tip sizes because of the finances to carry a bigger variety of tip sizes.

It’s sad this has happened.
Look at how many of our saxophone heroes used smaller tenor tip openings than a 7*, and bigger tip openings too.

Just an observation.
I am not convinced this is all that new a phenomenon.

When I look back on buying mouthpieces in the late 70s/early 80s, I remember going into H & H Music in downtown Houston and they had, what, two or three Dukoff tenor pieces? I bought the D7 which was the go-to mouthpiece and facing in those days. I doubt very seriously that they had more than about 3 Dukoffs in stock, and I bet they were something like a couple D7s and a D6. Seems like there was usually a little stack of Meyer boxes and a little stack of Otto Link boxes, I would guess four each for alto and four each for tenor, maybe a couple baritone mouthpieces in the whole shop, and a couple soprano pieces in the whole shop. So there just cannot have been a very wide range of facings in stock.

I don't know what things were like back in the saxophone heyday of the 1920s through 1950s.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi,
I agree that there’s never a huge amount of choices at the stores. This is common.
I have had a few people over the house recently trying out mouthpieces and I have let them try the smaller tips that I have here in a couple of my models, and several of these players have been so pleasantly surprised. I have also let people try bigger tip openings than they normally use, and many have been surprised there too.

I just wish the stores when they order, would order a little more variety. If they ordered a couple of sizes that they normally don’t carry, they may be surprised at how they do at their shops, and players would get more choices.
Maybe add a 6* and a 9* to keep at the shop.
 

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If you're patient, you could do what I did years ago. I bought and/or traded for numerous mouthpieces on the second hand market. Everything ends up there eventually. Everything.

If I didn't like a mouthpiece, I'd pass it along for the same value paid; which you can do so long as you don't make the mistake of trading/buying altered used mouthpieces. In the course of a year I sampled dozens of different mouthpieces of various sizes for alto, tenor, bari and soprano. Had I not done this, I may never have realized my true preference for very open tipped mouthpieces. Sure, it takes time (and postage), but it's a relatively frugal way to go about mouthpiece experimentation in today's marketplace.
 

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I have a dozen students that I give lessons to on a weekly basis and I think all of them are still playing their stock mouthpieces. I'm trying to get all of them especially the tenor players to upgrade their mouthpieces to play something more open or with some baffle and a better facing. The parents ask why do I sound so much better and more powerful than little Bobby and somehow I have to answer that question. I try to explain the mouthpiece and the reed are the tone generator for the instrument and how important they are. I try to get them to go to the local Sam Ash store and try some Meyers or Links because that seems to be all the stores stock now. It's hard enough to be an experienced player making your way through the pitfall of shopping for a mouthpiece but it's even more difficult for a young player shopping for mouthpieces with a clerk that plays heavy metal guitar. I worked at the Saxophone Shop for the last 10 years Bob Black was the owner. When I started there we had a huge selection of mouthpieces, Bergs, Links, Lawtons, Bari, Selmer, Meyers, Sugals and some Guardalas. We even tried Lamberson, Rovner, RIA and some of the new boutique brands. I thing I learned right away was that as much as I liked as I liked the new pro horns and the great vintage horns that we always had in stock, the lifeline of the business was selling Yamaha 23's and Selmer C stars. As the popularity of the boutique brands gained popularity, I noticed when I was doing purchasing for the store was how slim the profit margins are for high end mouthpieces. The same was true for selling new Selmer S80II saxophones, it was just as profitable to sell student horns. As the 90's drew to an end, for a multitude of reasons a lot of small specialty woodwind stores disappeared. What didn't help was selling at the time $3000.00 new altos and having to sell them discounted to 5 and 10 percent profit margins to compete against WWBW when Dennis Bamber still owned it. Selling woodwind specialty horns, mouthpieces, reeds became a treacherous business to be involved with. I felt that the manufacturers and the customers didn't want the store to make a profit on anything. ( Selmer USA was the worse, they raised prices every year in that decade by 5-10 percent. I was complaing that playing a saxophone was becoming an elitist activity.). After Bob sold the Saxophone Shop I worked at PM Woodwinf for a few years and on more than one occasion I tried to get the owner to carry some of the new boutique brands. He said that these mouthpieces were worth more to him used from the customers that had bought them online and wanted to consign sale them. He may be right, he always has a fair selection of used TW's, Jody Jazz etc that he didn't have to layout a significant investment to a really fickle professional customer that always wants what you don't have. I guess my ultimate point is that having a music store nowadays is a really difficult business to be in and that you have to stock your inventory with items that will turnover in 90 days. I think the business model that you are using Mark may be the correct one, sell your mouthpieces direct to the customer.
I'm sorry for venting on your post, I still love and play my Boss Mouthpiece and I'm keeping my eyes open for when the new metals come out this Summer.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Mike,
I understand what you are saying. My beef is really what has happened with the music stores rather than buying from the used market or any of that. If you have the money, you can buy used pieces in different tips all day and night.
A lot of the young guys today I notice, like to buy at the stores so they can try stuff out in person and compare to other stuff that the store carries. I get that too. I just wish the stores would carry one smaller tip and one larger tip so people could get a real perspective with the pieces, but I understand the financial risk. In the end, kids are going to these music stores and they’re super limited to tip opening choices.
 

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I recall going to Ponti’s (New York City) in the early ‘70s to try out some Otto Links. They had dozens to chose from. Of course, it was easier then to have a selection of sizes because there weren’t so many different models to choose from.

Think about it - if a store is going to invest in inventory, how are they going to game the retail sales market? More brands, move models, more sizes???

From the player’s side of things: Why would a musician bother to try different sizes if their favorite mouthpiece vendor doesn’t allow returns? That’s a pretty steep risk.

My best experience it that regard was with Claude Lakey in the mid-70s. I called him, told him what music I played, what horns, etc., and he sent me a box of sop/alto/tenor mouthpieces in different models and sizes. He asked me to try them out, keep what I liked, and return the rest. And yes, I bought a set of Claude Lakey mouthpieces for my Selmers, and played them for many years. That, dear friends, was a business model of trust and service back in the good ol’ days.
 

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I recall going to Ponti’s (New York City) in the early ‘70s to try out some Otto Links. They had dozens to chose from. Of course, it was easier then to have a selection of sizes because there weren’t so many different models to choose from.

Think about it - if a store is going to invest in inventory, how are they going to game the retail sales market? More brands, move models, more sizes???

From the player’s side of things: Why would a musician bother to try different sizes if their favorite mouthpiece vendor doesn’t allow returns? That’s a pretty steep risk.

My best experience it that regard was with Claude Lakey in the mid-70s. I called him, told him what music I played, what horns, etc., and he sent me a box of sop/alto/tenor mouthpieces in different models and sizes. He asked me to try them out, keep what I liked, and return the rest. And yes, I bought a set of Claude Lakey mouthpieces for my Selmers, and played them for many years. That, dear friends, was a business model of trust and service back in the good ol’ days.
Well, gee, it's not really a surprise that a leading music store in New York City would have had a big selection of mouthpieces in the 70s.

The vast majority of Americans did not then, nor do they now, live in New York City.
 

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Sad to say, but where I live, you are lucky to find different reeds in a local music store let alone mouthpieces. You would have to travel to find anything for woodwind players. Everything in my area caters to guitars, bass , drums and keyboards. I usually have to order reeds online, would much prefer to buy in a brick and mortar store but they have no inventory.
 

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Well, gee, it's not really a surprise that a leading music store in New York City would have had a big selection of mouthpieces in the 70s.

The vast majority of Americans did not then, nor do they now, live in New York City.
That's true, but this was the norm back then. During the 70's I lived in Oakland, and was a regular customer of House of Woodwinds, having bought my saxophones, clarinet and flute from them. It wasn't a very big shop, but they managed to keep a decent stock of mouthpieces and saxophones, clarinets and flutes (not too many oboes, Forrest in Berkeley had the corner on the double reeds market). I bought several mouthpieces over the years there, always spending 2 or 3 hours with a few reeds and a dozen or more mouthpieces in the practice booth. There were several other stores in the area with similar capabilities - Best Music in Oakland, Union Music in SF, etc. I understand the desire of young students, especially, to do this kind of testing before buying - wallets are empty and time is short.

There is no place like HoW in the Bay Area now, most music stores are completely guitar and drums oriented, and the ones that sell woodwinds have only a minimal selection, mostly pointed at the (low end) student market. It's a pity.
 

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Way back in the '70s I didn't know much (or anything) about tip sizes, but I do remember trying out some tenor mpcs in a store in Berkeley. They had a variety of tip sizes ranging from small (4 or 5) to medium (6-7). I don't remember anything larger than that, but then I was taking the advice of the guy behind the counter who suggested I try a couple of Gregory mpcs. I ended up with a small tip (I think it was a 5, but could have been as small as 4). I played it for several years, then it was a real revelation when I discovered larger tips and higher baffles. So I'm wondering if maybe back then smaller tips were more available and popular. I sold the Gregory a some time ago because I didn't like that small tip at all, once I got used to more open mpcs.
 

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Mark, since you are in that business, I have a question for you : did you talk about this with some music stores (eventually the ones which are selling your line, if there are any) ?
Maybe some of them could be interested, especially if you discuss a special deal (my estimates give for an impressive investment required by the shops 'just' to offer clients the possibility of trying MP in a wide selection of tip openings)...
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yes, I have discussed with many stores about carrying a couple smaller sizes and larger sizes but they all want to carry the middle sizes. It’s the same with mouthpiece lines today. They say that that’s the stuff that sells, but it’s because that’s the stuff that they carry. When you only carry a couple of sizes, that becomes the norm of what sells.
 

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I can sort of understand why the stores want to carry mainly the medium tips if that's what most customers want (or think they want). But why not keep a very limited number of larger and smaller tips in stock to let the customers try? I bet they'd be able to sell those different sizes if the players could demo them. In the long run that could benefit a shop if they get the reputation of carrying a variety for customers to try out.
 
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