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Discussion Starter #1
Thought I’d share my (somewhat) educational experience of late, and hope it can be useful for others, whether new to the sax or seasoned vets looking around for a new mouthpiece or gear. I’ve been amid some sort of nebulous GAS rift, where I’m constantly searching for something different; that one small tweak that could get me even closer to…I don’t even know – closer to something. Regardless, the struggle has truly been real.

I purchased my Barone Classic tenor last year. It came with a great “Vintage” mouthpiece that Phil also sells separately, and it plays great. Recently, however, I’ve been searching for an ‘edgier’ setup – something with a bit more versatility. I decided to try a couple pieces, to see what they did/did not do for me.

First up is my experience with the metal Otto Link New Vintage 8* - a much wider opening than I was accustomed, but I thought “hey, if I’m looking for change, why not really change it up?” To my amazement it played great – requiring only slightly more effort than the Vintage piece, but, what’s more, my intonation was much more locked-in – with the tuner out, I was nailing the notes in every register, first try. With my HR Vintage Barone piece, there were problem notes – such as B3, G2, and A2. I had practiced enough with it, though, so I would make slight embouchure adjustments to compensate. With the metal Link, I didn’t need to make any changes. Furthermore, I found my tone to have much more edge and depth.

Some intangibles about the Link – craftsmanship is subpar. Surprisingly, the tip shape perfectly matches the reed (I’ve read many reviews that state theirs did not match), but the rest is sloppy. The window opening curve is misshapen, and very rough. The rails are also sloppy, as it would appear they didn’t receive any “finish” work, such as buffing and removing the rough edges. But, to my surprise, the piece plays great, and I’ve had a few techs tell me the cosmetic “issues” are just that, cosmetic, so I’ve chosen to ignore them.

Next up is the HR Slant Sig 2 by Theo Wanne 7*. Great piece – very well made. This one didn’t have any finishing issues whatsoever, and was clearly manufactured to exact standards – flawless. As for playing it…wow. It might be the most free-blowing piece I’ve ever played. I used my Rigotti 3 light, and it felt like blowing through paper. The projection – huge. The sound – huge, lots of depth. But no matter what I tried, it remained free-blowing, even with harder reeds. What’s more, the intonation adjustment requirements (as noted with my Barone Vintage HR) remained. I’m now convinced it’s a HR vs metal thing for me personally. The mouth feel of the metal and size of the piece seems to be my preference, and thus why I didn’t ultimately favor the Wanne piece, though I really wanted to!

Finally, and this might be the most important takeaway here. Of every piece I tried; different reeds, material, etc., they all sounded like me. I could go on YouTube and listen to review about the TW Slant Sig, and while the visual review (how it looks) might be objective and universal, the way it plays is not. In fact, may reviews on that piece discuss how resistant it can be, how dark it is (but flexible), but they all sound like them! My sax, my setup, my embouchure, and, most importantly, the sound I have in my head and look to emulate, is how I sound, and how I’ll always sound. So, really, it all comes down to personal feel and preference. The Slant Sig gave me a bit more projection, and was a tad brighter, but, overall, I sound virtually the same on all three pieces.

Moral of the story:
just relax and play. If your sax is without leaks, mechanically sound, and your mouthpiece is functional and in good playing condition, then you’ll sound like you. The only real way to improve/change this is to put in the time and practice. If this helps anyone going through a nasty bout of GAS, then it has been more than worth my time.
 

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Ive bought and sold more saxes and mouthpieces than I can count and you are right, when I listen back to the recording its 90% like me. K
 

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Thirded. I realized this a while back, I sound like me (more or less) on any piece I play. What changes though, is how each piece FEELS to play, and how it sounds to ME as the player. These are two very important things that I don't think many people discuss. Your feedback on the Wanne piece rings true for me too. I used to own a metal Gaia, and that was the easiest thing to blow through... too easy... I had intonation issues on that piece that I don't have on any of the pieces I have now, and all of the ones I have now have a little bit of resistance to push against (without being stuffy). I'm sure there are plenty of players who would get along great with that kind of facing, but it's just not for me. They sound great to me, but don't give me the feeling I need to play my best.

I wish more reviews would focus on how pieces feel to play, and how they sound from the player's perspective... knowing that what your audience is hearing will be more or less what you already sound like.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yes - for sure. It's all about the personal feel for me, the player. I find the combination of the metal and the slight resistance of the NV Link, no doubt helped along by the 8* opening, to be the best combo for me.

And I agree, Buddy, that aspect of a review is helpful, though highly subjective.
 

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Interesting read and a conclusion that comes to talk here quite often. Nevertheless, I don't think it is that easy. The longer you play the more you'll find out how you want to sound respectively you'll find out what is characteristic for yourself and for the sound in your head. Getting closer/ more conscious to that means that you also get more picky to small details in your equipment. I.e. I have three tenors at home but I play only one, it's the one that comes much closer to what I want than the other horns. Of course I sound like me on all three of them but that one just feels and sounds a little better to me. Same with mouthpieces. It's been a process of many years and of course I could say: Here and now I stop and just play (and I've tried to do that several times). But it just makes a huge inspirational difference while playing if I feel 100 % of where I want to be or just 90 %. If you want gear that doesn’t get in the way between your imagination and the sounding reality it's just a long process. And your imagination grows as well over the years.

Best
Jo
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Interesting read and a conclusion that comes to talk here quite often. Nevertheless, I don't think it is that easy. The longer you play the more you'll find out how you want to sound respectively you'll find out what is characteristic for yourself and for the sound in your head. Getting closer/ more conscious to that means that you also get more picky to small details in your equipment. I.e. I have three tenors at home but I play only one, it's the one that comes much closer to what I want than the other horns. Of course I sound like me on all three of them but that one just feels and sounds a little better to me. Same with mouthpieces. It's been a process of many years and of course I could say: Here and now I stop and just play (and I've tried to do that several times). But it just makes a huge inspirational difference while playing if I feel 100 % of where I want to be or just 90 %. If you want gear that doesn’t get in the way between your imagination and the sounding reality it's just a long process. And your imagination grows as well over the years.

Best
Jo
Sure - I don't disagree. Fine-tuning one's sound can be a product of equipment. I've been playing for over 25 years, and have made small changes over that time, but just recently started going through this GAS phase, and my conclusion is that it was mostly about me, not the gear.

I like your your assessment about the inspirational aspect of the equipment - spot on. If you like what you're playing, and you feel like it's the "right" piece for you, you'll be inspired to play more and get the most out of it. Great point!
 

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Agree with Jolind. I play for fun. I still change equipment. Some of it is simply the challenge. I find that the right mouthpiece can ease a lot of frustration I have when playing.....so I have changed mouthpieces. If it was only about the sound, and there was no risk of boredom, I’d simply play the same canon of music over and over until I mastered it on my first mouthpiece....but that is not the way life works. We change. Our ability changes. We get frustrated with ourselves. We ask for help. We search for that thing that is going to help us bridge the challenge we see, whether it be a horn, a mouthpiece, a reed, a ligature, a key riser or the resonators on the pads. It doesn’t really make a difference if our audience can’t hear the difference. I enjoy my time on the sax better when I am more comfortable with how I sound.
 

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We search for that thing that WE IMAGINE is going to help us bridge the challenge we see, whether it be a horn, a mouthpiece, a reed, a ligature, a key riser or the resonators on the pads.
All caps added for a reality check. This is the stuff that G.A.S. is made of. I’ve seen this go so far for some players that they switch mouthpieces in the middle of a set.
 

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Sure - I don't disagree. Fine-tuning one's sound can be a product of equipment. I've been playing for over 25 years, and have made small changes over that time, but just recently started going through this GAS phase, and my conclusion is that it was mostly about me, not the gear.

I like your your assessment about the inspirational aspect of the equipment - spot on. If you like what you're playing, and you feel like it's the "right" piece for you, you'll be inspired to play more and get the most out of it. Great point!
Yes, and obviously there are some saxophone players in the world who find the equipment that fits their sound concept quite quickly. I've been lucky with my alto that I didn't change since I found it over 15 years ago - it also helped me to develop my inner sound concept in detail in a way.
But at the same time I kind of missed the possibilities that other altos could have provided to me. (not saying that I'm unhappy with my alto playing or the sound I get)
A lot of tenor players have played Mark VI horns and Florida Otto Links producing quite different sounds with it, I'm aware of that, but I also like todays tendencies to go different ways with different horns and mouthpieces in order to even enlarge the possibilities of sound in general. I find it's an interesting process of research that possibly leads to new common sound standards one day and keeps the evolution of jazz alive.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Yep. I ended up keeping the 8* Link. Still quite surprised, but to your point, it’s a process of research. Without trying other pieces, I wouldn’t have strayed from the 7 I’ve played all these years. I’m glad I did expand my optics, as the metal feels better to me and I like the flexibility of the larger tip opening. Of course, I played a Runyon Smoothbore for the first 10 years or so, and I have no doubt that’s why I still prefer the metal feel - almost foundational for me.
 

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In the end you will always sound like yourself. Unless you go into extremes.
My Brilhart hr has become my do-it-all mouthpiece (for now..) however I sound distinctly different on a Dukoff D
no matter what I do or how long I play it.
 

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I've been playing on a STM Link 8* for many years now. Love it sound wise. Couldn’t be happier.
But then I switched bands. No more PA’s and monitors, smaller venues. But the band plays loud.
So my lovely Link sound drowns in a pool of … sound.
I can’t hear myself nor the audience can and I’m playing my lungs out. So the Link I love so much is fine in quiet acoustic settings or fully amplified with monitors or even practicing at home. But for my new adventures I need something that can cut. GAS is back for me. As said before, everything changes all the time. It’s life…
 

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I play my D'Addario mouthpiece for classical and a Meyer for jazz. The more time I spend on each, the more that they start to sound… exactly the same. But in terms of style I have an easier time playing their respective genres on each.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I've been playing on a STM Link 8* for many years now. Love it sound wise. Couldn’t be happier.
But then I switched bands. No more PA’s and monitors, smaller venues. But the band plays loud.
So my lovely Link sound drowns in a pool of … sound.
I can’t hear myself nor the audience can and I’m playing my lungs out. So the Link I love so much is fine in quiet acoustic settings or fully amplified with monitors or even practicing at home. But for my new adventures I need something that can cut. GAS is back for me. As said before, everything changes all the time. It’s life…
Give the Theo Wanne Slant Sig a try. It's loud, and quite free blowing. I would use it versus the Link in a situation such as yours - I've also heard good things about the New Vintage HR Link (based on the Slant design, too).
 

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Give the Theo Wanne Slant Sig a try. It's loud, and quite free blowing. I would use it versus the Link in a situation such as yours - I've also heard good things about the New Vintage HR Link (based on the Slant design, too).
Thanks for the advice!
 

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The New vintage hard rubber link has no more volume than an STM...possibly less.

My thinking is that no link piece is going to help your situation if you ant push your STM enough.

You might get a little more but the real solution is a mic or talking some sense into your band in regards to the intelligent use of a volume knob.

Maybe you need to switch bands instead of mouthpieces if they are not interested in actually sounding good! If you are in a smaller venue and you cant be heard I blame your mates, not your mouthpiece.
 

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'You'll sound like you'.

Quite so, and certainly 'the truth'.

The trick is to find the mouthpiece that fits your style and your physical needs - the one that helps you be you. The thing is, you don't know which one until you try it. I played a few mouthpieces over the years, always the most open and the latest thing. In 1989 I bought my first Guardala King Curtis (I dig King Curtis among others) and later got another one that was subtly better which has remained my mouthpiece and will go the distance. Being a great mouthpiece, I can play different styles with it which is a must for me and the true test of a great mouthpiece.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
'You'll sound like you'.

Quite so, and certainly 'the truth'.

The trick is to find the mouthpiece that fits your style and your physical needs - the one that helps you be you. The thing is, you don't know which one until you try it. I played a few mouthpieces over the years, always the most open and the latest thing. In 1989 I bought my first Guardala King Curtis (I dig King Curtis among others) and later got another one that was subtly better which has remained my mouthpiece and will go the distance. Being a great mouthpiece, I can play different styles with it which is a must for me and the true test of a great mouthpiece.
Well said. Another week with my NV 8* and I’m finding it “let me be me” more than anything I’ve ever played. I sound like me...but with more of, well, everything! I’m such a bright player, and I’ve found the 8* and very open chamber games that fact and gives me the darkness I’ve wanted. Subtle to most others, but vastly different for me.
 

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Funny how that works - I guess I have become a 'dark' player as my looser embouchure has developed over the years so I can play the mouthpieces that would normally be considered 'bright' and with a buzzy reed to boot.
 
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