When to change your Saxophone mouthpiece

Whether or not to change one's saxophone mouthpiece can be tricky for saxophone players.

Theo Wanne saxophone mouthpiece

Here are some reasons to change your Saxophone mouthpiece

  • Some feel that the mouthpiece will help them play more consistent high notes and altissimo.
  • Some feel they will get a clearer, fuller and more characteristic tone.
  • Others need to “cut through” when performing with amplified instruments and need a mouthpiece that can allow them to do that efficiently.
  • Some are working too hard to get a good tone (blowing way too much air and/or exhausting their embouchure) and want a mouthpiece that helps them play the entire range of the horn more efficiently.
  • Some feel a different mouthpiece will make them play more in tune with better intonation.

All of these are good reasons to explore changing mouthpieces, although the player needs to realize that a mouthpiece change alone will not fix certain problems.

For example, playing in tune involves really hearing each pitch in tune first. The mouthpiece will not fix intonation problems, it will only help you play more efficiently to make the alterations you need to play in tune.

Here are some reasons not to change your Saxophone mouthpiece

  • You think the mouthpiece of your favorite player will make you sound just as great
  • You have only been playing for a year (maybe 2 years), do not have a fairly good command of the written range of the horn (Bb3 – F#6) and think a mouthpiece change will fix that.
  • You think the mouthpiece alone will make you sound like a jazz musician and instantly improvise better.
  • You think the mouthpiece will instantly give you high notes.

Great playing comes from the combination of dedicated practice, mental outlook, and the study of great musicians.

Your equipment is important, but it is not the only consideration for getting a great tone. 

Mouthpiece myths

The larger the tip opening, you need to use a stronger strength reed. 

           Not necessarily true – many professionals who play mouthpieces with larger tip openings will use lower strength reeds so that the reed will vibrate more. The stronger reeds would require a lot of effort and embouchure strength, which can be exhausting on long gigs or frequent shows.

           You do not want to use a strength lower than 2 1/2 or else your tone can be out of control.

The higher the baffle, the easier it will be to play altissimo and project your tone more.

           Also not necessarily true. While higher baffles can help you “cut through,” there's a lot more to it than that.

The more advanced players and professionals use the highest strength reeds and the largest tip openings.

           Definitely not true. The great Cannonball Adderley played on a Meyer 5 (71 tip opening, medium chamber), with La Voz medium or Rico #2 reeds. “Nuff said!


The following video lesson will help you decide if you need to change your saxophone mouthpiece… 



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Brian Littleton