Music educators should not underestimate the importance of selecting a suitable saxophone mouthpiece for students in saxophone method programs as well as for novices.
Students and parents may believe that because mouthpieces are frequently included with the purchase of new saxophones (and, in many cases, resale saxophones), the supplied mouthpiece is the best choice. This is not always the case!
So, which mouthpiece should aspiring saxophonists, including those enrolled in university-level saxophone technique studies, use? Music teachers should emphasize that properly chosen professional-level mouthpieces can frequently greatly increase the overall playability of high-quality student-level saxophones. Students will almost certainly achieve significantly greater outcomes in terms of response, tuning, articulation, and tonal-dynamic control.
Professional-level mouthpieces are not usually included with student-model saxophones. When schools purchase large quantities of instruments for classroom training, music directors should endeavor to secure the inclusion of medium-faced, professional mouthpieces in the purchase. This may raise the overall cost of the purchase – professional mouthpieces are, after all, more expensive – but the money will be well spent!
Students in saxophone techniques classes and novices may not know how to evaluate mouthpieces, but it is a skill they should master because it will be highly beneficial if they decide to become music teachers themselves!
Examples of basic visual mouthpiece inspection include:
The mouthpiece’s exterior, including the table, should be clean and free of chips and other damage.
The mouthpiece chamber, including the baffle, arch, and walls, should be clean and free of damage.
The tip rail should be symmetrical and devoid of visible scratches, chips, and corrosion.
Side rails should be identical and symmetrical, with no chipping or other damage.
Patches for Mouthpieces
Some saxophonists cover the top of their mouthpieces with a self-adhesive patch. These patches, which come in a range of thicknesses and styles, shield the mouthpiece from the teeth, reducing scratches and dents. Some players claim that playing with their teeth in touch with a “textured” patch is more comfortable than playing with the hard and occasionally slippery surface of the mouthpiece.
The thickness of the patch is maybe the most important factor to consider when selecting mouthpiece patches. This is just a matter of personal preference. Thinner patches maintain the basic feel and size of the mouthpiece while offering some additional comfort. Some saxophonists may find thicker mouthpiece patches “spongy.” Students should experiment with different patch thicknesses and textures to discover the best one for them.
Tone Quality – What Kind of Sound Do You Want?
It is usual to attribute a saxophonist’s tone to the mouthpiece. Quality saxophone mouthpieces are critical to a player’s ability to accomplish desired results. The essential word in this sentence is “desired.”
The model of tone that a player has in his or her mind’s ear before blowing the instrument is the most crucial aspect that defines tonal quality (or tonal “style”). This is the “desired” tone, which can be referred to as a “mental concept” of a tone prior to producing it.
The saxophone may generate a wide range of tone qualities, which can be positive or negative depending on the musician. The adaptability of the saxophone tone, especially when treated to the plethora of mouthpieces and facings available, may be a boon to the expert player and a bane to the inexperienced. Proper instruction from a saxophone specialist, as well as exposure to live, high-quality saxophone performance, is vital.