Some Recent Thoughts about Mouthpieces

Over the past few years, I’ve had numerous thoughts about mouthpieces and reeds–mostly about how my tastes have changed. Following my guest artist recital last month, I was fortunate enough to try a mouthpiece with a very different facing from what I currently use. I must say, I was impressed with the mouthpiece’s response and quality. To that end, I’ve put together some additional thoughts about mouthpieces that I’d like to share.

First of all, my taste in sound has changed over time. Being separated from my university studies and constantly being in an environment of classical saxophone for some time now, I’ve really come to appreciate the various types of saxophone tones that are out there. Don’t misunderstand me, I still have my preferences and I still believe that there are tones out there that are not of the best quality–but I have accepted and even encouraged the exploration of different types of sounds.

Though I prefer a dark, warm, and focused tone, I believe that the tone should be responsive and flexible, capable of adapting to the demands of any type of music. The mouthpieces that I’ve played on over the years were certainly capable of that; however, I now think that some of my mouthpieces are not the most conducive to providing a flexible tone. I’ve noticed a real consistency of tone with these mouthpieces, but not always the ability to change it if the music demanded it. I think that this new perception of mine is possibly due to the amount of jazz playing I’ve done over the past 5 years. It is essential while playing jazz to modify the tone according to the demands of the music (sometimes even within a single phrase or line). Why can’t this also hold true for classical performance?

I’ve also preferred playing on softer reeds over the last few years (again, possibly influenced by my jazz playing). There was a time when I played on very hard reeds (strength 5s) on a mouthpiece that was opened up and already resistant. But at that time, the type of playing I was doing demanded that I do that. Since then, I’ve cut down on the reed strength (no harder than a 4 now), as well as experimenting with different cuts of reeds. Instead of resistance, I’m now looking for a more responsive reed/mouthpiece combination, more “core” in the tone, and a more flexible embouchure.

As I’ve noticed some deficiencies in my playing, I feel that making some slight changes will allow me to focus on correcting those deficiencies. As long as the tone and intonation don’t suffer, I think these alterations will prove to be beneficial to my overall playing.