How much mouthpiece (mp) should you take in while playing? This is a great question and the results will not only help you obtain the right sound, but notes will respond better, they’ll be easier to play, and your saxophone will be easier to play in tune.
The Ideal Amount
From the free lessons and other places on the internet, it is common to see the recommendation of placing the top teeth where the mouthpiece and reed separate (see image below). Just to clarify, the teeth do not touch the reed, but they are lined up with the point of separation.
However, this is not a strict rule to be followed, but an exercise in measurement to help us find the general location for placement. For example, on my classical mouthpiece I take in less mouthpiece than what’s “suggested” and the same for my jazz setup. This method provides a good place to start so we can avoid anything that would be extreme and harmful to our tone.
Why Can’t I Follow the “Suggested” Approach?
Not all mouthpieces are created equal. In fact, varying designs are used in order to provide different playing characteristics. This includes placing the separation point (of the reed and the mp) at different places on different models.
Not only this, but some mouthpieces, of the same make and model, are not always manufactured with the highest consistency. So the separation point may be different on two different mouthpieces that are actually the same mouthpiece make/model. Because of these inconsistencies in mouthpieces themselves, it is easy to see why we follow the “suggested” approach as a starting point and not as exact science.
More vs Less
Once you’ve established the “suggested” amount of mouthpiece you can begin to try more and less mouthpiece. One is not better than the other, but they simply produce different tone qualities. The comments below are to help identify the characteristics as you have more or less mouthpiece. If you go to the extreme of either, the results will be disappointing.
If you take in more mouthpiece, the sound will become seemingly larger and sound more open. Some people may say it’s harder to control, which is true, but if you get it just right it actually can be defined as providing more flexibility to the player.
If you take less mp, then the tone becomes more direct and compact. It may sound smaller, but we can compare this tone to a laser beam. There is less flexibility (in other words, more stability) which is why this approach is often found among classical players.
If you have established a good beginner saxophone tone, then you can begin to experiment with mouthpiece placement. If you are not sure if you have the right tone, then go ahead and sign up for the free lessons and you can send in 1 recording for feedback.
Even if you’re just starting, you can experiment. Just move a little either direction and just listen. Does the sound get better? Does it get worse? Does the saxophone respond easier or does it become more difficult to play. These questions can help find the right place for you.
What results have you discovered from adding more or less mp as you play? You can share your results in the comment section below.
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