Welcome to the next post from 18 Tips for a Better Tone!
Choosing the right mouthpiece can be very personal for each saxophone player. To kick off the post, I want to share a story about Ernie Northway and Stan Getz. The point of this story will save you time and money as you search for your ideal mouthpiece.
Around 2001, Ernie Northway shared the following story with me about his personal experience with Stan Getz . Stan Getz called up Ernie on the phone and asked him if he could make a custom mouthpiece for him. Ernie was excited to hear from Stan Getz, but Ernie suggested that Stan should not switch mouthpieces because he already had a beautiful tone. Ernie then said, “I wouldn’t want to change your tone.” Stan Getz replied, “You’re not going to change my tone.” That’s true- no matter what mouthpiece Stan Getz used, he always sounded like Stan Getz. By the way, the quotes above are not word for word from Ernie, but the point of the story is accurate.
Through the conversation that occurred after Ernie’s story, I learned the following. Mouthpieces can provide different characteristics in your tone, they can provide an easier playing experience, and can produce varying intonation characteristics. But when it comes down to it, the mouthpiece doesn’t transform your tone into someone else’s tone. Just because someone plays on the same mouthpiece as Stan Getz, it doesn’t mean they’re going to sound like Stan Getz. Stan Getz always sounded like Stan Getz, and John Coltrane always sounded like John Coltrane. So, when choosing a mouthpiece, we’re looking for one that fits and feels right; just like trying to find the correct reed.
Find Your Tone
Now that we know a mouthpiece won’t magically change our tone to be just like our favorite saxophone player, we can begin our search. Let’s begin with the mouthpiece you already own.
If you don’t know what mouthpiece you have, we can take a closer look. Are there any markings? If there are (such as a number or brand), you can look up your mouthpiece online and see what type of mouthpiece it is. If you’re a beginner, and you happen to own something like a Dukoff mouthpiece, I would suggest purchasing something else. You can always experiment with the Dukoff down the road, but for now, it’s more important to have a mouthpiece that will play easily and be forgiving.
If you have a mouthpiece that doesn’t have any markings, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a beginner’s mouthpiece. Many of these will work just fine, but if it’s not working for you, I would suggest another beginner mouthpiece: Yamaha 4C.
The Drop of Death!
Drops can cause nicks, scratches, or cause the mouthpiece to break completely. Sometimes a mouthpiece will have a chip in the tip, and it won’t be noticeable. However, this can (at times) make the saxophone nearly impossible to play. If it does play, it could be more difficult than it should or provide an inferior tone. We work hard to get a good tone; we definitely don’t want the mouthpiece holding us back!
How To Choose the Right One
Next week we’ll go into greater detail about choosing mouthpieces. Until then, please share with us what mouthpiece you use. Let us know by posting in the comment section.
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