What Saxophone Tone Do You Want?

What tone would you like on saxophone?

  • A jazz tone
  • A pop/rock tone
  • A classical tone

Isn’t it amazing that the saxophone is so versatile and can effectively play in multiple styles? Good news- we all chose the right instrument!

Getting the Accent Down

How does the saxophone, or the performer, produce these different tones from the same instrument? If we look at these styles as different languages things begin to make sense.  If you wanted a German accent, you’d listen to people who spoke German and you’d copy them. Then, you could do the same thing in French, or any other language you wanted to learn. The key to making the saxophone sound a certain way is to listen and copy the style you desire. But there are some things that can make playing in your chosen style easier. Specifically, the mouthpiece.

The Purpose

First of all, there are so many mouthpieces available. I know I would miss somebody’s favorite if I start naming mouthpieces you should buy. Naming all the mouthpieces would probably be more confusing than helpful. Instead, I will provide some suggestions at the end of this post, but suggestions for someone who is just starting out in their new style- the beginner. These mouthpieces will provide the best tone and the best opportunity for success, combined.

The Tip OpeningSaxophone Mouthpiece Tip Opening

In the next paragraph I’ll discuss the tip opening. I’m referring to the distance between the tip of the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece.

Jazz/Pop/Rock Mouthpieces

First of all, there are many parts of the mouthpiece that affect the tone of the saxophone. I want to talk about one of them: the tip opening. For jazz/pop/rock mouthpieces, the tip opening tends to be more open (wider gap) then a student or classical mouthpiece. What’s the difference? The wider tip opening allows more flexibility. Of course, any mouthpiece can be played in any style, but it’s simply easier to get this desired tone (Jazz/Pop/Rock) on mouthpieces with a wider tip opening. Bottom line: the musical styles in this category are easier to obtain with a mouthpiece that has a wider tip opening.

Classical Mouthpieces

We’ll name this category “classical mouthpieces”, but if your desired style of music doesn’t fit Jazz/Pop/Rock, this could be the right mouthpiece for you.

The tip opening of this mouthpiece is much closer than the mouthpiece mentioned above. The closer tip opening provides easier access to a centered tone and stability. If you’re trying to keep the tone as even as possible, this is the tip opening for you. Bottom line: Centered tone and stability is the strength of this tip opening.

Beware of the Reed

Generally speaking, the same reed played on both tip openings can be a challenge. For this reason, reed manufacturers make “classical” reeds for smaller tip openings, and “jazz” reeds for the bigger tip openings. If you place a jazz reed on a classical mouthpiece, the reed could close off easily. If you place a classical reed on a jazz mouthpiece, the saxophone could be really hard to play- it will feel resistant.


Wider Tip Openings

  • Vandoren V5 Jazz Series
  • Vandoren V16
  • Otto Link
  • Meyer

Smaller Tip Openings

  • Vandoren Optimum series
  • Selmer S80 C*
  • Rousseau 4R

If you have questions about specific mouthpieces, feel free to use the comment section. I’ll be happy to answer your questions!

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Comments 5

    1. Post
  1. Hello Jeff:

    There is a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece on my Yamaha 275 alto saxophone.
    If I was to upgrade the mouthpiece what might you suggest given I play
    mainly jazz/pop tunes?

    Thank you, Laura

    1. Post

      It depends on what type of sound your going for. A warmer ton, a brighter tone, etc. Let me know what you prefer and I can make some suggestions.

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