When Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1840, he couldn’t possibly have known just what he had done. Sitting in his workshop in Belgium, his invention changed the course of musical history.
His idea was to take the best attributes of a brass instrument and the best of woodwind. And then combine them to create something special. It is safe to say he did that.
Sax created the saxophone mouthpiece, and it remained largely unchanged until the 1930s. But then more volume was required with the “big band sound,” so alternative designs emerged. So, let’s take a look at the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz currently on the market and find the perfect option for you…
The Saxophone Crosses the Genres
Along with the Violin, it has become a huge contributor to music right across the genres. The saxophone fits just about everything. From orchestral to rock, and then on to Jazz, it can do it all.
The Instrument of the “Greats”
But it is with Jazz that the Saxophone has become synonymous. You only have to read out a list of the names. Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Grover Washington. The more recent Michael Brecker, and of course, the mercurial Charlie Parker.
You can easily say great players on a great instrument. Thank you, Mr. Sax. I think you achieved what you set out to do.
The Saxophone and Jazz
As an instrument, it wasn’t taken particularly seriously at first. Sidney Bechet may have been the first jazz saxophone player. Others followed quite quickly. By the 40s, it was popular; by the 50s essential. Today, the Jazz era might not be what it was, but the saxophone is still right at the forefront.
The new narrow chamber became standard. But for any player who still wants the more rounded classical saxophone sound, there are alternatives. You can still buy the large-chamber mouthpieces with a low baffle.
Today there is an enormous range of mouthpieces available. Made from a variety of materials, they also have a variety of prices. I am going to look at various options here and try to cater to all budgets.
Top 5 Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz in 2023
1 D’Addario Woodwinds Select Jazz Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece – Most Versatile Saxophone Mouthpiece For Jazz
D’Addario might be better known in some circles for their guitar strings. But they bring the same quality of manufacture to their saxophone mouthpieces. This is a high-quality saxophone mouthpiece that sets a high standard and helps to produce those great tones from days gone by.
An innovative build
The design of this mouthpiece combines the tradition of the past with newer innovations. This mouthpiece is made from solid rod rubber that is 100% precision milled.
That is an important feature. Milling will always give you better accuracy in its finished product than using molding techniques. The computer-controlled technology employed in its manufacture ensures a precise finished product.
Crossing musical genres
It is designed with medium chambers and facing lengths. This means that it is suitable for use across a range of musical genres and styles. As a result, it is one of the most versatile saxophone mouthpieces you can buy.
The design takes inspiration from vintage jazz saxophone mouthpieces of the past. It gives a classic sound and response with a very even intonation.
Range of tip openings
It is available in a range of tip openings, including 6, 7, 8, and 9. For beginners, the size 6 is probably most suitable. But they may also be able to use Size 7. Size 7 works with improvers through to more experienced players. Not a cheap option but an amazing product.
- Precise design using good materials.
- Vintage sound.
- Some may find it expensive.
2 Yamaha 4C Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece, Standard Series – Best Budget Saxophone Mouthpiece For Jazz
If there is one thing that Yamaha is renowned for, it is the quality of the build of their instruments. This also applies to their accessories. They make a wide range, from starter to professional, but they all bear the Yamaha tradition of quality.
A Mouthpiece for all seasons
This is the official Yamaha saxophone mouthpiece. However, it is a cost-effective product and could be referred to as a Yamaha budget range item. But it is still good enough to be fitted to all the new alto sax models Yamaha produces.
Those alto sax models include the Standard instruments for Beginners. And the extensive range of saxophones for Intermediate through to professional level players.
As we have just mentioned, this is a mouthpiece that can be used by players with a wide range of abilities. However, it has design features that make it one of the best saxophone mouthpieces for beginners.
No instrument is particularly easy to learn. But instruments that you have to blow carry a distinct skill set. To get a decent sound, you not only need to learn about the finger positions to get the notes. You also have to master the blowing technique.
And it is a technique that needs to be learned. Any help you can get in that area is valuable. Yamaha understands that and has given you every assistance with this mouthpiece.
Durable and safe
It is made from Phenol Resin which is a synthetic polymer. It is both durable as well as being safe to use.
A standard size
It is size 4c which is standard for most saxophones. But it is, as we have said, particularly suitable for a beginner in helping them achieve a good sound early on. It can be bought in several tip openings. This will depend on the type of reed you have.
Some mouthpieces will come with a cap and a ligature. Unfortunately, this mouthpiece comes with neither. However, the quality of the build and the performance makes this an excellent choice at the price point.
- Essentially for beginners but can be used by players with more experience.
- Well-made using quality materials at a great price.
- No cap or ligature.
3 Selmer Concept Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece – Best Premium Saxophone Mouthpiece For Jazz
Selmer will need little introduction to most musicians. Established in Paris in 1885, they have a big reputation for producing instruments at all levels. But they are particularly known for their saxophones, clarinets, and trumpets.
It was always a family-owned business until the late 60s. Unfortunately, various buyouts and changes of ownership have reduced its dominant place. That and the rise of Japanese companies like Yamaha and Yanagisawa. Nevertheless, there is still an aura that surrounds them, and saxophone mouthpieces like the Concept are highly thought of.
One of the later designs
They have been making mouthpieces for saxophones for as long as they have made the instrument itself. But this mouthpiece is one of their newer designs. Years of tradition coupled with the use of modern technology have produced the ideal jazz saxophone mouthpiece for experienced players.
How Does it Sound?
The new design incorporating a square chamber gives you an element of precision acoustically. Players will not have to work too hard to get a great sound that will be warm and rich. The design is noted for its ability to produce very balanced tones.
Quite often, you may find a mouthpiece that is better at the top or bottom end. But here, the low, as well as the high registers, have plenty of depth to the sound.
It comes with a bag to carry it around in. Not the most protective of options, but certainly better than nothing. A quality mouthpiece for your alto sax, but some are going to find it a little expensive. But as I said earlier, this is a mouthpiece for an experienced player, not for a beginner.
- Suitable for a range of styles for experienced players.
- Creates a good tonal response on high and low registers.
- Some are going to find it expensive.
4 Vandoren SM711 AL3 Optimum Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece – Most Accurate Saxophone Mouthpiece For Jazz
Just like Selmer, this is another company established in Paris. Vandoren was founded by Eugene Van Doren in 1905. At the company’s formation, he already had a formidable reputation as a clarinetist from his time at the Paris Opera House.
Unlike Selmer, the business has remained in the family’s hands. Everything is still manufactured in Paris. They make mouthpieces and reeds that have a worldwide reputation for a range of instruments.
Background influences on the designs
Naturally, the background and history of a company may influence its designs. This is manifest with this mouthpiece. Their background in Classical music and Opera has led them to produce mouthpieces eminently suitable for that environment.
Playing Classical music demands a certain style, finesse, and accuracy of sound. The same applies to Jazz played at the highest level. For that, saxophonists will require a mouthpiece of high quality built for the job. This mouthpiece is certainly that and makes it one of the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz.
This mouthpiece is a long-facing, very round design. It has a tip opening of 1/100mm or 152. While it can be used with most reeds, it is probably best suited to 2.5 – 4 sizes. It is constructed from Ebonite which is vulcanized rubber. The rubber undergoes a heat process that hardens it. This makes it very strong but also still flexible.
Not what you would call the cheapest mouthpiece around. Nevertheless, it has real quality if what you want is a design that reflects great accuracy in its performance. For Jazz, you are certainly going to need that.
- Has a tough but flexible Vulcanized rubber design.
- Made for precise intonation and great for Jazz.
- Some may find it a little expensive.
5 Vandoren SM833 B7 V16 Ebonite Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece – Loudest Saxophone Mouthpiece For Jazz
Staying with Vandoren, here is a Baritone Sax mouthpiece for pros and experienced players. Vandoren has gone out of its way to produce one of the best jazz-based baritone sax mouthpieces on the market. One that reproduces a sound reminiscent of the great jazz players of the 50s.
Plays easy, sounds great
This is one of those hard-to-find mouthpieces that are easy to play but still produce a great sound. Sometimes great-sounding instruments can be a little hard to control, not so with this. This is a mouthpiece that gives you back control without compromising the sound.
It gives your baritone plenty of volume and a big punch. But it still manages to maintain tones that are smooth and refined at any level of dynamics.
It is made of Ebonite, The vulcanized rubber that Vandoren uses on many of their mouthpieces. It comes in three tip opening sizes, but we are looking at the SM833. This gives you the performance quality of the V5 mouthpieces but with the V16 sound. The tip opening is 275mm, and it has a medium-long facing length.
Could be your missing link
If you have a great instrument but always felt it could give just a bit more that you weren’t getting, then this might provide it. It isn’t cheap, but the real quality never is. And that is what this mouthpiece is, real quality.
- A great design and excellent sound.
- Reproduces some of the great tones of the 50s jazz greats.
- Going to be expensive for some.
Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz Buying Guide
If you are a Jazz player or someone looking to break into the Jazz scene, then you do need a good mouthpiece. They tend to be more Classical in their design, as this will often give you a more accurate sound.
What material should it be made from?
There are a wide variety of options here. Metal, rubber, plastic, and very rarely wood, are the ones you will encounter the most.
A material like Ebonite, which is Vulcanized, or hardened rubber, tends to give you a little of the best of both worlds. For those on a tight budget and beginners, plastic is an option. They can be quite good but won’t generate the sound of the better quality materials.
The usual rule is that the softer the material, the warmer and darker the sound. But you will lose a little in the way of volume. The harder materials work in the opposite way; they will be quite bright and will give you that extra bit of punch.
The Facing Curve
This is where the reed is located. The reed will bend along this curve as it opens and closes. It will bend on the curve until there is a complete seal. Then it will open again.
That curve has to be precisely engineered to give you a good sound. Many aren’t. You tend to find the better-known manufacturers to ensure this important area is precisely made.
You will find a range of different chamber sizes. The smaller the chamber, the brighter the sound. If you want a warmer, almost “dark” sound, then you will need a larger chamber. There is no right or wrong. It is a case of how you want your saxophone to sound.
Take your time
Try out a few. It is not a quick process, and a good mouthpiece is fundamental to how good you are going to sound as a saxophonist.
Looking for a Great Saxophone or Saxophone Accessories?
We have a nice selection to get you started. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Yamaha Saxophones, the Best Alto Saxophones, the Best Tenor Saxophones, the Best Soprano Saxophones, the Best Selmer Saxophones, the Best Alto Sax Mouthpieces, and the Best Saxophone Neck Straps you can buy in 2023.
You might also like our helpful guides including the 8 Famous Saxophone Musicians You Should Know, Best Jazz Saxophone Players, Types Of Bebop Scales, and the Best Saxophone Brands You Should Buy for more useful information.
What are the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz?
The mouthpiece on the saxophone is the initial part of your sound. It is where the air enters the instrument. The quality of the mouthpiece is then going to have a big influence in creating a good, bad, or excellent sound.
All of the manufacturers here are well-known and produce real quality. Some of the mouthpieces are more cost-effective than others. The Yamaha, for instance, is a budget range mouthpiece by their standards, but the quality is still high.
For me, I would choose the…
A great mouthpiece from a company steeped in the traditions of excellent products. And my pick as the best jazz saxophone mouthpiece.
Until next time, let your music play.