3D printed Baritone saxophone mouthpiece

Can a mouthpiece 3d printed on a home machine and created from a file found on the internet actually be playable? The short answer is a remarkable, maybe! As you might imagine there are quite a few caveats to print and play sax mouthpieces and I’ll touch on those shortly.

Background:

I’ve been heavily into 3d printing for a few years. From building my own machines to ready to print machines, I’ve been involved in the community. I toyed with the idea of 3D printing a sax mouthpiece but my design skill limitations made that an unlikely possibility unless someone else made the design. then a few years ago i learned of students at the TU Delft were using acoustic principles, 3D printing and professional saxophonists to test designs. I was enamored that this was being pursued in a serious and researched way. I suspect that it was some of these students that would go on to form the saxophone mouthpiece company SYOS.

After a few years I had forgotten about 3D printing a mouthpiece until Mark at 10MFan mouthpieces released his then new models Robusto and Merlot as 3D printed versions. They were made of a metal rich material and quite heavy. The were hand finished by Eric Falcon.  I purchased 1 of each the instant he said I could. They are smooth, heavy and play precisely like their machined from hard rubber cousins. This drove me back to the search for a 3D printable baritone mouthpiece and i finally found something that looked like it would work.

Mouthpiece:

S80 C** rendering of 3D printed saxophone mouthpieceFrom first glance this piece should be quite easy to recognize. If you have play classical music in school then this rendering should being back memories of the Creston Sonata. The designer based this design from the Selmer S-80 mouthpiece complete with square chamber.What stood out for me was the facing curve look deliberate and familiar. This means nothing until it’s printed but there are many other mouthpiece designs that have good intention but no knowledge behind them.

I printed the mouthpiece initially in gray PLA plastic which is generally considered safe for use in the mouth.  The printer I used is my genuine Prusa I3 Mk3. This printer is considered on of the best and most advanced printers. It is tuned and produces fantastic results on everything it is tasked with printing. I printed in a low 0.3mm layer height and 20% infill. If these terms don’t make sense i’ll sum them up as layer height refers to the thickness of each layer of plastic that is stacked to make the mouthpiece. The infill refers to how much empty space there is in the walls of the model. In this case a 20% infill mean a 80% hollow interior.

Test print #1:

3D printed Baritone Saxophone mouthpieceThis piece was coarse to the touch because I printed with a really low resolution. When the mouthpiece completed printing and was removed from the plate i remove any lingering plastic detritus that stuck around and then slapped a reed on it. I chose a #3 Rico V5. I found that strength can play on almost any mouthpiece. The designers attention to detail was perfect as the mouthpiece immediately played. The tone was a bit airy as the table to reed seal had many small leaks due to the coarse layer resolution. Despite this it played and responded mostly like the S-80 should. Bolstered by this discovery I set out to print a better version and improve playablilty. The next step will be higher resolution. With high resolution come longer print times.

 

 

Test print #2:

3D Printed Baritone saxophone mouthpiece The original print took about 6 hours to print. The predicted print time for this mouthpiece at the highest resolution the printer can make was around 14 hours. I didn’t want to wait so I choose yet another resolution a bit toward the higher resolution but not quite the finest. 8 hours later i was holding a higher res version of the same piece. This time mouthpiece sounded much better. The finer resolution meant the facing curve and table have much smaller layers visible. The meant that the airy sounds was drastically reduced. The mouthpiece was much closer to the performance of the stock hard rubber S-80. I had no issues with intonation with the piece and it was quite reed friendly. It had the warmth and slight reediness you can get from a slightly too soft reed on a S-80. Over all i was impressed and so was the sax section ahead of rehearsal that evening.

Test print #3:

(FAILED)

 

 

Playability:

Believe it or not these pieces play quite well and I think with a touch up on the facing will play every bit as good as the original. The model creator did a good job modeling this mouthpiece from scratch and with only a digital calipers and ruler from an original piece.

Results:

Could this piece be printed by a band director for his bari players and save a few bucks? Sure, but the band director would need to be able to face this piece or at a minimum clean up printing artifacts. The print does present some unusual challenges but experienced 3D printer users achieve a quality output from even the most modest of printer. I recommend printing this piece using a SLA printer for the highest quality with minimal layer lines.

AM Mouthpieces Katana Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece

AM Mouthpieces Katana Baritone Saxophone MouthpieceWhat do you get when combine the punch of a 0-SMS Berg and artisan-ship of a handmade mouthpiece? You get the AM Mouthpieces Katana. If you are familiar with it’s namesake then you know a katana is considered one of the best weapons to grace the battlefield. It’s sharp, durable and purposeful in it’s action. These were weapons of a warrior class and demanded practice and respect to wield it responsibly. Thankfully this mouthpiece doesn’t require much break in time for your embouchure so you’ll be able to start slicing through the mix with this well balanced musical tool.

My last mouthpiece review was my Theo Wanne DURGA Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece size 7. (Affiliate link) I can’t tell how many compliments I received from fellow players who say my husky tone is what they think all baritones should sound like. I very much like how I sound on the piece and intend to keep it for years to come but now I need a bit more. The Durga is great but it can’t quite keep up with the funk band I’ve recently joined. Competing against electric instruments even while mic’d is not an easy task with a dark’ish mouthpiece. With that I knew I needed more powaaaah!

MOdern Baritone sax more power

AM Mouthpieces Katana Baritone Saxophone MouthpieceWith that I reached out to Arnold Montgomery at AM mouthpieces with my list of requirements and my credit card. Arnold listened to what I was trying to do and recommended the Katana in a new white composite material for which he has only a few baritone saxophone blanks.  After our brief conversation I felt I had made a good decision. Besides, the opportunity to have a rare’ish mouthpiece is hard to pass up and user reviews from his other mouthpieces were positively glowing.

First thing I noticed is the brilliant white of the material. I didn’t test for hardness but it had a mouth feel somewhere between plastic and hard rubber. I t was very smooth and Arnold’s finish work is superb. The tip an side rails were perfectly shaped and crisp, everything you’d expect from a hand made piece. The crisp tip rail aids in clean and rapid articulation.  This was

The second thing i noticed was the thin shank. I asked Arnold if the thin needed reinforcement but he assured me that the material was quite robust and would fair well normal use. Which i took to mean “If you don’t drop it or kick it around it will be fine.” After almost 50 hours of playing I have not seen any change in the mouthpieces look, in fact i had dropped one day while fishing it out of the bag I had it in. It fell about 12 inches to the wood dance floor of the community center our big band was playing in. It landed nearly flat with the shank corner touching down first. As Arnold had suggested the mouthpiece was no worse for wear.

Design: This piece has a slim mouth feel due to it having a thin and long beak. The mouthfeel is ever so slightly larger than a metal mouthpiece but not by much. So if you are a tenor player who need to swap quickly to baritone or just a player who likes the feel of metal mouthpieces but want the comfort of a more forgiving material like resin or hard rubber then this design will fit the bill.

AM Mouthpieces Katana Baritone Saxophone MouthpieceTone: While tone is subjective a few basic features can described. This piece has a high and long baffle which when combined with his custom chamber and throat design adds edge to the tone without it becoming harsh and abrasive. In a way it’s Berg’ish but different. With more Doc Kupka / Pepper Adams punch than the Theo Wanne Durga. In some ways it’s quite easy to get a medium-bright Brignola tone al la his Strathon Adjust-tone days when paired with a dark reed..

 

Quirks: This has a tenor like diameter so finding a perfect ligature may take a bit of effort. In fact i found two hard rubber tenor and 2 metal clarinet ligatures that fit it but not one of my bari ligatures fit.  Also, I don’t feel like it vibrates quite the same as a hard rubber or metal piece so I added a firm tooth pad to the beak to give tooth feel I’m used to. I used a clear Theo Wanne Mouthpiece saver tooth pad.

Value: This is an easy one. For the price of a mass produced piece you can have a hand made mouthpiece. The truth is Arnold should be selling these pieces at double the price and it would still be a great deal.

Take Away: Though it had a tendency to exacerbate my Yanagisawa’s flat sounding palm keys I still recommend this piece. I actually attribute that issue to a flaw in the horn design or poor palm key and not to the mouthpiece.The piece is made by a mouthpiece artist and we as players should be looking to keep innovators like Arnold growing and creating. Unfortunately the mouthpiece market is flooded with  mass produced units and hyper expensive customs. Arnold has a middle market that is affordable to most and accessible to all. This is a great area also occupied by the likes of RPC and 10M Fans mouthpieces. We have to keep creators like them alive and pushing the boundary between affordability and high quality.

Forestone Baritone Saxophone Reed

Forestone Baritone Saxophone ReedWhat do you get when you combine 50% bamboo with a soft specially formulated resin? You get a pretty good reed that comes with a pain in the ass caveat.  While being a mid priced contender in the synthetic reed category this brand may cost you more initially.

As most sax player who know me can attest, I am a complete convert from natural cane to synthetic and hybrid reeds. The quality of these products have come a long way since the old “Betcha”, Luellen, and Maccaferri plastic reeds from the 1940’s and 50’s. Today we have many more choices than ever before. The most popular brands are: Légère, Forestone, Hartmann Fiberreed, Bravo, Bari, and Fibracell.  There are new far east manufacturers launching products nearly monthly so as more players explore synthetics I expect established reed brands like Vandoren will eventually enter the marketplace.  Rico entered the specialty reeds market in the 90’s with the black Plasticover reeds. These are simply cane reeds that have been covered with a very thin layer of plastic or resin. Of the popular brands there is a lot to like and dislike but in the end it’s up to each player to try them and decide on their own.

How I judge a reeds performance.

  1. Tone Quality
  2. Surface Finish and build quality
  3. Ease of use
  4. Longevity
  5. Cost

 Sound Quality: The tone from a properly strength reeds has most of the depth and sweetness of cane. I had a hard time hearing the difference in some low passages during playback of my recordings. The reed has a unique but cane-like sound. The low end of the horn really responds well to these reeds and speak with authority especially the low Bb and A. Most players sitting next to me never hear a difference and for the most part no audience member has noticed anything amiss.

Surface and build quality: This is where some of the highest and lowest priced reeds start to falter. Reeds like Hartmann and the Brave tend to have sharp side rails and tip rails. I’ve more than once given myself a abrasion on my lower lip and tongue using these reeds. The Forestones’ on the other hand are smooth in texture and almost velvety soft. Not literally velvety but softer than the plastic feel of the Légère and Bravo. The side rails and tip are slightly rounded and from the vamp to the tip is nearly glass like in smoothness. Over all it has the best mouth feel of all the reeds, natural and synthetic, that i own.

Ease of Use: This depends on the ligature type, reed strength, mouthpiece table finish but this reed is like most synthetics. You can strap them on and play. There’s no need to warm them up, soak them, or do anything special before playing them.  Forestone reeds because of their slightly ‘softer’ material seems to stay where i put it on the mouthpiece without need to crank hard on the ligature. That’s not the case for all synthetics.  Some ligatures won’t grip a synthetic firmly enough for some players. That’s a problem I started having with Légère reeds once I moved to my Theo Wanne Durga mouthpiece. The metal tone plate had a hard time keeping the reed from moving let to right. I’ve contacted Légère about adding a texture to the bark of their reeds to compensate and give the ligature a fighting chance to secure the reed without over tightening the ligature.

Longevity: This is where most of us start tying synthetics. The Forestone do not disappoint in this area. Like most synthetics, these reeds can take a ton of abuse that would cripple or break a cane reed.  See Derick Brown the BeatBox-Sax on Youtube, he uses Légère exclusively.  There aren’t many advanced techniques that will cause harm to these or most synthetics.

I am able to use these for 3 months at a time before they are slightly but noticeably softer. That include using them for 10 – 20 hours a week for rehearsals and gigs.  3 months is a bit less than I get with Légère  which i can use for 4 to 6 months before they feel fatigued. Now all is not coming up roses as the Forestone’s change throughout a gig. They start off cold at one strength and then 1.5 hours in it’s about a 1/4 strength softer. I find this happens mostly where the gig has near constant bari parts with minimal cool down between songs.

Cost: These things are cheap compared to a box of reed but expensive if you have to buy a few to find your strength. The average for sing reeds, aside from the Bravo’s, is around $28. This is a little cheaper than a box of Vandoren or Rico Selects.

The Pros:

  • consistent performance
  • no warm up needed
  • no warping
  • no water logging
  • no humidity, temperature, or altitude problems
  • longer life than that of a traditional cane reed
  • can be adjusted by clipping or shaving

The Cons: The most egregious of all the issues with these reeds is the strength numbering system. They have two systems floating around, the F1 – 5 and the Soft – Hard system. It could be that they changed from one system to the other but had so much inventory already distributed that it was impractical to recall them or offer the vendors stickers to explain the current system. Either way it’s a pain in the ass and I’ve found that if you can try a few sizes up and down from your normal strength at your local music shop then you’ll save money dialing in your preferred strength.

Take away and the Reality of Synthetics: Like most synthetic reeds these have a particular sound. It’s a sound that is unique to itself and to the player using them. They may get close to sounding like cane but they will never replicate cane perfectly but I’d argue that even cane isn’t consistent enough within a single box let alone across the various brands to have a signature cane sound.  Instead of expecting synthetics to sound like cane the player should approach synthetics for their unique sounds and find the one that meets their performance goals and tone concept. I think most people who try and hate synthetics either haven’t tried recent ones or are disappointed that it didn’t sound precisely like that perfect reed from their favorite brand. Instead, if they had approached them as unique tools to develop their signature sound then they would enjoy the experience more.

Theo Wanne Durga Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece

Theo Wanne Durga Baritone Saxophone MouthpieceIf you can afford this piece then buy it and I’m sure you’ll love it. If you can’t there are other great options at half this price.   I am hoping that Theo will eventually replicate this design in hard rubber at 50% of the price. I’d buy it at $350 – 500.” – MBS Review of Durga 8*

Yes, I said it a few months ago in a review of what was a unique and beautiful bari mouthpiece. I wanted more than anything to tell everyone to go get one but I couldn’t in good conscience do it as I found it to bee much to expensive for what you get even though it’s a great piece. I enjoyed the Durga 8* and had to return it to it’s rightful owner reluctantly.  From that point forward I sent Google Alerts ,Ebay searches, and Amazon wish-lists that included the Durga Bari mouthpiece in 7* tip. I was determined to be ready to buy if a deal arose. It took several months and lots of patience but a deal did arise (ebay) and I scored a brand new in the box Theo Wanne Durga Baritone mouthpiece for 1/2 retail in the tip opening I wanted. A rare opportunity to be sure.

There isn’t much difference between the 7* and 8* except for the tip. As best i remember the & plays the same as the 8. So my review of the Durga still holds but having more time with it has allowed me to play it in more musical situations. This time the musical situation include a newly forming funk group and of course big-bands.  and So is this a jack of trades or simply the master of none?

Going into the funk/R&B setting i knew what the band was after. Something between Doc Kupka and Leroy Cooper. So finding the right reeds were going to be important. if you are familiar with these two excellent players you’ll know Doc has the edge and projection where ‘Hog’ has the bit more warmth and a bluesy feel.  With this in mind I began with a Tweet to Theo Wanne’s account for advice. Representative David  recommended Vandoren Java Green as a starting point. I’d not previously had good experience with them but I figured I’d buy a sample pack and give a go.

As expected the greens were a no go and neither the Java Red or the ZZ were my cup of tea, maybe I need a half strength harder. Unexpectedly the winner was the the one i had the least amount of hope with. The winner was the Vandoren Traditional, or blue box as some call them. It may have been the thicker heart and thinner tip combo that tamed the high partials and warmed the sound considerably. Also the reeds width is perfect fit on the table and side rails. I believe Theo must have used Vandorens to size the table and rails. This has become my big-band setup. I can blend with the section or push a little and cut through. This combo got me many compliments on the bandstand.

In the R&B setting the Vandoren reeds that I had weren’t bright enough. I then turned to my Rico’s.  This included LaVoz (Medium and Medium-hard), Rico (orange box 2.5 and 3’s), and Rico Select (medium and hard). I had mixed results with the Rico 3’s having good punch and articulation but sounded a bit thin. The last from my Rico box was a fresh box of Plasticover (3.0 and 3.5). These seemed to be what i was looking. They are bright, punchy, didn’t change much as you played and got much closer to the Doc Kupka sound. The negative is that they are too thin in width across the tip. You have to center the reed exactly and not move it a millimeter out of place or squeak city.

The last batch of reeds on my list are the synthetics. I love synthetics! I am an enthusiastic supporter of synthetics but this mouthpiece and I just can’t find the right combo to make it work. Synthetic reeds seem to get warmer and softer much quicker on this mouthpiece than any hard rubber or metal piece I’ve ever used. For example, with Légère reeds (2.75, 3), they all do well for the first hour of rehearsal then they feel like turn a quarter strength softer and don’t behave the same. I think this may have to due with the very massive Durga mouthpiece absorbing lots of body heat as I play then warming the reed much more than ti would if it were attached to a more insulating  hard rubber mouthpiece.  I found the same effect with Forestone, my favorite for Aaron Drake mouthpieces, and Bari brand synthetic reeds.

For now this mouthpiece can do 90% of what I need it to do and do it with style.  I’ll keep shopping around for the right reed for the R&B/Funk tone i want. I’m thinking a Harry Hartmann Fiberreed might be the ticket but i won’t know until I buy a couple of sizes and try them out. I’ll update this page with the results.

Yanagisawa Catalog Baritone SAxophone

Yanagisawa B800When you think vintage baritones what comes to mind? Most of us probably think of Conn 12m, Selmer Mark VI, Keilwerth made Couf’s, or King  Super 20’s. These are all fine and good as I’ve owned at least one of each but my ears and heart love vintage Japanese horns. Whether it’s a Yamaha made Vito horn or the Japanese made Martin stencils from the other plucky horn maker Yanagisawa, the craftsmanship is undeniably better than cottage industry stuff from China today. While I am a fan of these horns would I recommend them? In a word, YES!

*Learn more about Yanagisawa’s history*

When I saw the new Facebook alternative to Craigslist in my feed I had no idea it would lead to me finding a gem of horn just waiting for my hard earned cash. Best yet, it was priced extremely aggressively. It was my good fortune to be ready to buy within seconds of the posting.  I beat out the other purchase offers by less than 1 minute. Yes, I was fortunate. At the time the only Yanagisawa’s I’d had any experience with were altos that were new back in the late 90’s. They were fantastic horns and I suspected i’d enjoy this bari if it had as little as 10% of the tone those altos did.

Yanagisawa Catalog Baritone SAxophone

http://thesax.info/piwigo/index.php?/category/193

The Feel: The first thing I noticed when I received the horn was how heavy it was. This instrument is noticibly heavier than the YBS-61 that it replaced. I have no issues wielding this horn through a 3 hour performance or rehearsal the same as I do the Yamaha but when i pick it up from the stand or from across my lap i feel like it weighs a smidge more. I don’t think this affects sound and it might be that this horn is balanced differently than a Yamaha of the same era.

The key touches are slightly closer together on the right hand but still comfortable than a Yamaha YBS-61/2. The left hand palm keys feel a bit taller but more compact as well. All things considered I believe the ergonomics of the horn lend well to large and small handed players alike. Though the right hand high-Eb/F key will still be a reach for the more petite or younger player.

Like Yamaha and Selmer the low-a is perfectly placed for a smooth transition from the thumb-rest to low A touch. The mechanism is similar to those used by other manufacturers so if you are used to a Selmer low-a or Yamaha then you will feel at home. There is a peculiarity about the bespoke low-a. The low-a pad closes heavy. I’m not sure if it’s the combined strength of the springs or that there’s slop in the mechanism but it almost slams shut. It’s seals well and my tech has worked with me to place thicker more cushioned low-A pad but when I had it done it felt too squishy. So for now I can live it  it.

Improvements: What is missing from most vintage horns but is sorely needed is the triple strap ring. While it can be added to horns it doesn’t sit right with me to harm the lacquer on horn on purpose. Like most bari’s if you have a shorter or longer than average torso then the balance of the horn might fall more away or towards you depending on your support method. With a triple ring you can alter that balance. A short torso might choose the top ring to bring the mouthpiece closer and the taller the opposite.

The sound: This horn has a somewhat neutral over all tone when paired with a Yanagisawa mouthpiece. I like to keep a period correct mouthpiece by the manufacturer for each horn that I own. I feel it gives me the ability to sound s like the instrument maker intended. In this case a Yanagisawa hard rubber piece with this horn is a cool almost Lars Gullin or Mulligan’esq type tone. Overall an excellent combo. With that in mind the bari’s low overall inherent coloration really lets the player and mouthpiece develop a tone that is unique.

Intonation quirks: For the first time I’m happy to say there aren’t any significant intonation issues with this horn. A good tech can fix nearly all the funny quirks of intonation any horn has but to my surprise this horn plays evenly across all the registers. Yes, even the palm keys speak cleanly and with solid intonation.

Nits to Pick: The water key/spit valve just seems in the wrong place for a complete clearing of the moisture from the upper part of the horn. I’ve had my tech clean the orifice inside and out but when you try to clear the moisture there’s still a lot more than I expected remaining. I’ve taken to popping the neck off and pouring the moisture out.

The thumb-rest is a weak spot. I’ve gone though the original and now a replacement Yanagisawa plastic thumb-rest. Not sure why that is as on my Yamaha the first plastic thumb-rest lasted 25 years. The solution is a metal rest and maybe a wide one like the Sax Gourmet thumb-rest.

My Yamaha YBS-61 was my reliable workhorse which never left stranded and played well even when it leaked like a sieve. It has recorded hours of playing and always exemplified the fine Japanese craftsmanship we’ve all come to expect though it had design issues. The worse of which was the single upper octave vent that meant that the high G and A were always stuffy and flat. The solution which I’ve mentioned on this blog is to move the upper vent and cobble a new linkage. Thank fully this horn seems not to have venting or any significant design flaws.

Take Away: This is a well made, robust, and fantastic sounding horn that I would still enjoy even had I spent twice the amount of it. Actually my tech still doesn’t believe i paid what I did and said he’d normally charge 3 times what I paid for it from the shop. I expect to keep this horn for years to come.

Yanagisawa Bari sax mouthpiece logo

Yanagisawa Baritone Saxophone MouthpieceThe site has had low output for the past few months as I recovered from some oral surgery. This left me unable to play the most lucrative gigs of the year for me but it had to be done when it was instead of the new year. Insurance deductibles, am I right?! Now that I’m back playing again I wanted to find a mouthpiece that was a bit smaller in tip opening so that my transition back into playing and rebuilding my embouchure would go well. For the rebuild process I choose a Yanagisawa hard rubber mouthpiece in a close 5 tip opening.

Design: This mouthpiece has all the hallmarks of Japanese manufacturing philosophy. The table, rails and all the milling is clean, crisp, and meticulous. They poured the efforts into making a mouthpiece that feels well manufactured even though it’s mass manufactured. The body is larger than a S-80 or S-90 mouthpiece but smaller than a vintage pickle barrel piece.  So if you have a ligature that you prefer that fits a s-80/90 then you may need to hunt a larger one. The beak is medium tall, not as slim as duck bills but not as thick as vintage pieces. It sits well in the mouth and you may not want to use a thick mouthpiece patch. The chamber is large with a round throat  and the piece has a slight roll-over baffle.

 

Tone: As you might expect from a medium sized chamber and round throat the tone is reasonably dark but can be pushed to develop edge as you shrink our oral cavity. I’ve been told it has a Gale styled chamber but I can’t be certain. You choice of reed strength and type will make a large difference in the tone. With a Harry Hartman Fiberreed Carbon at Medium Hard strength I can summon a lot of bite. It’s not the edge you get with a high baffle but a buzz you add to get additional definition from a warm piece. I’ve found that I get the best tone for my big band playing from a Forestone Hard reed.

 

Yanagisawa Baritone Saxophone LigatureReed Friendliness: I’ve found that once the appropriate reed strength has been found this mouthpiece will play well with any reed. Frederick Hemke #4 reeds gave me a more classical tinge while Legere and Forestone‘s gave me a bright buzz but with depth of tone. If you can get the Yanagisawa single screw ligature which matches this mouthpiece I highly recommend it. It fits perfectly and the synthetic reeds I play seem to play a bit better with it.

 

Value: This piece is a good value if you need to upgrade from a stock or other cheap plastic mouthpiece but if you already have a piece that fills the same niche as this piece then no it’s not a good value. For example if you already have a S-80/90 or Rousseau and need something for a small combo or big band then I would invest 1/10th as much as this piece and get a Rico Metalite.

 

Final Thoughts: While some might be surprised to hear a player going smaller I suggest that many people have tip openings much bigger than needed. A #5 may be small for some players I think it’s perfect more intermediate to advanced students. I believe this piece to be superior in every way to the Yamaha line of mouthpieces and equal to Vandoren mouthpieces and more consistent that Selmer pieces.

Yanagisawa B800

Yanagisawa B800 Baritone Saxophone ElimonaI’ve been wanting to give my Yamaha YBS-61 a break and get a full overhaul but due to playing a lot of gigs and endless rehearsals I couldn’t be without a horn for a few weeks as it is done. My tech has a couple loaner horns but they are all vintage, one of them a vintage Mark VI low Bb. i love 60’s and older horns but my larger hands prefer a more modern key layout. With that in mind I waited and watched out for deals on used modern horns that weren’t Chinese made. Not that I have an issues with Chinese made horns I just wouldn’t spend more than $500 for one.  Thanks to a Facebook alert a seller in the sax forum offed this horn for sale at fire-sale pricing. I had to jump immediately. and I’m glad I did.

More on this horn as I spend more time with it.

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Yanagisawa Serial number chart from http://www.bandm.co.uk

SERIAL NUMBERS

1972 – 12729030
1973 – 12731254
1974 – 12745400
1975 – 12753382
1976 – 12764553
1977 – 12775790
1978 – 12781317
1979 – 12791801
1980 – 00102143
1981 – 00106981
1982 – 00111892
1983 – 00117142
1984 – 00122663
1985 – 00128485
1986 – 00134903
1987 – 00141658
1988 – 00148774
1989 – 00156006
1990 – 00162968
1991 – 00170073
1992 – 00177116
1993 – 00184318
1994 – 00189050
1995 – 00197400
1996 – 00205400
1997 – 00213000
1998 – 00219500
1999 – 00228250
2000 – 00235000

Theo Wanne Durga 8* small

Theo Wanne Durga 8* Baritone mouthpieceWhat would you expect from a mouthpiece costing as much as vintage horn? Does a high price equate to high value for the player? To answer these questions and more I took a Theo Wanne Durga mouthpiece for a spin and was surprised at how I felt afterwards.

Initial response: When I open the zippered pouch this piece comes with i was immediately surprised at how heavy the mouthpiece is. It is a monster or brass, gold, and steel. It easily out weighed every mouthpiece i had in my drawer even the stainless steel ones. This thing had heft and the gold plating appeared thick and luxurious. If feels well thought out and the attached ligature was intuitive and simple to use. For me the tip opening of 8* (.115″) blew just a bit too large and out of my comfort range. A 7* (.105″) might be a better fit for me. You can really put a lot of air through these mouthpieces.

Durga_reduced_9

Design: The design has some modern and some vintage aspects that are not like any modern piece I’ve played in the last few years. The baffle on this mouthpiece is very high and long. To this Theo added scooped inner side walls. This has the effect of adding volume to a space that is already being squeezed. Scooped side walls are a very vintage trait and not usually seen on modern mouthpieces. The baffle and long floor drops in what Theo calls his ‘True Large’ chamber. On nearly all mouthpieces the chamber is somewhat indistinguishable from the bore. On this piece there is what Theo calls his ‘Power Ring’ in the bore. This separates chamber from the bore and is a unique feature for certain. What effect this has I can only accept his explanation but it does seem at first glance to separate the chamber from the bore and focus the air pulses through the mouthpiece.

While i usually prefer pieces with a larger mouth feel this pieces slim profile is easy to adapt to. The bite plate is user replaceable. Yes, you can actually replace the bite plate. This little innovation should be celebrated and ultimately imitated as this will improve the long term enjoyment of the mouthpiece

Tone: Here’s where the surprises began to appear. I have seen Tim Price’s endorsement of this mouthpiece on YouTube and to be honest he can make anything sound good so I took that with a grain of salt. So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I expected brightness beyond compare and what I was greeted with was indeed some brightness but balanced with a warmth and focus. i was so surprised i moved it from my Yamaha bari to my vintage Keilwerth bari. It sounded just as punchy and deep as before if not slightly more more. There was still edge and projection but there was a core that i hadn’t expected.

I suspect the careful engineering of those vintage styled scooped sidewalls are to blame. Brightness and projection are easy to do but to add some body to that same tone is difficult and I think Theo and team did that. That said I did two rehearsals, Big band and Rock/Ska and received approving looks but this piece didn’t blend as well in  the sax section at big band. I tried a few other reed combos but I need just a pinch more edge removed. Perhaps more traditional Vandoren reeds may have helped. For the rack/ska, this was deadon perfect.

Ligature: The ligature features an easy to operate thumbscrew and a H shaped pressure plate. It is attached to the body of the mouthpiece using a type of set screw. You can purchase additional pressure plates from Theo’s website. While play testing the ligature in different position I’ve found that the center position works best for me.

Value: This piece is priced near the very top range of the mouthpiece pricing. Priced at $850 from Theo’s site and about $100 less from Musicians Friends. That’s not to say that his prices represent the extremes. Ted Klum’s solid silver alto mouthpiece sits at $1,100. Yes, a grand for a new alto mouthpiece to which the materials are likely half the cost. But back to the Durga,  the used market is where this piece really climbs the value scale. If you can find a used one under $500 I’d recommend getting it. It might be the last piece you ever buy.

TAKE AWAY: I really enjoyed playing this mouthpiece. It was guts, loud and had great depth of tone for its design. I want more than anything to recommend this piece to everyone but I can’t. If you can afford this piece then buy it and I’m sure you’ll love it. If you can’t there are other great options at half this price.   I am hoping that Theo will eventually replicate this design in hard rubber at 50% of the price. I’d buy it at $350 – 500.
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PPT Power 8* Baritone Mouthpiece

pptEnvisioned by Pete Thomas, actualized by  Edward Pillinger, and refaced by Norbert Stachel; this PPT mouthpiece lives up to its ‘Power’ moniker. But is this particular piece I’m reviewing actually representative of the model as  conceived by Pete? I suspect that it’s not quite the same as factory spec.

DISCLAIMER/REMINDER: As a general rule, the sound you get from any mouthpiece is dependent on a number of factors. These include the players physiology, the horn, the reed chosen, the mouthpiece and most importantly the players sound concept. The sound concept is the internal tone each player hears in their head. If you prefer a darker tone then no matter what your body will find a way to darken the tone. Consider how Don Menza can sound like Webster, Coltrane, and Hawkins just by hearing the sound in his head. His well practiced body then makes changes to give him the desired tone.

DESIGN: This piece is made of a beautiful translucent resin created by Ed Pillinger called Onyxite. The eye catching material makes it stand out immediately. As soon as I had this piece on my horn the other sax players in the big band had questions. The barrel shape of the body is larger than your typical Berg Larsen but smaller than a vintage pickle barrel bari piece. As I had to default to a Rovner ligature though the Rico H provided by the mouthpieces owner worked fine the Rovner gave a bit more grab on the reed.

The modifications to this piece were done very well. Norbert Statchel clearly knows his way around refacer’s tools. The table was flat and the tip rail was even and smooth. The level of craftsmanship used in the modifications was quite high.

TONE: Having listened to Pete play his on YouTube I was geared up for a full bodied experience. I prepped myself to enjoy the warmth and presence of a Otto Link on steroids combined with big helping of Berg Larsen tone. What I actually got when I paired it with a few reeds choices was a bit more towards Dukoff Power chamber combined with Rico Metalite with a pinch of Runyon Bionix. In other words it was bright, loud and somewhat hard to control.

On close examination I believe what has happened is that in opening the tip of the mouthpiece the floor of the piece was brought closer to the reed and shrinking the area behind the tip rail. This area is of prime influence to the tone of a mouthpiece. So instead of adding a bit of rollover to the area behind the tip to warm the tone it looks to have been left the same as created. since the person I borrowed the piece from purchased it already modified it is not possible to know if the option of working the baffle was available and not selected or never considered.

PPTmodNorbert

Reed friendliness: I usually use Légère reeds or as of late Forestone reeds. This mouthpiece was a bit unruly with the Légère but worked well with the Forestone and Rico Jazz Select Unfiled. The larger tip opening required me to use a half step lower than my normal strength in order to get responsive articulation palm notes that were not out of tune.

VALUE: As this particular piece as modified does not work well for me I can say that original PPT  mouthpieces are an excellent value. Whether you buy them new or used they seem to be under represented in the marketplace. Also adding to their value is the fact that Pete Thomas donates all profit from direct sales from his site to charity. This act of giving increases the value of these piece tremendously. Pete’s Fundraising Information Page

TAKE AWAY: The original PPT as purchased at Pete’s page may be one of the top 10 value per dollar spent on bari mouthpieces. This modified piece however is an acquired taste. It’s loud to be certain and quite powerful but forget about playing this piece in a big band. This is a power player and can fend off electric instruments as well as any charging predators. (please don’t attempt to defend yourself from a charging predator with a saxophone).

 

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Drake Vintage Resin Contemporary Crossover II Mouthpiece
Drake VCCBII mouthpiece

I had been searching for this Drake mouthpiece for years in the tip opening that I prefer when one fateful day a Facebook post lead to a purchase and a fantastic revelation. Did I need an new mouthpiece? Of course not, I was quite happy with the Jody Jazz DV I’d been playing for the year prior. But when that piece came along I just new I had to jump on it. Yes, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) still effects me, though I do still play the same Yamaha horn I have for over a decade now.

DISCLAIMER/REMINDER: As a general rule, the sound you get from any mouthpiece is dependent on a number of factors. These include the players physiology, the horn, the reed chosen, the mouthpiece and most importantly the players sound concept. The sound concept is the internal tone each player hears in their head. If you prefer a darker tone then no matter what your body will find a way to darken the tone. Consider how Don Menza can sound like Webster, Coltrane, and Hawkins just by hearing the sound in his head. His well practiced body then makes changes to give him the desired tone.

My first impression when it arrived was of how beautiful the baffle was finished. The transition from the tip rail through the baffle and into the chamber were smooth and even. The transition from the chamber into the back bore and shank was gently rounded and is a wonder to behold. The mouthpiece offers almost no resistance to airflow due to its smoothed and streamlined interior.  It is clear from even the most cursory examination of the mouthpiece internals that a craftsman has spent a lot of time on the piece.

From the exterior the piece has Drake’s signature and logo cast deeply into the mouthpiece barrel and a brass ring to decorate and strengthen the shank. The beak is a slim scoop-bill beak that I feel a doubler could jump into rather quickly. And especially quick if the doubler already plays a Drake piece. The beak has a tenor type mouth-feel which is very comfortable.

Tone: As for the design intentions of Mr. Drake I’ll  have to let him speak for himself. I use this piece in big band, jazz combo, and Ska band. This piece does all of these things well. Also, the design looks original and distinctly different from anything else. So many manufacturers are busy trying to replicate the sound or feeling of vintage pieces that unique and novel takes on sound are ignored or buried. The tone is a bit thinner and buzzier than I prefer with the synthetic reeds i usually prefer. The warmth returns in force when a quality cane reed is used. This is a slight negative as I prefer synthetics so I see a little more experimenting with synthetics in my future.

Drake Contemporary crossover II Baritone Mouthpiece

This is taken from his website:

Featuring an innovative chamber design, these mouthpieces will give the projection and “punch” that you are looking for.  The medium reverse taper / venturi chamber is ideal for massive projection, while still maintaining a depth and balance in the overtone series.  Each of the mouthpieces features the same chamber design with variation in the baffle angle and floor slope to meet the exact tonal preference of the player and the type of Bari they are using.

You will find that these designs are well suited for everything from the Big Band setting to Funk, R&B and Jazz

Value: This is where i am flummoxed. Such a fantastic hand finished mouthpiece is being sold at great prices and they are hardly mentioned at all. Plenty of pros play these pieces and occasionally they end up in the used marketplace but I feel they are under represented as a whole. This piece is not priced as affordable as a Morgan or RPC but also not as expensive as a Ted Klum, Jody Jazz or Theo Wanne. With that in mind as a mid priced  ($251 – $400) mouthpiece it is a great bargain in the mid 200’s used and less than $400 new.

Reed friendliness: This piece is somewhat unique in that the facing is quite friendly to reeds. From Legere to Rico Orange box cane reeds, nothing stands in it way. I’ve play #2 Marca’s and Rico’s on it all the way to Vandoren blue box #4 and it played well.  The sweet spot for me is in the 2.5 range but I think i will be moving a half up to reduce the higher partials in the sound.

TAKE AWAY: Would I buy this again? Absolutely, it’s a handcrafted piece with great depth of tone and flexibility. I recommend trying one if at all possible before buying your next bari piece.

VAndoren Universal Harness

If you play a lot of baritone you may eventually find yourself cursing the weight of the horn. Whether it is a low-Bb or low-A horn the weight is still something you are reminded of every time you hang the horn from your neck. For some the weight can cause stooping or improper posture of back aches. I’ve even heard it questioned as to whether kids in middle-school should be allowed to play the hefty beast for fear of affecting their rapidly growing bodies.  After playing nearly all of the commercially available harnesses I’ve finally spent the big bucks and decided to try a semi-rigid option.

First lets start with the materials. This harness is a combination or 4 different materials: plastic, leather(?), silicone, foam, and nylon. The rear support sliders are a strong and flxible plastic. At the base of the support the nylon webbing waist strap is attached.  The shoulder hooks, at the top of the back support sliders, are made of jointed plastic with firm foam to cushion the shoulders. From the hooks a nylon cord runs through a plastic “V” to the hook which attaches to the horn. A short elastic string is included that attaches the hook to waist belt to keep the hook from moving out of position when you unhook your horn.

The build quality of this strap is fantastic. It is the quality you may have come to expect from Vandoren products. The monochrome black finish is perfect for disappearing into clothing.The horn hook is the twisty wire type  and works well. The size I purchased has a waist band that is adjustable and should fit wastes down to child size and up to a 34″ but with the included extension you can fit up to a 38″ waist.  The harness comes in handy neoprene bag and should fit in the bell of most tenor and baritone saxophones. This piece of hardware is well thought out and the finish is excellent. There are no sharp edges, misaligned joints or loose hinges. For the expense you should expect nothing less and they delivered.

Sure, it is pretty to look at but how does it work in practice? This is not the type of strap you toss on in a hurry and get playing as quickly as possible. This harness requires several steps before you can hang the horn off your body. Unfolding and preparing the harness takes about a minute to  get ready. The steps I take are straight forward but take more time. steps for me are as follows:

  1. Remove the harness from bag
  2. Flip multi-segment shoulder hooks over from resting place on support bars
  3. Unclasp the waist belt
  4. Insure the limiting cords on the back supports are not caught in the any other parts
  5. Spread shoulder hooks open and drop over head
  6. Pull back support arms down to waist level and connect waist strap
  7. Attach elastic chord from waist strap to horn hook to keep hook in place as you attach the horn
  8. play horn

Once you are attached and playing you adjust with the large “V” shaped adjuster. The Adjuster is asymmetrical, theoretically to keep alignment when a player play the horn while seated. Because they styled the adjuster after themselves some people may not like it.

The Pros:

If it works for you then it’s a magical experience of near zero gravity baritone saxophone playing.

THE CONS:

This thing takes time to hook up. Prior to this i used Neotech harnesses and straps and they were 10 seconds on and 10 seconds off. Very simple even if not as robust as this bit sax kit as Neotech’s tend to stretch over time. Next issues is that it is sometimes hard to slide the “V” adjuster up and down the chords. The friction is good but sometimes it’s a bit too  much. The shoulder hooks present the next issue. The front portion of the shoulder hooks are a neoprene like material with canvas webbing but the back half is hinged plastic with a dense foam rubber pad.  Here the sides of the back half of the hook frequently dig into my shoulders. I have meaty shoulders so that might be part of the problem.

The waste band also has an issue. If you wear a belt then the positioning the lower strap below your belt at waist level is easy and it will stay in position fairly well. If you don’t wear a belt then you might find the lower strap climbs up waist thus limiting the benefits of the device. This especially bad while seated. I tried threading the waist band through my trouser belt loops but that became uncomfortable as the back supports wanted to pull the rear of my pants open giving me a “plumber’s crack” and as you might expect the trombone players didn’t appreciate the view.  Lastly, the expense of the thing is a con. I paid full retail at $150 for it and i I honestly think it’s more of a $80 premium piece.

 

TAKE AWAY: Sadly I just couldn’t get it adjusted to fit my unique 2 arms, 1 head, and 1 waist anatomy.  If possible go to a local shop and try it on before buying it.

jjdvFor the record this is a re-review. The first time I sat down with a DV it was a DV 7 and my experience was less than amazing. I was only too happy to put this chapter in mouthpiece ownership behind me until a deal on an absolutely mint DV presented itself and I had to give it one more chance.

What’s different between this and the previous DV I reviewed? Not too much if you consider that Jody Jazz pumps these out of a CNC machine. Assuming the brass stock they start with is the same and there are no major variations in the production process the only difference should be the tip opening. I am certain some pedants will note that there should be a slight difference in the facing curve due to the slightly larger tip opening but without measuring I couldn’t tell. What made a difference for me was that my beloved Légère reeds just didn’t want to play nicely with my embouchure on this mouthpiece.

I tried slightly harder to slight softer in the classic and signature and just couldn’t find one that gave me the best response. What worked? Rico Jazz Selects 2.5 were just the ticket to make this piece sing. To be certain I covered my synthetic reeds bases I also tried my Bari brand synthetic reeds as well as Fibracell reeds. These were excessively bright as was the case with the Fibracell or muddy and unresponsive as with the Bari brands. Just for reference I own a full set of Légère for Baritone and bass of classic and where possible selects. For Fibracell and Bari brand reeds I own from 2 to 4 in reed strengths. In the end the natural cane was going to be the best option for this tip opening and my embouchure.

With all that said what can it do? Simply put it is a solid performer that is of medium brightness and really tight articulation. This mouth fell is close to that of a standard metal baritone piece. I found that I had to bring the corners of my mouth in a smidgen to accommodate the change from a rubber piece to metal.  After an hour of playing it the new embouchure position will feel natural.

Jody Jazz DV mouthpiece cap image CONS: I have found sub-tones to be more difficult to do with a full breathy tone. The best I could do has my intonation going much flatter as I sub-tone into the lowest notes. To contrast this I have no difficulties sub-toning with rollover style baffles  and maintaining much tighter intonation. This could be a assumption of the higher baffle and chamber design.  The mouthpiece cap is a let down. It covers the tip down to about 1.2″ or about 3cm. This leaves exposed 80% of the mouthpiece. Hard rubber mouthpiece resist the change in temperature from when you are playing to when  you are resting. If you slip a cap on you can keep a bit more warmth in the mouthpiece making it more comfortable to play coming out of a rest. The DV goes glacier almost immediately when you stop puting air in it. Come on Jody lets get a long leather cap like Vandoren makes. Lastly, the price is the other major con.

VALUE CONSIDERATION: This thing is expensive even on a good day. I own horns that are the same value as this mouthpiece.  I argue that Jody Jazz is no longer a boutique manufacturer. As such i don’t feel I get the best value when comparing performance to price. That distinction goes to the RPC piece. For a modest sum you get a mostly-hand crafted piece that is made for you with your personal needs in mind. For a best value over all I’d say Rico Metalite ($30ish new) for a high baffle piece and a second hand Vandoren V16 (<$150) for just about every other non classical music need.

TAKE AWAY: If you are look for a paint peeler that can beat back an electric guitar then look elsewhere. This mouthpiece/reed combo is capable of full but not overly warm lows and powerful but not over shrill highs. All things considered it is a good buy when purchased used and can let others eat the immediate depreciation.

ponzol_editponzol1While on the hunt for a mouthpiece for a series funk and rock gigs I have upcoming I remembered a good friend and tenor player who loved his Ponzol pieces and played them religiously on all of his horns. With this in mind I headed over to my repair tech and perused through his over 500 mouthpieces until I found a Ponzol. With that in hand I headed home to give this high baffled super piece a shake down. I was very surprised with what I discovered.

DISCLAIMER/REMINDER: As a general rule, the sound you get from any mouthpiece is dependent on a number of factors. These include the players physiology, the horn, the reed chosen, the mouthpiece and most importantly the players sound concept. The sound concept is the internal tone each player hears in their head. If you prefer a darker tone then no matter what your body will find a way to darken the tone. Consider how Don Menza can sound like Webster, Coltrane, and Hawkins just by hearing the sound in his head. His well practiced body then makes changes to give him the desired tone.

Sound: This piece is darker than expected with a dark reed. It is a medium brightness with lots of higher harmonics when paired with a dark reed. This is fine but when I paired it with a bright reed it seemed to amplify higher harmonics buzz and left me sounding a little hollow in my recordings. This could be because of my horn, embouchure, my mood that day, or the reeds. It could have been all of those factors or none, but I didn’t not care to play this piece with reeds that edged towards brighter sounds.

Ponzol Custom baritone mouthpiece

Construction: Ponzol makes his pieces on CNC machines then hand finishes them. This piece has all the signs of having been finished by hand. There are very fine sanding marks in the baffle and bore of the pieces. The proof is obviously in the pudding when it comes to quality finishing. In general, the worse a final facing is the harder it is to find reeds that work and squeaks can be a recurring problem. This mouthpiece offered a perfect feeling facing, mild resistance and never squeaked.

Mouth feel: This piece is made from Delrin, “a engineering thermoplastic used in precision parts requiring high stiffness, low friction and excellent dimensional stability.”* What this means is that it is smooth, strong, and has an excellent mouth feel. The piece is very slim, feeling like a tenor hard rubber mouthpiece. It is very easy to play for even the smallest of mouths. Also, the material feels almost exactly like traditional hard rubber to the vibrations you feel in your head from the mouthpiece will feel about the same.

Reed friendliness: Since this is determined by the quality of the facing and condition of the mouthpiece I give this high marks for reed friendliness. It played every synthetic and natural reed I could toss at it. It did seem to have a sweet spot for 2 – 3 reed strength when paired with my embouchure.  A Jody Jazz DV 7 on the other hand requires me to play a 2.5 to 3.5 strength so the difference in facing designs

TAKE AWAY: This is a nice mouthpiece and would, in my opinion, serve someone who wants more power and *umph* from a moderately raised baffle piece without the paint peeling qualities of a piece with truly high baffle piece. If you prefer pieces which offer little to no blowing resistance then you may prefer a Jody Jazz or similar which offer almost no resistance. But if having a little something to blow against is your preferred feeling then you will like this piece even more.

ponzol_editponzol5

ponzol_editponzol4

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*Wikipedia

EGR stock photoWhen several feet of beautifully braided wire are wrapped several times around a form and secured you have the makings of a unique and interesting handmade ligature. How does it work? How secure is the reed to mouthpiece fit? Can it be adjusted easily and repeatably? Can it withstand the rigors of the bandstand? These are the questions that I ask of any ligature I get. Now, that I’ve had one for the past several weeks I have the answers to these questions.

Before I begin I have to reassert that I do not feel that ligatures make much of a difference in the sound of a saxophone short of the placebo effect. That said, they do make a difference in how a player interacts with the instrument. How a mouthpiece is to play and how hard the player has to work to get their desired tone can also be effected by a poor fitting or poorly designed ligature. Ultimately the ligature just has to stay in place and keep the reed positioned securely.

The ligature came in a small pouch within the retail box. This pouch while being a good storage option for some I found it to be not enough protection for the medium soft ligature. I prefer to keep formed ligatures like this on a mouthpiece with a cap. This way they will keep their shape and will not get crushed in a bari case or underfoot. Thing to note, the ligature did not come with a cap.  I recommend the generic flexible plastic cap that you can get cheaply from your local music store or online retailer. The best cap is one with a relief cut to allow for maximum compatibility. See the image below.

Mouthpiece Cap with relief cut

 

For test purposes I placed the ligature on a Rico Graftonite and Metalite mouthpieces. Because the material these mouthpieces are made of is durable I can discover rather quickly if the ligature will scratch a hard rubber mouthpiece. The reed I used for this test was a synthetic Bari brand baritone reed. This combo has a tendency to move around a lot with just about any ligature that is not made of leather.

Using the ligature could not be easier. The ligature has a top knot where the wires making up the ligature are brought to a knot and soldered together. With the knot on the top you slip on the ligature, which is tapered like the mouthpiece,  then slide the reed underneath it. Then cinch down the ligature by pushing it towards the bottom of the mouthpiece. It is best to do the procedure with the mouthpiece off of the horn as you will almost certainly push the mouthpiece down further on to the cork of the neck if you do it with the mouthpiece on the horn.

How well does this ligature do it’s primary function of keeping the reed secure to the mouthpiece? Surprisingly well when cinched down. The ligature can conform to the reed and mouthpiece slightly creating an interface that is secure without applying too much clamping force. Even when secured you can still adjust the left and right alignment of the reed on the mouthpiece.

I decided to run a utility test of how long it would take to remove and install a reed on this ligature while in a playing situation. When playing long gig I usually have to change my synthetic reed every so often. Armed with a stopwatch I asked a friend to time the procedure going from a playing state to a playing state after a reed swap. The results were not surprising. It took on average 14.5 seconds to remove the reed from the mouthpiece and to realign, cinch, and be ready to play with the EGR ligature. Compared to a Rovner Dark at 10 seconds, and a traditional 2 screw ligature at 13 seconds it was perfectly within a 24 to 32 bar break that I often find myself in on some big band charts. I will say that I am very familiar with both the Rovner and 2-screw ligatures so my time with them is based on years of practice. It is quite possible that I would see speed increases with the EGR if I spent more time with it.

Repeatability on this ligature was okay, better than the Rovner but not as repeatable as the 2 screw. Getting the ligature to the exact same spot after a reed swap was easiest with a 2-screw but hardest with the Rovner as I tended to unscrew them a lot more than necessary when removing them. The EGR ligature will only go so far onto the mouthpiece. After a few cinching down the ligature with naturally land at or near the same position depending on the reed. If the old and new reeds have the same thickness and profile then the ligature will land in almost the same spot every time.

With no moving parts this ligature will provide years of maintenance free operation. The only caveat is that if you intend to use this ligature that you should be careful using it on mouthpiece with soft finishes like gold. The wire is aluminum but if your mouthpiece is gold plated then it could put fine abrasions in it. This is purely speculation but I feel I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t raise concerns. As of yet I have not seen any abrasions on my non-metal mouthpiece yet.

 

TAKE AWAY: This ligature is equal parts saxophone jewelry and functional accessory. It clamps with just enough pressure to secure the reed without strangling it. I have just two negatives though. The first is the lack of a cap. If a cap were included I think it would have really made this an even better buy. Secondly, I’d love to have a way to tighten the clamping force beyond the normal amount when desired as some reeds respond better to more force. I say try one and see if it meets your needs.

 

EGR Facebook Page

 

Vandoren Leather Baritone Ligature

Vandoren Leather Baritone LigatureLuxurious black leather accented with gold plated hardware and the second cheapest hook & loop fasteners you can find at your local craft store. This Vandoren ligature is an exercise in cost savings in odd places that I don’t think anyone really asked for. But despite the questionable design choices does it do the job it was intended to do?

For some players the idea of using a soft ligature is blasphemous. They tout the opinion that soft ligatures deaden the sound or removes higher harmonics from the tone. I’m not one to agree with this kind of thing considering the science behind saxophone tone production suggests that only a physical change to the bore, tone hole dimension and position, mouthpiece internal dimensions, and the individuals players anatomy have any discernible effect on the tone. With this said I do think the placebo effect is powerful and valid as any other possibility.  The construction of this ligature is likely enough to give anyone the perception of enhanced abilities.

Vandoren seemed to spare no expense when choosing the leather. It is thick, medium firmness, and luxurious feeling. The stitching is even as beautiful on the interior as the exterior. The craftsmanship is truly top-notch on this ligature. Where the evidence of account intrusion is visible is the means by which you attach the pressure plates. Vandoren chose to use hook-and-loop fastener as the interface between them. While this isn’t my personal favorite I was really disappointed that they didn’t use the industrial version. I question how long the loops will last and

Their attention to detail comes to a head at the adjustment screw. The thumbscrew is affixed to a threaded rod which is   reverse threaded on each end. When you turn the thumb knob the brass bars come together to pull the ligature against the body of the mouthpiece. The thumbscrew stays in the same position during the entire operation.  The Rovner and BG ligatures and the myriad of Chinese copies use a fixed threaded  adjustment  rod attached to one of the brass bars. When you turn the thumb knob is spins down the length of the threaded rod and pushes the non-threaded bar into the threaded one. The difference is that there is very little risk of your reed shifting as you tighten the ligature. Vandoren has a better system.

Where this ligature really proves its worth is when you compare it to Rovner and BG ligatures. The included pressure plates give the effect of have 3 different soft ligatures in on box. The leather pressure plate is most like a Rovner MKIII ($43) which according to Rovner is best for classical music. The rubber pressure plate is most like a BG standard ($45) which BG says is good fro anything. Lastly the metal plate is most akin to the BG Revelation ($35). So if we add it all up the Vandoren Leather ligature ($69) is not a bad deal if you would otherwise have purchased the 3 previous ligatures for a combined total of $123 not including individual shipping.

Vandoren Leather Ligature pressure PlatesVando_pplates1_1080

TAKE AWAY: It’s a ligature and it’s only job is to anchor the reed to the mouthpiece firmly but allow the reed to operate unencumbered. This piece does this but the gimmick of swappable plates isn’t worth the additional expense over a Rovner MKIII or the BG Revelation. Also ,the plastic cap is utilitarian at best, the leather cap is really the nicer option.

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