S80 C** rendering of 3D printed saxophone mouthpiece

Otto Link PAtent 1,803,268Whenever i hear a young musician asking for opinions on what their first mouthpiece upgrade should be when moving from a classical setup I find myself suggesting a proper rollover baffled mouthpiece. While it won’t have the pizazz of a high cliff baffled like a Guardala or the novelty like a Strathon Adjustone, what it will have is the flexibility to allow a young player to find their personal tone.

What is the baffle of a mouthpiece and why does it matter? The baffle is the part of the mouthpiece between the tip and the throat or chamber of the mouthpiece. This area has the most effect on the fundamental tone the player gets. More than the material, finish, or brand of the horn. While the tone concept starts in the mind and ears of the player the first physical manifestation of the tone starts just after the tip of the mouthpiece.

The baffle, in general, comes in 4 basic designs with all others being derivatives of these four.

Theo Wanne baffle Chart

Image: from theowanne.com

Flat

The first is the flat baffle. This is usually found in classical pieces like Selmer S-80, S-90, Soloist, Vandoren Optimum, and many other classically oriented mouthpieces as well as a few Jazz pieces like the Theo Wanne Ambika. These generally have a focused and even tone. The mouthpiece doesn’t seem to color the tone as much. Kenny Garrett is a great example of how intense and jazz a flat baffle can sound.

Example

Step

Image: http://doctorsax.biz/JumboJavaT95new.htm

Second is the Step baffle (shelf baffle, table baffle, cliff baffle, etc.) which is characterized by the baffle rising quickly to be closer to the reed that a straight baffle. It focuses restricts the air-stream blowing through it and, by the laws of fluid dynamics, increases it speed through the restriction. Step baffles tend to be great with altissimo as the design seems to emphasize the higher partials in the tone. This leads to a brighter tone with more projection. There is an endless stream of high step baffle players, myself included,  as it’s probably the most popular at the moment but Michael Brecker, Mike Phillips, David Sanborn, Nick Brignola, and many others give great examples of brighter high baffled sound.

Example

Scooped

The third is the scooped or what I call the inverted rollover baffle. For this piece the area behind the tip opening of scooped out. This leaves what I call a black hole for good tone. I’ve found these to be resistant and generally lacking the high partials that give the saxophone it’s characteristic tone. You’ll find these old timers on ebay as the super vintage pieces. The scoop baffle is usually paired with scooped side walls and a monstrous chamber. You will be mistaken in thinking that this design would make a good classical piece. They have nearly no projection, tend to play somewhat flatter, and for all the real state they need inside the body of the piece has to be very large compared to more modern pieces, post 1940. These pieces have their place but i can’t explain where that is in the modern musical landscape.  *edit* Rico Graftonite has a slight concave area behind the tip.

Example

Rollover

Drake Mouthpiece Son of SLant

Drake Son of Slant Mouthpiece

Lastly, is the roll-over baffle. It combines a raised area behind the tip and a long flat area just after that. It’s almost a combination of the cliff baffle and the straight baffle. This amalgam of the best features of both is why i think it should be recommended to students as their first upgrade as they enter the jazz world. The raised section behind the tip speeds up the air through the opening boosting some of the high partials while the long flat baffle behind it aids in creating a consistent tone across the registers.  This combo gives the player the ability to brighten or darken their tone at will without considerable effort. A mild change to close the oral cavity can give a brighter tone than the straight baffle or with a relaxed oral cavity you can darken the tone to a vintage sub-tone sound.  Chris Potter is a great example of a killer rollover mouthpiece tone, though his vintage Otto Link likely has a higher rollover than more modern links the effects are still obvious.

Example

While the oral cavity makes a difference for all mouthpieces the amount of the effect is dependent on the mouthpiece type. Trying to darken a small chamber step/cliff baffle piece just by opening out oral cavity is possible but will likely be tiring and the effect much less than with a different baffle shape. The effect can go the other way too, as trying to brighten scooped baffle piece is nearly if not completely impossible with the oral cavity.  So clearly it’s a case for the right tool for the job. I do believe that most aspiring musicians looking for their first upgrade will likely not need to sound like Sanborn or even Garrett. Instead, steering them towards a mouthpiece with immense flexibility and directing them to listen to the great rollover players before them can lead them to a lifelong love of the rollover and possibly the last mouthpiece their ever buy.

PS:

As this is a baritone site i have to discuss this from a bari point of view. I think baritone players have a lot of leeway when it comes to the upgrade path.  I think a Otto Link Tone Edge is a good first step towards to the more powerful rollovers as you can get from makers like: Theo Wanne Mouthpieces, RPC Mouthpieces, AM Mouthpieces, 10M Fan Mouthpieces, and many more.

Marching band: If a student is compelled to play bari sax on the marching field then 3 things should happen. First, the band director should be punished. The bari is a delicate horn despite its size and it’s voice will never carry as far as a higher pitched instrument. Secondly, you should correct any young bari player who think’s it makes you tough to march the baritone. That’s bullshit, it just risks injury as even the best harness can only do so much for a developing body. Lastly, the student should be steered to the lowest step baffle piece they can get. A Berg Larsen 1 or 2 baffle at a comfortably open tip opening. Pair this with a plastic coated reed and the player could possible coax the best sound and best volume available to the big horn.

Concert Band/Classical Performance: A Selmer S-80, S-90, Rousseau, Vandoren Optimum and many other straight baffled pieces are inexpensive and allow the player to assume the role as support to the low wind the bari is ususally written for.

Big Band: Here’s where things get wacky. A good rollover will help the student blend yet still offer the punch during a solo section.  Once the young player goes to college they may wish for a bit more power and upgrade to a cliff baffle but if they talk to one of the custom makers listed earlier they will likely find that the maker can make them a rollover that gets most of the power of a cliff/step baffle.  At the end of the day blending with the section trumps most other tone based concerns.

Learn more about mouthpiece baffles at Theo Wanne’s website

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.

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

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.

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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Warburton Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece J series

Now i wouldn’t be surprised at all if you didn’t first think of Warburton when you came to this site. In fact Warburton hadn’t crossed my radar until a few years ago when a few brass friends mentioned in passing that they make a woodwind mouthpiece in addition to their brasswind pieces.  Curious about this development I went to their website to view their saxophone offerings. To my dismay at the time they had baritone mouthpiece in development but not ready. Rather than invest in a tenor piece I decided to wait. After a few years I forgot about Warburton until an offer I couldn’t refuse crossed my email box and then I had my very own J-Series piece at the .110 tip opening that I prefer.

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.

Construction: The material is a traditional hard rubber with a gentle sloping baffle and slight rollover. The sidewalls are straight and the tip and side rails are thin. I’m not certain of the chamber size but I do find that I have to pull the mouthpiece out off of the cork more than any other mouthpiece i own. that suggests that the chamber may be more medium than large.

Mouth feel: The piece has a traditional hard rubber baritone mouthpiece feel. The beak is slim so it would work well for any size mouth. Personally I prefer a bit larger a mouth feel as I feel like it opens my airways a bit more.

Reed friendliness: Reed friendliness  is normally a function of how evenly and precisely the facign curve is and whether there is damage, even slight, to any portion of the facing. The facing of this piece was almost perfect when I dropped a .0015 feeler on it. Because of this and the layout of the curve it played well with most reeds I had. Though, I did have to move down a half strength from the RPC Rollover I had been playing prior (more on that later).

Sound: This piece has is marketed as “designed for the contemporary player that wants maximum flexibility and a traditional hard rubber feel.” Without defining contemporary this leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In my opinion contemporary players sound much brighter than those of yesteryear. They tend to value the brightness and edge of modern pieces. If this is the measure that you use as well then this mouthpiece is not “contemporary”. It can be brighter if pushed but I wouldn’t call it bright at all but it’s not tubby either. It has a great blend of core tone and edge that when pushed can blend with almost any non-amplified group.

Warburton J-Series Sound Experience Chart

TAKE AWAY: This piece can be found for around $200 new. This is a steal for what I now consider a good do almost anything mouthpiece. You can anchor the sax section in the big band or blow a few ballads in a small jazz combo. This piece will fit the bill. It’s easier to play and has more core tone than a Link and intonation is more spot on than you’d get from a high baffle Berg.

Sometime mid 2014 i was cruising eBay when I stumbled across a unusual Bari woodwinds (BW) tenor mouthpiece. It looked similar to a standard rubber BW piece but the table of the mouthpiece was cut away. On a whim I bought it and when I received it I was a little shocked that it was a bit too bright for me. I figured the best thing to do was to sell the piece. As a regular buyer and seller on eBay and SaxOnTheWeb (SOTW) I knew that the perfect description can make or break a sale so I set about learning what i could about this piece.

Try as I might I was unable to discover anything about this mouthpiece. I even went so far as to search in the internet archives for old versions of the website and product lists back to the late 90’s. i poured through tens of dozens of posts about Bari Woodwinds mouthpieces on SOTW but nothing like this odd mouthpiece had been mentioned. After this I simply placed it on my mouthpiece stand and forgot about it. Until December 2014.

I was cleaning out mouthpiece drawer and stand to take advantage of the Christmas buying spree and decided I’d just place it on SOTW and Craigslist as a standard BW tenor piece along with 13 other pieces and didn’t give it a second thought. I got some bites but interest dwindled until a single person request to buy that one mouthpiece. I was only to happy to sell it but then he stopped responding to my emails to setup a meeting. I decided to give up again and placed the mouthpiece back on the stand.

It was then that I realized that I had Bari Woodwinds on my Facebook friends list. I snapped some pictures and sent them over explaining the situation and requesting any information on the mouthpiece. I was going to resell it on ebay when they told me what it was. While I waited I got an email from the fellow originally interested in the mouthpiece. He had a brief hospital stay and couldn’t get back to me until recently. We began negotiations again when I received the following reply from the president of Bari Woodwinds.

Dear Zel,

The mouthpiece was a prototype over 5 years ago that we were going to produce for another mouthpiece company. Unfortunately, it was stolen from our booth. We cannot produce it with our name on it because this design is patented. In fact, after the mouthpiece was stolen, it was circulating around and the other mouthpiece company found out. He thought we were going to manufacture them. We finally convinced him we were not and the lawsuit was dropped.

Could you please send this mouthpiece back to me. Bringing this to our attention, I would like to send to you a mouthpiece of your choice. Please review the mouthpieces on our website and let me know. www.bariwoodwind.com.

Sincerely, Jim Cavanaugh President

Clearly, this piece had a dubious history and they’d like to have it back so I’ll be sending it back to them. I completely understand how having your products stolen by some dishonest person is a painful feeling. It’s not as though small businesses have it easy so it pleases me that Jim offered to replace my piece with another. That was noble and great customer service. While I could sell this unusual piece I’d much rather give it back so they can be certain they won’t be sued by the other company, Jody Jazz maybe?

Selmer S-80 Baritone vs. Selmer S-80 Bass Mouthpiece

When I purchased my bass it wasn’t in playable shape. The octave mechanism was a bit tweaked and needed some work. After a some time with the horn my horn tech excitedly called to tell me the horn was playing and sounds like a champ. He played it for me with a Selmer S-80 baritone mouthpiece. I though it sounded okay but something was missing. My tech hadn’t noticed the monster vintage bass mouthpiece hiding deftly in the corner of the case so he play tested with what he had on hand. When I played it with my Baritone S-80 I couldn’t get the response to work and the intonation was all over the map. Following that I defaulted to the vintage piece in the case and notice that a few notes seemed wonky.

On a whim, I bought a Selmer Bass Mouthpiece off of ebay brand new in the box. On a casual examination it looked exactly like the the Baritone S-80 except for for the engraving “Saxo Basse”on the table. On closer inspection the difference was huge. After a couple hours with the bass piece I don’t think I’ll be using the vintage piece ever again.

First, the similarities:

  • Exterior dimensions are identical
  • Baritone ligatures fit this perfectly.
  • Tip opening charts are identical (so i’m told)

The differences:

  • The chamber is much larger on the bass
  • Baritone has a square window into the chamber
  • Bass has slightly scooped sidewalls vs straight baritone walls
  • Bass has a slightly wider tip width for bass reeds though baritone work as well
  • The bass has a larger back bore (shank opening)
*UPDATE*
I am on the search for a smaller tip opening S-80 Bass piece as I think this tip is a bit to large for me. Otherwise the piece is fantastic.

 Bari Star Baritone ReedFirm, punchy, and has edge; Bari woodwinds has created their best reed to date in the Bari Star line. If your musical situation requires volume, edge, and longevity then this reed should be on your short list.

I’ve been a huge proponent to synthetic reeds since I first played one back in 2001. It was a bright and punchy but a bit unrefined. Eventually I returned to the time honored cane reed for my playing. At this time I was in a Ska band that enjoyed very minor success and toured a little around the region. Like many other wind players touring from dive bar to the next you learn that beer and booze can have a disastrous effect natural cane reeds.  It can shorten their lives and if you have enough booze you can chip or break them on accident. This can lead to the problem of trying to find more reeds on the way to the next venue, on a Sunday when the music stores are closed. Sometimes you ask the sax player in the opening band if he has a spare reed you can swap him for a cold brew, this hardly worked as baritones were few and far between in Ska bands at the time. Though now they’ve made a bit of comeback thanks to groups like Streetlight Manifesto and Ska Cubano.

Enough history now on to the goods:

Tone: This reed is much warmer than the original Bari Synthetic reed. It is closer in tone to a Brancher Jazz cane reed than to other synthetics. It is not as classicaly smooth as a Forestone or as natural cane sounding as a Legere.

Strength Grade Scale: S [soft] – H [hard]

Relative vs Stated Hardness:  I find this reed to be about a 1/2 step softer than the hardness scale suggests the soft – medium should be and I find Hard to be a little 1/4 step harder than they suggested.

Finish: The surface which touches the lips has slight machine marks which are smooth but noticeable. The left and right sides of the reed can be a touch sharp as the angle is only slightly rounded off. I suspect that a few passes with 1000 grit sand paper to round the rails of the reed will fix that with minimal change to performance.

Shape: This reed fits my RPC .110 High Baffle mouthpiece well and with very slight overhang on each side.

Tonal Edge: This mouthpiece has about half of the edge from the standard Bari woodwinds reed.

Performance change while playing: I find that the Medium and Medium Hard did soften after about 1.5 hours of steady playing.  Not enough to want to change out reeds but there was a slight performance difference. I suspect it is due to warmth and the reed returned to normal after it cooled a bit.

Price: $ – Cheap as domestics brews on ladies night. So cheap you can buy 4 or more for the price of 1 box of Vandoren bari reeds.

TAKE AWAY: I recommend that all baritone players take a spin on an appropriate Bari Star reed. These are a suitable fit for times when I prize a bit more volume over a perfect tone. When I need more control and more depth, like in a Big Band, I still prefer the Légère.

Buy them on Amazon, they’re cheap and may become your favorite

Since I have my Theo Wanne Glass mouthpiece gauge in millimeter x 2 I figured I could measure a few facing lengths  using a 0.04 (0.0015″) feeler gauge. I will measure mouthpieces as they come in and update this post along the way. I have noted with two measurements where each rail is different. Dates are given to differentiate between models purchased at different times. These dates are not manufacture dates as that is unknown, but instead is a purchase date.

Baritone Mouthpiece:

MouthpieceFacing length in mm
Vintage ImperialL[32.0mm] R[30.0mm]
Rico Graftonite B5 2012L&R [25.0mm]
Yamaha 5CL[25mm] R[24.5mm]
Vandoren V16 B9 2012L&R[33.0mm]
Jody Jazz DV 8L&R [27.0mm]
Fred Lebayle AT 7L[26.0mm] R[22.5mm]
Fred Lebayle Jazz Wood 8L[26.0mm] R[25.5mm]
Vandoren V16 B9 2014L&R[33.2mm]
Yanagisawa Metal 7L&R[26.0mm]
Rico Metalite B9 2013L&R[30.0mm]
Rico Graftonite B3 2013L[25mm] R[26.0mm]

UPDATED: 05/14/2014

 

What do you get when you combine ½ of a cows worth of leather, brass rivets, zippers and foam? A Gard Bags baritone saxophone gig bag of course.
Gard Low “A” American Model, Black
Gig bags are colloquially called “repair man’s best friends” but in careful hands and under ideal situations this type or protective case can be both protective and convenient for a musician who has to carry their horn long distances by hand. For example, it is not uncommon for me to have to park my car several blocks from a venue if playing downtown. As you might image I would never leave my horn unattended at a venue for load-in. After many a strained shoulder, pulling, carting and carrying my Yamaha bari’s coffin case I needed something more convenient.
Convenience was judged on a few criteria specific for my needs. The first is that it had to offer reasonable protection from minor transportation bumps. Secondly, it had to close securely and remain closed while be carried. Thirdly, it had to have lots provisions for easily carrying it when the horn is inside. Fourthly, the case and horn had to fit into my very small cars only available space, the front passenger seat.  Fifthly, the empty case had to fit into a storage crate in a small closet at my home.
Because my bari spends the majority of its life in either its stock Yamaha case or on its stand in my home I wanted a case that offered enough protection that the act of driving to the gig wouldn’t misalign keys or tweak long rods in any way. The case features padding between 2 and 3 inches thick in some areas and will compress enough to absorb some minor impacts. The foam is much more forgiving than the Styrofoam material in the original case.
If you’ve never felt the weight of an original Yamaha case, with its wood construction and aluminum trim, you would be surprised at how much it weighs without the horn inside. This is needed to provide adequate protection to the horn but the problem is that the latches and handles become failure points over time. On my case I’ve had many latch failures in the past 8 years. First the center latches have pulled their rivets out due to the center handle placing flexing stress on the long face of the case and the center latches are closest to the handles. The popped off one at a time then I re-riveted them with backer plates and still the latches would get loose and become unsafe in 1 year. The same with the end handle, over time the vinyl covered blued steel handle would break at the attachment screws after 5 years. I’m on my third handle now.
This bag has very heavy duty brass zippers which slide smoothly and remain closed when slid to the closed position even with the weight of the horn inside.  As a secondary safety feature the grab handles have a Velcro strap which can bind them together and prevent the horn from falling backwards out of the case unnoticed.
Carrying this case is as easy as grabbing the grab handles or using the included leather carrying strap. The grab handles are suitably thick and are comfortable in the hand. The included leather sling strap has brass hardware and there are leather tabs covering both sides of the brass clips. This detail means that the brass clips will never grab or mark your clothes. This is a welcome touch if you find yourself in a suit and tie to play a ska show. There are  sets of “D” rings on both sides of the case which allows for a 3 methods of attaching the straps, vertical on either side or crossing from opposite pairs of rings. Crossing opposite pairs makes carrying the case horizontally over a shoulder easier .
I often get ribbed for driving a small car and playing one of the largest instruments in the band, the upright bass player is the only person for whom I sympathize and who understands my plight. The Yamaha case is simply gigantic. It offers generous amounts of space for accessories with a large triangular cubby at the bell and a long multi-segment cubby running 4/5’s the length of the body tube. All of this real estate comes at a cost. To transport my horn I have to place it in the passenger side seat with its bow in the foot well then buckle it in. While this is safer than strapping it to a trunk rack it does mean I can’t bring my significant other to a gig unless we travel separately.  This case is shaped and fits the horn snuggly and only occupies on ¾ the space that the stock case does. This still means that I can’t take my mate with me but at least I can see out of the passenger side window easier and more safely.
Lastly, I live in a small Townhome and space is at a premium. The need for everything to have a place and simultaneously be in its place is great. This case has been folded and unfolded a number of times will no ill effects to the leather or foam though in all honesty I’ve begun to hang the case on a cheap hanger in the spare closet. The case is so light that it will not break a cheap department store hanger. This leaves the case accessible for whenever it’s needed.
Another feature to note is the rain cover which is included. The little poncho fits perfectly in the small pocket they’ve sewn into the main pocket. This allows the protective cover to be accessible at any time regardless of the nature of the flying liquid. The rain cover is made from nylon and should be washable in the event a rogue beer should be spilled upon it.
TAKE AWAY: This case is a good value and will provide many years of use. It will not protect like a proper hard sided case but with great care you can utilize this case and keep your big baby safe.