The most common question I get asked on this blog and in emails is “Steve, which mouthpiece is the best?” “Which one should I buy”. I probably get 3-4 emails a week asking that question. I always feel bad because I wish there was a simple answer to that. The truth is that many of the mouthpieces I review are great. Any of them would sound amazing if I played them for awhile. I haven’t found one that blows the others away. Even if I did……….each person is different and one I think is the best for me, you might totally hate. As an example, all 9 of the mouthpieces below are great playing alto mouthpieces. I would have no problem playing any of them. All of them are different in there own way but all of them play well and are in tune. Some are brighter, some are darker, some are louder, some prettier sounding, some are fatter sounding, some are more focused, some remind me of Cannonball, some of Phil Woods, some of Sanborn…………… The mouthpiece you like the sound of best and that you can play comfortably is the best one for you.
The mouthpieces I like the best are the ones that I form a connection with. It’s more than just feeling comfortable with it. It’s like I feel like the mouthpiece is just an extension of me. What ever I think of and try to play just happens on the mouthpiece. When I have that kind of connection I love it. I feel like I can play 10 times better than I usually do. That connection very rarely happens the minute I play a mouthpiece (Although once in awhile it does……) but it can happen hours or days later as I play it over and over.
OK, So here is a side by side clip comparison of 9 alto mouthpieces that I have on my shelf right now. I have a V16 refaced by Brian Powell with a super long 23 MM facing curve, an Aizen Jazz Master 6, a Ted Klum Acoustimax .080, an Aizen NY Jazz 6, a Mouthpiece Cafe NYC 6, a modern Meyer refaced by the late Jon Van Wie, a Theo Wanne Gaia 6 and a Aizen SO 6. I have played all of these mouthpieces for many hours. The Aizens are the latest that I just received last week.
In each clip, I’m playing a similar idea. The D Major scale, a little blues riff and some bebop lines from my “Mastering the Dominant Bebop Scale” book. Nothing fancy just a simple line so perhaps you can hear better how the mouthpieces sound next to each other. I’m using a 2 1/2 Ishimori Woodstone reed on all the mouthpieces and a Vandoren Optimum ligature. I’m trying really hard to play the same from clip to clip so you can judge by the sound and not just by what I’m playing.
I’m hoping this series of clips will help some of you better decide which mouthpiece is for you. Of course……..you never know until you get it and try it. I’ve written some of my initial thought below each mouthpiece. I will add to those or change them as I listen to the clips more. Please feel free to write any comments or questions you might have below. Thanks, Steve
Vandoren V16 .080 refaced by Brian Powell
Fat spread sound with smooth articulation. Kind of fuzzy around the edges of the tone.
Modern Meyer .075 refaced by JVW
Clear and brighter with a hollowness to the sound. Has a sharpness and clarity to the sound.
LAW MCB Alto Mouthpiece .080 tip
Brighter very centered sound. Laserbeam type focus to the tone.
Aizen Jazz Master 7
A little darker fatter more spread sound with smooth articulation. A round full somewhat smokey tone.
Aizen NY Jazz 7
Nice lively bright bebop type of sound. Nice resistance and dryness to the sound.
Aizen SO 7
A little darker super compact clear and focused sound. Super free blowing.
Mouthpiece Cafe Resin NYC 6
Bright but with a nice roundness and soft edges to the tone. Free blowing.
Ted Klum Acoustimax .080 tip
Thick medium bright sound with character to the tone. Nice resistance to blow against.
Theo Wanne Gaia 6
Brighter tone with a nice character and evenness throughout the horn. Some resistance when blowing.
Let me know what you think below. I am always very interested to hear others views and opinions. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer…………(just don’t ask me which is the best one that is right for you) Steve