10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Mark Sepinuck, 10mFan as he is known in the saxophone world, has been producing a line of tenor saxophone mouthpieces for the last five years that have been very popular with saxophone players around the world.  I have reviewed some of 10mFan’s tenor sax mouthpiece models in the past such as the Robusto, the Black Widow and the Classic.

As the raves and popularity of the 10mFan tenor saxophone mouthpieces grew one question was asked over and over again, “Mark, When are you coming out with an alto saxophone mouthpiece?”  Mark always responded with “I am working on it but I won’t release anything until I feel it is absolutely perfect! If I am going to do this, I am going to do it right!”  Well, five years later and the first 10mFan alto sax mouthpiece has finally arrived.

It is called the “Showboat” and is named after the great Phil Woods album “The Phil Woods Six-Live from the Showboat“.  This was one of my first jazz albums I bought in high school.  I had two Phil Woods albums that I could afford with my meager paper route earnings back then, Musique Du Bois and Live from the Showboat.  I played these endlessly on my parent’s turntable every time I was home. (If they had mp3 players back then, you can bet that I would have played them endlessly every where I went!) I loved Phil Wood’s alto saxophone sound and playing!  He had this energy and sizzle in his tone that was exciting and his improvised lines were original and out of this world.

If the first 10mFan alto saxophone mouthpiece was named after that “Live at the Showboat” album then I had to try it!

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here’s the description of the Showboat alto saxophone mouthpiece in Mark’s own words from SOTW (Sax on the Web):

The first 10MFAN alto mouthpiece model I will introduce is the one that I am using. Its called THE SHOWBOAT, as a tribute to my alto hero, Mr. Phil Woods.  Most of you know his album, “Live from the Showboat“, and its simply stellar. If you haven’t checked it out, you MUST! Cheek to Cheek—ridiculous!

I will offer the 3 categories like I do with my tenor mouthpieces, and this one is the all-around piece for my 2nd alto Category.  The 1st Category (warm and open blowing piece), and the 3rd Category (powerhouse screamer), will be released shortly after this one. 

THE SHOWBOAT is a complete joy to play. Nothing to do with a Meyer design, and I am proud of that. People will ask what it sounds like, and my answer is, it sounds like what I envisioned my alto mouthpiece to sound like and play. The feel, the sound…everything.
You can get great sounds and more flexibility and versatility from my ORIGINAL DESIGNS, and thats what I offer here. Fresh options for todays players. I use German bar stock hard rubber and every mouthpiece is hand finished by Eric Falcon.

Simplified, this piece has straight sidewalls, a step baffle, and a medium chamber. It was designed to be able to be played warm, full, and also punchy and powerful. Its truly a phenomenal player and FINALLY, I have an alto mouthpiece I enjoy 100%. A SERIOUSLY GREAT LEAD ALTO PIECE!

How great a player is it??? Eric Falcon told me he needs one for himself because it kills. He said this alto Showboat and my new 2nd Category tenor piece called Showtime, are absolutely superb. He said he needs BOTH.

TIP OPENINGS:
5 = .072
6 = .078
7 = .083
8 = .090


I can offer a custom 4 tip or 9 tip opening at no extra charge.

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Mark was nice enough to send me a sample 10mFan “Showboat” alto mouthpiece in a 6 tip opening (.078) for this review.  I was a little concerned that the step baffle would make the .078 tip opening feel too small but it turns out that the .078 is the perfect tip opening for me after trying it. (I am most comfortable on alto mouthpiece tips of .078-.080)

From above, the 10mFan “Showboat” hard rubber saxophone mouthpiece looks the same as the 10mFan hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces I have already reviewed except that it is smaller.  It has the signature three white lines on the shank which I think is a great marketing idea.  You can spot these three lines from pretty far away and know what mouthpiece brand a player is using.

The mouthpiece has “Showboat” engraved in white on the top as well as 10mFan in cursive engraving.  When you look at the table side of the mouthpiece the table is flat and smooth and the rails and tip look even and perfect as all of Eric Falcon’s work does.

The Showboat has a long step baffle that at a certain point changes to a steeper descent into a medium chamber.  This transition point in the baffle is a smooth, slightly curved line that you can see in the pictures.   The bottom portion of the baffle has a curved shape to it as it heads down and through the chamber area where it ends at the rear of the chamber.  The sidewalls of the mouthpiece are straight as they head from the tip to the chamber but once they enter the chamber the are scooped out to give the chamber it’s round shape.

The beak height is absolutely perfect for me.  The mouthpiece feels very comfortable to play.

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I must admit that as I looked at the long step baffle of the Showboat mouthpiece, I was a bit skeptical that this alto mouthpiece would get a sound and tone like Phil Woods.  My first thought,  was that this mouthpiece would be way too bright for me and maybe even give me that Dave Sanborn type sound rather than a sound closer to that Phil Woods NY Meyer mouthpiece sound.  I have been fooled many times by making assumptions on how a saxophone mouthpiece will sound by how it looks so I stuffed any doubts I had in the back of my mind and decided to give it a try and see.

I do want to state, at this time, that I have been impressed with Mark Sepinuck’s originality in regards to his mouthpiece designs.   He doesn’t seem to start with a design and then see if he likes it, he starts with a sound concept in his head and then tries to find the design that can produce that sound he imagines in his mind.  In my view,  he approaches making mouthpieces much the same as a musician approaches improvising.  They have to imagine the sound and line and then create what they imagine.  Most other mouthpiece craftsman would just copy a NY Meyer and say here you go……Mark instead says let’s figure out something new and fresh that delivers what I am hearing and imagining. I just think this is totally cool!

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The 10mFan “Showboat”  was incredibly reed friendly for me.   I put on a Rigotti Gold 3 Light reed and it played about as perfectly as I could hope for.  Many times, I have to adjust or get used to a mouthpiece,  but playing the Showboat for the first time felt like I was already at home with it. (It reminded me of my experience with the 10mFan Robusto tenor mouthpiece as playing that for the first time was similar to this.  It just felt like I had been playing it my whole life from the first blow……..)

I decided to experiment with some other reeds so I tried a Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong reed on it also.  It played just as easily and didn’t feel soft at all which surprised me.  I felt like it brightened the tone up even more also.

Lastly, I tried a Rigotti Gold 3 medium reed on it.  This one also played very easily but I did notice that my middle D seemed a little more “stuffy” sounding to me which I didn’t like that much so I decided to record with the  2 1/2 strong and the 3 Light reeds.  I recorded a clip with each reed because I wanted to show the difference in tone between the two reeds.   Some of you will like the slightly harder reed and some of you might like the softer reed.  I felt like the softer reed gave more brights to the tone while the slightly harder reed gave a little more substance, depth and thickness to the tone.  You can listen to the clips yourself to see what you think.

As is my habit lately, I have added an additional clip with reverb as well.  I feel this is important because sometimes listener’s get fooled by a “dry” recording of a sax mouthpiece.  They think it is too bright, or thin or maybe even dead sounding but that is only because it is recorded in a “dry” recording environment which is what you are supposed to do for the best recording.  Trust me, a mouthpiece that is a little bright in a dry setting can be unbelievable in a big room with a natural reverb or through a mic with a little bit of added reverb. Honestly, as a gigging musician my choice of mouthpieces have always been the ones who have that brightness and punch that comes alive when on a gig.   That’s my preference anyways………

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I have to say that the 10mFan Showboat is without a doubt one of my favorite alto sax mouthpieces I have reviewed here on the site.  I loved playing it!  I have been playing it for the last two weeks whether I have been practicing, recording or teaching and it has gotten the full treatment from me.  I have enjoyed it so much that I haven’t touched my tenor or soprano in the last two weeks which is unheard of for me!

On both clips below, I hit record and just started playing.  After a while, I stopped the recording and looked at how long it was.  Each recording was over 20 minutes long!  When I play that long for a demo of a mouthpiece, I am really digging the mouthpiece.  I had to sit down and edit down the recordings,  but even that was tough as I felt there was so much good material in each one.  As it is, these demo recording are longer than most of my demos and I honestly feel like I got rid of a lot of great sounding stuff that I would have liked to keep in them.  That’s a great sign that I feel like I am really connecting with a sax mouthpiece. I tried my best to edit the clips down to include a good variety of sounds and lines that show different aspects of what the mouthpiece can do.

I start each clip with lines from a Phil Woods solo on “The Summer Knows” which is one of my all time favorite Phil Woods solos. (I played this tune with a quartet for my senior concert in high school and knew the entire solo by heart!) The first minute and a half of each clip are these “The Summer Knows” lines. At the 2:51 mark of the 2 1/2 Strong clip I go into a little of the solo from Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” (It’s been about 30 years since I actually had to play this one on a gig……..Wow!)

For most of the clips I am playing at about 60-80% volume level which is where I normally play.  At the very end (3:59 mark) of the Rigotti 2 1/2 Strong clip I do push the volume up over 80% and you can hear it played at that pretty loud volume.  The Showboat could  handle all the air I gave it!  It’s a powerful alto mouthpiece!

 

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

In my opinion, the 10mFan “Showboat” is a great alto mouthpiece for those of you looking for a sax mouthpiece that does it all.  It straddles the lines between a classic alto sound ala Phil Woods but gives you the power and brightness in the sound to really pop and cut through.  Even played at full volume like I do in the recording it doesn’t get overly bright, edgy and thin but rather has a beautifully rich round powerful sound.

Like I wrote though,  The Showboat alto mouthpiece isn’t a one trick pony.  The power is has is one aspect but it also has a thick richness and complexity to the tone also.  I feel like there are layers of harmonics and overtones that make the tone rich and complex which makes it exciting to play and listen to.  I loved playing my “bebop” lines on it. The range of the horn was smooth and even and the fast lines flowed out of the horn effortlessly for me.

I would highly recommend the Showboat alto saxophone mouthpiece to players looking for the power needed for a lead alto seat but I do believe it is much more versatile than just that.  I have already recommended it to my best Vermont high school students up here as well as some Skype alto students I have had.

I think Mark Sepinuck and Eric Falcon at 10mFan did a great job with the Showboat alto saxophone mouthpiece.  Mark is great with his descriptions of his mouthpieces and I feel like he has come out with another “gem” of a mouthpiece.  Well done guys! If you are interested in the Showboat alto saxophone mouthpiece you can find out more information at 10mfan.com.    Mark is a great guy and he can answer any questions you might have about his mouthpieces…….Now, Mark……when are the 10mFan soprano mouthpieces coming out……Hahaha!

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong-Reverb

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong-Dry Recording

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light-Reverb

10mFan Showboat Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light-Dry Recording

 

Disclosure: I received the sample mouthpiece mentioned above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 25 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. This sounds pretty awesome. Best alto sound I’ve heard on a new mouthpiece in a while, and definitely has a Phil Woods vibe.

  2. Johannes Awondatu says:

    Hi Steve you are genius! I like the last playing. When will you make your own mouthpiece? I am 70 years now; but if I lived next door; no dout I like to watch and record your playing. Thanks.

  3. Thanks Russ! I am very happy with this alto mouthpiece. It’s worth a try to the serious alto players out there in my opinion……….Steve

  4. John Blevins says:

    Steve,
    That is a wonderful sound. Really!! I would love to have Mark send you the Daddy O when it is available for comparison. I have the Robusto and it is a good fit for me. Thanks, Steve!

  5. Long time lurker on your site, but I think this is the first time I’ve commented.

    This is the best alto sound I’ve ever heard. You sound amazing on this. I would sell some internal organs to sound like this.

    I’m going to start saving up for one. I’ve got a boss on tenor which I haven’t quite managed to take yet, although Mark got in touch with me yesterday to offer some tips which I’m going to try…will look at trying to get hold of a black widow/robusto if I still can’t make it work for me. really love the sound of his mouthpieces and it’s really exciting that he’s doing alto ones now.

  6. Steve, great demo as usual! How did the Showboat compare to the Phil-Tone Rift?

  7. Mike, I still have my Phil-tone Rift. I’ll have to pull it out to compare them side by side. I’ll have to get back to you on that one…….>Steve

  8. Thanks Steve!

  9. Steve you sound awesome. Thats one of the best alto sounds I’ve heard, definitely
    reminisce of Phil Woods. Do you normally play a 6 tip opening? I read lots of your reviews but normally don’t comment but just wanted to say thanks for all you do for the saxophone community.
    Thanks, Sammy

  10. Thanks Sammy! A 6 is a .078 tip opening. I usually like .078-.080 for alto. Usually, anything bigger or smaller than that feels a bit uncomfortable for me………

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