Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

I was excited to hear that Theo Wanne was releasing a new classical alto saxophone mouthpiece called the Theo Wanne WATER classical alto saxophone mouthpiece a few months ago and asked Theo Wanne if I could review it here on the site.  I was even more excited to hear that it was only $99 dollars!

Although I haven’t really played classical music on the saxophone outside of teaching for the last 34 years, I have always wanted a classical sounding alto saxophone mouthpiece that could get me closer to a more authentic sounding classical alto saxophone sound.

Years ago, I went to a local music store and tried a bunch of classical alto saxophone mouthpieces but just couldn’t find anything that I felt comfortable with.  Up until this point, I have been kind of faking the classical saxophone vibe for teaching with a Meyer 6 alto mouthpiece I used to have but that mouthpiece was way too bright for an authentic classical alto saxophone sound in my opinion.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece was shipped with the usual high standards of the Theo Wanne company.  The Water alto sax mouthpiece comes in a perfectly designed box with stylish gold printing on it with all the details of the mouthpiece inside.  Inside the box is a maroon velvet drawstring bag that holds and protects the Water alto saxophone mouthpiece.

The Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece has a Theo Wanne metal band ligature included.  This ligature is not the Enlightened ligature but is metal and has two metal bands that are parallel to the reed and are what contacts the reed when it is being held on the mouthpiece.   This Theo Wanne band ligature has one screw on the top of the ligature to adjust the tightness of the ligature.

The Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece comes with a reed replacer cap which is on the mouthpiece where the reed goes and the ligature is tightened down on the reed replacer cap to protect the mouthpiece in shipping and when you are not playing it.

Although the reed replacer cap is a cool idea, the Water alto saxophone mouthpiece does not come with a “regular” mouthpiece cap that you slide on the mouthpiece over the reed and around the ligature. At the time of this review, there is a page on the Theo Wanne website that has new Theo Wanne mouthpiece caps for sale so hopefully he will start including these with his mouthpieces in the future.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is how the Theo Wanne website describes the new Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece:

YOU ASKED FOR THE ULTIMATE ALL-AROUND AND CLASSICAL MOUTHPIECE, AND HERE IT IS!  IT’S ALREADY WINNING AWARDS!

The Theo Wanne™ WATER classical alto saxophone mouthpiece has been in Research and Development for over five years.   The sound concept of the WATER alto mouthpiece is unlike any other Theo Wanne™ mouthpiece. You will find a rich beautiful core to the sound, in fact, richer than any other classical or all-around mouthpiece we tested, vintage or new.  This is intentional and due to a truly unique small chamber/throat that compresses the airstream into the saxophone neck to create a rich sound, that is not pinched at all like other small chamber designs.

“The WATER alto saxophone mouthpiece draws out my true classical sound.   Intonation and response are fantastic.  It has an incredible dynamic range I’ve never experienced on any other classical mouthpiece.  Definitely now my favorite mouthpiece for classical music!” – Professor Matthais Anton (Professor at Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Trossingen, lecturer of ear training & music theory at the Hohner Conservatory Trossingen)

The Shark-Gill™ Baffle developed by Theo is also very unique.  It both channels and disrupts the airstream at the same time.  This is similar to the flow of water over a shark’s skin allowing it to travel faster.   The air fills up the full volume of the small chamber/throat more efficiently.  You will find the WATER alto sax mouthpiece to have enough resistance for the classical musician and most general music too, yet it never feels clogged or like you must fight the mouthpiece.

The WATER alto sax mouthpiece is made from our revolutionary Black A.R.T. material.  This is not a cheap ABS or Delrin plastic, but a very high quality and expensive proprietary material that actually resonates better than vintage hard rubber.  In fact it is the only material that we like better than vintage hard rubber.

The WATER mouthpiece comes only in size 3 (.061), as the design is optimized for this size.  You will notice, however, how big a sound you can get from this WATER alto mouthpiece:

“The WATER is great. Really really nice! I see exactly what you mean about the way a small tip shouldn’t trouble us ‘jazzers’. In fact, you can very quickly attain a full and relatively big sound. The sound is also very defined, plenty of core, and above all quality.” – Jim Cheek (sax.co.uk)

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

We are very proud of this very unique design, and hope you enjoy it as much as we do.     As part of the new Elements Series, this mouthpiece has ALL the Theo Wanne™ quality, yet we can offer it at a very nice price.  The Elements Series is already winning awards!  Truly a super-high-quality alto saxophone mouthpiece.

SOUND 

  • The ultimate all-around AND classical alto saxophone mouthpiece.
  • The most expressive traditional alto sax sound you’ve ever heard!
  • Retains the resistance and body to the sound classical musicians require.

DESIGN

  • Small chamber for a full, yet clean yet articulate sound.
  • Theo Wanne’s proprietary Shark-gill™ baffle.
  • Crafted to the highest accuracy in the history of classical mouthpiece history; perfect side and tip rails!
  • Designed by Theo Wanne, the foremost expert on the design and manufacturing of vintage mouthpieces.

DETAILS

  • Black A.R.T:  The WATER uses revolutionary A.R.T material.  The only material with better resonance qualities than Hard Rubber!
  • Vintage Style Box: Our dark grey and metallic gold Theo Wanne™ mouthpiece box.
  • Drawstring Pouch:  A beautiful Theo Wanne™ microfiber draw-string mouthpiece pouch.
  • Pairs Perfectly with ourAlto ENLIGHTENED Ligature (not included)
  • Ligature and Cap:  Comes with our Proprietary Band-Style Ligature and Reed Replacer Cap.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece only comes in one tip opening which is a 3 (.061).   I thought this tip opening would be way too small for me to feel comfortable on since my preferred tip opening on the alto saxophone is .076-.080 but I actually really enjoyed playing this .061 tip opening as I will write about later.

The Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece is very different than all  the other Theo Wanne mouthpieces I have reviewed.  When I first opened the package, my first thought was, “Did they send me a mouthpiece fresh off the CNC machine that hadn’t been refaced?”  The reason for this thought was because the side rails and tip rail on the Water alto saxophone mouthpiece are super thick in comparison to all the other Theo Wanne mouthpieces I have reviewed.  The side rails are so wide that the window of the mouthpiece under the reed is much smaller than most alto saxophone mouthpieces.

These wider tip rails are not an accident but a purposeful design by Theo Wanne.  The wider rails mute and mellow some of the reeds vibration, brightness and edge creating a darker and warmer sounding tone that lends itself to classical playing.  I asked Theo about these wider tip rails and this was his response:

“The thick tip rail helps add control over your sound, so it does not feel wild and out of control.  It also gives the option of moving the reed forward and back to adjust the amount of resistance one prefers.  The thick tip rail is an important feature for this design, and partly why the mouthpiece can have such a big sound, that is easy to control, and a smaller tip size, all at the same time.”-Theo Wanne

Besides the unusually wide rails, the rest of the Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece looks great.  The Water alto sax mouthpiece has a thin profile to it.  The mouthpiece engraving is perfect as can be like it is on all the Theo Wanne mouthpieces I have reviewed.  Not a flaw or mistake anywhere.  Each mouthpiece has a unique serial number on the bottom of the shank next to the tip opening.  The top of the mouthpiece has “WATER” engraved in gold as well as a cool logo that looks like a wave to me.

The Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece is made of A.R.T. (Acoustic Resonance Technology™)  which Theo Wanne describes as:

“The WATER is made from our revolutionary Black A.R.T. material.  This is not a cheap ABS or Delrin plastic, but a very high quality and expensive proprietary material that actually resonates better than vintage hard rubber.  In fact it is the only material that we like better than vintage hard rubber.”-Theo Wanne

The tip and rails do take some getting used to. Although really wide, they look even for the most part. The sidewalls are straight and angle inwards as they head towards the small rectangular chamber. The baffle is what I would describe as a low baffle.

The baffle actually looks to curve down slightly and then back up as it nears the mouthpiece chamber entrance.   I guess if most saxophone mouthpiece baffles have what is described as a “rollover” baffle, this WATER alto sax mouthpiece might best be described as a “rollunder” baffle?  The baffle ends where the rectangular chamber begins.  This rectangular chamber is higher than it is wide and the roof of the WATER mouthpiece chamber is nice and thin.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The baffle of the WATER alto saxophone mouthpiece also has Theo Wanne’s patented shark-gill design which the Theo Wanne website describes as:

“The Shark-Gill™ Baffle developed by Theo is also very unique.  It both channels and disrupts the airstream at the same time.  This is similar to the flow of water over a shark’s skin allowing it to travel faster.   The air fills up the full volume of the small chamber/throat more efficiently.  You will find the WATER to have enough resistance for the classical musician and most general music too, yet it never feels clogged or like you must fight the mouthpiece.”

The Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece does not have a bite plate built into the mouthpiece like many of the other Theo Wanne mouthpieces do.  This is of no importance to me because I use a mouthpiece patch on every mouthpiece I play, so it makes no difference to me whatsoever.

I play tested the Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece with one and only one reed.  Since the Water alto sax mouthpiece was a smaller tip opening than I usually played, I took out a box of Marca Jazz alto saxophone reeds in size 3 that I had in my drawer.  I had found these reeds to be a bit too stiff for me in the past so haven’t used them much. The Marca Jazz size 3 alto sax reed was perfect for this Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece with the smaller tip opening.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece (notice the little insect that landed on the end of the mouthpiece just as I took the photo)

So, what did I think of the new Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece?  I absolutely loved it!   The tone is on the darker side of the alto saxophone tone spectrum in my opinion but it is also pleasantly focused as well.  It has a pretty dark alto saxophone tone that is also delicate and very beautiful.  The light and delicate singing alto tone is really distinct from many other alto saxophone mouthpieces I have reviewed on this site.

I loved the way this Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece tone leaned to the darker and warmer side of an alto saxophone tone.  I was really quite surprised by the evenness of tone throughout the range of the saxophone.  Usually, on the alto sax, when I jump up to the higher end of the saxophone, there is a huge increase in brightness and volume.  A couple times in the sound clips below I jump up to a high D and the tone sounds just as dark and warm as the lower notes to me.

The intonation is really excellent on the Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece also.  I think the combination of the low baffle with the rectangular chamber seemed to bring the high notes of the saxophone right in to tune.  I did find my middle “E” to still be quite a bit sharp in the middle of the saxophone but that is not unusual for my Selmer Reference 54 alto sax and can be adjusted for when you are aware of it.  What was unusual was playing the high end palm notes, which are usually quite sharp on my Selmer Reference 54 alto sax, perfectly in tune.  This was a nice surprise with this WATER alto saxophone mouthpiece.

I also found the articulation on the Water alto sax mouthpiece to be very clean and precise.  I have to be honest in admitting that when I played classical music on my Meyer 6 alto saxophone mouthpiece, I felt like I was playing short soft staccato notes with a sledge hammer.  I don’t feel this way with the Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece. The soft staccato notes are crisp, clean, light and precise.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I made two sound clips of the Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece below.  The first clip is all excerpts of me “attempting” to sightread classical saxophone music that I have not practiced.  I use the word “attempting” because I haven’t tried to seriously play classical music on the saxophone in exactly 34 years.   I’m sure if Dr. Steven Mauk (Ithaca College) and the late Joe Viola (Berklee College) were to listen to this, they would probably just shake their heads in sad disappointment at where I am at classically after 34 years.  I apologize from the bottom of my heart to my past classical mentors for the lack of perfection in these clips……. I tried to make the notes as even as possible but there are times in the clip where I can hear that jazz articulation and swing fighting to come out.

Most of the classical lines in the first sound clip are from a piece of music I last played in high school I believe.  The piece is “Variations On a Gavotte by Corelli”.  This is not the piece in it’s entirety but just sound clips of random lines from the piece.  I think there might be one or two Ferling quotes at the end of this sound clip as well.

The second sound clip is of me just playing the melody of “The Summer Knows” with a tiny bit of improv at the end.  These sound clips are not my usual jazz sounding clips and lines.  I’m trying to take a more refined classically oriented approach to these sound clips for this mouthpiece.

The Theo Wanne Water alto saxophone mouthpiece gets a surprising amount of volume out of the .061 tip opening.  What I love about the Water mouthpiece the most is that although it gets louder, it doesn’t get a lot brighter.  The mouthpiece still retains that core sound and roundness to the tone but just magnified with more power.

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the sound and look of the new Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece, you can find them at Theowanne.com.  Believe it or not, at the time of this review, these are only $99 on the Theo Wanne website.   This is a great deal for a classical alto saxophone mouthpiece that plays this well and sounds this beautiful in my opinion.

I have agreed to be an affiliate for Theo Wanne, so if you purchase a Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece from this link, neffmusic.com will receive a small commission on the sale. (This helps to support my site and keep the saxophone related reviews, articles and transcription coming to you…..).

If you are lucky enough to play a Theo Wanne Water classical alto saxophone mouthpiece or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Thanks,  Steve

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Marca 3 Jazz Reed

Theo Wanne Water Classical Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Marca Jazz 3 Reed

Disclosure:  I received the sample mouthpiece reviewed above in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog.  If you purchase a mouthpiece through the link I provided in the review, I will also receive a small commission on any Theo Wanne mouthpieces sold through the link provided.  Since I need a classical alto saxophone mouthpiece desperately, I have also asked to be able to keep this WATER mouthpiece following the review.   Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     Steve
Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 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. Avatar Steve Marsh says

    That’s a very pleasant alto saxophone sound with this mouthpiece! Nice classical interpretation, sir. It would probably lean even more toward a representative classical sound if used with a blue box Vandoren reed.

  2. Avatar David Smith says

    Where can I order the mouthpiece. I’m interested!

    • David, Any of the highlighted links in the review will take you to the Water alto mouthpiece page on the Theo Wanne website where you can order. It does come with a ligature so you don’t have to order one. Steve

  3. Avatar Steve Keller says

    Wow, great sound! I often find classical tone dry and sterile, but you get that delicious round, ringing sound that drew me to saxophone in the first place. I’d love to hear you play some nice standards on this piece. Maybe a bossa or two 🙂

    • Thanks Steve! I appreciate that. I really enjoyed playing it because it is such a change of pace from my usual setup. Playing a bossa on it is a great idea!

  4. Sounds great!
    I hope Theo Wanne will make a similar classical soprano mouthpiece! My favorite is an old Selmer Soloist C that works in both classical and jazz, but it’s old and I have been looking for a similar sound.

  5. Glad you chose “The Summer Knows” by Michel Legrand on cut two. You must like it as well as I do as I hear snippets frequently in your reviews. For your subscribers, check out the penultimate rendition by Phil Woods on the “Musique du Bois” album released in 1974. The entire album is killer.

    • Bill, Yeah, one of the jazz albums that had the biggest impact on me in high school was that Phil Woods “Musique du Bois” album. I played “The Summer Knows” for my senior concert in high school way back in 1985. Still love that tune……..

  6. I think it sounds fine, I really like the second cut.
    If Joe said anything negative, it would have been in private, just between the two of you, he was such a gentleman.

  7. Avatar Bryan Plank says

    Here are thoughts about what would be of value to any alto player with this mouthpiece. If you would like to play old classic songs of Gershwin, Porter, et al, this creates a vintage sound that may not be what you want all the time (too sweet?), but sure does fit the bill here. Also, if you travel, haven’t great space, don’t want to bother people, whatever, this can be an exceptionally quiet (by any, not just alto) piece. And…remain clear as a bell and not sound like stuffy old “vintage” pieces. Lastly, if you want a certain neutrality and simplicity of sound that isn’t just flat and/or dull, this for the price of a student piece is just great.

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