Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing a Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by Aaron Drake at Drake mouthpieces.  This Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece was inspired by a Freddie Gregory  hard rubber tenor sax mouthpiece that Jeff Coffin plays and that Aaron Drake did some work on.

Aaron told me that although the Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece is similar to Jeff Coffin’s Freddie Gregory tenor sax mouthpiece, it is not an exact copy of that mouthpiece but more of a tribute to Freddie Gregory that was inspired by Jeff’s Freddie Gregory tenor saxophone mouthpiece.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I asked Aaron Drake what model Freddie Gregory Jeff Coffin plays as I have read in some places that it is a Mark IV model Freddie Gregory but the baffle on this Drake FG model looks more like a Mark III model Freddie Gregory baffle to me.  This is what Aaron wrote back:

“I’m not sure.  Jeff sent me the mouthpiece to check out and he just said it was made for him by Freddie Gregory – no markings – I don’t know that much about the different models that Freddie made – it may have been a custom piece?  The modifications are to the floor and baffle and chamber – it is probably 75% similar to the mouthpiece Jeff plays.  I kept the same facing contour as the original Freddie piece – it was the same as the facing I normally do.”

The Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is not made with hard rubber but it is made from Drake’s vintage resin material.  Each mouthpiece is created as a one piece casting that Aaron Drake finishes by hand.  The entire process is done at his shop and nothing is outsourced.

Here are a few words from Aaron Drake on the Vintage Resin material he uses for his saxophone mouthpieces:

“Our Vintage Resin is a resin composite material that incorporates ceramic to enhance its hardness and acoustic properties.  This material is the closest to the properties of vintage hard rubber.  The Vintage Resin is engineered for durability and will outlast hard rubber.  I recently had an opportunity to take a look at one of my mouthpieces made 10 years ago.  It was played every day by a top professional musician and the mouthpiece facing was unchanged and still spot on.

Also, speaking to the material – it is not possible to capture the level of detail in the reproduction process using hard rubber and the process of milling hard rubber has a completely different acoustic affect on the finished mouthpiece – our one piece casting method is much more homogeneous and resonates differently – it is more “alive”. -Aaron Drake 

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is what Aaron Drake writes about the Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece from the Drake website:

“The New “FG” model tenor saxophone mouthpiece features a long rollover baffle which gradually transitions to a medium chamber.  The tone is beautifully centered with a broad spectrum of harmonics available to the player.  Articulation is immediate and precise. The tip rail shaping, facing calibration and baffle contouring are handcrafted to ensure each mouthpiece plays with the highest degree of precision and consistency.”-Aaron Drake

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece came well packaged and protected.  The FG model mouthpiece looked perfect right out of the box.  The resin material was shiny and smooth to the touch.  The table, tip, rails, baffle and chamber looked absolutely perfect.  Everything was clean cut, even and smooth.

The mouthpiece has “Drake Handmade USA” engraved on the side of the body and “FGXXXX (Serial Number)” handwritten on the other side of the body. The tip opening of “8” is etched by hand into the copper band that is at the bottom of the shank.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece looks great as I examine it while writing this review. The table looks flat and smooth with not a mark on it.  The side rails and tip rail are thin and look to be perfectly even to my eyes.

The baffle is a smooth really long high rollover baffle that rolls down and travels through the medium chamber area as you can see in the photos below.  The baffle is what I would consider a high baffle that travels for about an inch before it rolls into the downward angle descent through the chamber area.

The top roof of the mouthpiece chamber is nice and thin and the side walls are slightly scooped out.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece came with a slide-on Drake Dual Rails Ligature.  The Dual Rails Ligature holds the reed with rails on each side of the ligature.  Although the Drake Dual Rails ligature held the reed on fine when slid over the reed and mouthpiece, I opted to try a different more adjustable ligature for this mouthpiece.

I chose to record the sound clips below with a Vandoren Optimum ligature because I like the flexibility of being able to adjust the ligature placement on the reed.  The one negative to the Drake Dual Rails ligature (and all slide-on circular ligatures) is that the ligature placement on the reed can not be adjusted.

As a point of reference for other ligatures, the Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece will work with any ligature that fits a hard rubber Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece. I also tried using a Boston Sax Shop Superlative ligature, a Vandoren Optimum ligature, a Sax Clinic Tonus Mundi string ligature and a generic metal ligature for hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces.  All four of these ligatures fit on the Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece perfectly.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

My first experience playing the Drake FG model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece was that it was very reed friendly and very easy blowing.  I used Rigotti Gold 3 light reeds, Rigotti Gold 3 medium tenor saxophone reeds and Rigotti Gold 3 strong tenor saxophone reeds on the sound clips below.  Usually, on an 8 tip opening, I will use a Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 strong tenor sax reed but the 2 1/2 strong strength was way too soft on this FG model tenor mouthpiece for some reason.

The height of the beak of the Drake FG model tenor sax mouthpiece is a lower beak profile than a typical hard rubber Otto Link beak profile.   I found the angle and lower height of the beak to be very comfortable for me and I actually prefer the feel of the FG model beak over a typical higher Otto Link height beak.

The Rigotti Gold 3 light reed felt super easy to play and had the perfect amount of resistance to blow against.  The tone with this reed sounds clear, bright and focused. The reed felt like it was the perfect strength but if I was on a live gig that was really loud, I would probably lean towards the 3 medium or 3 strong reeds which could be pushed harder for more volume.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 tenor saxophone mouthpiece had an incredibly powerful tone with loads of brightness and projection when pushed.  The height of the baffle in the Drake FG model mouthpiece would lead me to think that the FG model would always be bright and edgy but the tone was quite manageable and versatile in my opinion.

At softer volumes the Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece had a full-bodied tenor saxophone tone that would sound right at home during a jazz set and then later could be pushed to rock the house during a dance set.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece resides in that nebulous gray area between a traditional Otto link type tenor saxophone sound and a Guardala type tenor saxophone sound.   Not too long ago, a mouthpiece that played like this mouthpiece was pretty difficult to find.  Tenor sax mouthpieces either had a conservative rollover baffle or they had a high Guardala, Sugal or Ponzol type baffle in them.  There were not many choices in-between those two types of tenor sax mouthpieces that I could find twenty years ago.  This Drake FG model tenor mouthpiece is a great modern choice that fits perfectly into this category in my opinion.

The Drake FG model tenor sax mouthpiece is a great mouthpiece option for those of you looking for a more powerful sound that straddles that line between a sultry robust jazz tenor tone and a screamin’ kick butt tenor sound that can carry through the mix of a loud band.  The Drake FG model tenor sax mouthpiece has power to spare and the volume I was getting on these recordings was but a fraction of the power available with this mouthpiece.   Although I was playing at a 10 on the volume scale at times, this mouthpiece could seriously be pushed to play at a 15 if I didn’t care about getting evicted from my apartment.

I have provided six sound clips below as examples of what the Drake FG model mouthpiece can do with three different strength Rigotti reeds.  Since the Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece played great with all three strengths of Rigotti saxophone reeds I used with it, I decided to record with all three.

For each reed strength, I recorded a sound clip without effects where I explore different lines and sounds to see what the mouthpiece can do and how it sounds. I then provide another clip which features a louder more wailing sound with reverb so you can get an idea of how the Drake FG model tenor sax mouthpiece might sound on a live modern type of gig with reverb added.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Although the high end could be really screaming and wailing, the low end of the saxophone could also be beautiful, resonant and lush sounding as well.  The mouthpiece sub-tones exceptionally well and the notes down low are full, thick and vibrant.

The Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model tenor saxophone mouthpiece is even and smooth throughout the range of the horn.  The altissimo range was incredibly easy to play and this Drake FG mouthpiece really makes it feel quite effortless playing up in that higher range of the horn.

I think Aaron Drake did a great job dialing in the intonation on this high baffle mouthpiece by finding a great balance between the high baffle and the internal design of the chamber. Usually, high baffled mouthpieces like this, will get a bit sharp for me on my Selmer SBA tenor sax but the Drake FG model tenor saxophone mouthpiece felt really locked in and solid as far as intonation.

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the sound and look of the Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model tenor saxophone mouthpiece by Aaron Drake, you can find them at the Drake website.  Aaron Drake has done an amazing job creating his own line of saxophone mouthpieces with an attention to detail that is top of the line.  Beside being a great craftsman, Aaron Drake is also a great sax player, which, in my mind, is so important to dialing in the fine details involved in making great playing saxophone mouthpieces.

If you have played or end up playing a Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model tenor saxophone mouthpiece or have any other thoughts or comments about this review, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Thanks,   Steve

Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed Clips

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed-Dry Recording (No Effects)

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed-Altissimo Recording with Reverb

 

Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed Clips

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed-Dry Recording (No Effects)

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed-Altissimo Recording with Reverb

 

Rigotti Gold 3 Strong Reed Clips

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Strong Reed-Dry Recording (No Effects)

Drake FG (Freddie Gregory) model 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Strong Reed-Altissimo Recording with Reverb

Disclosure:  I received the sample mouthpiece reviewed above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review sax 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. I like the sound of this piece best with the harder reed. I own a couple of Drakes- A Son of Slant 8 and a Studio 8. One thing I’ll say is to be VERY careful handling them as I don’t think his resin material is that strong l. I dropped my Studio on a not so hard linoleum surface and a sliver of the tip rail broke off and was difficult to repair. I was lucky to find the sliver, it was so small, but his resin pieces are so light I was very surprised and disappointed that a small impact could break it.

    • Noted. My number one rule no matter the material of the mouthpiece or the floor, DO NOT DROP THE MOUTHPIECE……..! I have been very good following that rule ever since sometime in the 90’s when I dropped a SUGAL JB metal tenor mouthpiece on a cement garage floor and destroyed it. I was very upset that day………

  2. How about comparing with Navarro bebop special?

    • Michael, I have a review and sound clips of a hard rubber Navarro Bebop special and a metal Bebop Special on my website already to compare with. I no longer have the HR Bebop Special as I was borrowing that mouthpiece from someone for the review. Steve

  3. I love. Mine! Use it for literally EVERYTHING! I wrote Aaron and asked if he could make it in metal and he recommended I buy his new New York Jazz H. I did and it’s very much like the FG in metal and worth a serious look. Both are in my top 3 tool chest. Here is a link to a recording …. https://youtu.be/AmrNq-bET7w

  4. I do love the sound of the mouthpiece. I’m always on a quest to find “that” mouthpiece. I’ve met many great players playing on Freddie Gregory mouthpieces, and now more recently some copies have starting coming out. This one, and I believe Ed Pillinger has started doing one. I’m playing the Pete Thomas PPT at the moment, which seems similar too.

  5. Does this have a baffle almost like the one in the Brecker “IT” Guardala?

    • What is the Brecker “IT” Guardala?

      • There was an article in Music Trades – July 1, 1992: “A Look At Guardala’s Unique Manufacturing And R & D Techniques”. In this article one can read this: “Jeff Powell: We honed our art by working with Michael Brecker. He has the finest air stream of any saxophonist, and he knows exactly what he wants. It took a long time to finally get exactly what Michael wanted. But when he finally picked up one of our Traditional models and said “This is It,” we knew we had gotten it right. Michael has been playing “It” ever since.”
        “It” should be the Guardala mouthpiece you wrote a blog post on February 2, 2022

        • Egil, Thanks for clarifying for me. When I compare this Drake FG model to my Pilgrimage (which is a copy of a Guardala Traditional mouthpiece, the baffle on the Drake FG looks higher and longer before it rolls over. The baffle rollover also takes up more of the bottom of the mouthpiece chamber on the Drake FG than the baffle on the Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage has a deeper floor to the chamber which would seem to make it a larger chamber but the caveat is that the Drake FG mouthpiece looks to be much wider than the Pilgrimage so everything looks wider in comparison. The tip, baffle, chamber all are wider than on the Pilgrimage. I don’t know specifically how this effects the mouthpiece volume (space) or how they compare in that regard without more investigation. Hope this answers your question.

  6. Avatar Mitch Paliga says

    Wonder how it stacks up against the Theo Wanne GAIA 3 (my mouthpiece choice for a few years).

  7. Avatar Michael W. Caldwell says

    This sounds like it would compare to a 10mfan Chameleon. Thoughts?

    • Michael, Not really, the Chameleon has no where near as high and long a baffle as the Drake FG model mouthpiece. Listening to the clips of both I can see how they sound in the same ballpark based on what I play. I know the Drake FG is brighter and edgier than the Chameleon but the Chameleon has a rounder, fatter more balanced tone while still being able to pump out the power and brights. The Drake FG leans even brighter in my opinion……….

  8. All of the Drake resin pieces have the same basic tone quality to me with brightness variations of course with the different style baffles, but essentially the same core sound. Not bad or good, like everything else it’s whatever works for you.

  9. Steve, how does the baffle on the Drake compare to the D’Addario Select Jazz baffle? A bit higher?

    • I don’t have a D’addario Select Jazz here in front of me but this baffle does seem higher and longer to me than I remember the D’Addario mouthpiece baffle being. I just compared the photos from both reviews and it looks to me like the photos confirm this.

  10. Steve, first you sound great on your demo’s. It’s the sound I’m going after, but first I have to tell you; I’m playing on an Otto Link 8 that was refaced by John Reilly to approximately an 8* with a removal baffle (for a bit more edge). It plays well top to bottom, but I’m looking to downsize now that I’m not playing with current heavy R & B bands. I still want the sound but would like to not have to work as hard. Getting older! What would be your recommendation between, the “Christlieb”, the Contemporary, or the Freddie Gregory on this general information. I would like to downsize without losing the versatility of my .110 opening. Help please!!!

    • Hi Nick, It’s hard to give you advice because I don’t know what that Otto Link is like and how much baffle it has in it as well as how bright or powerful you are and/or want to be. The Christlieb is still one of my favorite mouthpieces that I didn’t buy. I still think about that mouthpiece. (Maybe because I am such a fan of Pete Christlieb’s tenor sax sound as well) The Drake FG is really great. I’m actually hoping to hold on to mine until the summer so I can play it outside under some bridges and in some tunnels around here to see how it plays “all-out” in a great reverb environment. I don’t remember much about the Contemporary model, that is not saying it is not great but just that it has been so long since I reviewed it, that I don’t remember anything about it. I am glad that Aaron Drake sent me the 8 tip opening for the FG model though. I felt like it was perfect match for me…….. Let me know if you have more specific questions. Steve

      • I have owned the Christlieb and the Drake Freddie Gregory mouthpieces and have played them both for many months in R&B settings. But I have ended up moving to the Ted Klum London Precision for all that kind of work because it’s fatter, huskier than the FG, has every bit as much power, as much edge & projection as the other two. It’s really worth taking a look at Ted’s London Precision Mouthpiece if you’re going to consider a special mouthpiece for that kind of work.

        • Dan, Is that the same as the London model I reviewed? https://www.neffmusic.com/blog/2016/06/ted-klum-london-model-tenor-saxophone-mouthpiece-review/ I asked this question somewhere else but can’t remember what the answer was……..Thanks!

          • According to Ted, it’s the same but in the shape of his metal precision pieces. I’ve loved the London so much that after buying the original in metal (called New London) I bought the HR for comparison. I ended up selling it because I felt it lacked the focus of the metal. Could have been that particular one though. Recently I bought the Precision London and it plays very much like the original, but since the shape was more conventional, more like a Link, I sold the original and am playing the Precision now. Ted asked me when I bought it if I wanted to try a version with a lower baffle, but I settled on the original baffle. Just last week a friend of mine, Eric Spaulding, said he had I the lower baffle version and he’s sending it to me try this week, so I’ll keep you posted.

            • So it is the same internally as the London model I reviewed but the outside shape is different? The London model I reviewed was super powerful! One of the most powerful pieces I have played I think. At the time, I felt like it was a tad brighter than I wanted so I didn’t buy that one although I was really tempted by it…….

              • Yes, same internally. I use it instead of the FG because it has a broader pallet of colors (good subtone,MP, MF etc) than the FG, which is ultra focused it seems no matter what dynamic you play

                • Yes, I agree. I tend to love focus so that is one of the aspects I love most about the Drake FG mouthpiece. Some players don’t like that as much. You sound more comfortable on the Klum London Precision than the FG I think.

          • Here’s a link to one of my own comparisons of the London Precision 8* and Drake FG 8*, both with the Silverstein ALTA 2.5+ Jazz reed, Silverstein ligatures on each piece.

            https://www.dropbox.com/s/qwbqxonl4ukuyxu/London%20vs%20FG.wav?dl=0

    • Steve, does this Drake come in a 7 or 7*? I think I’d like to down size at this time of my playing.

  11. Thanks for a great review. The first FG (7**) I got from Aaron was, I believe, something of a prototype. He hadn’t launched the piece on his website. Aaron recommended it after I explained what I was looking for. From my first breath, I fell in love with the FG. While others may not be looking for what I am in my sound, I can say the FG maintains a fat, complex, focused, sizzling sound at low, moderate and high volume. It doesn’t thin out when pushed. It’s very even up and down the register. I loved the first FG I got so much I bought another (with the brass insert) in my usual 8. The insert gives a little more of everything the FG offers. I can’t say enough about the FG. Nothing else I’ve play compares.

  12. I’ve been playing the FG (8) for several months. In fact, before Aaron released the FG, he recommended I try it after emailing back and forth about my tone concept. I love all the Drake mouthpieces (tenor and alto) I’ve tried and own. However, the FG for tenor completely blew my mind from the first breath. Truth be told, I was actually kind of moved emotionally as I’ve never before been able to produce exactly the sound in my head. My experience with the mouthpiece is that it’ll do everything. If I back off, it has a classic tone (but with excellent projection). It subtones very well, too. The more air I put through it, the more aggressive the tone. However, no matter how much air I put through it, it never gets thin and the tone is always complex. I loved my first FG (possibly a prototype) so much, I ordered another with the brass insert (which gives very slightly more of what the FG does). I also got the second FG for fear something happens to the first and I can’t find a replacement. The mouthpiece is very reed friendly (even synthetic). My main horn is a Yani TWO20. I have a small collection of vintage horns, as well. On the Yani, intonation is spot on. On the vintage horns, intonation is very good. I think the real difference is that modern horns typically play more in tune and I don’t play the vintage horns enough to make any mouthpiece play as even up and down the register. I’m pretty confident the regular vintage horn player would find intonation better than most other mouthpieces. For me, Drake’s Reso is better for the vintage horns. I’m rambling…the FG is the best mouthpiece I’ve ever played and Aaron is the best mouthpiece maker I’ve ever known…period.

  13. Avatar Jamie Hicks says

    Steve,

    Yeah this FG is an amazing piece. IMO mouthpieces with rollover baffles (like the FG) can be overlooked and underrated because sometimes we assume that to do the R&B thing we need a high baffle mouthpiece like a Guardala, not so. I recently managed to get the Early Babbitt Link copy from Mouthpiece Cafe and that does anything and everything. I took it to a rehearsal with an R&B band and it had plenty of cut, but it can also get that classic link sound needed for straight ahead jazz gigs.

    Really enjoy reading your reviews Steve.

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