Alto Saxophone Mouthpieces
Who doesn't like the wailing sound of a soulful alto sax? That sound is created partly because of the special design of alto sax mouthpieces. An alto saxophone is called a wood wind instrument because it has a "reed," which is a small strip of wood, fitted into the mouthpiece.
Other types of saxophones as well as clarinets also use a single reed in the mouthpiece. The reeds are a different size for each type of instrument and can be purchased in a variety of brands and strengths. The choice of a reed is a highly individual decision, since different players prefer different hardnesses of reeds. Reeds wear out and have to be replaced periodically. Reeds are held on to the mouthpiece with a screw-on bracket device.
The mouthpiece itself can be made out of different materials, such as plastic, rubber and metal. Rubber is the most common material for alto saxophone mouthpieces. Saxophonists disagree about just what factors affect the sound - material or shape of the chamber inside the mouthpiece. Jazz musicians often prefer metal mouthpieces with a high baffle. The term "baffle" refers to the ceiling of the inside of the mouthpiece. A high baffled mouthpiece is designed with the baffle close to the reed. Classical players, on the other hand, like a lower baffle.
In addition to the baffle differences, the size of the tip opening also makes a difference in the sound. Larger tip openings are good for jazz or rock music because the saxophonist can bend the notes. A smaller tip opening works better with classical music because the pitch is more stable.
The way you have to hold your mouth when playing a wind instrument is called your “embouchure.” The way to form correct embouchure when playing the alto saxophone is to place the mouthpiece not more than half the way into the mouth. The mouthpiece rests on the lower lip, which can be curled in a bit (or less frequently, turned out.)
Mouthpieces must be held stable in the mouth with a light amount of pressure from the top teeth. Sometimes the mouthpiece has a strip of rubber padding called a bite-pad. To complete the embouchure, the player must form an airtight seal with his top lip and keep the corners of his mouth firm.
Top of Alto Saxophone mouthpieces page.
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