Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

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  1. #1
    Billylongpockets's Avatar
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    Default Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    I have looked for an answer but cannot find one ( I'm probably lookin in the wrong place )..But I have looked so please be gentle with me... Lol...
    We have all got different shaped mouths some with false teeth some with slender lips..So in my eyes one mouthpiece isn't going to have that wowee factor for everyone ???
    I'm just totally lost with the pricing as some are $50 others are $500.
    Please advise...
    You can play the Blues through into the morning light, as long as your happy to do so...

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    The main factors affecting mouthpiece pricing appear to be:
    • The amount of hand-finishing.
    • The material, e.g., plastic, hard rubber, cheap metal, or costlier metal.

    I've never seen a mass-produced mouthpiece, such as Vandoren or Selmer, priced at close to $500, regardless of the material. And I've never seen a truly hand-finished mouthpiece priced as low as $50.

    This applies to new mouthpieces. Used or vintage pieces are subject to sometimes-crazy market pricing.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    "What the market will bear" is another factor.
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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Perception.

    perception.jpg
    Last edited by Airflyte; 03-09-2017 at 05:08 PM. Reason: optional

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    This is a good question about all equipment. I look at good saxophone equipment like wine: there's a threshold below which the product is gonna be pretty bad. Above that quality level threshold there will be a huge range of serviceable stuff that will appeal to different tastes. I don't play vintage Selmer saxophones because I like my newer, much less expensive horns at least as much as the Mark VIs I've played. If you're a professional, it's definitely worth investing in a quality hand-faced mouthpiece made by people who know what they're doing. If you're a student or semi-pro, you can get a great mouthpiece for a reasonable price if you know what to look for. Vandoren mouthpieces have consistent and good facings despite being pretty affordable. Any mouthpiece made by the Babbitt factory in recent years (Meyer, Otto Link, etc) is less likely to be consistently well-faced but there are lots of great alternatives out there (Mouthpiece Cafe, etc) that are much more reasonable than a vintage Meyer or Link.

    The high price of vintage equipment mostly comes from the feeling that our semi-mythical music heroes of the past made great recordings with them. Collectors get very into that. People pay money for feelings and experience, and there's nothing wrong with that. I tend to take a much more utilitarian approach, and I've found great equipment that isn't super expensive that lets me make the sounds I want to make.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Honeyboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Airflyte View Post
    Perception.
    This is quite true. I have spent as little as $80.00 recently for some used mouthpieces which work as well for me as some of my $400.00 and $500.00 mouthpieces. Perception often comes from equating price with quality. This thinking flaw is used successfully in many areas of business. Sometimes there is a correlation and sometimes not. The latest and greatest fad mouthpiece pushed on SOTW will cause an artificial rise in interest and cost of a particular brand when sold new. Sometimes we are paying for the tooling or technology or hand finishing costs of a new model such as the cost of a computerized type machine and the programming involved. When this particular mouthpiece is no longer a novelty, the used prices often plummet and then it's time for someone else to make their attempt at being the next top dog. If you hang around the website long enough you will see this happening alot. I have fallen into this trap too many times but by now I have become more savvy. I will try different things but in reality, there is "nothing new under the sun" when it comes to mouthpieces. Just slight variations on old themes. The above mentioned Mouthpiece Café company are selling their very well crafted copies of classical mouthpieces for less than half of what other companies are selling theirs for. I have yet to find a Link copy that surpasses. that mouthpiece at any inflated price. Another company is the Saxscape company. Their prices are ridiculously low compared to equivalent products cost 3 to 4 times as much. So I try not to fall into the " pricier is better trap". Sometimes you have to look around and listen objectively to reviews. Usually there is an initial excitement and exaggerated expressions of excellence but if you wait long enough, these same wonderful pieces end up on the used marketplace with comments like " Not quite what I was looking for." I now avoid the bandwagon thing and wait and enjoy using what I already have.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member HeavyWeather77's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    This is a good question about all equipment. I look at good saxophone equipment like wine: there's a threshold below which the product is gonna be pretty bad. Above that quality level threshold there will be a huge range of serviceable stuff that will appeal to different tastes. I don't play vintage Selmer saxophones because I like my newer, much less expensive horns at least as much as the Mark VIs I've played. If you're a professional, it's definitely worth investing in a quality hand-faced mouthpiece made by people who know what they're doing. If you're a student or semi-pro, you can get a great mouthpiece for a reasonable price if you know what to look for. Vandoren mouthpieces have consistent and good facings despite being pretty affordable. Any mouthpiece made by the Babbitt factory in recent years (Meyer, Otto Link, etc) is less likely to be consistently well-faced but there are lots of great alternatives out there (Mouthpiece Cafe, etc) that are much more reasonable than a vintage Meyer or Link.

    The high price of vintage equipment mostly comes from the feeling that our semi-mythical music heroes of the past made great recordings with them. Collectors get very into that. People pay money for feelings and experience, and there's nothing wrong with that. I tend to take a much more utilitarian approach, and I've found great equipment that isn't super expensive that lets me make the sounds I want to make.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member 1saxman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Supply and demand. For example, Guardala only made so many mouthpieces. When he was selling them, they cost about $250. Now, $1800, but its not really about just rarity - a mouthpiece must have that certain something that many players want that cannot be duplicated by clone mouthpieces. Regardless of what negative remarks may be made about Dave Guardala and/or his mouthpieces, the reality is they are considered to be among the best ever made for certain types of players; hence, the inflated prices. Plenty of other mouthpieces may be 'rare' but don't fetch big money because nobody really wants to play them.
    Part II; Do you need an expensive mouthpiece? Chances are you do not and the fine nuances it may produce could be lost on most players. All anybody really needs is a good-playing mouthpiece - its up to the player to get a good tone and play the sax.
    I started on Guardalas back in the 1980s and still play them mostly on tenor now, and my mouthpieces are very valuable - but I can't sell them because I still need them. I have found some great substitutes I could use if something happened but I still prefer the Guardalas.
    There are vintage Bergs, Links and many others that are just as pricey as the DGs. These mouthpieces were made during the time of some of the greatest players and when guys were looking for a more powerful sound. Today's mouthpieces are made for the average player to get an average sound that must sound like everyone else in order to be accepted. I listen to today's players and I can't tell them apart. At least the old guys each had his 'voice'.
    So, would somebody pay a lot of money for a mouthpiece made 60 years ago by a master to deliver a distinctive sound? Apparently so, whether they actually need it or not.
    Part III; Modern mouthpieces. There are guys all over the place who claim to have the next big thing in sax mouthpieces. They bring out new models with big price tags. Hey, you never know, one of them might be for real, but the ability to make a truly great mouthpiece is a talent and an art because each mouthpiece must be hand-finished by the master to achieve greatness - no manufacturing process yet devised can replace that work. So, okay, somebody will bite that bullet and return to the old way of making them which limits how many he can make in a week and retain the quality. Just one problem - remember, it takes talent, an ear, training and perseverance to become 'that guy' and as far as I know, Dave Guardala was the last one of those to surface.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    The main factors affecting mouthpiece pricing appear to be:
    • The amount of hand-finishing.
    • The material, e.g., plastic, hard rubber, cheap metal, or costlier metal.

    I've never seen a mass-produced mouthpiece, such as Vandoren or Selmer, priced at close to $500, regardless of the material. And I've never seen a truly hand-finished mouthpiece priced as low as $50.

    This applies to new mouthpieces. Used or vintage pieces are subject to sometimes-crazy market pricing.
    Very true. I would add what we might call "reputation" or "prestige factor." Which are closely related. Certain mps are more desirable because they are known to have been used by various name brand players. And it's always going to be cooler to own, say, a vintage Guardala than a copy, and some people will be willing to pay for that. These kinds of things increase demand, which ups the price.

    To me, there are so many great mps on the market these days from people like Phil-Tone and 10mfan for reasonable prices (especially used, via the marketplace here) that I can't see shelling out the kind of money the vintage pieces go for. One of my favorite pieces is a Phil-Tone Eclipse that I got here for (if memory serves) $150.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by 1saxman View Post
    Supply and demand.
    FWIW 'Midnight Oil' recently announced a 'come-back' tour and tickets were snapped up like greased lightning...
    Only shortly after beginning to appear on resale sites for outrageously inflated prices.

    Being a 'ticket scalper' is regarded as a low, low act.

    However the real estate industry has been operating quite happily for years under the same principle.

    cheers, Mark.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilbur Weltklang View Post
    FWIW 'Midnight Oil' recently announced a 'come-back' tour and tickets were snapped up like greased lightning...
    Only shortly after beginning to appear on resale sites for outrageously inflated prices.

    Being a 'ticket scalper' is regarded as a low, low act.

    However the real estate industry has been operating quite happily for years under the same principle.

    cheers, Mark.
    Scalping tickets is more or less a legalized industry in the U.S. now, much to the consternation of fans who get priced out of the ticket market and performers and promoters who know that "after market" sellers of their tickets are making more money off the concert than they are. And it seems to be spreading: 'flipping' a home, an instrument, or anything else is now an acceptable business model.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilbur Weltklang View Post
    FWIW 'Midnight Oil' recently announced a 'come-back' tour and tickets were snapped up like greased lightning...
    Only shortly after beginning to appear on resale sites for outrageously inflated prices.
    I read that Peter Garrett issued a public protest about that, but Eddie Vedder did the same thing 20 years ago, and he got nowhere. I may try to catch the Oils if I can find a U.S. venue that's convenient.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    I used to think that expensive mouthpieces were all about perception, until I was shown a Theo Wanne Ambika. This cost rather more than more than I was to spending, but it really made a huge difference. I couldn't quite come at some of the vintage mouthpieces. I am sure some of are very good, but I also believe that mouthpiece makers have learnt new things over the years.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Greed, maybe?
    Strive to be better than the day before.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Billylongpockets View Post
    We have all got different shaped mouths some with false teeth some with slender lips..So in my eyes one mouthpiece isn't going to have that wowee factor for everyone ???
    Absolutely true, not to mention we all have different sounds in mind when we play the horn. This is why there are so many different designs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Billylongpockets View Post
    I'm just totally lost with the pricing as some are $50 others are $500.
    Please advise...
    This isn't much different than any other product really and LostConn explained what's generally accepted as the main reasons. The more frustrating observation as Honeyboy implies is that paying $500 for a mouthpiece is no guarantee that it's going to be a great playing piece for you. The chances that the facing and other design aspects have been more accurately and/or precisely produced are better on an expensive mouthpiece but whether or not that level of near-perfection matters to you or if the design itself is even to your liking will be different for every player.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    I was going to stay out of this but I take exception to parts of this thread. Players want good pieces. That generally means an item that has not been spit out by a machines that have never played, much less heard, a note of music in its "Life". Yes, you can buy a cheaper piece but you may struggle with altissimo, clarity, and overall tone production. That does not make it impossible..just more difficult. On the flip side there are no chops in a box or simple solutions to being a good player.

    I think the OP is actually curious while others jump in and start hammering at craftsmen and engage in name calling.

    Why are mouthpieces expensive? Why is my grocery bill so high? Why does it cost a fortune to keep a car running, why does a house take 30 years to pay for? Those are equally important considerations.

    There are a few things some of you know and others pretend not to know. Mouthpieces cost what they do because the guy who makes the mouthpiece has to eat, pay rent, drive around town and do everything a person who wants to have a life in this culture does.

    There are VERY few makers on this planet getting rich. The design and production of these items is often in itself very expensive. The customer base is also finite. There is also a great deal of market dilution. So, unless you want your mouthpiece made by Backwoods Joe you need a person with skill and experience. It takes a significant number of years to learn the craft well....and its an ongoing process. So you are left with three choices...buy a machine made piece and support a huge corporate entity, support craft and seek something of excellence, or pay fleabay Joe or some random dude sitting in a basement with a set of harbor freight files for a potential abomination....or maybe you will get lucky...

    So what is with this name calling? If I built you a beautiful dining room table from exotic wood and charged for my time and materials...and skill...does that make me greedy?

    If I paint your house and as a result can help put my kid through school ....does that make me greedy?

    Life is expensive and I personally try to keep costs reasonable...but I gotta eat too and so do the guys I know who work on horns, run music shops, and struggle to offer a service that they believe in.

    Its expensive to book a band...is it because players (that make so little) are greedy?

    ...Comeon man...


    Yes, there are hacks and sometimes in life we dont get what we pay for. I do not support con artists and hype sales. I believe that kind of crap should be shut down.

    Meanwhile, just a little respect please for those who do "Strive to be better than the day before". Some of us really do.

    Anything of quality costs because everything else of quality costs....because life costs.
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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Perhaps we need to ask why the big manufacturers like Vandoren, Selmer and Babbitt as it is mentioned already here, can not produce a finished mouthpiece.
    As i understand it all mouthpieces are made by machines of different sizes and complexities and of final finishing qualities, even the so called hand made mouthpieces.
    The difference that is promoted by the boutique manufacturers is that they finish the pieces by hand and they test them. But that is what also big companies like Selmer do, except for Vandoren who claims
    that the machines are so perfect that they dont touch it by hand after, but they still sound test it.
    If we assume that 250 is a normal average value for a mouthpiece from some big company and we consider it as an unfinished product then if we add 150 to face finish it by a pro refacer that brings it to 400,
    and that could bring it to the same quality level as the boutique craftsmen.
    So we could assume then that around 500 for an already finished product that doesnt need replating is the new average price.
    It is perhaps that the unknown finisher at the Selmer factory due to time pressure can afford to follow a lower level of quality that a single name person can not do.
    I know that the general idea is that Vandoren is the best from the mass produced pieces but it is still not to the level of what it can be achieved by someone with no time and money compromises.
    Lebayle must be in a category on his own as he makes his pieces ( not the blanks) at affordable prices...but they need refacing.
    Then if we see the cheap pieces as made to target budget and the boutique as no compromises it would be easier to understand the price differences.
    It is like cars. To a person who doesnt care about them could easily argue that a BMW and a Skoda are both cars so no need to pay for the expensive one.
    But to a person who loves cars it is easily justifiable to give three and more time the money for the car he wants.
    Of course all the market tricks still apply.

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    I always think it's because it's hard to the good vintage mouthpieces that haven't been fudged with.
    I've played vintage Links like Double Rings and others that were worked on a play like crap but with patience and knowing what I'm looking for I've managed to find very well playing originals.
    I'm sure some of the newer manufacturers make some good stuff but they can't seem to capture the nuance of the really good vintage mouthpieces. It's not anything to do with perception or mystique. It's just different designs.

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    Forum Contributor 2017 BrianMitchellBrody's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    That's because your awesome!
    Quote Originally Posted by HeavyWeather77 View Post
    This is a good question about all equipment. I look at good saxophone equipment like wine: there's a threshold below which the product is gonna be pretty bad. Above that quality level threshold there will be a huge range of serviceable stuff that will appeal to different tastes. I don't play vintage Selmer saxophones because I like my newer, much less expensive horns at least as much as the Mark VIs I've played. If you're a professional, it's definitely worth investing in a quality hand-faced mouthpiece made by people who know what they're doing. If you're a student or semi-pro, you can get a great mouthpiece for a reasonable price if you know what to look for. Vandoren mouthpieces have consistent and good facings despite being pretty affordable. Any mouthpiece made by the Babbitt factory in recent years (Meyer, Otto Link, etc) is less likely to be consistently well-faced but there are lots of great alternatives out there (Mouthpiece Cafe, etc) that are much more reasonable than a vintage Meyer or Link.

    The high price of vintage equipment mostly comes from the feeling that our semi-mythical music heroes of the past made great recordings with them. Collectors get very into that. People pay money for feelings and experience, and there's nothing wrong with that. I tend to take a much more utilitarian approach, and I've found great equipment that isn't super expensive that lets me make the sounds I want to make.
    �We are what we repeatedly do.
    Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.�
    ~Aristotle

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    Default Re: Why are some mouthpieces so expensive.

    Dude they sold out the USA in less than 10 hours. Good luck on finding a scalper.
    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    I read that Peter Garrett issued a public protest about that, but Eddie Vedder did the same thing 20 years ago, and he got nowhere. I may try to catch the Oils if I can find a U.S. venue that's convenient.
    �We are what we repeatedly do.
    Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.�
    ~Aristotle

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