Classical Alto Mouthpieces

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    Default Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Hey all, I'm currently a high school player that will be switching to alto for concert band (previously played only tenor for both concert and jazz), and I'm in the whole process of getting the horn, and when I get it I'm gonna need a mouthpiece that will give me more of a darker tone, but say I had a solo, would still be able to project while getting a smooth, legit feel. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, and thanks!

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    I use a Selmer S-80 D and it fills all of those needs for me. I have used the same alto mouthpiece since 1979 but boxes of mouthpieces on Soprano, Clarinet, Tenor and Bari. Find an older one rather than new, they play better.

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    If you can get the chance try out a hard rubber Yanigasawa 6 or 7 along with a few Selmers the Concept and SA80 all great pieces for classical.
    never a dull moment when playing your horn

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    If you hear the sound of those Selmer pieces and want to go even darker, check out a Sigurd Rascher mouthpiece. I am very biased as I perform on them but they offer a different sound entirely from standard classical alto pieces mentioned above. The pieces above may be a better fit for what you're looking for but perhaps you'd like to know about these so that you know that those are not all that are out there.

    This video from Harry Kinross White's album Spectrum Saxonfonis, Vol. 2 is an example of what these sound like at the highest level of performance, you should be able to get a feel for how it sounds through out the entire dynamic range. They don't "project" in the same way that a jazz mouthpiece does but rather "resonate". It will feel very different from what you're used to but I found mine to be a wonderful learning experience and the sound to be a gorgeous reward.



    He plays on a Buescher mouthpiece which is what the Raschers are exact copies of, but his has a much closer facing. Rascher mouthpieces come with a facing that likes 3 strength reeds like Vandorens or D'Addario Reserves and they're open enough so that you can put air through them. Weiner music carries them and a few other music outlets as well, you can also order them through this website:
    http://www.raschermouthpieces.com/message.html

    Hope this helps!
    Buescher New Aristocrat altos - 1933 265xxx & 1934 267xxx, True Tone alto 1922 99xxx, Aristocrat tenor 1946 308xxx & Aristocrat baritone 1952 346xxx. Wooden planks for reeds and cavernous chambers

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    I personally recommend the Vandoren Optimum AL3. It fills all of the criteria you mentioned. I haven't tried the AL4 yet but I'm sure it's a great mouthpiece as well.

    I've also heard good things about the Selmer S80 although I haven't tried it either. If you're looking to buy used, maybe consider an older Selmer Soloist - those are usually good.

    Just avoid a mouthpiece with a large tip opening. Generally, keep the tip opening on the smaller side for a classical mouthpiece. This can mean pairing it with a harder reed.

    This topic has been discussed many times before, so search the forum for some information. Here's a start:

    https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...cal+mouthpiece

    https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...cal+mouthpiece

    https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...cal+mouthpiece

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Raschers and Caravans give great, dark sounds but I think that's more of a specific niche in playing than is found in an American high school band. Selmer C*s have been for decades a go-to mouthpiece for that genre. However, I used one for a long time but it eventually seemed too bright.

    The modern mouthpiece that allowed me the most benefits was in the middle of those two, and that was a Rousseau NC4.

    (Probably too expensive and hard to find, but a superb choice, would be a good pre-Soloist Selmer. I believe they're around late 1960s model.)





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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    I'm a Caravan player all the way. I generally have my middle school students on the Yamaha 4c and serious student move to a Selmer C* at the high school.

    Tenor - '61 Mark VI w/Tenny Slant Tone Edge 7
    Alto - '66 Mark VI/Meyer 6/Caravan
    Soprano - '93 Yani S-900 w/Tenney Tone Edge 7

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Rousseau 4R
    Old reed players are like fine wine. They only get better with age. Tom Hagen

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    What are you using for classical tenor? The alto version of that is probably a good start.
    Yamaha YTS-62iii tenor/Paraschos Selmer Neck/Vandoren T20/Vandoren MO/L�g�re Signature Series 3.5
    Cannonball BBSS Brute alto/Selmer Concept MOJO/Vandoren MO/L�g�re Signature Series 3.5
    Buffet Prodige clarinet/Vandoren Masters CL6/Vandoren MO/L�g�re Signature Series 3.5

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    I used to always recommend the Rousseau NC/RC pieces...but now I can only recommend them if you can try a bunch of them. They are very well-designed, but the facing and finishing work has been really, really bad on them lately. I have an NC4 bari that is so uneven that people who don't play the saxophone can see it. If you can get one and get it refinished, they're my personal favorite.

    If you don't want to go that far, the Vandoren AL3 is very good out of the box, as is the Selmer Concept.

    I don't recommend Rascher or Caravan because the ones I've seen lately have similar issues as the Rousseau pieces, plus they are not something you should attempt without a Rascher-style teacher. The other big issue is that if you walk into a college audition with one of those, you'll immediately be pigeonholed.

    I have some Selmer S80s for sale in the marketplace if you want something cheap to dip your toes in.
    Current setups:
    Yamaha YSS-875EX, Selmer Soloist C**, Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YAS-875EXS, Rousseau RC4 (refaced by Brian Powell), Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YTS-875EX, Rousseau NC4, Ishimori lig, Hemke 3.5
    Kessler Solist Bari, Rousseau NC4, BG Tradition lig, Hemke 3.5

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    I probably should've put this in the original post but my setup is a
    P. Mauriat 66r Influence
    Vandoren Optimum TL3
    Vandoren Optimum Ligature
    Vandoren v12 #3.5

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    This Selmer is set up for classical playing with harder reeds:

    https://www.facebook.com/EZmpc/videos/1643085879065522/

    At www.EZmpc.com: A-17051 Selmer Soloist (Long Shank) – “B” Refaced to .063″ (which is a "C" facing)
    Please visit EZmpc.com and follow me on Facebook!
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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    As others have pointed out, this subject is a perennial. You can easily spend hours reading about it in many threads here.

    I've stated my views and preferences many times in the past, but here, I'd like to observe that you have listed two specific goals: a smooth, dark tone, and enough projection for a good solo. Just keep in mind that with the standard French and quasi-French style classical mouthpieces, these two objectives are partly in opposition. That is, although you should be able to find a good compromise mouthpiece, the darker mouthpieces will tend to offer less projection, while the more projecting pieces will tend to have a brighter tone.

    For example, the square-chambered Selmer S80 (typically a C* or C**) is rather powerful for a classical mouthpiece, but also somewhat bright compared to other options. To a lesser extent, this is also true of the Selmer S90. The round-chambered Selmer Larry Teal (LT) is a bit darker and a bit less projecting. The Selmer Concept offers a very good blend of tone quality and projection, but it's (i) available in only one facing, and (ii) quite expensive for a classical piece, so take those factors into consideration.

    The Vandoren Optimum AL3 produces a lovely, dark tone, but its very narrow tip opening makes it rather constricted. Frankly, it's probably not the piece you want for large-ensemble solos unless you are a seasoned classical player who can really blow through it. I prefer the AL5, which sounds almost the same but is more powerful, and thus a better-balanced mouthpiece, IMO. The AL4 uses a different facing curve from the AL3 and AL5, and as a result is significantly brighter, more like an S80, although it still has a round chamber.

    FYI, my standard classical mouthpieces are the SL3, AL5, and TL5. I have also gotten good results on alto from the Concept and the Larry Teal. Nowadays I don't ever play the S80 for classical or concert band work; rather, I treat it as more of an all-around mouthpiece that can work for jazz/pop styles as well as light classical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    As others have pointed out, this subject is a perennial. You can easily spend hours reading about it in many threads here.

    I've stated my views and preferences many times in the past, but here, I'd like to observe that you have listed two specific goals: a smooth, dark tone, and enough projection for a good solo. Just keep in mind that with the standard French and quasi-French style classical mouthpieces, these two objectives are partly in opposition. That is, although you should be able to find a good compromise mouthpiece, the darker mouthpieces will tend to offer less projection, while the more projecting pieces will tend to have a brighter tone.

    For example, the square-chambered Selmer S80 (typically a C* or C**) is rather powerful for a classical mouthpiece, but also somewhat bright compared to other options. To a lesser extent, this is also true of the Selmer S90. The round-chambered Selmer Larry Teal (LT) is a bit darker and a bit less projecting. The Selmer Concept offers a very good blend of tone quality and projection, but it's (i) available in only one facing, and (ii) quite expensive for a classical piece, so take those factors into consideration.

    The Vandoren Optimum AL3 produces a lovely, dark tone, but its very narrow tip opening makes it rather constricted. Frankly, it's probably not the piece you want for large-ensemble solos unless you are a seasoned classical player who can really blow through it. I prefer the AL5, which sounds almost the same but is more powerful, and thus a better-balanced mouthpiece, IMO. The AL4 uses a different facing curve from the AL3 and AL5, and as a result is significantly brighter, more like an S80, although it still has a round chamber.

    FYI, my standard classical mouthpieces are the SL3, AL5, and TL5. I have also gotten good results on alto from the Concept and the Larry Teal. Nowadays I don't ever play the S80 for classical or concert band work; rather, I treat it as more of an all-around mouthpiece that can work for jazz/pop styles as well as light classical.
    Since you seem pretty well informed, how would a Concept compare to the Optimum TL3 I own now, it's supposedly a smaller opening, so correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't that give me a little less resistance? Also have you ever tried the E. Rousseau pieces? And if so what do you have to say about those? Thanks!

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Quote Originally Posted by Mormile View Post
    Since you seem pretty well informed, how would a Concept compare to the Optimum TL3 I own now, it's supposedly a smaller opening, so correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't that give me a little less resistance? Also have you ever tried the E. Rousseau pieces? And if so what do you have to say about those? Thanks!
    It's hard to compare the Selmer Concept with the TL3 because of the alto-tenor distinction. There is no Concept model for tenor sax. The alto Concept is like the AL3 in that it has quite a small tip opening; however, my experience has been that a such a tip opening is more workable on a classical alto mouthpiece than on a classical tenor mouthpiece. I like both the Concept and the AL3, but prefer the AL5 to both of them, for different reasons. I did not like the TL3 when I tried it -- too restrictive, somewhat thin-sounding. I find the TL5 much better (the T20 is better as well). Note that, weirdly, the TL3 and TL5 have different facing lengths, whereas the AL3 and the AL5 have the same facing length. That's why moving from the AL3 to the AL5 is like staying with the same mouthpiece, only with a slightly larger tip opening, whereas going from the TL3 to the TL5 is like switching to a different-sounding mouthpiece, IMO.

    If your question boils down to, "Will I like the closely faced Concept on alto because I like the closely faced TL3 on tenor?" I can't answer it, for the reasons stated above. Also, resistance is not a function of tip opening alone. But the Concept is a good mouthpiece, so it's worth trying if you're leaning that way.

    As for Rousseau, I tried the RC4 and did not like it (poor upper register response). The RC model is supposed to be the darkest Rousseau piece. I haven't tried the NC series or the R series because I assume they are brighter than I prefer.

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Just FWIW, the statement above that he thinks a Rousseau NC might be brighter than he prefers, this shows the difference both in taste and in semantics. I don't know how darker oldConn prefers but, while I prefer a typical French tone on an alto-legit sound, I prefer it on the darker side of that, and that's why I prefer the NC4. In other words, not too bright for me.

    I had an excellent player in one of my bands who sounded absolutely great on his Optimum mouthpiece.

    And BTW, I don't use the same color concept for tenor as I use on alto.
    ____________________________________________________
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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    I played the S80 C** for many years, but recently switched to the Concept.

    I found that the S80 was brighter than I was seeking. The Concept was MUCH DIFFERENT. It needs lots of air and control in comparison without getting bright (er than I prefer).

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    The brightness of the S-80 D that I use is part of the reason it is a good concert band mouthpiece and still good to use for big band or jazz. For me, it is easier to tame a slightly bright mouthpiece than to put edge in a dark mouthpiece.

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Quote Originally Posted by bruce bailey View Post
    The brightness of the S-80 D that I use is part of the reason it is a good concert band mouthpiece and still good to use for big band or jazz. For me, it is easier to tame a slightly bright mouthpiece than to put edge in a dark mouthpiece.
    I absolutely agree with your first sentence about the S80 (I said something similar above), and also believe that your second sentence is true more often than not. A couple of years ago, I had a play a combination concert band/sax quartet gig. The quartet program included some jazz-based material, including a version of "The Pink Panther" with what's supposed to be a rather edgy alto solo. I was playing the AL3 at the time, and I just couldn't rev it up enough to get the sound I wanted for the more aggressive playing. So I switched to an S80 -- a C** in my case -- for that day. It was just right.

    BUT I find that on the whole, I have more frequent need in concert band playing to produce a round, dark, classical sound than to produce something that's beyond the capability of the Optimum, and that's why the AL5 is my regular piece. Loud enough for marches or even the occasional rock medley, but quiet enough for a work like "O Magnum Mysterium."

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    Default Re: Classical Alto Mouthpieces

    Another option is to have an AL4 or similar and a Meyer 5M which would not break the bank and offer two different sounds.

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