Ah yes...one of the most popular questions I get from students and parents is, "Do I need a better mouthpiece and does it make a difference?" The short answer, yes. Most of the sound being produced on saxophone is coming from the mouthpiece and neck area. This means that the mouthpiece, ligature (the gadget that holds the reed to the mouthpiece), and reed are vital to the saxophone sounding good. One of the best and most cost effective investments you can make in your or your child's saxophone playing experience is a quality mouthpiece and ligature. Please CLICK HERE for the blog featuring saxophone ligatures.
Prices range from around $100-200 for a solid intermediate alto saxophone mouthpiece and $100-250 for a tenor mouthpiece (although you can spend upwards of $500). Mouthpieces are generally measured by the tip opening. The larger the tip opening (or higher the number), the harder it is to play but the bigger and more open sounding it is. Let's start with alto saxophone mouthpieces.
Meyer mouthpieces have been around for a long time. Many professional alto players still play vintage mouthpieces from the 1970s. In my opinion, a Meyer is the best bang-for-the-buck alto saxophone mouthpiece. If you are on a budget, go for this. Although is is mainly a jazz mouthpiece, the sound is versatile enough that it can be used in classical situations as well. Typical sizes for this mouthpiece are 5M and 6M. If you are unsure about which size is more appropriate, order both and send back one! 6M is more open and harder to play, but like I mentioned earlier you will get a bigger sound.
Jody Jazz Mouthpieces are also a good bet and probably my favorite for advancing students. Though slightly more expensive, many students really enjoy playing this mouthpiece. The sound is slightly darker and warmer than Meyer MR-502, which may be better for the student that wishes to play Jazz and Classical music. Once again, the typical sizes here are 5M and 6M.
Like Meyer mouthpieces for alto, Ottolink mouthpieces have been around since "back in the day." Old vintage Ottolinks are sought after and are worth quite a bit of money these days. This is a great mouthpiece for an intermediate tenor saxophone student and can be used both for classical and jazz. The most common size for tenor mouthpieces like this would be a 7 or 7*. These sizes are generally comparable to sizes 5M and 6M for alto mouthpieces.
For those seeking a brighter and more edgy sound, the Ottolink metal mouthpiece is a good option. The same sizes of either 7 or 7* should be appropriate for most students. Keep in mind, this mouthpiece is geared more towards Jazz and Contemporary music and would not be the best fit for classical music.
My "go to" mouthpiece for advancing students is the same model as the alto mouthpiece, Jody Jazz HR for tenor. I have found that the 7* (.105 tip) size works best for my students and should work well for you as well. It's middle of the road as far as openness and many different sizes of reeds work well. This mouthpiece has a well balanced and warm sound, perfect for all styles of music! Below is a video about Jody Jazz Mouthpieces.