One thing I get asked A LOT is what do the different traits of a saxophone mouthpiece mean? What’s the difference between a smaller and larger tip opening? What does more baffle mean for resistance? How does the chamber size affect my sound? Well read on – because answers are ahead.
On a saxophone mouthpiece, The baffle restricts the air flow inside the mouthpiece so when you’ve got a high baffle, the air moves through faster resulting in a brighter/louder sound.
Overall, for a more mellow/darker sound you want less baffle in your mouthpiece.
For example, on Alto sax something like a Meyer or Jody Jazz HR* Dark have a low baffle and would be good for this kind of sound. A Yamaha 4 or 5C has a dark sound because it has a straight low baffle.
The Tip Opening
The tip opening does not necessarily affect the brightness/darkness of a mouthpiece. For example, if you get a high baffle mouthpiece in a lower tip opening (5) or in a larger tip opening (9) it will still be bright and loud.
The tip opening determines how much volume of air can be put through the mouthpiece at once before it shuts down. The bigger the tip opening the more air you can put through the mouthpiece, but there are trade offs.
The main thing to keep in mind with tip opening is that the larger the tip opening the softer the reed. With smaller tip openings you will want harder reeds in general.
Here’s a pretty basic chart that goes through a variety of mouthpieces and their tip openings. This may give you some more guidance as you’re shopping around.
The Chamber Size
The chamber size can also affect the brightness/darkness of a mouthpiece. Generally larger chambers will give you more a round and dark sound.
Once these factors get adjusted and combined in different ways, all sorts of results are possible but this is the general overview.
Let me know what kind of mouthpieces you all prefer in the comments! High baffle? Small tip opening? Large chamber size? What’s your perfect combination?
Interested in more mouthpiece reviews? Check out “Play Testing 5 Alto Sax Mouthpiece Upgrade Ideas.”