Mouthpiece Basics - Baffle, Tip Opening, Chamber Size
Mouthpiece Basics – Baffle, Tip Opening, Chamber Size

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.

The Baffle

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.

What’s next?

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.”

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

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David A Stuart says:

I”m going through a LOT of trial-and-error. My “normal” combination is a Yamaha 4C with a Rigotti 2 1/2 medium reed. When I put a Rigotti 3 on that same 4C, things change – a lot. I need to work harder, but the sound is smoother – meaning less high frequency “harshness”, or “brightness”, if you will. I also have a Vandoren V16 T6. That’s a monster. I don’t get to hold long notes very long with that mp – regardless of what reed I use – but over the course of holding any note, it seems I”m able to bend notes more easily than with the 4C/2 1/2 combination. I have Yamaha 3C, 4C, 5C and the Vandoren V16 T6, and Vandoren reeds 1 1/2, 2, and 3, and Rigotti 2 1/2 and 3 mediums. This is all for my tenor. For my alto I just have the one that came with my Better Sax Alto, and a Yamaha 4C and assortment of Rigotti and Vandoren alto reeds. I’m still messing with those combinations.

I’m new to sax, but not new to music. I am predisposed to certain sounds, intonations, and articulations. So what am I looking for? For tenor, I’m looking to be able to produce what I hear in, for instance, “The Very Thought of You” (BBC Big Band), or Al McClean on “Blues Testament” .

Christer Henningstedt says:

Hi, I have started with a s80**, for my vintage Conn 10M, -55 and I like the mouthpiece without a baffel, it’s warm, a bit dark, very intonatial, but I am thinking of trying this 10Mfan classic tenormouthpiece, because I heard a lot of the quality of them and are looking for a bigger darker sound, hope I,m right. Love you courses by the way, thanks Jay, Christer Henningstedt

greg piturro says:

I never knew there were so many variables. How is it possible to try all of them to know what’s best?
I’ve been playing a vandoran A55 jazz which is very open for the A55’s, and has a long face. And I play a soft Reed…. 2.5 and I sand them down if needed. I play in a community band and we play a wide range of music. I also took the pentatonic course and have become pretty good playing by ear. With in a few minutes I can work through simple tunes. What’s most difficult for me is to identify the notes of another alto sax by ear. This takes me a little longer. They all sound different….lol

Jamie says:

Hello Sax community, I am a total newbie to the SaxWorld and I have got one of the Amazon Saxophone complete set up kits that comes with the horn, case and all the accessories, in fact after getting it I noticed Jay had actually done a review on YouTube of the exact same one. But the mouthpiece it has come with seems just too big and wide and it’s taking me so much air to make the reed vibrate and produce the sound, so I was wondering if there is a much smaller mouthpiece and reed setup I can get that will be much easier to use and not so hard on the breath as I do suffer from mild asthma and in turn my breath capacity is a lot weaker so I’m finding the current mouthpiece and reed setup just to hard to play. Please can anyone help me with this.

Jay Metcalf says:

Sounds like you should first try a softer reed with the mouthpiece you have. a 2.0 can be a good starting point.



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