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How to Get a DARK Saxophone Sound | Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark

YouTube video

What kind of saxophone sound are you going for? Dark? Bright? A mixture of the two? Or does it depend on the style of music you’re playing?

In this video, I’m going to lay out some of the ways to get a darker sound on the saxophone.

You may have heard that some saxophones play brighter or darker than others and that is true to some extent. The mouthpiece you’re playing on, will actually have a much bigger impact on your sound than the instrument you’re playing.

Lower Baffle = Darker Sound

As a general rule of thumb, the more baffle a mouthpiece has, the brighter it will play. Vice versa, the less baffle it has the darker it will play.

In case you’re not exactly sure – the baffle is inside the mouthpiece. It’s opposite where the reed goes, right after the tip. It’s really the first thing that shapes the air column when you blow into your mouthpiece.

A higher baffle makes the air travel faster, resulting in a brighter, more powerful sound. A lower baffle allows the air to pass more slowly resulting in a darker less powerful sound.

So an easy way to get a darker sound is to get a mouthpiece with a lower baffle.

Mouthpiece Chamber

Another variable in the mouthpiece that can help darken the sound is a larger chamber. The chamber is the inside middle part of your mouthpiece.

Smaller versus Larger Chamber
Smaller versus Larger Chamber

If you’re looking for a darker sound, you want the inside of the mouthpiece to be more scooped out and rounded.

Rounded Sides = Darker Sound
Rounded Sides = Darker Sound

Different combinations of all these elements can be blended in countless ways when designing mouthpieces. That’s part of the reason why there are so many to choose from.

Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark Mouthpiece

Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark Mouthpiece
Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark Mouthpiece

Now I’m going to introduce you to a brand new mouthpiece the Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark. And its main intention is to help the player achieve a darker, richer, jazz sound.

It’s the Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark and I’ve got it for alto, tenor and soprano saxophone.

This mouthpiece has all the characteristics I mentioned earlier: a lower baffle, larger chamber and scooped out side walls. It also has an immaculate facing with a beautiful thin tip rail and side rails.

Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark Mouthpiece Bore & Baffle
Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark Mouthpiece Bore & Baffle

It also has a gold plated brass ring on the shank which gives it a nice weight but also helps to balance out all that darkness by boosting some of the harmonics in the sound.

Take a listen in the video above around 3:00, I’m playing on the alto version in a 7 tip opening with a 2.5 strength reed.

I’m going to be playing melodies from songs about places so test your knowledge of jazz standards and comment below if you know all the titles!

One of the benefits that comes with lower baffle pieces is that they can be easy to play very soft. The trade off is often having to give up power in the sound though. Listening back for me, I hear a nice warm dark sound, that also cuts through with a lot of core while retaining a good deal of power. 

I wouldn’t take this mouthpiece along to play in a funk band, but I would not have to worry about being able to be heard in a loud acoustic jazz setting for example. 

I’m someone who prefers a brighter alto sound, but this mouthpiece on alto really sings with a complex tone that I must say, I enjoy very much.

Reed Strength

Now another little hack to quickly darken up your sound, is to play on a harder reed. By the same token if you want to brighten up a darker mouthpiece you can use softer reeds.

HR* Custom Dark on Soprano

On soprano, I have been looking for a darker mouthpiece since I always feel that my sound is too bright on that horn. The HR* Custom Dark is hands down my favorite soprano piece at the moment. Around 5:19 in the video, I’m playing a 7 tip opening with a 3.5 strength reed. This harder reed helps me get the sound even darker. 

I don’t play a lot of soprano, but this mouthpiece has inspired me to pick it up a lot more and I’ve really been enjoying playing on it.

HR* Custom Dark on Tenor

Tenor is the horn that I normally go for the darkest sound on. In the next clip around 6:55, I’m playing the HR* Custom Dark with a 7* tip opening and a 2.5 strength reed. This combination gives me a nice balance. I can get the very easy and responsive low end whether I’m playing sub tone or full tone down there, and there’s enough brightness in the sound that it doesn’t get tubby or stuffy.

Final Thoughts

Listening back I hear a nice crisp response without sacrificing the dark quality of the sound. So once again this mouthpiece is covering a lot of ground here. 

If you want something that will allow you to play softly yet still have a rich complex sound that never gets stuffy and also provides a good deal of power, the HR* Custom Dark is a good choice.

Again, if I were playing this mouthpiece in a loud setting, I might struggle to be heard at times so this would not be my choice for a merengue band or a DJ gig. Not that I’ve done either of those in a very long time.

If you had the choice, which one of these mouthpieces would you choose for yourself?

If you’re looking for more Jody Jazz Mouthpiece reviews, have no fear! There are tons of other great Jody Jazz mouthpiece reviews on the BetterSax blog. Check out this one here, “Dark to Bright Alto Sax Tone – Jody Jazz Mouthpieces.

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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Jeff Wu says:

Hi Jay,
I really enjoy your videos. I started playing an HR* 8 soprano mouthpiece a few months ago (after playing an Otto Link 8* for about 20 years) and would love to give the HR* Custom Dark a try. The HR* feels great and sounds nice in the lower and middle registers but gets a little bright in the upper register. Your tone sounded even and rich throughout the whole range of the soprano, which is what I’m hoping to achieve as well.
Thanks for the great videos!
Jeff W.

Mark Dotts says:

I would like to get a darker sound for my soprano saxophone. Right now, it’s a little on the bright side. Occasionally, I like a dark sound for my tenor too. The sounds that were demonstrated is what I’m looking for.

Todd says:

I’m really liking that tenor sound you have on the 7* with the 2.5 reed.
That’s my goal sound.

Ken Romano says:

I went from a #6 Wilkerson to the Custom Dark 7* for my tenor. Also moved from a 2 1/2 Vandoren to a 3 1/2 Vandoren Java red box. I also learned how to trim a reed with the Reed Geek. The latter made all the difference in the world as to being able to play a harder reed with a larger opening. After three months the entire note range is open to me, easily moving from low B flat to high f sharp and now the altissimo range. All these changes using the JJ Dark Custom were made with almost no effort. The tone and depth of the sound improved immensely. My next mouthpiece with be a JJ metal. I highly recommend the JJ Custom Dark if you want a deep and rich sound. Thanks.
Ken R.

Sumeet khushalani says:

I’ve started playing the jody jazz, but I’m having trouble playing g the altissimo on it. Any thoughts?

Marcy Lyzun says:

Hello Sumeet, sometimes it can take some time to adjust to playing on a new mouthpiece. If you’ve adjusted pretty well to the mouthpiece overall and are still struggling with it, check out the below video links from Jay for some altissimo tips.
-Marcy (BetterSax Operations Manager)



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