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When it comes to playing the saxophone, accessories are more important than you might think, and that includes mouthpieces!
Mouthpieces are made of a variety of materials, like plastic, rubber, and crystal, and their quality varies significantly depending on brand and make.
In this guide, we look at the best alto saxophone mouthpieces.
D’Addario Rico MJS-D6M Select Jazz Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece – Best Overall
This US made vintage style mouthpiece was constructed with hard rubber, the gold standard of quality mouthpieces. It features a medium facing length and medium chamber.
These mouthpieces are made using computer numeric controlled milling. Technical details aside, this ensures every mouthpiece is consistent across the board, with no variation in quality, shape, or sound.
This means if you ever need to fly halfway across the world and buy a backup, you should be well taken care of.
Enthusiastic reviewers liked the bright sound of the Select Jazz mouthpiece, as well as its impeccable intonation, and reasonable price point. Reportedly, it makes playing higher notes easier too.
A few players didn’t find it as responsive as other mouthpieces they’ve used, but they were in the minority.
This mouthpiece “checks the boxes” in multiple areas – quality, sound, and price. And this makes it our best overall option. Most users have found it well worth the asking price.
BetterSax Burnin’ Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece – 5 – Best Premium Option
The BetterSax Burnin’ Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece – 5 was developed by JodyJazz and BetterSax, a collaboration we can certainly get excited about!
This hard rubber mouthpiece projects and is free blowing. It features a larger chamber for a rich and deep tone, and the 5M tip opening is suitable to beginners.
Reviewers said they loved the projection and great sound of this mouthpiece.
This is our best premium selection. That said, if you’re a more advanced player, or require a different tip opening, there are multiple options to choose from.
Glory Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Kit – Best Budget Option
The Glory Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Kit comes with ligature, reed, and a plastic cap.
This alto sax mouthpiece is our best budget option, and for good reason – it is very inexpensive. Yet, it’s also highly rated by buyers.
This is a beginner friendly mouthpiece, especially given the price. It has a surprisingly good sound too.
Some reviewers found that it was only good for temporary use, and some only use it as a backup. Most found it was not worthwhile for intermediate or advanced players.
But if you’re not looking for a replacement, and all you need is a quick upgrade, this is a good place to look.
JodyJazz HR 7M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
The JodyJazz HR 7M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon), not surprisingly, is ideally suited to jazz. This mouthpiece is well known for its consistency, reliability, warm tone, free blowing feel, and quality performance.
With a medium tip opening and hard rubber construction, the mouthpiece was designed with beginner to intermediate players in mind.
Reviewers enjoyed its vintage sound, free blowing design, and projection.
Relative few say it did not work for pop gigs requiring hard blowing and thought it didn’t work that well on low and high notes.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the JodyJazz HR 7M mouthpiece essentially comes at a premium price. Many customers found it to be worthwhile, but if you’re budget conscious, that may be a deal breaker.
Henri Selmer Paris S80 Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece C
The Henri Selmer Paris S80 Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece C was designed for classical and wind band playing. Basically, it’s supposed to be a good all-arounder.
The mouthpiece makes all registers very playable, and it’s got a full, broad tone to boot.
Buyers found the mouthpiece offered a very clear tone and even found it versatile, noting it worked for classical and jazz alike. They also liked its overall quality.
A relative few thought the mouthpiece was maybe a little overrated. That said, this is one of the more “standard” models if there ever was one.
Vandoren AL3 OPTIMUM SM711 Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
This SM711 was created with ebonite, which allows for a clear, articulate tone that brings out the sound of your instrument.
Overall, this mouthpiece boasts a great sound and responsiveness. It’s easy to blow and play, and it produces strong, warm tones too.
Some reviewers, however, found the product to be ideal only for beginners.
Vandoren A55 SM603B Jumbo Java Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
The Vandoren A55 SM603B Jumbo Java Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece balances comfort with projection. This mouthpiece features a high baffle, small chamber, and large bore. The manufacturer says its projection is on par with metal mouthpieces.
According to buyers, this mouthpiece features good resonance, response, brightness, and great sound quality to boot.
Vandoren A6 V16 SM812M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
This ebonite mouthpiece comes with a medium chamber, but there are several other options available depending on your needs.
Most customers found the mouthpiece easy to play, and loved its fast response, fatter tone, and consistency.
Some found it to be nothing out of the ordinary and found that it wasn’t the right mouthpiece for them. To be fair, it can take a few tries to find the ideal mouthpiece for you! Don’t give up if you don’t get it right the first time.
J&D Hite H117 Premiere Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
The J&D Hite H117 Premier Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) was made with hard rubber. And yet, it is very affordable for a mouthpiece of this construction and quality.
Ideal for the advancing student, if you’ve been using a cheap, beginner oriented plastic mouthpiece until now, the H117 mouthpiece should prove a step up.
This mouthpiece is known for being easy to play and being capable of delivering a variety of tones too.
Happy customers found this mouthpiece to be a step up from generic mouthpieces and were happy with the price too.
Those who’ve already played with better mouthpieces are unlikely to be impressed by this one, even in the slightest. But if you’re ready for an affordable upgrade from stock alto saxophone mouthpieces, this is a fantastic budget option to check out.
D’Addario Rico A3 Grafonite Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
The D’Addario Rico A3 Grafonite Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are ideal for newbies and youngsters. It features a free blowing design that makes it easy to play, and it’s wrapped in a familiar, traditional outer coating too.
Suitably, D’Addario designed these mouthpieces to be durable and long lasting. If the A3 isn’t quite right for you, you’ll be glad to know there are a variety of options for different sonic qualities.
The large A chamber allows for brightness and projection, and the mouthpiece was designed by world renown Arnold Brilhart.
Overall, this mouthpiece features a great sound, is highly playable, and as advertised, it’s quite robust too. The budget conscious will also love that it’s very affordable.
Some thought the mouthpiece was “just okay” but for the price, you can only ask for so much.
What To Look For In An Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
A mouthpiece may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in terms of sound, playability, intonation, comfort, and more. Simplistically, a saxophone is made up of the mouthpiece, reed, and body of the instrument, and every piece counts.
While the products mentioned here are certainly the best, we know that choosing the right one for your situation can still prove a bit of a pretzel. Fortunately, the following tips should help.
Here we consider the main criteria you should look at when deciding which alto saxophone mouthpiece to buy. They are as follows:
- Mouthpiece room
- Baffle position
Let’s dig into each.
One very important consideration is often forgotten when buyers are hunting for alto saxophone mouthpieces – sound! It seems like the first thing everyone should be looking at, and yet it’s often the last thing discussed (if at all). How could that be?
The tone you get from your sax doesn’t depend on the mouthpiece alone, but it is a significant factor. There’s a reason some are advertised as being great for jazz while others were made with classical in mind. Sure, some mouthpieces are great for just about everything, but sound should still be a part of your buying decision.
Now, it is very hard to know for sure what’s going to work for you without first testing it out. Most music stores aren’t just going to let you take a mouthpiece out of its box, try it out, and then return it, for very obviously reasons.
But there are still a couple of things we can do to assess whether the mouthpiece might be the right fit for us.
For one, we can read reviews. There are bound to be mixed opinions, no matter the product, and no matter its quality. But if an overwhelming majority of people like the tone, sound, and feel of a mouthpiece, there’s a good chance it really is good.
For another, we can watch video demos and reviews. This is not a foolproof process, because something can always get lost in translation when listening to samples online, whether it’s your computer speakers, headphones, reflections in your room, or otherwise. But it’s certainly better than nothing.
So, take advantage of the information that’s available. It may not be much, but it’s better than nothing. Just imagine – there was a time, before the internet, when sax players had to choose mouthpieces by hearsay alone!
With that established, we’ll be looking at several more granular factors that affect tone – construction material, mouthpiece room, baffle position, and table.
The material used to make the mouthpiece is a significant factor in its tone, and sometimes playability. Some are made of plastic and rubber. Others are made with crystal or wood. And that’s just scratching the surface. Plenty of other materials, like metal and ebonite, are also used to make mouthpieces.
Not all types of mouthpieces are represented in this guide, because honestly, some are much harder to find in the market. That said, you will find the most common types of mouthpieces above.
As a general overview, plastic mouthpieces are sometimes considered good for beginners, rubber mouthpieces are often used for jazz and classical, crystal is also used for jazz, and metal mouthpieces are commonly used for all styles, because of their projection.
When it comes to metal mouthpieces, stainless metal boasts certain advantages over non-stainless, like a brighter sound, more projection, as well as ease of maintenance and cleaning.
Wooden mouthpieces, by the way, have a warm sound to them, but are considered unstable, and aren’t widely used.
If we wanted to, we could dedicate another section entirely to the topic of musical styles and genres and deciding which mouthpiece to buy for which. We’ve rolled it into one here because we’re providing a lot of detail already, but you should be aware that you should consider mouthpieces alongside the style of music you’re going to be playing.
The saxophone is a single-reed woodwind instrument, with wind being the key word here. As the air moves through the mouthpiece to the reed and then to the body of the instrument, a sound is produced. The shape of the mouthpiece, or “mouthpiece room” will not only affect the tone, but also whether you get a sound at all!
The wider the mouthpiece room, the harder it is to produce a good sound. Beginner mouthpieces will have adequate room for beginners (i.e., more), and professional mouthpieces will have adequate room for professionals (i.e., less).
But if you’re planning to switch mouthpieces, it’s good to remember that there may be an adjustment period depending on what you’re personally used to.
The position of the baffle plays into the overall sound of the mouthpiece. Low baffles usually result in mellower, warmer tones, while higher baffles usually offer more projection and a brighter tone.
The more you play the saxophone, the more acquainted you will become with nuances like these.
If you’re unsure, you can simply buy based on the type of tone you want.
The table of the mouthpiece is where the reed sits, and it’s supposed to be flat and smooth so as to offer a secure fit for the reed. This helps with tone production.
Another key factor that’s rarely discussed with alto saxophone mouthpieces is playability. Hmm… seems like a rather important thing to cover!
No doubt it’s related to everything we’ve already discussed, and the instrument itself plays a part, but we’ve noted from our own experience, as well as comments and reviews, that mouthpieces do make a big difference when it comes to being able to play in higher or lower registers, intonation, and more!
As with sound, there’s only so much you can know about the playability of a particular mouthpiece without trying it. That said, reviews and videos are still a good source of information.
When terms like “free blowing” are used, they also refer to playability. But depending on your skill and experience level, and the sound you’re going after, you don’t always want free blowing. Thus, why there are many types of mouthpieces.
Mouthpieces are not generally at a price point that should break the bank. But when you’re irrationally passionate about something, it’s very easy to spend money you don’t have.
We don’t recommend going into debt for any music related purchases, because we believe music is meant to be enjoyed. Big credit card bills can steal the joy right out of playing music. Trust me – I should know!
If you’re buying multiple items, consult your budget and ensure you’re not overspending. If you can’t afford the gear, you’re thinking about buying right now, save up!
Best Alto Saxophone Mouthpieces Brands
The best alto saxophone mouthpieces are generally created by companies specializing in saxophones, clarinets, accessories, or some combination thereof. There are many trustworthy names out there, and there are products suited to every need.
Here are the best alto saxophone mouthpiece brands we know of.
Yamaha doesn’t specialize in alto saxophone mouthpieces specifically, but their Standard Series 4C alto saxophone mouthpiece (which is often sold out!) is the standard around which the market largely revolves around, which says a lot.
This Japanese company makes just about everything you can name when it comes to musical instruments, including pianos, keyboards, guitars, drums, synthesizers, strings, percussion, and much more.
They don’t make great everything, but they never stop trying. And it seems like they’ve got mouthpieces down to a science.
D’Addario may be known best for their guitar strings, but they also make accessories for just about everything you can name – percussion, orchestral, woodwinds, and more.
D’Addario was founded in 1973 and is a family-owned American company. Plenty of musical instrument companies have made bad moves and have found themselves in hot water, but D’Addario has been smart with their business dealings all along, expanding their operations only as they’re able.
Rico, a well-known manufacturer of reeds, for example, belongs to D’Addario. You can count on D’Addario to make quality products.
Henri Selmer Paris
Henri Selmer Paris (or Selmer Paris or simply Selmer) can’t quite land on a name and stick with it. That’s okay with us, though, because the quality of their products is top notch.
Unlike some musical instrument brands, Henri Selmer Paris’ product range is firmly rooted in saxophones, clarinets, and mouthpieces. You’ve got to love a company that specializes in what they do and takes pride in their work.
The company has an extensive history, and the French enterprise was originally founded in 1885.
Vandoren (or Vandoren Paris) shares plenty in common with Henri Selmer Paris. The company focuses entirely on saxophones, clarinets, and accessories. They’re also French, and they also have a rich history, beginning in 1905. And like D’Addario, they’re a family business.
Players like Branford Marsalis, Dr. David Milne, Pedrosaxo, Walter Blanding, Mike Phillips, and many others all use Vandoren mouthpieces.
jj Babbitt is responsible for the J&D Hite line of hard rubber mouthpieces among others. The company has been in business for over 100 years, and they specialize in saxophone and clarinet mouthpieces.
Their products have a reputation of being good bang for buck. True to form, their mouthpieces are affordable and highly rated by reviewers.
jj Babbit offers an array of mouthpiece products suited to all playing styles and playing levels.
French companies do get a lot of attention in the alto saxophone mouthpiece market, but JodyJazz has risen as a formidable U.S. company handcrafting saxophone mouthpieces. It looks as though they could maybe use a little help with their website’s homepage, but their mouthpieces are of high quality.
JodyJazz offers a large array of saxophone mouthpiece products, but not surprisingly they also make clarinet mouthpieces and accessories.
Their mouthpieces are utilized by the likes of George Garzone, Tom Scott, Jeff Coffin, Andy Snitzer, JD Allen, and many others.
Top Alto Saxophone Mouthpieces, Final Thoughts
Alto saxophone mouthpieces truly are individual. Even if a strong majority of people agree on a certain mouthpiece, it’s not guaranteed to be the right one for you.
As you’re shopping for a mouthpiece, that’s the most important thing to keep in mind – finding a solution that’s matched to your needs.
We’ve presented the best options here, and the rest is up to you. Have fun and let us know how it goes.