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Mouthpieces are a huge part of your tenor sax tone. A beginning player will be frustrated by the screeches and scratches that a cheap mouthpiece will produce. The combination of cheap mouthpieces and a beginner’s technique will inevitably produce a poor sound.
Getting a good saxophone mouthpiece will help you achieve the sounds you hear on your favorite records and it will help you play with ease. With practice, you’ll be able to play your way up and down the entire register of the instrument.
Any of the mouthpieces recommended below will be great choices. Some of them are more expensive than others, so set a budget in advance, and know whether you are looking for a jazz tone or a classical tone. Our recommendations are based on both quality (first and foremost) and expense.
If you need to understand terms like “facing” and “baffle”, which are both parts of the saxophone mouthpiece, scroll to the bottom, where we define some of the terms you need to know.
Vandoren SM723 TL5 Optimum Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
The Vandoren SM723 TL5 Optimum Series mouthpieces have a warm tone and a refined classical sound. It has a medium facing design and a large tip opening. This makes it easy to produce a good quality sound.
By choosing a high-quality mouthpiece like this one, you will have better embouchure control, and be able to get a warmer tone faster. There is no point in putting a super cheap mouthpiece on an expensive instrument.
These mouthpieces work best with the Vandoren #2.5-#3 reeds, but realistically they will work with almost any professional quality reed.
The Vandoren TL5 is a synthesis between the TL3 and the T20. If you are interested in similar reeds, check those out, as they offer similar results.
Vandoren SM823E T7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
Vandoren makes consistently high-quality saxophone reeds and mouthpieces, and the Vandoren SM823E T7 tenor mouthpiece is the perfect place to start. It’s not terribly expensive, but it’s priced so that you get the high-quality product you are paying for.
These mouthpieces are fairly free blowing, with a larger tip opening than other mouthpieces. You should be able to get a big, direct sound without compromising your ability to play low notes.
The tone is full and vibrant, but not too brassy. It is designed as a jazz reed, so it has a darker sound, but the wide tip keeps it edgy enough to play R&B, pop, rock, and more.
The Vandoren does not come with a ligature or a cap, you’ll have to get those separately. It also comes with a few different sizes of tip openings, which will affect the price slightly.
Vandoren SM823GMKO T7 Metal Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Alright, the Vandoren SM823GMKO T7 Med Chamber V16 is arguably one of the best mouthpieces on this list, but it is also incredibly expensive. However, it is worth looking into, if only because it’s a unique piece.
This mouthpiece has a medium chamber that is inspired by the famous mouthpieces from the 50s and 60s. It is made with “Bell Metal”, which was the metal used for years in the prime of jazz saxophone.
It’s a great, authentic mouthpiece for getting the jazz and rock tones you hear on old jazz and Rolling Stones records. You can even get a nice classical tone if you know what to do with it.
Really, the only con to a mouthpiece like this is that it’s expensive and fragile. You need to take good care of it. It’s beautiful and delivers a flawless performance with a versatile and rich tone.
D’Addario Woodwinds Select Jazz Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
This D’Addario Woodwinds mouthpiece is a great option for those looking for a nice jazz sound. A reliable buy, these mouthpieces are milled, not molded, from solid rubber using computer-controlled techniques. Rest assured the quality is there.
This mouthpiece is comparable to the Vandoren V16 series, but has a darker, more vintage sound and increased projection. It’s perfect for a band where you’ll be mic’d up, as it may not cut through a band otherwise.
You won’t find much resistance in this piece, meaning you’re going to have to have good technique and embouchure, but you should be working on that anyways. If you master this mouthpiece you can get the vintage sound as advertised, and blow a little harder for a bright, rockin’ sound.
The D’Addario has the same hard rubber feel as the Jody Jazz mouthpiece but with different characteristics.
Selmer S-80 C Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Selmer is a popular saxophone brand that’s well-known for their high-quality instruments. They have been played for years by amateurs and professionals alike. The S-80 C tenor sax mouthpiece is their top modern offering and is the ‘standard’ mouthpiece for ensemble players.
The S-80 C will work well for both beginners and pros because it blows easily, and the tone is easy to shape. With this mouthpiece, blending with your sax section will be a cinch. If you are a soloist, this mouthpiece probably won’t be your first choice, as the tone isn’t “unique” or loud. It is warm, dark, and easy to blend. Perfect for ensembles!
Your tone will definitely improve with one of these Selmer mouthpieces, and so will your range. These pieces are designed to help you get the most out of your instrument. It is a superior product to entry-level mouthpieces, and it is great at what it does.
Yamaha YAC 1292 Standard Series 5C Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
If you are just starting out on the sax, you should buy a Yamaha 5C. They are affordable, easy to play, and allow you to get a good sound out of the entire range of the instrument. The 5C also pairs well with softer reeds like a #2 or #2.5, which is exactly what most students start on.
It has the free blowing characteristics that jazz players like with a wide variety of tonal possibilities, making it a good option no matter what music you are playing. As far as “cheap/affordable” mouthpieces go, this is a step up from most comparable brands.
Once you are comfortable playing on this Yamaha mouthpiece, and have moved up to harder reeds, you’ll want to assess your playing and potentially purchase a higher-end or less “vanilla” mouthpiece that suits your needs and style.
Rico Graftonite Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Rico makes good quality mouthpieces that have seamless construction, enhanced quality, and good durability. The Graftonite tenor sax mouthpiece is made of Graftonite, which is a hard material that won’t crack easily.
The Graftonite mouthpiece is a middle of the road mouthpiece between warm and bright professional pieces. You can get a nice tone that is neither dark nor bright. It projects well but it’s not loud.
It is a good option for a student or serious amateur, playing either big band or concert band. It blends well and is good in either situation.
While the Rico it is not expensive, it can hold up to pricier models well. This would also make a good alternative to the Yamaha 5V for a beginning student. It isn’t quite as beginner friendly as the Yamaha, but it will do the trick and the price is right.
Aibay Plated Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
Metal mouthpieces tend to have the sound that a lot of players are after, but they are often prohibitively expensive. The Aibay Plated Metal Tenor mouthpiece has the sound you might be looking for at a price you are definitely looking for.
This mouthpiece is very responsive and will pair well with a slightly harder reed. If you have the right combination of reed and embouchure control, you can achieve a beautiful smoky jazz tone.
As you blow harder on these reeds, you’ll achieve more of a bright and punchy tone. Those who have heard and played a high-quality metal mouthpiece may find these tones a little bit shrill, but this is a matter of opinion. You can tame the shrillness by controlling your breath.
If you go with the Aibay mouthpiece, consider experimenting with reeds and ligatures to find something that works for you.
Otto Link OLR-404-7S Tone Edge Rubber Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Otto Link has made another excellent hard rubber mouthpiece that is like the other two we have reviewed so far. The OLR-404-7S Tone Edge mouthpiece is an excellent choice for a jazz saxophonist and Otto Links have been used by jazz players for over 50 years.
This piece comes with a cap and ligature. The tip opening is a #7, meaning somewhat large. The large chamber can open your sound and give you a big, fat, brassy sound that will fit in with a sax section.
But with this mouthpiece, you can still play softly and dynamically. The piece is warm and vintage, which makes it great on a jazz ballad. It’s not too dark and not too bright, it’s just a good mouthpiece.
While it does come with its own ligature, it’s always recommended you try out a few ligatures for yourself. You may already own one that you are used to, and that may be a better choice when you start out on a new mouthpiece.
Dukoff Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece D7
The Dukoff metal tenor mouthpiece has a Silverite metal construction, which gives it a bright, edgy tone. Most of the other mouthpieces we’ve talked about here have a vintage, warm sound, which is what many people are after, but it is important to realize there is variety in mouthpieces.
Using this piece will give your sax sound depth, guts, and excitement. The shank of the mouthpiece is a little longer than other pieces, so that you can get a good grip on the cork while you are tuning. The insert for the teeth is slightly contoured, which makes it very comfortable to play.
You’ll find the Dukoff metal mouthpieces have an immediate and clean response. After a bit of playing, you may find the rich, edgy tone is just the thing to put you out in front of the band!
Meyer MR-404-5MM Rubber Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Meyer makes top-quality mouthpieces for professionals, students, and beginners. The MR-404-5MM mouthpiece is a hard rubber mouthpiece that comes with a ligature and cap. It has a slightly smaller #5MM tip opening.
It’s a great mouthpiece for everyday playing. You can blow powerfully though it without getting thin or scratchy, and the high and low register are both easily accessible. It has a wider range of control so long as you maintain good technique.
The Meyer mouthpiece isn’t necessarily going to change the world, but for daily practice, sax sections, and classical playing this will do the trick. You won’t need another one for years!
UMsky Nickel Plated Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
The UMsky nickel-plated metal mouthpiece is loud and bright. The big, brassy sound is perfect for people playing in big bands, rock bands, or otherwise looking to be heard. It is free blowing and gives you the immediate response you would expect from a metal mouthpiece.
This piece comes with a metal ligature. Because both the ligature and mouthpiece are nickel plated, they are sure to last a long time if you take proper care of them.
The high baffle design has a special “tone chamber” for fast and accurate response. This design also facilitates the use of harmonics. The contour ensures comfort while playing.
You might be better off with a slightly softer reed on this UMsky metal mouthpiece, but you can experiment to figure out what’s best.
J&D Hite H118 Premiere Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
J&D Hite have been making good quality mouthpieces for years and the H118 Premier mouthpiece is no exception. It has an efficient facing design and an accurate finish, which makes for easy tuning, consistent tones, and even playing up and down the instruments register.
This is a plastic mouthpiece designed for professionals and students. It is designed to be versatile. It can produce a variety of tonal colors that are suitable for most any style of saxophone playing.
Our only caution with this mouthpiece, is that it is designed to be played with medium or medium hard reeds with a strong center and thinner sides. These reeds are typically used by pros. That is who this mouthpiece is for, and that’s the kind of reed that will suit it best.
The tone is rich and full. It can be warm, but it also has a bright edge to it that you will need to control. The brightness can be a benefit if you know how to use it, but to the inexperienced player it may be initially undesirable.
If you know how to use the J&D Hite reed, it will be a great option for you at an excellent price. Because it is plastic, it may be slightly less durable, but that may be balanced out by the price.
JodyJazz HR Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Model 7
The JodyJazz HR is a hard rubber mouthpiece aimed at professionals and students looking for a traditional, but versatile mouthpiece. This mouthpiece has a free blowing feel and a beautiful warm sound. It is designed to be a jazz mouthpiece.
The hard rubber has the look, feel, and sound of vintage hard rubber mouthpieces that are now highly sought after. The result is a softer, warmer sound that is perfect for vintage jazz. That said, when you really blow into the JodyJazz, you can get a great sound and it will take a lot of air without breaking up or sounding thin.
Otto Link OLM-404-5S Super Tone Master Metal Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Otto Link is an old company that makes great sounding mouthpieces. The OLM-4040-5S Super Tone Master metal mouthpiece is a top choice for professionals, and you’ll definitely pay for the quality. But this mouthpiece is easily in the top three, because the Super Tone has been used for over 50 years by pros and students alike.
These high-end mouthpieces offer a wide variety of facings for superior tone control. If you are not sure what kind of facing to get, try out a few different styles on less expensive mouthpieces. You’ll learn what you like!
The Otto Link Super Tone mouthpiece offers a warm, whole, and robust sound which is perfect for playing anything from Coltrane to big band. It blows easily and responds immediately. You can get bright tones and warm tones with practice. Truly, this is a professional’s mouthpiece.
What To Look For When Buying A Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece
Buying a mouthpiece for a tenor saxophone can be rather complicated. Saxophones have more complicated mouthpieces than instruments in the brass family like trumpets and trombones.
In a mouthpiece, you are looking for the right combination of the following parts:
- Facing curve
- Chamber and sidewall
- Tip opening
- Beak and bite plate
Each of these things affects the way your mouthpiece responds, and you need to find the right combination to find the perfect mouthpiece for you. Let’s go over what each of these terms means.
Understanding Facing Curves
The facing curve, also known as the “lay” is the part of the mouthpiece that meets the reed. This curve is the most important part of the saxophone mouthpiece. If the curve is bad, then the mouthpiece will be bad.
Squeaky or buzzy mouthpieces usually have warped or imprecisely made facing curves. If the facing curve is well-made, the reed will sit right in the mouthpiece, which allows the reed to vibrate freely.
Baffles are also an important part of the mouthpiece. This is the shape of the part that air is flowing through – so you can bet it makes it a difference! There are three main styles of baffle to choose from.
Flat or straight baffles are the most common baffles for tenor saxophones. They allow air to flow straight through the mouthpiece relatively slowly. Projecting on a flat baffle is slightly harder, but it is very forgiving across all registers. Tenor saxophones use high and low registers equally, which is what makes them popular.
You will find flat baffles on a lot of alto saxophone mouthpieces as well.
The rollover baffle has a short high section that rolls over into a flat baffle. This allows for a growly, edgy tone that suits jazz, rock, and pop music. The best part of rollover baffles is that they allow for the same tone that a flat baffle produces but have the option of going growly when you need to.
Most jazz mouthpieces have rollover baffles.
The step baffle has a “step” in the mouthpiece. This produces a loud and bright sound that is often used in bands and R&B songs. If you are soloing a lot, you might consider a step baffle.
Because step baffles are so easy to play, they are often used in alto and soprano saxophone mouthpieces.
Tip openings are the part of the mouthpiece you are blowing into. Narrow tip openings are more forgiving for beginning players and typically produce a more direct, classical tone.
Wider openings suit the larger range of a tenor sax and are often used in mouthpieces designed for a more advanced player. If you have a stronger embouchure you will be able to handle a narrower tip opening.
Chamber & Sidewall
The chamber size and shape of the sidewall carry much of the weight of shaping the tone of the mouthpiece. This is the area below your reed where the air is being pushed through and it can come in various shapes and sizes.
The larger the volume of the chamber, the darker your tone will be. If you are looking to get a jazz tone, look for a mouthpiece with a large chamber.
The sidewall comes in three shapes: concave, convex, or straight. Small variations in the shape of the sidewall can have a big effect on the airflow and tone.
Beak & Bite Plate
The beak and bite plate of the mouthpiece should be fitted to the embouchure of the player. Players with overbites will prefer mouthpiece with bite plates that have minimal contouring. Players with underbites may prefer a thick beak that can withstand teeth pressing down on the edge of the mouthpiece.
Metal vs Rubber Mouthpieces – Which Should You Choose?
Saxophonists have been debating the merits of metal vs. rubber mouthpieces as long as the saxophone has been around. Some people feel that the material used in the mouthpiece has a direct and noticeable impact on the sound, others don’t.
The truth is a little more complicated.
Hard Rubber Or Ebonite Mouthpieces
A hard rubber or ebonite mouthpiece is made of vulcanized rubber and moulded into the proper shape.
Hard rubber mouthpieces are usually less expensive and more common, mostly because of the expense. They are usually recommended to students and new saxophone players. They are less expensive and sometimes easier to play.
Rubber mouthpieces tend to darken the sound of the sax. On a tenor sax, if you are looking for a smoky sound you should go with a rubber mouthpiece with a medium to large chamber. The sound it produces is like that of 40s and 50s jazz records.
Metal mouthpieces are made from all kinds of metal. Most commonly, they are made of brass, but you can also find them in bronze, stainless steel, silver plate, gold plate, and other custom metals. Metal mouthpieces are popular with tenor saxophonists and are more commonly found on tenors than on other types of saxophones.
Typically, you can expect a metal mouthpiece to give you more projection than a hard rubber mouthpiece and many people find that the tone is “brassier” and more cutting. Most metal mouthpieces for the tenor saxophone have a rollover baffle and medium chamber, but you can also find pieces with step-baffles.
When a metal mouthpiece has a small chamber, it tends to be shrill and nasally.
Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Brands – Who Makes The Best Ones?
As you likely noticed, there are a few brands that make tenor saxophone mouthpieces.
In this section, we’ll look at the absolute best.
Vandoren is a French company, founded in 1905 and is a leader in reeds, mouthpieces, and accessories for saxophones. They make popular and respected reeds and mouthpieces for all types of saxophones.
Otto Link has been making mouthpieces in America since 1920. They are popular and somewhat high-end and are known for their high-quality metal mouthpieces.
JodyJazz is an American company founded by famous Jazz saxophonist Jody Espina. They make popular mouthpieces for players at many different skill levels. All their mouthpieces are geared towards a jazzy sound, and they have pieces in both hard rubber and metal.
Selmer is a French company started in 1885. They make mouthpieces and saxophones ranging from student appropriate to high-end. Their mouthpieces may be more suitable for a classical player.
Top Tenor Saxophone Mouthpieces, Final Thoughts
The mouthpiece in undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of your saxophone. Many players will have a little collection of mouthpieces depending on what kind of tone they want. Don’t be afraid to try out a few, they may come in handy anyways! Remember that for a mouthpiece to shine it needs to be paired with the right reed. Check out our guide on the Best Tenor Saxophone Reeds available.