With Strength Comes Beauty

Tenor Sax Mouthpieces

I still haven’t figured out which tenor sax mouthpiece I’m going to settle on. So far I have my Guardala, which I’ve had for 21 years. Then when I bought my tenor sax last summer I bought a Vandoren V16. About a month or two after that I bought a Vandoren Jumbo Java. They all work depending on what reed I use.

I didn’t begin playing tenor until 1991 while I was in the Navy. Before that, I had only played alto and baritone sax in high school and college. When I picked up the tenor in ’91, I didn’t even have a mouthpiece. My Master Cheif let me borrow a metal, Brilhart Level Air mouthpiece. The saxophone was loaned to me by a high school friend, Arthur Mareno. It was an old Cleveland horn from around the 1960s I think. I managed to get a decent sound out of the combination, but the mouthpiece was pretty beat up. I definitely needed something else.

At some point a few years later I got hold of a Berg Larsen that would give me a pretty good sound depending on the reed. It was never consistent enough for me though. Eventually, I bought the Guardala Brecker II in 1996. It was the most expensive purchase I’d ever made for a saxophone accessory.

What I’m Trying to Produce When I Play

The reason I bought it was because of its name sake, Michael Brecker. To this day I think he had one of the best tenor sounds ever. I wanted to have that sound. I never did match Brecker’s sound but, the mouthpiece gave me the best tenor sound I’d ever produced, and it also gave me more control over my intonation. Another bonus was the easy access it gave me to the horn’s altissimo/third octave. By that time I was playing a Yamaha custom tenor furnished by the Navy, and using Vandoren green Java reeds, 2 1/2.

The difficulty of playing the Guardala here lately has to do with a lack of strength in my embouchure. By the time I had started using the Guardala in the Navy my embouchure was very strong. When I bought my tenor sax last summer I had not played for nearly 9 years. I broke out my Guardala mouthpiece and put it on my new Allora Paris Series horn and it didn’t work for me. That is the reason I ended up buying the two Vandoren mouthpieces. Now it has been a little over a year of barely consistent practice. Now that my embouchure is stronger I have been able to use the Guardala, and get closer to that sound I used to be able to get. So it doesn’t require a Yamaha Custom Tenor, though I’d like to have a Yamaha one of these days, or maybe something better. The new Selmers are beautiful. I’d like to play one some day.

Regaining Some Losses

My embouchure is stronger. I am now able to use my Guardala again. With some work, I should be able to get that same rich sound I got from the Yamaha Custom.

I am still working with the two Vandoren mouthpieces as well. All three mouthpieces give me a different type of sound, all of which I like. But I do like the Guardala sound the best. And as my embouchure gets stronger the more beautiful sounds I make. It drives me to work even harder.

My technique needs work, but I’m already on it. I need to practice more. I think I’m still excited about playing and I look forward to getting better. I may even venture out in public one day soon.

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