tenor saxophone mouthpiece and neck

Improve Your Sound With A New Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece!


Author: Garrett Becker Published on: December 29, 2020
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

Decisions, Decisions!

One of the best ways to improve your saxophone’s tone, ease of play, and intonation, is to upgrade your tenor sax mouthpiece. With so many different makes and models of mouthpieces however, it can be a real slog to get through each and every one in order to figure out which one would be best for you. 

Choosing between whether or not to go for metal or hard rubber materials, brighter or darker sound, whether you’re looking for a warm classical sound or an aggressive pop sound, and even how much projection you want to get out of your mouthpiece can all be an incredibly complex process. 

In reality, the best way to find your perfect mouthpiece would be to just go to your local music shop and try out everything that they have on hand. However, with online shopping becoming so convenient and music shops becoming more and more rare, many musicians will have a knee-jerk reaction to good reviews whether from their friends or online. 

In order to help our readers make smart and informed decisions, this article will present the best tenor saxophone mouthpieces; be it a classical, jazz, metal, or hard rubber mouthpiece, there will be a mouthpiece on this list that will be perfect for your specific needs!

Vandoren 

Vandoren has been around since 1905 and very quickly became a leader in reeds, mouthpieces, and accessories for clarinets and saxophones. It makes sense then, that Vandoren would have popular mouthpieces focused on multiple styles. 

Classical - Optimum

The Optimum tenor sax mouthpiece has been a favorite for classical tenor sax players for years now and when you look at the specs of the piece, it makes sense. 

Widely regarded as the industry-standard, the TL5 is a hard rubber mouthpiece that has been specifically designed around fitting into the Classical style. 

It features a:

A). Medium facing 

B). Large, round chamber

C). No baffle

D). Slightly scooped sidewalls

This results in a clear and warm sound, moreover, this mouthpiece is known for its easy intonation and playability. When selecting the tip opening, I would recommend the TL5 as it is the largest opening, and it offers the best balance of free-blowing and back pressure needed for a great classical piece.

Jazz - V16 Metal/Hard Rubber

Designed around imitating and innovating on the classic jazz saxophone mouthpieces from the 1950s to present, Vandoren’s V16 is a great mouthpiece for someone looking for a solid all-around mouthpiece with a bit of extra sizzle for good measure.

The hard rubber features:

A). Long Facing

B). Medium or large chamber

C). Slight rollover baffle

D). Slightly scooped sidewalls

The metal option features:

A). Medium long facing

B). Large, medium, small chambers

C). Long rollover baffle

D). Straight sidewalls

Although these mouthpieces share the same name, they are made of different materials and even have slightly different designs. If one was to compare the two to each other, the hard rubber has a bit more character to its sound whereas the metal has more projection. 

Funk/Rock- Jumbo Java 

Known as one of the heavy hitters in the pop music world, the Jumbo Java is built for one thing. To SCREAM.

It features:

A). Medium long facing

B). Small chamber

C). Large step baffle

D). Straight sidewalls

With such aggressive features, i.e. large step baffle and straight sidewalls, this mouthpiece is surprisingly versatile. While it can definitely cut above practically any band as it was designed, it can also be restrained in order to play softer, more tender songs fairly easily. Anyone looking for a bright but still versatile sound, this would be a great choice!

Top Rated
vandoren tenor saxophone mouthpiece v16
Seeking appeal to the Straight Ahead saxophone crowd, the V16 Metal harkens back to the old mouthpieces of yore with a strong, tough sounding core, while still maintaining the intonation and ease of play of the modern world.

Jody Jazz

A very popular brand among all levels of saxophonists, Jody Jazz is a relative newcomer in comparison to most other names on this list. Founded by a former saxophone professor of saxophone and clarinet at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York, Jody Jazz has both hard rubber and metal mouthpieces worth checking out. 

Jazz - HR*

If you are looking for a great all-around, hard rubber mouthpiece, trying out this piece is a must! Designed to replicate the old Slant Sig Links from the past, it looks quite similar in dimensions and plays similarly as well.

It features: 

A). Round, medium-sized chamber

B). Rollover baffle

C). Medium facing

D). Scooped sidewalls

Boasting a free-blowing nature and warm tone, this mouthpiece can fit into just about any setting. From Big Band, Straight Ahead, Bebop, and other small group settings, this mouthpiece excels at blending in with a section or leading an acoustic band, the HR* is a strong contender in the middleweight division of saxophone mouthpieces.

Jazz/Fusion - DV NY

For anyone looking to capture that old school sax sound from the 1940s - 60s, the DV NY is a great choice. 

It features: 

A). Long rollover baffle

B). Extra-large reed window

C). Scooped sidewalls

D). Long facing

E). Medium chamber

The DV NY was made to be an alternate option for people searching for that vintage Otto Link sound. Free-blowing, and darker in tone than the normal DV, these mouthpieces are perfect for Straight Ahead, Bebop, and any music that doesn’t require you to cut above a ton of electronic instruments in a live setting. 

Funk/Rock/Pop - Super Jet

The Super Jet does exactly what it sounds like it should be able to do; it turns your saxophone into a plane engine and makes it SCREAM!

It features:

A). Metal composition

B). High baffle

C). Small chamber

D). Straight sidewalls

E). Medium facing

Furthering the design evolution of the original Jet mouthpiece, the Super Jet boasts a literal ton of projection and the ability to cut through any setting with its bright sound. While this mouthpiece was created for artists in the smooth jazz and funk/rock settings, my experiences have proven it to also be a stable workhorse in practically any studio session setting, with the exception of anything to do with classical.

Best Seller
Jody Jazz tenor saxophone mouthpiece hr
Endorsed by east coast Jazz Legend George Garzone, the HR* is an amazing performer with an amazingly low price. Made for students and professionals alike, this piece has a husky sound with the ability to brighten up if pushed, and darken up when pulled back. This lets it be great at filling the role of a one-size-fits-all type of mouthpiece.

D’Addario

D’Addario is a long-time company in the music business and the founders’ family has been making musical strings since all the way back in 1680. What it didn’t have (until recently) was a saxophone division. Upon its acquisition of Rico, they began to develop a few new mouthpiece designs in an attempt to solidify their presence in the mid-tier saxophone market.  

Classical - Reserve

The first new design put out by D’Addario, the Reserve was designed to be a direct competitor of the TL5 in quality of sound and price.

It features:

A). Medium-long facing

B). No baffle

C). Oval chamber

D). Scooped sidewalls

Coming in at only $180, the Reserve gives you a great bang for your buck. With a sweet sound, great intonation, and a friendly relationship with every reed that I tried on it, this mouthpiece would make for a fantastic step up classical option for students. It could even be used in professional settings for those not willing to part with the tons of money needed to buy a high-end mouthpiece.

Jazz - Select Jazz

Similar to the Reserve, the Select Jazz tenor saxophone mouthpiece strives to give sax players a great mouthpiece with the minimum price tag possible. 

It features:

A). Hard rubber

B). Semi-scooped sidewalls

C). Rollover baffle

D). Round, medium-sized chamber

E). Medium facing

Designed to imitate great mouthpieces of the past, the Select Jazz was made in collaboration with Jeff Coffin and is heavily based on his personal Freddy Gregory mouthpiece. It is modified to be even more versatile and reed friendly. The Select has a solid core and tons of sizzle without relying on an intensely bright tone to overwhelm its listeners. If you want a versatile, but aggressive leaning style option with a reasonable price point, then the Select Jazz is for you!

Best Seller
daddario tenor saxophone mouthpiece select jazz
Designed from one of Jeff Coffin’s favorite mouthpieces, the Select Jazz features a medium chamber and midsized rollover baffle that will give your sound a beautiful core, and just a bit of brightness. King of the middleweight sax mouthpiece, the Select will amaze you with its great tone, intonation, and versatility!

Meyer

If you haven’t heard of these mouthpieces then you really have kept your head in the sand. Founded in 1936, Meyer quickly became a household name in every band and was similarly seen in every saxophonists' horn case at some point or another. 

Smooth Jazz/Funk - Metal

It features: 

A). Straight sidewalls

B). Medium rollover baffle

C). Small chamber

D). Medium/short facing

E). Metal composition

While Meyer has both hard rubber and metal versions of their sax mouthpieces only the metal version is widely popular for tenor. These mouthpieces are solid, if a bit limited in usage, and fit into smooth jazz and rock bands. Sounding punchy and bright, the metal Meyer takes a bit of work to make it really shine, but when the work is put in, boy does it shine!

Price Drop
meyer tenor saxophone mouthpiece
Description: Delivering a powerful but controllable sound, the Meyer Metal has been providing saxophone players with the sound that they want for over 50 years! Mouthpiece includes a ligature and cap.

Otto Link is a hallowed name in the world of jazz. Played by every top-tier saxophonist ever, both their hard rubber and metal pieces have been present in just about every influential jazz album ever recorded and for good reason. These mouthpieces are high quality and produce some of the best sounding notes that can be made on a saxophone. 

Big Band/Straight Ahead/ Bebop - Tone Edge

If you are looking for the perfect mouthpiece to blend in with your school’s big band, or if you want a Cool Jazz/Stan Getz type vibe to your sound, then this mouthpiece could be right up your alley.

It features:

A). Hard rubber construction

B). Scooped sidewalls

C). Small rollover baffle

D). Round, large chamber

E). Long Facing

To get a snapshot in your mind of what this mouthpiece sounds like, then go listen to some Stan Getz recordings and there you have it. This tenor piece has a lush, more gentle sound to it with just about the least projection on this list except for perhaps the classical options. Moreover, it is very reed friendly, and it has a great blow if you are ok with just a bit of resistance. 

Based on the popular Florida era Otto Link mouthpieces, the Florida model is a great new addition to the Otto Link family, and should help saxophonists get the classic vintage FL sound, without paying the insanely high ($1500 plus!!) vintage Florida prices.

It features:

A). Metal composition

B). Fairly aggressive rollover baffle

C). Largish, round chamber

D). Scooped sidewalls

E). Unique ligature 

Built with a more aggressive baffle and tighter chamber, the Florida is the brightest mouthpiece in the Otto Link roster, and is easily the best modern day Otto Link. With a gritty tone, good intonation, and fantastic power, these pieces excel in drawing the attention of every ear within hearing distance. The only caveat with the Florida being that the Otto Link quality control is less consistent than most, so make sure that you are able to try it out before buying!

Top Rated
otto link tenor saxophone mouthpiece
Otto Link has been around for over and 100 years and to celebrate our 100th anniversary we decided to design and release a modern re-envisioning of the iconic Florida Link. In collaboration with professional musicians, the new Florida Link has been altered and improved inside and out, expanding the opportunity of saxophonists worldwide to recapture that quintessential vintage sound.

Syos (Shape Your Own Sound)

Easily the youngest company on this list, Syos is a French brand that popped up in the last 5 years and has separated itself from other brands by producing all of their mouthpieces by using 3D printing, thus allowing for custom designs to be made quickly and efficiently. Not happy with just a simple gimmick to try to sell their products, they also teamed up world-class artists to design their own perfect mouthpieces to both gain the trust of their audience, as well as to have artist models to offer. 

My personal favorite is their Tivon Pennicott artist model.

It features:

A) Straight sidewalls

B). Ribbed baffles

C). Round, medium chamber

D). Plastic composite construction

E). Long facing

F). Size 9 tip opening is best

I was a bit leery when I first heard about this brand. 3D printed mouthpieces made from plastic definitely sounded like an easy way to use tons of cheap mouthpieces to make money, especially considering Syos mouthpieces are offered in many different colors. However, after hearing that artists such as Chad Leftkowitz-Brown and Tivon Pennicott were endorsed and had artist models, I was intrigued. Deciding to go for Tivon’s model for its more versatile, darker sound, I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to play and how great it sounded. 

The Pennicott model is the perfect blend of bright when you want it, but warm and pure sounding for all the other times. It also is incredibly reed-friendly and as free-blowing as any other great sax mouthpiece. If you are looking for a jack-of-all-trades that adds a bit of eye-candy to your kit, then this definitely is the mouthpiece for you!

Conclusion

Choosing a mouthpiece is tricky, and it's one that requires a lot of thought, some trial-and-error and maybe a little input from a friend. We hope that this was a helpful synopsis of a lot of great mouthpieces, and maybe you've even found the next one to add to your own kit!

Garrett Becker

Garrett Becker

I am a freelance woodwinds session player with a degree in Jazz Studies from CSU Northridge. I am fortunate to have played and recorded with various artists such as: NIKI, 88Rising, Tommy Mora, Melissa Manchester, and Barbera Morrison; as well as go on multiple tours and residencies on Oahu, Hawaii. Primarily a saxophonist by trade, I have also extensively studied and played flute and clarinet. Always looking forward, my most recent exploits have included starting my own home studio for remote recording sessions, writing my own original music, and joining a great sonora band.