I became really frustrated dealing with the inconsistency and waste of my cane reeds and thought I would give the Légère Signature Series Saxophone Reeds a try. I was blown away by these amazing reeds so I became a PRO Certified dealer for them. I never would have thought I would go to a synthetic reed myself but Légère Reeds are so consistent and reliable while sounding fantastic and responding beautifully that I will never go back. They actually make it even more fun to play saxophone!

Yes, one reed is about the cost of a box of cane reeds but it will last longer than a box of cane will and will always sound great. No more dud reeds here, no more reed management! And Légère reeds are a perfect companion to the Theo Wanne line of mouthpieces since they too, have a super high quality and fantastic line of mouthpieces!

Enhancing the airstream is everything when it comes to a Theo Wanne mouthpiece. That is why these beauties are so easy blowing and free flowing. You have to try it to believe it.
 

GOLD – Gold has the most color in the sound of any type of plating. It sounds ‘beautiful.’

SILVER – Silver has a semi-clean and bright tone, but not much color to the tone.

NICKEL – Very clean and pure sounding, but not much color to the tone.

VINTIFIED – It is very resonant and yet dark sounding at the same time; the closest a metal mouthpiece can sound to hard rubber. The Vintified finish™ was created by Theo Wanne the eminent world expert on saxophone mouthpieces.  It is a natural patina which "wears" when handled, creating unique light and dark areas.  

DARK: A warm, less projecting tone. It has a more personal feel. A dark sound is usually created by a low baffle and floor.

BRIGHT: Loud and penetrating sound. A bright sound is usually created by a high baffle and floor.

PROJECTION: A sound that can be heard from far away has good projection. Good projection allows a musician to be heard over other instruments in a group.

CORE: A very centered sound, that has good direction. Like water coming from a hose in a solid focused stream. Also similar to a spot light. The opposite of a spread sound.

SPREAD: Sound that spreads out for a very wide soundstage. Like water coming from a hose that spreads out over a very wide area. in a solid focused stream. This sound envelopes a listener instead of penetrating them. Like a flood light. The opposite of a core sound.

FAT: A full bodied sound that has a sense of width to it. It is the opposite of a thin, nasal like or whiney sound.

ROUND: More the Otto Link school of sound. As opposed to the modern high baffle ‘smooth’ Jazz sound.

COLORFUL: One gets an inner sense of color, usually produced by gold plated mouthpieces. A very interesting sound.

CLEAN: A very pure sound without edge, colorfulness, spread tones, etc.

EDGY: An almost raspy sound, with high partial overtones. It is usually created by a high roll over baffle, and can be an aspect of both dark or bright mouthpieces.

 

Squeaking is usually caused by the reed not being flat. It may not be flat in the first place, may have deformed after absorbing moisture, or formed to the shape of the mouthpiece window. Switching between mouthpieces, or moving the reed, makes this issue even worse. The solution is to flatten the bottom of the reed with a reed knife, Grobet "0 cut" file, or with sandpaper on a flat surface.

Does mouthpiece material affect the sound?

The answer is yes! Theo Wanne machined multiple versions of the same mouthpiece in every material from vintage to new that they could find. The result was unanimous amongst our team. Metal adds zing to the sound, rubber is resonant and warm. Rubber mouthpieces are wider so there is more material in your mouth too. Here are detailed descriptions:

  • BRASS – Brass is the most colorful and ringing of mouthpiece materials.
  • BRONZE – A bit denser, harder sound than brass, with a nice color to the sound.
  • STAINLESS STEEL – A clean focused loud sound, but not much color or richness to the sound.
  • SOLID SILVER – A warm rich sound, but lacking in color.
  • HARD RUBBER – If vintage or modern premium quality, the most resonant traditional material available.  It has a nice dark sound.
  • BLUE A.R.T. – More resonant than traditional materials.  The Blue Advanced Resonance Technology space-age material is available on Theo Wanne mouthpieces.
  • FIBERROD – More resonant than traditional materials.  Fiberrod is used on the Theo Wanne Slant Sig and NY BROS models.
  • STABLE WOOD – Wood is the darkest and warmest material available. It gives a very ‘personal’ sound. It has less volume and is less resonant than hard rubber, but that is part of what gives the ‘personal’ feel.

 

It is a well known fact that Vintage Hard rubber sounds great.  But why?  The reason is that vintage hard rubber is more pure than most modern versions and that it lacks the accelerants and additives of the modern hard rubber.  The key to knowing the purity of a hard rubber mouthpiece is the color of the material when sanded; the lighter the more pure.  When you sand a Theo Wanne mouthpiece, for example, it sands as light as a vintage hard rubber mouthpiece indicating the purest, and highest quality hard rubber available today.  Other modern hard rubber mouthpieces sand much darker.  See the comparison photo below.

Have you ever wanted to sound like another musician, gotten an identical set-up to them, but then noticed you still sound nothing like them? Simply copying another person's set-up is not very effective because there are other important factors that come into play like to blowing style, interior mouth shape, abdominal pressure, and embouchure.  These other factors can all impact the sound you create on the saxophone.  Adjusting the baffle on your mouthpiece can make a significant difference in your sound and that might help you overcome the other factors above. The baffle is truly the most magical and interesting part of the entire saxophone/mouthpiece combination.

The mouthpiece, not the saxophone, is responsible for over 80% of the tone a musician gets while playing. And more than half of the sound that comes from the mouthpiece comes from the baffle. The closer you get to the initial source, or creation point, of the sound wave, the larger the impact you have on the sound. Since the baffle is the very first thing that the sound wave hits, it is where the initial shape of the sound is created and has the largest impact on the resultant sound coming out of the saxophone/mouthpiece set-up.

This is why the baffle is the single most important part of the mouthpiece/horn configuration. For reference, the baffle is the section of the mouthpiece directly behind the tip rail that extends back into the mouthpiece about a half inch. While a good facing makes the mouthpiece easy to play and respond, the baffle is what creates the basic sound of your horn. The baffle is where the sound is first created. So while classical, rock, and jazz players may play the same horn, and even have the same facing and chamber size, where the basic sound difference comes from is the baffle. There are four fundamental baffle shapes that a mouthpiece can have: Straight, Roll-Over (Convex), Concave, and Step.

The Straight baffle has a straight line from the tip rail into the chamber. It has very dark sound. The first saxophone mouth­pieces by Adolf Sax at the turn of the century until the early 1940's were all straight baffles. This baffle can help keep musicians who blow very hard from sounding too bright.

The Roll-over baffle forms a convex curve right behind the tip rail which acts like a very short rounded high baffle. This gives the mouthpiece added edge and growl while also allowing a warm tone. This is the classic sound of Otto Links and Meyers from the 1950s to present. A good roll-over baffle is an art form to create.

The Concave baffle looks like an indentation behind the tip rail. This is seldom used as it pro­duces a dull tone unless combined with a step-baffle.

The Step baffle forms a high step dropping down into the chamber. It creates a bright sound and great projection, so is often used in R&B, Rock&Roll, and Smooth Jazz. This baffle can sound thin if not done properly.

The facing is the continuous curve starting from the break and ending at the tip rail and is the surface the reed vibrates against while the musician blows into the mouthpiece.
 
The facing varies greatly among mouthpiece brands and dictates how free blowing or resistant a mouthpiece is, as well as the type of response the mouthpiece gives in the upper, middle, and lower registers of the instrument.
 
Selmer and Brilhart use short facings and make the upper register easier, Otto Link and Meyer use medium facings as do most other manufacturers and the New York Otto Link and Berg Larson use a long facing which accentuates the lower end of the horn.
 

What is a True Large Chamber?

True Large Chamber mouthpieces have significantly larger chambers than the bore. They also have significantly rounded inner side walls that extend all the way to the tip. This is done to allow the sound wave to spread width-wise in the mouthpiece creating a robust, rich, and warm sound.  A medium chamber is where the chamber is the same size as the bore and a small chamber is where the chamber is smaller than the bore.

Spring into a whole new sound this Fall!

Bring a friend and get a discount on anything Theo Wanne!

Do you play sax and clarinet?  Do you have friends who play the clarinet?  Bring them with you to the workshop this Saturday and see the new GAIA2 for Clarinet!

Small, Medium, or Large Chamber, what is the difference and how do you tell? Hear the master, Theo Wanne, explain all the ins and outs of mouthpiece design and terminology. Join us for this free workshop this Saturday, Nov 19.

Do you already have a Theo Wanne mouthpiece but want the latest version?  Bring your old piece with you and get a discount!

Come see what Theo has been up to this past year.  You will be amazed!

Do you have an pesky leak somewhere in your horn? Is that sticky pad driving you crazy? Come see some of the best repair people in town at the workshop next Saturday Nov 19.

Thank you so much for inventing the saxophone!

Do you have cool saxophone tips and tricks you would like to share? Is something puzzling you about your saxophone that you have not been able to figure out? Come rub elbows with your fellow Saxophonists at the workshop on Nov 19 and make a connection that will benefit you or your saxophonist community.

Do you want to test all sorts of Theo Wanne mouthpieces? We will have a huge selection available at the workshop for you whether you plan Soprano, Alto, Tenor, or Baritone. See you there!

Do you wish your mouthpiece would really sing? Is your mouthpiece not quite working for you?

Come to the 2nd Annual Theo Wanne Mouthpiece Workshop Nov 19th and have the master of mouthpiece design and re-work, Theo Wanne himself, do complimentary work on your mouthpiece for you.

Watch a fascinating video interview with saxophonist extraordinaire, Mindi Abair as she talks about the creation of her new Custom Signature Theo Wanne mouthpiece in collaboration with Theo Wanne.  I was able to catch Mindi when she was in town at Jazz Alley February 2016 with The Boneshakers.  We sat down before her sound check to learn more about the soul of her unique saxophone sound.  Click on the photo below to watch the video!

 

Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers are in Seattle Feb 11-14th at Jazz Alley and she will be lighting up the stage with her new Theo Wanne Mindi Abair Signature Alto mouthpiece!  If you want to cut through the clutter with your alto this is the piece for you!  Completely new A.R.T (Advanced Resonance Technology) features have been developed for this mouthpiece, including a new 'swept-step' baffle with roll-over, a newly designed flat-side-wall chamber, and unique duck-bill beak. The result is the most screaming alto mouthpiece ever made, yet amazingly, when you want to step back and relax you can do that too, making this mouthpiece incredibly expressive!

Welcome to town Mindi!

 

Have you Tenor players been waiting for the holy grail Tenor mouthpiece? Theo Wanne has used the best design principles from the first Slant Signature models in the early 1950s through the Early Babbitt models in the 1970s to make the new Theo Wanne™ Slant Sig Tenor Mouthpiece.   It is the ultimate vintage Slant Sig Link and it is here at Saxophone Insights now.  Call me for a demo!  Check out Jay Thomas demoing the mouthpiece.

 Hello Saxophone Insights fans!

I have posted the video of Theo's 90 minute presentation from our Theo WanneTM Saxophone Mouthpiece Workshop on October 31, 2015 on YouTube.  If you missed the workshop here is your chance to hear it straight from Theo!  There is a ton of great information there if you are at all curious about the evolution of mouthpiece design and where we are today.  Theo offers lots of inside insights from his 25+ years in the business.  Don't miss this!

 

 

 

36 people braved the wind and the rain to attend the Theo WanneTM Saxophone mouthpiece workshop on Halloween day in Seattle hosted by Saxophone Insights.  The air was electric as the saxophonists arrived for what turned out to be an amazing Seattle Saxophone community event.  The Theo Wanne team of Theo, Bryan, Matt, and Justin brought at ton of mouthpieces, prototypes, Mantra saxophones, and raffle giveaways for the audience.

        

We had Cennamo Woodwinds, Worldwide Sax, and Granlund Woodwinds set up their saxophone repair shops at the event displaying all sorts of vintage saxophone eye candy and offering repair tips for the attendees. 

     

Theo delivered a fascinating hour long presentation on the history of mouthpiece design highlighted by stories from his personal journey in the business of mouthpieces to where Theo Wanne, the company and his designs are today.  The audience was very engaged asking questions every step of the way.  Theo generously shared his wealth of knowledge and experience for everyone's benefit.

We also had a Distinguished guest attend, Bob Carpenter, the famous mouthpiece design and repair master for many years in the Seattle area.  Bob was Theo's mentor many years ago and this was the first time in ages the two mouthpiece masters had met. 

Theo worked on attendees mouthpieces as promised!

And we had a massive mouthpiece testing session for all attendees with many waiting in line to try the new Slant Sig Tenor mouthpiece that will be released in January 2017.  The Slant Sig sounded great!

                                        

I had a fantastic time getting to know the saxophonists who came and loved hearing the testing sessions with all sorts of magical saxophone sounds coming out of the testing rooms.  Thanks to everyone for a great event. 

Michael Brockman from the University of Washington was there testing mouthpieces and demonstrating his Broctave Key design for interested attendees.  He loved the Slant Sig too!

Thanks to the everyone who attended, to the Theo Wanne team, Cennamo Woodwinds, Grandlund Woodwind Repair, and Worldwide Sax for helping make the event a huge success!

I don’t know about you but in my previous mouthpiece buying experience I would have to line up multiple, identical mouthpieces from a manufacturer and then play each one individually to assess them.  Why?  Because each one played differently even though they were labeled identically.  The variability of the manufacturing and hand finish processes involved in making mouthpieces forced me to take this approach of finding the best one in the batch.

I recently visited Theo WanneTM in Bellingham to discuss our upcoming Saxophone Mouthpiece Workshop in Seattle on Oct 31st.  I was fortunate to meet with Theo and Matt as they were reviewing some new designs on the CAD system. 

Theo & Matt discussing a mouthpiece design

Theo and Matt have thoroughly embraced technology to help drive their mouthpiece design and manufacturing beyond any others in the world.  Theo Wanne manufactures their mouthpieces to within 2 ten thousandths of an inch (.0002) in a state of the art, aerospace quality manufacturing facility!  To put .0002” in perspective, the thinnest human hair is two thousandths of an inch (.002).  This means they make mouthpieces accurately to within 1/10 of the thinnest human hair! A very small change in the mouthpiece geometry can have a large impact on the sound and response of a mouthpiece making manufacturing tolerances of utmost importance.  This is even more critical at the tip of the mouthpiece, where the sound starts, and every detail of the sound is shaped from this point on.

Why is this important to you?  It means that when you play a Theo Wanne mouthpiece and compare it to another of the same model and facing (6, 6*, 7, etc.) the mouthpieces will play the same.  This means if your mouthpiece is stolen or damaged beyond repair you can buy another knowing that it will play the same as the one you lost!  That is comforting news to me because in the past I had always dreaded the thought of losing my favorite mouthpiece and never being able to get that special feel and sound back again.

Theo & Alan after a tutorial on mouthpiece design by the master, Theo

Alan

Searching for Saxophone Mouthpiece Nirvana

I have been playing saxophone since the day I heard the beautiful sound of a live saxophone played by the band director in my 5th grade classroom.  In reading an online saxophone forum discussion about favorite saxophone mouthpieces, I noticed there were several posts by people raving about the Theo Wanne GAIA mouthpiece.  Researching further, I was impressed by the testimonials from the top saxophone names in the world, and intrigued by Jan Garbarek’s testimonial about the Theo Wanne GAIA soprano mouthpiece:

“And there it is! The soprano piece I´ve been longing for all these years! It sings in all registers, pp - ff, in tune, open yet focused, and fat sounding like a sax should be.”

Could this testimonial from a saxophone legend be true?  Could it be the mouthpiece that I, too, have been longing for all these years? 

I have had the good fortune to travel the world for business over the years and have tested mouthpieces at The Saxophone Shop in Chicago, Rayburn Music in Boston (home of Emilio Lyons, the famous repair person), the Yanagisawa factory in Japan, and many others.  I was delighted to discover that Theo Wanne is located in Bellingham, Washington, only an hour and a half drive north of where I live in Seattle, and I immediately scheduled a visit. 

My Soprano mouthpiece stable includes a Selmer S80 C*, a 60’s vintage Selmer D Metal, an Otto Link 7* from the 80’s, and currently I use a Yanagisawa 5 hard rubber.  Even with all these great mouthpiece options, I have always wondered if there wasn’t something better out there.

My Alto mouthpiece is a Meyer 6M hard rubber, purchased new in 1972.  I have tested many Meyer mouthpiece copies through the years and have never found anything better than my 6M.  I have always worried that I might damage or lose my 6M and never be able to recapture the magical sound of that mouthpiece.  I have always been on the lookout for a near-Meyer like replacement/backup mouthpiece to assuage my fears.

My tenor mouthpiece is a Yanagisawa 5 Metal and while I have found it to be a very good mouthpiece, I was curious to see what Theo Wanne might have that would compare.

When I arrived at the Theo Wanne factory, I was pleased to be met by Bryan, who had thoughtfully prepared mouthpiece selections for me based on the email I had sent him describing the mouthpieces I am currently using.  What I discovered over the course of the next three hours was simply stunning. 

I found the GAIA 7 Soprano mouthpiece was everything I had hoped!  The large chamber hard rubber mouthpiece was free blowing and articulate.  It had a large, clear, clean sound from top to bottom, just as Jan Garbarek had described!  It was clearly in a class of its own, above everything else I have ever tried.  I also tested the Soprano Mantra metal mouthpiece and found it equally wonderful although just a little too much edge for the sound I was looking to capture.

On to the Alto!  I worked my way through the various Theo Wanne models, testing the NY Bros, GAIA, Mantra, and Durga models of Alto mouthpieces.   I felt as if I was test driving beautiful cars, going from Mercedes, to Audi, to BMW, to Porsche.  Each model had its own subtle but distinctive character that was unmistakable from dark to light and from softer to edgier.  I was impressed by the nuance of the feel and sound of each mouthpiece and how Theo had captured that particular character so precisely whether in Metal or Hard Rubber.  Of the four models I tried, I found the Alto GAIA 7 was a near perfect replacement for my old Meyer 6M!     

The Tenor experience was similar to the Alto.  The Ambika, GAIA, Mantra, Durga, and Shiva models offered an array of sensations and sounds that were a delight to experience.   Testing the Shiva, or Destroyer, as it is aptly nicknamed, was like driving a supercharged Porsche race car and took my breath away!  What a blast!  Ultimately, I found the Mantra 6* metal to be the perfect mouthpiece for me.   It was clear from top to bottom, silky smooth, with a large, full-bodied sound that offered me a big Dexter Gordon kind of sound that was robust, and yet beautifully delicate at the same time.   

In all my years of testing saxophone mouthpieces, I have never experienced such a varied and high quality selection of mouthpieces.  I am used to testing mouthpieces for hours and working through disappointment after disappointment, finally finding one marginally satisfactory candidate to purchase in hopes that it might improve as I acclimate to it.  The Theo Wanne mouthpiece experience of being able to “dial-in” the saxophone sound by selecting the model and then the tip opening was astounding to me.  I was able to finally capture the sound I had been hearing in my head for years.  In fact, I could easily choose a couple of different models depending on the playing situation, ranging from Classical, to Jazz, to Rock! 

My new Theo Wanne mouthpieces give me access to a part of the saxophone sound I have not been able to touch before now.  They have enabled me to unlock the true spirit and soul of the saxophone sound.   I have finally found “saxophone mouthpiece Nirvana” in Theo Wanne.  What more could a saxophonist want?

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