Starting on a new instrument can be nerve racking. The accessory costs alone can be as much as 1/3 of the total bill. Because of that, many starting saxophone players cringe when they see that mouthpieces can cost a fortune. A high quality mouthpiece often runs as much as $200-$400, and they can go for more than $1000 on the outside. Fortunately, a few companies are making great sax mouthpieces right now that won’t kill your budget.
Beginner Sax Mouthpieces
A good beginner saxophone mouthpiece should be middle of the road in everything except playability. You want something that has a good diversity of sound, control, and air requirements. You also want excellent quality control so you don’t get a dud mouthpiece. Finally, you want it to be cheap.
Cost may not be on everyone’s mind, but if you are just starting off, what is to say that you will still be with this in 5 years? If you aren’t sure, stay on the cheap side of things. Nobody needs to start on an expensive vintage metal mouthpiece, especially since it probably is only a marginal improvement on a cheaper piece.
Some Starting Picks
There are a few common names pushed around for beginner mouthpieces. A classic beginner piece is the Yamaha 5C. It retails for less than $35, and it is a standard among Yamaha enthusiasts and other players alike. It is built to be comparable to more expensive Selmer mouthpieces, but it is far cheaper. It generally sounds “middle of the road” on a saxophone, and is diverse enough to allow a beginner plenty of expression.
Another common choice is the Rico Graftonite line. The graftonite line is also quite cheap, typically less than $30, and sounds great on most saxophones. Once again, all the versatility a beginner needs is right there, and the mouthpiece will not hold you up. Compared to many “disposable” mouthpieces that come with imported horns, this is a huge step up.
Finally, and this is a stretch for most beginners, is a mouthpiece specific to a sound. Most specifically, I’m thinking of the Rascher mouthpiece. Developed by Sigurd Rascher based off of the original plans for mouthpieces by Adolphe Sax, it is modestly expensive in the low $100 to $150 range, but it is critical to the “Rascher Sound” according to most Rascher school people. I will admit that it sounds quite nice if you want to play like Rascher, but I don’t know that it justifies the cost for an absolute beginner.
Ask Your Teacher
If you are really up for it, ask your teacher about his choice. It probably won’t be off the charts expensive either. The Yamaha 5C is a pretty common recommendation for many teachers, especially for band instruments. Yamaha is the standard for many high school bands, so that may be your best bet. Another common recommendation is a Selmer C*, but these are far more expensive.
In any case, look for the mouthpiece that suits you, but don’t spend a fortune. It is better to spend the $300 later when you know that the mouthpiece will give you something special on top of your fully developed skills. At first, focus on mouthpieces that will work on your saxophone and won’t hold you back.
Rascher Saxophone Mouthpieces: A Message from Sigurd Rascher
Rico Mouthpieces: Graftonite Mouthpieces