Choosing an alto sax can be overwhelming as is but the most important piece of the instrument is arguably the mouthpiece.
The mouthpiece can make or break a performance so it’s important to invest in one that you can trust that can provide the best performance.
Whether you are a jazz musician or classical musician or a student learning all genres of music, there are mouthpieces to suit any saxophonist at any ability.
When purchasing an alto sax, it will come with a mouthpiece but over time, the mouthpiece will wear down and need replacing or you may feel as though you need a better one than the one provided with the instrument.
As mouthpieces can be made from varied materials and designed into different shapes that excel in certain types of music, there is a lot to consider when it comes to deciding which mouthpiece is for you. That being said, there is no need to find yourself lost or confused as to which one to go for.
In this article, we will be taking you through the top 5 mouthpieces available followed by a Buyers Guide and FAQ. At the end of this guide, you’ll know what to expect when it comes to researching alto sax mouthpieces as well as what to look out for when deciding which one is right for you.
The FAQ at the end of the article will answer some of the most common questions people have asked so hopefully by the end of this guide, you’ll know everything there is to know.
Don’t have time to read the full article? Here’s our top pick:
Vandoren SM711 AL3 Optimum Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
Our top pick comes from the very respected brand, Vandoren SM711 AL3 mouthpiece. The rounded tip helps to create a centered sound, allowing for a perfect performance for classical performances particularly.
The medium long facing structure makes it suitable for players of all abilities and the smooth material provides extra comfort when performing. Made with the modern player in mind, the Vandoren SM711 AL3 is made for ease and convenience and doesn’t take too long to break in.
What makes this our winner? Designed with all players in mind, the Vandoren SM711 AL3 is ideal for those who want to invest in a quality mouthpiece. Vandoren is a brand that many musicians of all abilities go for, particularly advanced and professional players as they always have high quality output.
OUR TOP PICK
Our first recommendation comes from Vandoren and is their SM711 AL3 mouthpiece. Ideal for saxophonists who specialize in classical music thanks to its rounded tip design.
The rounded design also makes it more convenient for modern players as it makes the instrument easier to break in and play.
As soon as you use the SM711 AL3, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in sound quality as the clarity and clear tone produced can make even a beginner sound like a professional. This will improve any player’s confidence and help to motivate getting those techniques down, advancing your skill set.
With 4.8 stars from over 200 reviews, the Vandoren SM711 AL3 has become a firm favorite with beginners and advanced players who praise its longevity and quality. Its ability to fit into the majority of saxophones with ease meaning that you needn’t worry about difficulty installing it.
- Made from high quality materials
- Rounded tip makes it ideal for classical players
- Designed with the modern player in mind
- High price point
Our second pick is from another major brand with Selmer’s S-80 C* Mouthpiece. Ideal for those looking to upgrade their current mouthpiece to something better and luxurious, the S-80 C* has a square chamber which allows for a stronger sound to be created.
Great for all kinds of music, the Selmer S-80 C* is suitable for players of all abilities and allows you to improve in confidence as your sound becomes more defined.
With a 4.8 star average from over 200 reviews, the Selmer S-80 C* has proven to be a hit with those who upgraded from their current mouthpieces.
Creating an instantly improved sound, the S-80 C* is well worth the investment for those seeking to take their saxophone playing to the next level.
- Square chamber creates a distinct sound
- Great for all kinds of music
- Suitable for players of all abilities
- High price point
Our third pick is another mouthpiece from Vandoren and is their SM811M A5 mouthpiece. Inspired by the world’s greatest jazz player’s preferred tip opening, the SM811M A5 is the perfect mouthpiece for jazz musicians specifically.
The square shaped tip helps to create that sharp and crisp sound found in jazz and is perfect for solo performances particularly. Like our other Vandoren recommendation, the SM811M A5 is also medium long facing making it the perfect length for players of all abilities.
With an average of 4.8 stars from over 100 reviews, the SM811M A5 mixes the traditional shape of the fifties with the technological design of the modern day making it a perfect blend for the modern player.
A lot of buyers have commented on the improved sound and the longevity they have makes it the perfect fit for budding players and professional musicians.
- Ideal for jazz musicians
- Square tip creates a crisp sound
- Great for soloists
- High price point
Our fourth pick is from Yamaha, one of the leading brands in the music industry is their 4C Standard Series Mouthpiece.
Made with all abilities in mind, Yamaha made the 4C Standard Series improves the sound quality immediately so even beginners can produce better performances.
With the entire body made from resin, you can be assured that the mouthpiece will be reliable for years to come. The 4C Standard Series also fits most brands of alto saxophone meaning you won’t have to worry about it not installing.
With 4.7 stars from over 300 reviews, the 4C Standard Series has been a favorite amongst players of all levels, especially beginners looking to improve their tone.
Allowing you to have many years of playing with them means that they are a fantastic investment for their price point. Yamaha can always be trusted to provide musical products for all musicians.
- Great price point
- Made from resin for durability
- Suitable for players of abilities
- Can slide slightly on the saxophone neck if not fitted properly
Our final pick is another from Yamaha and is their hugely popular 4C Mouthpiece.
Perfect for players of all abilities, the 4C Mouthpiece is the most popular alto saxophone mouthpiece on the market right now and for good reason. Its slightly rounded tip makes for a balanced and clear sound for any kind of musical instrument.
A lot of players who purchase the 4C Mouthpiece tend to be intermediate players who want to start advancing their skill set but are currently unable to achieve a quality sound with their current mouthpiece.
With 4.6 stars from over 1,000 reviews, this is the most popular mouthpiece in terms of how many people have purchased the product.
They are sold at a fantastic price point and prove to be among the most resistant and durable mouthpieces on the market. A lot of buyers buy this mouthpiece to upgrade the cheaper mouthpieces that come free with the saxophones themselves.
- Great price point
- Ideal for intermediate players looking to advance their skill set
- Great for all kinds of music
- Can take a while to break it in
Best Alto Sax Mouthpiece Buying Guide
If there’s one part of the saxophone that is crucial to a consistent strong sound, it is the mouthpiece. Whether you are a jazz soloist or part of a classical orchestra, the mouthpiece can assist in enhancing a performance.
With various shapes and lengths that are catered to certain abilities and styles of music. Whether you are looking for a long term replacement or a mouthpiece to have as a spare in case of emergencies, we’ve gathered the top mouthpieces on the market and compiled this Buyers Guide filled with everything you need to know.
When conducting your research into which mouthpiece to purchase, it’s important to acknowledge your level of ability, what kind of performer you are, the materials used in manufacturing and the budget.
Once you’ve thought about all of these thoroughly, you’ll be able to make a well rounded decision into which one is the perfect mouthpiece for you.
Your Level of Ability
The first thing to consider is what level of ability you are as some mouthpieces are best designed for certain levels.
If you are an advanced or professional player, then you may want to look for a particular shaped mouthpiece that is best suited for a specific kind of music, for example a square tip opening for jazz and rounded for classical.
Equally, there are plenty of mouthpieces that are suited for beginners and students that can help with playing different kinds of music as well as helping to develop techniques and skill sets. Once you’ve clocked where you are in terms of ability, you’ve reached the first step of your research.
What Kind of Performer You Are
After considering your ability, the next thing to consider is what kind of performer you are. Whether you are a soloist or band member, playing daily or weekly, the mouthpiece is super important as it can build your sound to the next level.
As mentioned above, your choice may be dictated by the shape for various kinds of music but also making sure that the mouthpiece fits correctly to ensure that there isn’t any excessive movement which is likely to happen if you stand during a performance.
Materials in Manufacturing
Next is the materials used in manufacturing. A lot of advanced and professional players tend to go for wooden mouthpieces because the sound tends to have more clarity and longevity than their plastic and resin counterparts.
On the other hand, resin and plastic mouthpieces are ideal for beginners as it is easier to produce a sound from them. If an advanced player purchased a resin or plastic mouthpiece then it may not give the clarity of performance on more difficult pieces, particularly ones that use the full range of notes.
However, if a beginner uses a wooden mouthpiece then they may struggle to get the initial sound out of the mouthpiece and end up causing a squeaking sound. The more you progress with your music career, you’ll begin to understand what material works best for you and your performance.
Knowing how much you want to spend on your mouthpiece is also very helpful.
For students who are likely to outgrow their mouthpieces eventually, there are plenty of mouthpieces found on a great budget whereas those who are advanced and professional are probably seeking more specified mouthpieces from trusted brands like Vandoren that provide products that last for years.
Yamaha have become one of the most popular brands for alto saxophone mouthpieces because they don’t break the bank and yet provide lasting quality which is great for those getting their basic techniques down and advancing their skill set.
Best Alto Sax Mouthpiece - FAQ's
What is the best jazz mouthpiece for alto sax?
The best mouthpiece to go for jazz music would be a 5C model which tends to have a slimmer design helping to create a more concentrated sound needed for jazz pieces. Alternatively, you can opt for a mouthpiece that has a square shaped tip opening which also gives that same crisp sound.
A couple of the recommendations given in this article have that square tip opening which means that you can be assured of a performance filled with clarity, particularly the Vandoren SM811M A5 which was designed with the greatest jazz players in history in mind.
How do you clean an alto sax mouthpiece?
To clean an alto sax mouthpiece properly, wash it in water with a tiny bit of mild detergent. This will help eliminate any bacteria and ensure your mouthpiece is kept in the best condition possible.
If you have a resin mouthpiece then wash it in warm water but if it is a softer material such as ebonite then make sure it is cold as warm or hot water will cause discoloration to your mouthpiece over time.
If you are still unsure, it’s always best to contact the customer service from the specific brand that you purchased from to be 100% sure.
Does the mouthpiece affect the saxophone?
Having a quality mouthpiece can drastically improve the clarity of a performance.
Upgrading to a mouthpiece that is made from better materials and a more specialized design can immediately create an improved tone, boosting the player’s performance and confidence.
Making sure that you have a mouthpiece that suits your needs and music style is crucially important as a rounded mouthpiece used solely for jazz music is not going to have that distinct crystal tone needed.
Some players don’t notice a difference, usually if they play all kinds of music and need a mouthpiece that works for every kind of music.