NEW! Select Jazz Tenor Sax Mouthpiece…16th May 2017
The new ‘Select Jazz’ Tenor Sax mouthpiece from D’Addario has just recently been released, it’s priced at just £155 (May 2017), is immaculately made and blows the house down, but is that enough? Shouldn’t it be more expensive? Why isn’t it hand finished on the eleventh moon of the solstice? You get the idea, it’s from a big multinational company, how can it possibly have the nuances we all desire? Well, read on to find out why we don’t give a monkeys about any of the above – blowing is believing and this thing rocks!
We get the thoughts of Sam from our Woodwind Dept after he catches up with Kevin Garren (Designer in Chief) about this new model, plus Nick from our Sax Dept gives the mouthpiece a road test on the video below…
We mention in the video this is “modelled off the old Links” and we say that because it references some of the hallmarks of those designs, BUT we really want to get across to you that this is not a Link copy, it may borrow some elements but this mouthpiece has far more to offer than a normal Link, and as Nick alluded to in the video we mean this primarily in terms of projection and flexibility. In my chat with Kevin Garren (below) it was interesting to hear some of the motivations behind the design of this mouthpiece, and it coming from the actual demands of the players, not from the perceived demands.
Some players can’t connect with fully CNC made mouthpieces, they feel the romance of ‘hand-crafting’ is missing and claim that can be felt in the mouthpiece. Personally I absolutely value consistency, it should help remove some of the worries about testing multiple mouthpieces of the same type, looking for ‘the one’. I’ve got to say, forget that, life is far too short and I’d rather spend my time playing than obsessing.
We could argue this is (a) too cheap (b) too consistent and (c) too good to be priced where it is, but that’s the price so we shouldn’t complain! (£155 at time of print). This mouthpiece has genuinely captivated us. It’s not £500 – because it doesn’t need to be, it’s not hand finished (with varying degrees of success) – because it doesn’t need to be. It isn’t named after a Hindu God, a Pro Playing Star, a holy river etc – because it doesn’t need to be. It does what it needs, and it does it far better than anything else under £200, in fact it does it far better than pretty much anything else on our shelves…
Is this mouthpiece for you?
Do you like mouthpieces that are easy to play? Reed friendly? Well priced? Lively and responsive? Even across the whole register? Ok, I know that sounds too good to be true, it won’t make up for hours of practice or be to everyone’s personal taste but this is truly a fantastic addition to the Tenor Sax mouthpiece options. If you had set aside upto £200 to upgrade your mouthpiece, I can’t for any worldly reason understand how someone could prefer a Link or Meyer out of the box – because this has all they can offer and tonnes more. In fact, compared to some pieces twice the price this more than stands up.
So, if you’re playing Jazz, Big Band, Funk, Blues etc – basically pretty much everything except high volume Rock n’ Roll or straight up Classical – then this mouthpiece is worthy of your attention.
Want to try one on 14 day approval for yourself or a pupil? We can send you one out so you can put it up against your mouthpiece and test it out, if you don’t get on with it just simply return it to us for a refund (minus £3 cleaning & re-stocking fee).
If you’re a more experienced player you will know what tip opening you generally prefer, if you’re thinking of this as a first upgrade we’d suggest the D6M or D7M, feel free to contact us for a personal recommendation based on your circumstances – we love helping people get the right combo. Just click the banner below to try one out.
D9M (.115″ tip) : Try it with a hernia belt in place – honestly no one needs to be playing a 9, we’re not kidding, it’s not big or clever!
Full Interview with Sam & Kevin Garren (Chief Designer)
Q: Tell us about your involvement in the Select Jazz Tenor Mouthpiece research and design process?
For this project, I collected vast market research, led the engineering and machining team through the design, managed the budget and timeline to launch, and worked alongside our project lead artist Jeff Coffin to evaluate the prototypes and make suggestions for modifications. I also recruited and coordinated the artist test panel and conducted market evaluations. Once we had the confidence to launch, I supervised the production of the first few thousand mouthpieces, auditing the inspection process by measuring, visually inspecting, and play testing all the mouthpieces. That last step helped our engineering team to set our tolerances for the product and calibrate our inspection equipment to catch any defects caused during the production.
Q: With a plethora of options on the market already, what were you striving to achieve to set this mouthpiece apart?
I surveyed several hundred saxophonists around the world to gain insight into the type of product that the market wanted. We sought to find market problems, and create a solution for the players’ needs. The market intel told us that they didn’t want another Link copy, they wanted something that had greater versatility, higher quality and consistency, and a price point that is accessible. The information gathered also directed the individual design features, from facing to tip opening, baffle & chamber style, tip rail, etc. We set out to achieve not what we thought we should make, but what the market thought we should make.
Q: Can you expand on why the particular hard rubber you use for production was chosen?
The formulation that we used for tenor matches that of our professional alto and clarinet models, and was selected by an expert panel of professional musicians based on its performance attributes and quality. We tested numerous formulations from several suppliers in blind studies, and the formulation that we used scored highest not only in manufacturing quality, but most importantly, in playability.
Q: Can you explain the benefits to the player of the chosen production method with computer controlled machinery compared to a traditional process?
The largest benefit to the players is consistency; there is much less variation in our process than in a traditional injection molding/hand-finishing process. Our CNC process is designed to keep extremely tight tolerances, and our computerized inspection also insures the highest form of quality, inspecting to the same degree as high-precision aerospace or medical device tolerances. This is not to say that hand-finishing is necessarily always a bad thing…there are several boutique artisans that make beautiful hand-finished mouthpieces, but their volumes are much lower, and price points are usually at least double that of D’Addario’s mouthpieces.
As for the high volume manufacturers, the hand finishing is done to clean up flaws left by their process, and is performed with high variation from one worker to the next. The variation is notoriously found when players are trying to find a mouthpiece, and have to try several of the same model before they find one that performs well. Our process insures a high level of consistency and quality, with the added benefit that if a player loses or damages their D’Addario mouthpiece, they can rest assured knowing that they can readily find another D’Addario mouthpiece that plays similarly to the one that they loved.
Q: What were the main points of reference for the facing length and style of curve?
The D7M was the first model that we made, and it was originally based on the curve on Jeff Coffin’s mouthpiece. The original facing had a length of 25mm, but it ended at 24mm once we balanced the radius to eliminate some discontinuities. It ended up being a great balance between the facing curve and the profile of our Select Jazz reeds, resulting facing resulted in excellent performance. The remaining facings were slightly modified to balance the various tip openings that we wanted to make available, and then tested by our artists to confirm performance.
Q: What are your thoughts about how the mouthpiece plays across a variety of genres?
My career as a studio musician demanded that I be as versatile as possible. As a result, I’ve collected numerous mouthpieces over the years to help me achieve a certain sound that my employers were looking for. With the Select Jazz mouthpiece, I can do just about anything (Aside from intense classical playing…the Reserve line of sax mouthpieces is coming soon to address that!). It is tremendously exciting to be playing on ONE MOUTHPIECE! I really like the balance of bright and dark, and the ability to project is outstanding. I like to use the full range of the instrument when improvising, and the response and balance of all registers, from low Bb all the way to the top altissimo notes, allows for great ease and freedom when soloing.
Q: Why should players who already have a good quality HR mouthpiece try out this Select Jazz?
I think that whatever a player can do to make life easier when playing will be of great benefit. The combination of the excellent performance and reed friendliness of these mouthpieces make them very exciting to check out. I used to play a very valuable vintage mouthpiece, which was a gift from a legendary studio musician. That was a great mouthpiece, but the Select Jazz just has higher performance and flexibility comparatively. This allows me to keep my vintage piece locked away as a memento, and the Select Jazz mouthpiece has a permanent home on my tenor now.