Because of the individuality that is inherent in saxophone playing, just because you buy the same mouthpiece as your idol, it doesn’t mean you will sound just like him or her. Therefore, don’t focus too much on brands – instead, focus on understanding the anatomy of the mouthpiece (and the reed), try various combinations, and make note of what you do and don’t like with each mouthpiece you try.
While there is subjectivity to many parts and materials of the mouthpiece, the areas that must be well-crafted no matter what are the facing curve and table. Differences of only one hundredth of an inch can matter here. This is not necessarily something you can measure or just see with your eyes, but it does make a difference when evaluating the quality of a mouthpiece and how it was manufactured.
Beyond that, there are tons of choices when it comes to mouthpieces, whether you’re looking for the best alto saxophone mouthpiece or tenor saxophone mouthpiece. There are metal, hard rubber and plastic mouthpieces. There are large and small baffles, straight and concave sidewalls, larger and smaller chambers, and different sized tip openings. There are so many choices, it can be overwhelming.
But the key is this: try as many different jazz mouthpieces as you can. Make sure you try a couple of different strengths of reed with each mouthpiece. Create a mental catalog of the characteristics you like and don’t like. Do you like the sound and the feel? Is it easy to play high notes, low notes? How about the tone? How’s the resistance? As you start to make note of these elements with every mouthpiece you play, you’ll start to narrow down what will make the best jazz saxophone mouthpiece for YOU.
Once you’ve got a better idea of what you’re looking for, then you can spend more time with individual mouthpieces (and a couple of reeds) and chances are, eventually one will “click” with you and you’ll know you’ve found your jazz saxophone mouthpiece. Whether it’s from Vandoren, Yamaha, D’Addario or any of the dozens of boutique brands out there, you can be confident that you performed a thorough search, gave yourself plenty of time and options, and discovered the best jazz saxophone mouthpiece that will let you play with joy and freedom.