Don't Get Baffled By Baffles

The Mouthpiece, Explained

Sax Accessories

One of our most asked questions here at is that revolving around the mouthpiece. Namely; what is it? How does it make a difference? Why should I spend £600 on one? Do I need a mouthpiece!? 

They’re good questions (well, some of them anyway), as the mouthpiece is often an incredibly baffling quagmire of specific terminology that can leave a player at any stage of their saxophone journey confused and deflated. But please, fine reader of this blog, do not lose heart. Because we here at have toiled for hours learning the ins and outs of the mouthpiece and, in actuality, there are only 3 things that you should really concern yourself with. Let’s start at the very tip of the mouthpiece.

The Tip Opening

The tip opening is the distance between the tip of the mouthpiece and the tip of the reed. So, when you are assembling your mouthpiece, you place the flat part of the reed against the flat part of the mouthpiece, called the table. Matching the arch of the mouthpiece of the reed to the arch of the mouthpiece, that little gap is the tip opening. On your mouthpiece, there will be a number etched into the side. The bigger the number, the bigger the gap between the mouthpiece and the reed.

I am not going to go into the millimetres of each gap and what mouthpiece number correlates with which millimetre opening because each manufacturer does it differently, the Americans do it in the imperial system instead of metric and it becomes an absolute nightmare. When you start playing the saxophone, most players will start on a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece which is a tip opening 4. This is very narrow and makes blowing down the saxophone a lot easier. It also gives the saxophone a much more focused sound, as well as makes articulation such as sharp and precise staccato notes easier to perform. This is why classical saxophone players often stick with a very narrow tip opening. 

When you increase the space between the reed and the mouthpiece, you allow yourself the ability to put more air through the mouthpiece and into the horn. Getting more air through the horn will immediately give you more projection overall, whilst also broadening the tonal shape of your sound. Your tone will be much more spread, with overtones adding colour to your sound. This is perfect for those jazz heads or R&B players looking to cut a bit more. It’s worth noting that when you increase the tip opening, it will make the saxophone more difficult to play particularly at the bottom register. It’s entirely your choice whether you want to persevere with this difficulty and get past it, or play something a little closer and more comfortable. 


Of all the things that can affect the tone of the saxophone, a mouthpiece baffle is by far the most consequential. The baffle is located between the tip of the mouthpiece and the chamber (which is inside the mouthpiece - more on that later). The more of that area is built up, the bigger the step within that space, the quicker the air has to travel through the space and the quicker the air is then received by the horn itself.

What difference does this make? The speed at which the air travels through a horn affects how loud and bright your overall tone will be. Think about this like water through a hose. When you let water flow through a hose without obstruction, the stream is lovely and thick but doesn’t travel very far. If you were to cover the edge of the hose with your thumb, you would restrict the amount of space the water can travel through, therefor the water has to move faster through this smaller space. This, in turn, means the water moves further but with a much thinner stream.

Let’s then apply this logic to the airflow of a mouthpiece. The less of a baffle there is, the bigger the space the air travels through. It moves slower through that space and gives the overall tone a lovely fullness, however, it has very little attack or cut. The more of a baffle you have, or the bigger step within the baffle, the less space the air has to travel through, so the faster the air has to get through that space. This will give you plenty of cut and attack, with a big and bright sound, but will have less body and thickness to the overall tone. 


Once you get passed the baffle, you reach the chamber. The chamber exists within the mouthpiece itself and once again shapes your overall tone. The chamber is the delivery point from the mouthpiece to the saxophone (via the bore, which is the part of the mouthpiece that goes onto your sax) and they come in one of three distinct shapes.

The most common chamber size is medium. This means that the chamber size is exactly the same as the bore. This allows the air to travel smoothly and consistently through the mouthpiece and gives the overall tone a rounded fullness. Medium chambers offer players the most neutral representation of your tone, with a rich core throughout the range.

Large chambers, most commonly found in tenor mouthpieces, means that the chamber is bigger than the bore. This means the air has more space to move about within before passing through the bore, allowing the airflow to slow down a little and making the shape of your sound fuller and wider overall. 

Small chambers are the exact opposite of large chambers. This is where the chamber itself is smaller than the bore. This means that the air has less space to travel through before reading the saxophone. It's kind of like putting a spotlight on your tone, the whole shape of your sound becomes super focused and, if paired with a high baffle, incredibly powerful.