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Kessler Blog: The Saxophone Sound


Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
A few weeks ago, I had two different professional players come in that helped illustrate my point. I will not name them publically but needless to say, they are both professional sax players that I have known for quite some time.

Player A came in to test out the Theo Wanne tenor mouthpieces. He was playing them on his Mark VI. I know this horn to be a VERY good Mark VI. While he was playing, Player B came in to buy reeds. Player A & B know each other well. Player B quickly commented on the fact that Player A sounded great and asked what he was playing. He replied “just checking out the Theo Wanne GAIA mouthpiece, you have GOT to try this!”

So Player A handed his horn to Player B to test. Player B instantly played the horn… same horn, same mouthpiece, same reed, same ligature and grossly, same spit. The point is that not even the reed was repositioned. So with this, the ONLY variable that was changed was the person and in this scenario, all of the equipment was at the top level that equipment can be.

Both players sounded RADICALLY different on the same equipment. They both have very distinctive tone and style of play from each other. Player A sounded like Player A. Player B sounded like Player B.
They both sounded great, but they both sounded different on the exact same equipment.

As you grow as a player, focus on the playing and having good equipment. The best upgrade you can do to your performance would be through your own practice, followed by mouthpiece, followed by horn. Have a good horn and have it well regulated. Have a great mouthpiece and have a great teacher.

Lastly, develop your own sound. Take pride that only you can sound like you!

Read the whole piece: http://www.kesslermusic.com/blog/?p=91#more-91


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I attended a Bill Waltrous trombone clinic several years ago, and into the clinic he started to get the usual barrage of "what is your set-up" questions. He explained that he had learned years earlier that whenever he got a new horn or a new mouthpiece that was going to make him sound "great" that after about two weeks he was back sounding like himself.

The point he was trying to get across, of course, was that unless you change your concept, you are going to make whatever set-up you are playing on sound the same. From that day on I stopped my search for the "holy grail of mouthpieces" and tried to develop my own concept of sound for both classical and jazz playing.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Ah. My 20 or so years of telling people that the sax isn't going to make a considerable difference is paying off.

I still tend to say it's about 80% you and 20% stuff. That's because you tend to buy the stuff that makes it easier for you to sound like ... you.
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