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A Crash Course On Vandoren Saxophone Mouthpieces

Whether you need a mouthpiece to suit your classical, jazz, rock, or marching band needs, there’s a saxophone mouthpiece in the Vandoren catalog for you.


As the mouthpiece of choice for classical saxophonists around the world, the Optimum series provides ease of emission, precise articulation, and a rich even tone. The conception of this series stems from research on the external shape (particularly the beak or bite plate) the shape of the facing, and sound. All of this was done in order to meet the demands of today’s saxophone players.

The Optimum series is the favorite mouthpiece among many of the nation’s finest performers and saxophone professors including Branford Marsalis, Dr. Chien Kwan Lin (Eastman School of Music), Dr. Steven Mauk (Ithaca College), Steve Stusek (North Carolina-Greensboro), Susan Fancher (Duke University), and Angela Wyatt (University of Minnesota).

The Optimum series is available for soprano (SL3, SL4), alto (AL3, AL4, AL5), tenor (TL3, TL4), and baritone (BL3, BL4).

The V16 Series

The V16 series was developed to meet the needs of today’s finest jazz musicians. Vandoren was asked to create a series of mouthpieces to help the player achieve a vintage sound, without the problems often associated with vintage mouthpieces. The designers took great effort to research the creation of a mouthpiece that has a better scale, a more even sound, and, therefore, a mouthpiece that would be easier to make music with than many vintage mouthpieces. Ideal for jazz but flexible enough for marching band, the V16 series is available for soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. All of Vandoren’s reeds are recommended for these particular mouthpieces, you can determine which cut gives you the best sound a feel. Stay up-to-date as for next week’s WAVE as we explore the different jazz reed types.

Available in three different tip openings (S6, S7, and S8), the V16 soprano mouthpiece will provide you with a warm rich sound and the comfort you’ve been looking for.

The mouthpiece of choice for alto saxophonists Tia Fuller, Mark Gross, and Antonio Hart, the V16 alto mouthpiece is offered in small + (S+) or medium chamber sizes, with tip openings ranging from A5 – A9. The small chamber provides a brilliant and powerful sound, ideal for any lead alto player looking to cut in a big band setting, while the medium chamber has a warmer quality making blend and section playing easier. With two chamber sizes and five tip openings available, you’re provided with ten different V16 options. You should find a comfortable model that provides you with the sound and feel you’re looking for.

Tenor (Ebonite)
As played by tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss (T9), Jimmy Greene (T11), and Kirk Whalum (T8), the V16 is offered with the choice of six different tip openings ranging from T6 – T11; the T8 being the most popular of the line. The V16’s are characterized by their powerful and rich sound with remarkable flexibility. Each tip opening provides its own unique and subtle characteristics. All Vandoren reeds are also recommended with this model of mouthpiece.

Tenor (Metal)
This line was recently expanded to better suit a wider range of tenor saxophonists. The metal V16 tenor mouthpieces are crafted from high quality ‘Bell Metal’ brass and plated in 24-karat gold. Designed with an eye on the mouthpieces of years past, and a knowledge of the demand today’s musicians face, the line includes three different chamber sizes; small, medium, and large, each evoking a specific sound. The small chamber is identical to that of the original metal V16 models, offering a centered sound capable of projecting through a large ensemble. The medium chamber was inspired by the famous tenor saxophone sounds of the 50’s – deep and rich but with a punch. The large chamber evokes the depth and roundness of the vintage tenor saxophone sounds of the 40’s.

The metal V16’s are offered in five different tip openings (T5-T9), all available in small, medium, or large chamber sizes, with the exception of the T5, which is only available with a large chamber.

Recommended reeds

  • T5 strengths 3, 3.5
  • T6 strengths 3
  • T7 Strengths 3
  • T8 strengths 3
  • T9 strengths 2.5

The new V16 metal mouthpieces have garnered positive reactions thus far and is Ralph Bowen, Lucas Pino, and Jerry Vivino’s new tenor mouthpiece of choice.

A powerful yet beautiful tone and dynamic presence are some of the characteristics most desired by jazz baritone saxophone players. As played by renowned baritone saxophonist Denis DiBlasio (B9), the V16 bari mouthpieces provide those characteristics along with flexibility. Available in three tip openings (B5, B7, and B9), Vandoren’s line of baritone jazz reeds are strongly recommended for this model.

The V5 Series

V5 Series mouthpieceCharacterized by a traditional round chamber, the V5 series of mouthpieces are available in a wide variety of models to suit the needs of both classical and jazz musicians. Dr. Jonathan Nichol (h2 Quartet, University of Oklahoma), Dr. David Milne (Ancia quartet, Chair of the Music Programs at the University of Wisconsin), and dynamic performer Pedrosaxo all use the V5 series, which are ideal for versatile saxophonists crossing over between the jazz and classical idioms as well as small ensembles.

The V5 Jazz mouthpieces boast a larger tip opening and more projection than its V5 counterpart, while still retaining the traditional round chamber. Available for soprano, alto, and baritone saxophone, the V5 Jazz (B75) is both Berklee Professor Danny Harrington’s and Scott Robinson’s baritone mouthpiece of choice.


JAVA mouthpieceAvailable for alto (A35, A45, A55, A75) and tenor sax (T45, 55, 75, 95), you’re going to want to give the Java series a try if you’re looking for a mouthpiece to suit your jazz, soul, or funk performance needs. The sound concept is not dissimilar to that of a metal mouthpiece, but you’re provided with a warmer tone and the comfortable feel of ebonite.

As played by tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Java mouthpieces will provide you with a rich and colorful sound.


Jumbo Java

This mouthpiece packs a punch and is ideal for saxophonists competing with the amplified sounds of guitarists and high brassy trumpets. The Jumbo Java is designed with a small chamber, a very high baffle, and a large bore making it the most hard-hitting mouthpiece in the Vandoren line. The projection, power, and aggressive tone is similar to those of a metal mouthpiece, but with the comfort and flexibility of ebonite.

Alto saxophonist Mike Phillips uses the Jumbo Java while performing with the likes of Circus So Le, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Toni Braxton, and Jill Scott. The Jumbo Java is available for Alto and Tenor sax, available in sizes: A35, 45, 55, 75


If you’re interested in trying out any Vandoren mouthpieces, you can check out the three Vandoren studios we have around the country: Vandoren Musician’s Advisory Studio in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.