The mouthpiece is the most individual part of the saxophone. The mouthpiece, along with the reed, is what creates the sound and tone of the instrument. Because of many innovations with the saxophone mouthpiece, players have many options for their sound. Today, there are three main materials that the mouthpiece is made from: plastic, hard rubber, or metal. The plastic mouthpiece is a cheaper, cost effective version that comes with all basic saxophones, however, it will not sound as good as the hard rubber. The hard rubber mouthpiece is more expensive, but produces a much more complex sound. The metal mouthpiece is the most expensive and is usually reserved for jazz. A crystal mouthpiece is another option for a mouthpiece.
Along with the mouthpiece, there is the reed. The reed is a piece of cane that has been shaped in order to vibrate a specific way, depending on the hardness of the reed. The hardness of the reed can change the sound dramatically. Soft reeds allows the player to play softer easier, but it is often harder to tune. Hard reeds allow players to produce a louder and fuller sound, but requires a stronger embouchure (mouth muscles) to create a good sound.
The reed is affixed to the mouthpiece using a ligature. This device can be made from metal, leather, plastic, and even a string. The ligature is used to help keep the reed on the mouthpiece firm enough so that is stays, but not so tight so that the reed does not vibrate. If the reed does not vibrate, then there will not be any sound produced.
- Put cork grease on the neck of the saxophone.
- Place the reed in your mouth to soak it. Place the flat side, or the facing, on your tongue. Make sure that you place the tip of the reed in, not the butt. Continue to set up your mouthpiece.
- Hold the mouthpiece in your left hand and the neck in your right.
- Slowly, push and twist the two parts together until they in place.
- Loosen the ligature screw. Do not remove them. Slide the wide end over the mouthpiece. Make sure that the screws are facing the right side of the mouthpiece.
- Hold the mouthpiece/neck in your left hand. With your left thumb, push up on the ligature to create some space. Remove the reed from your mouth and slide the butt of the reed under the ligature. Make sure that the flat side of the reed is against the flat side of the mouthpiece.
- Line up the tip of the reed with the tip of the mouthpiece. Make sure that the reed is straight.
- While still holding the reed with your thumb, lower the ligature over the table of the reed (the thick part of the reed).
- Tighten the ligature screws just enough to hold the reed snug in place.