Here’s what I’ve come to understand about “tip opening sizes” and soprano mouthpieces: they are more trouble than they’re worth in terms of getting a soprano mouthpiece that plays the way you want it to play.
Now, that’s a big statement and here is why I think that.
Maybe, just maybe, tip opening sizes have some relevance in discussing pieces of the same design ( an Acme 5 versus an Acme 7* ). But that supposes that the Acme Mouthpiece Company has kept all other design variables the same and that the tip sizing is actually reasonably accurate.
That’s as likely as me winning the Irish Sweepstakes, by the way.
The reality is that tip openings are meaningful only in relation to other aspects of the mouthpiece. In other words, any good mouthpiece tech can make a small tip opening play big and free, and make a large tip opening play tight and stuffy.
And, just the opposite as well.
So, what do we make of tip opening, then?
Well, as you hear from me all the time, it’s a matter of BALANCE: a balance inside the mouthpiece and a balance with the player. I’ve come to consider tip opening more of an issue of comfort and feel for a player, rather than tone or response. While that isn’t exactly all there is to it, it’s pretty close when it comes to soprano saxophone mouthpieces.
That’s why I often suggest that a player leave the final tip opening to me, within a given range. We can always adjust it later, but the tip opening is the last thing I do to a piece, and it is complete when it plays right. It may be .067 or it may be .071, and it doesn’t matter to that piece. Once a player plays it, we can then address the comfort and feel issues, if any. I can tell you, that is a rare occurrence, but it happens. Of course.
You probably know that you like a certain area of tip opening already. That’s a good starting point but, ultimately, let the piece decide the final number.
After that, we deal with adjustments that bring the piece into harmony with you and your horn, if required.