Playing a Large Chamber Mouthpiece

This is an important page for any soprano player who “thinks” that they may want to play a true large-chamber mouthpiece.

While each piece is certainly different one from the next, there are certain things to know and certain issues that can and do arise. They are specific to player, piece and horn but they fall into some broad categories:


  • TUNING: There are many vintage large-chamber pieces that may not be able to go fully on to the neck of certain horns. This can be due to either the shape of the chamber or the neck-end of the horn, or both.These pieces generally want to go very far onto the neck of the horn and if something stops it from doing so ( the neck-end hitting the roof or sides of the chamber), you will not be able to get to pitch. For  instance, the Selmer Serie III soprano is longer than most soprano saxophones and it requires that mouthpieces go further onto the neck to tune and to play correctly. There are many vintage pieces which cannot go on far enough because the neck-end hits the roof or sides of the chamber. No amount of practicing will bring these pieces into tune on that horn.


  • INTONATION: Once you’re in tune, playing a vintage large-chamber piece often is a bit different than playing a modern piece. Maintaining a firm air column is crucial to good intonation; variations in air support can play havoc with intonation. Another thing that can play havoc with intonation is “overblowing”- it can easily cause real swings in intonation.


  • AMOUNT OF MOUTHPIECE: Large chamber pieces may really want to be played with a little (or a lot) more mouthpiece being taken into the mouth. Doing so opens the oral cavity a lot or a little and that, in turn,widens the air column, which then more closely resembles the increased width of the chamber itself. This can be a big change for some players and it requires some adjustment period. It doesn’t take long to adjust but it does take some “getting used to” time.


Vintage large-chamber pieces really are “large chambered”, and if you think about it, you will understand what makes them behave differently: a fairly narrow air column enters a chamber that is larger, and then the air must exit the larger chamber and enter another area which is narrower. They can be great players, of course, but they can be demanding too.


FWIW: There is probably a very good reason that every vintage mouthpiece company abandoned making large chamber soprano mouthpieces. Think about it.