Parts of a Saxophone Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece of the saxophone directs air into the instrument.

A saxophone mouthpiece is the place where the initial sound production occurs. As air travels across the reed, it will start to vibrate and create the basis for sound production. While the saxophone primarily incorporates brass, it is not a brass instrument. Since instrument classification centers on sound production and not the materials used in construction, the saxophone is part of the woodwind family due to its wooden reed.


The tip of the mouthpiece is located at the front. The saxophone player places her lips on this section of the mouthpiece. The opening between the reed and the mouthpiece is referred to as the tip opening. Air passes over the reed and sends vibrations into the instrument, creating sound.


The lay comes off the rails and is curved to allow for vibration of the reed. Without the curvature, the reed would hit the lay and stop vibrating. This portion of the instrument requires careful construction to allow enough room for vibration — but not so much that large amounts of air escape.


Not all mouthpieces have a baffle, but it helps speed up the travel of air through the mouthpiece. This component "causes the airstream to flow faster, resulting in a brighter, more cutting sound," according to Taming the Saxophone.


Rails appear on either side of the mouthpiece on the interior. These identical components create the basic structure for the opening into the chamber of the saxophone. If the rails are not symmetrical and equal, they will affect the instrument's quality of sound. Check to ensure the rails are not damaged or dinged to ensure the best sound.


The table of a saxophone mouthpiece should be flat and smooth. Located on the underside of the mouthpiece, it allows the saxophone reed to rest securely against the mouthpiece. The ligature wraps around this part to hold the reed to the mouthpiece.


Underneath the table sits the chamber, which directs airflow and represents the first stage in amplifying the vibrations that come off the reed. The body of the instrument plays an essential role in producing the sound, but the pitch occurs initially in the chamber.


The shank is the round portion of the mouthpiece that attaches to the cork portion of the saxophone. This portion must form a tight seal so air does not escape from the instrument.


The ligature is the metal piece that slips over the mouthpiece and holds the reed in place firmly against the table. A saxophone player must line up the reed carefully to avoid any unwanted leaking of air. The ligature typically has two screws the player can use to tighten the grip on the reed.


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