In this post, I will talk you about the importance for me to play with a customized set-up and to have participated in the building and improving process. Thank you so much, Jorge Marqués, from Saxo Boquillas, for making it possible!
I met Jordi (Jorge Marqués) by chance. At the beginning of 2016, I read some posts on his Facebook profile where he was going to make a classical mouthpiece for baritone saxophone from two standard models I knew very well. Then, I was really curious since I didn’t feel very confortable with my set-up because I didn’t find the results I was looking for. Depending how successful the experiment was, I would ask Jordi to find a solution to my questions.
Finally, that project was not finished and we immediately started mine. My goal was very clear: I needed a mouthpiece able to perform a repertoire that requires a wide range of dynamics, a varied colour palette of sounds, a great response and precision of articulations, a well balance of registers, a good intonation, projection of sound, etc. Classical mouthpieces didn’t allow me to play further I wanted and, on the other hand, I was not able to control the jazz ones.
The shape of each part of a mouthpiece determines the quality of the sound parameters of the instrument (timbre, response, etc.). This is the reason of the great assortment of models that the best mouthpieces brands have. As well as there are many specialised mouthpieces builders and refacers in jazz since a long time, they are not very common in classical music. By the way, I have to tell you that Jordi gave renewed life to my old alto, tenor and baritone mouthpieces I still kept.
Getting back to the project of my new mouthpiece, Jordi tried to assemble the most suitable features of classical and jazz mouthpieces in an only one. He had plans to do different combinations between the chambers volume and the measures of the tips, with slight modifications in each of them to see what aspects of sound could change. A few weeks later, I tested the first three prototypes.
During the numerous test and tweaking sessions before reaching my current baritone mouthpiece, we left other prototypes along the way. Later, I proposed Jordi to modify the best ones in order to make them suitable for playing classical music, based on my experience as a chamber music performer. The result was two new models (tested later by other experimented baritone players) which will take part of the future Jordi’s new brand.
Jordi is very active and always want to experiment and expand his knowledge. While we were finishing the baritone mouthpiece tests, he started talking me about the physical properties of the carbon fiber and the positive effects it could produce on the musical instruments.
I imagine that building an entire carbon fiber saxophone has to be a very expensive investment due to the complexity and duration of this process. However, the neck is a very important part in the production of the sound of the instrument. Since the baritone neck does not have any special mechanism or holes in its tube (of course, we are not talking about old models), Jordi thought that starting with a baritone neck would be the best option to experiment with.
Well, I could not refuse to participate again in his experiments and I gave him my reserve neck to take measures and patterns. Some weeks later, I tested his first prototype of carbon fiber neck and was really surprised to check its features in comparison with my gold lacquered one. Any differences? Yes. Some ones:
- That I liked the more from the carbon fiber neck: a great response and agility of tonguing, stability of sound playing extremely soft and loud, a good balance of registers
- That I liked the more from both necks: a right intonation
- That I liked the less from the carbon fiber neck: less richness of sound (timbre) due to the specific weight of the carbon fibre, lower than the other metal (gold, silver, etc.) ones
The “perfect neck” does not exist but I personally prefer the capabilities of the carbon fiber one (response, agility, stability and balance of sound), so they very required especially in chamber music and bands. Timbre questions can be solved with an appropriate mouthpiece or refacing slightly the baffle of the mouthpiece, as Jordi says.
Next, he tried to solve questions of the alto neck as find the right place to put exactly the octave vent (it is related to some parameters of the body of each instrument), build a new octave key, etc. I also tested the alto necks and the results were very good too (maybe the alto neck has a richer sound than the baritone one). The soprano and tenor ones are coming… we’ll see!
One day, Jordi explained to me his curious theory about the “perfect” saxophone mouthpiece should integrate a membrane that vibrates in the same way as a conventional reed. Since this product would be difficult to build, it would be easier to look for the improvements in the ligature. Then, taking advantage of the characteristics of the carbon fiber (it is a very light and a very resistant material, at the same time), he built a ligature that perfectly adjusts the reed to the mouthpiece in order to avoid the loss of vibration in the production of sound, adding the less possible mass to the vibration generator system.
After comparing his ligatures with other different models of baritone and alto saxophones, I liked the ease to play of the carbon fiber ones: great response and precision, homogeneity of the registers, the projection and wide of sound.
For me, the only objection is that you should have a ligature for each combination of mouthpiece and reed, since it only has a fastening (it has not screws to tight or loosen it) that is determined by the measurements of those products. If the prize of these ligatures is not very expensive, I think that it could be a good investment.
Personally, as a performer, I’m delighted to have participated in the creation and development of these products (mouthpieces, necks and ligatures, especially of baritone saxophone) in a very close collaboration with the builder. The experience of having participated in this process from the minute zero has been priceless. Do you imagine how lucky I feel to have met Jordi who lives 30 km from me, and no in other continent?
Does the “perfect” product or material exist? The concept of “perfection” would be more a personal question than universal because each musician plays in his own way, according to his artistic ideas and with a personal sensibility. However, there are rigorous studies on the physical properties of some materials that applied to the construction of the instruments facilitate the production of certain technical aspects.
Sometimes, it is worthwhile leaving the comfort zone to discover other options. In my case, if I had not had that feel, I would have never met Jordi (and perhaps he, for his part, would never have been interested in creating and improving his products) or I would not now have the set-up what I feel so comfortable playing with.