The chamber is the open area in the middle of the mouthpiece. It is the area directly underneath the table, inside the mouthpiece. The chamber creates the fullness or focus of the sound. It is similar to the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight. One is not better than the other, they just create a different type of light. Another way to visualize the effect of the chamber is like blowing through a cone or tube. This is portrayed in the below diagram. There are three general types of chambers:
The very first mouthpieces made by Adolf Sax in 1841 were large chambers. Large chambers were the primary chamber design up until the 1960’s when manufacturers started making more medium and small chambers. The design was made famous by Otto link in the 1930s with the Master Link model brass mouthpieces. These vintage mouthpieces are all True Large Chamber mouthpieces as they have significantly larger chambers than bores. True Large Chamber mouthpiece lend themselves to a big fat bottom end and a more open and spread sound in general. This is the most common style among classic jazz musicians in tenor saxophone and among classical players throughout the whole saxophone family.
A vast majority of tenor saxophone musician’s in the 1950s and 1960s all played True Large Chamber mouthpiece. In the 1970s to present there have been many mouthpieces made that say they have large chambers however, they actually are not, as the chambers are not larger than their bore. The Theo Wanne™ mouthpiece lineup uses many different designs to accomplish the large chamber sound, such as the DURGA’s Inverted Power Ring™, Shark Gills™, and the traditional True Large Chamber™.
It is important to note that if a tenor mouthpiece were shrunk down to the size of an alto mouthpiece, the bore of the alto mouthpiece would be too small and would not fit onto the neck of the alto saxophone. Hence the bore must be larger to fit on the neck of an alto saxophone. This means the chamber of an alto mouthpiece looks smaller than a tenor when compared to the bore. This is why medium chambers tended to be more popular among alto players. A properly designed large chamber on alto can get an amazingly fat sound, such as the Theo Wanne™ GAIA alto mouthpiece, however great care must be made in its design.
Medium chamber mouthpieces can have either concave inner side walls or flat inner side walls. The concave inner side-walls of a medium chamber are much shallower than those of a large chamber mouthpiece.
A good example of a medium chamber with rounded inner-side walls is the Meyer Bros. hard rubber mouthpiece from the 1950s or the Theo Wanne™ NYBROS alto mouthpiece shown to the left. A good example of a medium chamber with flat inner-side is the Brilhart Ebolin and Tonalin mouthpieces.
Small chamber mouthpieces usually have flat inner side walls as the side walls need to transition narrowly to the small chamber. Some of the old Meyer Bros. small chamber mouthpieces had a very small amount of concavity to the inner side walls. But, in general, small chamber mouthpieces have flat side walls.
Because of having less volume in the chamber, the bottom end of the saxophone often sounds thinner on small chamber mouthpieces.
Extra-Small Chamber: When the chamber is steps outward to the bore; the chamber is significantly smaller than the bore.
- The neck cork is large on the soprano saxophone. It’s not that the mouthpiece has an extra small chamber, it is that the mouthpiece must have a large bore to accommodate the large soprano sax neck cork.
- The sound inside the soprano mouthpiece is created more in the ‘throat’ of the mouthpiece than the chamber. The ‘throat’ of the soprano mouthpiece acts like the chamber would in alto, tenor, and baritone mouthpieces.