John Coltrane mouthpiece and sound

John Coltrane Mouthpiece and The “Coltrane Sound”

John Coltrane is one of the most influential jazz saxophonists of all time. His unique sound and style have inspired countless musicians and listeners alike. One aspect of Coltrane's playing that is often discussed is his choice of mouthpiece. Many saxophonists believe that the mouthpiece is one of the most important factors in determining a player's sound, and Coltrane's mouthpiece has become a subject of fascination for many.

There are several different theories about which mouthpiece Coltrane used throughout his career. Some sources claim that he used a Metal Otto Link mouthpiece, while others suggest that he favored a hard rubber mouthpiece made by Meyer. There are also varying accounts of what reed strength he used, with some claiming that he played on a Rico #4 and others suggesting that he used a Chiron Vibrator #4.

Despite the differing opinions, one thing is clear: Coltrane's mouthpiece played a significant role in shaping his sound. Whether you're a saxophonist looking to emulate his tone or simply a fan of his music, understanding the nuances of his mouthpiece choice can provide valuable insights into his playing style and creative process. In this article, we will explore the various theories about Coltrane's mouthpiece and examine how it may have contributed to his legendary sound.

John Coltrane's Mouthpiece: History and Significance

John Coltrane is considered one of the greatest saxophonists of all time, and his music continues to inspire and influence musicians to this day. His unique sound and style were in part due to the mouthpiece he used on his tenor saxophone.

Coltrane's saxophone was a Selmer Mark VI, which he used throughout his career. He preferred a small tip opening on his mouthpiece, which allowed him to play with more control and precision. He also experimented with different reeds and ligatures to achieve the sound he was looking for.

The mouthpiece was not just a tool for Coltrane, but a part of his identity as a musician. He carried multiple mouthpieces with him at all times, and would often switch them out during performances to achieve different sounds and effects.

Coltrane's mouthpiece has become a symbol of his legacy and influence on the world of jazz. It has been studied and analyzed by musicians and experts, and has even been included in museum exhibits.

Types of Mouthpieces Used by John Coltrane

John Coltrane is considered one of the most influential saxophonists in jazz history. His sound was unique and instantly recognizable. One of the factors that contributed to his sound was the mouthpiece he used.

Coltrane experimented with various mouthpieces throughout his career, but there are two types that he is most associated with: Metal Otto Link and Selmer.

The Metal Otto Link mouthpiece was Coltrane's go-to mouthpiece for most of his career. It is a hard rubber mouthpiece with a metal shank and a large chamber. The metal shank gives it a brighter sound, and the large chamber provides a full-bodied tone. This mouthpiece is still popular among jazz saxophonists today.

Coltrane also used Selmer mouthpieces, particularly the Soloist model. This mouthpiece has a smaller chamber than the Otto Link and a more focused sound. Coltrane used this mouthpiece on occasion, particularly in the early 1960s.

It's worth noting that the mouthpiece is just one factor that contributes to a player's sound. Coltrane's unique sound was also a result of his technique, his choice of reeds, and his instrument. However, his choice of mouthpiece played a significant role in shaping his sound.

In conclusion, John Coltrane primarily used two types of mouthpieces: the metal Otto Link and Selmer Soloist. Both mouthpieces contributed to his unique sound, which has influenced generations of saxophonists.

How to Choose a Mouthpiece: Tips from John Coltrane's Experts

Choosing the right mouthpiece can be a daunting task for saxophonists, but it's an essential part of developing your sound. Here are some tips from experts on how to choose a mouthpiece that suits your style and preferences:

Consider the Material

John Coltrane used a metal Otto Link mouthpiece, which is a popular choice among saxophonists. Metal mouthpieces are generally very resonant and reinforce the upper partials, but do not by themselves determine the resulting tone. However, some saxophonists prefer the warmer, more mellow sound of a hard rubber mouthpiece. It's important to try out different materials to find what works best for you.

Pay Attention to the Tip Opening

The tip opening is the distance between the reed and mouthpiece tip. A larger tip opening can produce a brighter, more powerful sound, while a smaller tip opening can produce a darker, more focused sound. It's important to find a tip opening that matches your playing style and the sound you're trying to achieve.

Try Different Reeds

It's important to choose a reed that works well with your mouthpiece. While some saxophonists prefer a harder reed for a brighter sound, others prefer a softer reed for a more mellow sound. It's important to experiment with different reeds to find what works best for you.

Get Advice from Experts

When in doubt, seek advice from experts. Jody Espina from is a renowned mouthpiece maker who has worked with many top saxophonists. He recommends trying out different mouthpieces and reeds to find what works best for you. He also suggests seeking advice from a knowledgeable saxophone teacher or repair technician.

By considering these tips, you can find a mouthpiece that suits your playing style and helps you achieve your desired sound. Remember, it's important to experiment and find what works best for you.

Famous Recordings Featuring John Coltrane's Mouthpiece

John Coltrane was known for his unique sound, which was heavily influenced by his mouthpiece. Over the years, Coltrane experimented with different mouthpieces, ligatures, and reeds to achieve the sound he wanted. Here are some of his most famous recordings that feature his mouthpiece:

  • Giant Steps (1960) – Coltrane's groundbreaking album features his signature sound, which was achieved using a Meyer mouthpiece and a hard reed. The album's title track is a prime example of Coltrane's technical ability and his ability to play complex melodies with ease.
  • My Favorite Things (1961) – Coltrane's rendition of the classic tune features his unique sound, which was achieved using a Selmer mouthpiece and a soft reed. The album also features Coltrane's use of circular breathing, which allowed him to sustain long notes without taking a breath.
  • A Love Supreme (1964) – Coltrane's spiritual masterpiece features his use of a metal mouthpiece, which gave his sound a brighter, more focused tone. The album's title track is a powerful meditation on Coltrane's faith and his search for spiritual enlightenment.

Coltrane's mouthpiece was an integral part of his sound, and his recordings continue to inspire and influence musicians to this day. Whether he was playing a ballad or a fast-paced bebop tune, Coltrane's sound was instantly recognizable and always captivating.

What kind of mouthpiece did John Coltrane use?

John Coltrane is known to have used several different mouthpieces throughout his career. However, the most famous and most closely associated with him is the Otto Link 7* metal mouthpiece.

What size Otto Link mouthpiece did John Coltrane use?

John Coltrane's Otto Link mouthpiece was a 7* size, which is a medium-large tip opening.

Did John Coltrane use any other mouthpieces besides the Otto Link?

es, John Coltrane used several other mouthpieces over the years, including a Meyer Bros. mouthpiece and a Selmer Soloist mouthpiece.

Why did John Coltrane switch mouthpieces?

Coltrane was constantly experimenting with his sound and trying to improve his playing. He may have switched mouthpieces to achieve different tones or to suit the particular style of music he was playing at the time.

How can I get a John Coltrane-style sound on my saxophone?

While using the same mouthpiece as Coltrane can be a good starting point, it's important to remember that sound is a combination of factors including embouchure, air support, reed choice, and more. Working on developing your own sound through practice and experimentation is key.

Can I buy a mouthpiece that is an exact replica of John Coltrane's Otto Link?

While there are mouthpieces marketed as “John Coltrane models,” it's important to keep in mind that these are not exact replicas of the mouthpiece Coltrane used. Each mouthpiece is unique, and even if it's made to the same specifications as Coltrane's mouthpiece, it will still have its own unique characteristics.

How much does a John Coltrane-style mouthpiece cost?

Prices for mouthpieces vary widely, and the cost of a John Coltrane-style mouthpiece will depend on the brand and model. However, be prepared to pay several hundred dollars for a high-quality mouthpiece.

Did John Coltrane modify his mouthpiece in any way?

There is evidence that Coltrane may have modified his Otto Link mouthpiece by filing down the baffle, which would have made the mouthpiece darker and more focused. However, there is some debate among experts as to whether or not Coltrane actually made this modification himself.

What reed strength did John Coltrane use with his mouthpiece?

here is no definitive answer to this question, as Coltrane likely used different reed strengths depending on the situation. However, it's believed that he generally used medium-soft to medium reeds.

What is the difference between metal and hard rubber mouthpieces?

Metal mouthpieces tend to produce a brighter, more focused sound, while hard rubber mouthpieces produce a darker, more mellow sound. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as each mouthpiece is unique and can produce a wide range of tones depending on the player's technique and other factors. Many players prefer metal mouthpieces for playing in louder, more contemporary styles of music, while hard rubber mouthpieces are often favored for playing in more traditional jazz styles.


John Coltrane's mouthpiece has been a topic of much discussion and speculation among saxophonists and jazz enthusiasts. While it is clear that his sound was heavily influenced by his playing style, reed choice, and other factors, the mouthpiece undoubtedly played a role in shaping his unique tone.

Some have suggested that Coltrane's use of a metal mouthpiece was a key factor in his sound, but as Evan Parker notes, it is not that simple. Coltrane himself experimented with different mouthpieces throughout his career, and it is likely that his sound was the result of a combination of factors.

While we may never know exactly how Coltrane achieved his sound, studying his playing and the equipment he used can provide valuable insights for saxophonists and jazz musicians. By experimenting with different mouthpieces, reeds, and playing techniques, musicians can develop their own unique sound and style.

Ultimately, the legacy of John Coltrane's music and sound continues to inspire and influence musicians around the world. Whether you are a fan of his music or a saxophonist looking to improve your playing, studying Coltrane's approach to the instrument can provide valuable insights and inspiration.