Rico Royal Graftonite Mouthpieces

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Rico Mouthpieces

A number of years ago my repair tech in Halifax, Layne Francis, suggested I try a Rico Royal Graftonite mouthpiece for my bari, instead of the Berg Larsen I had been using. He said that a number of the players he worked with in Toronto had started using them, and were putting their expensive jazz pieces aside in favour of these inexpensive ($25 Cdn) Rico pieces.

I was skeptical, but Layne had never given me bad advice in the past, so I gave it a try. I was amazed! This $25 Rico was everything my $200 Berg was, and more.

What I noticed almost immediately was that with the Rico, the notes didn’t “break” (crack if you will) when pushed like they tended to do with the Berg. Because I play in loud electric environments, volume and projection are important, since baris have to work extremely hard to be heard above the clutter of the electric guitars, bass, and busy drummers. This Rico Graftonite was better than the Berg at cutting through that clutter.

I did some research and found out that Arnold Brilhart had designed both Rico Graftonite & Metalite mouthpieces in the 1980s, but that the Metalite pieces were no longer in production. (I’ll write more about the Metalite pieces in another post.)

The next time I was down in Halifax, I picked up a Graftonite mouthpiece for my Mark VI soprano. That piece worked well really too. Although I’ve since switched over on soprano to a Runyon Custom with a spoiler, on bari, I still use a Graftonite on my low A B&S Medusa, and on my low Bb Mark VI when I play jazz.

Rico Graftonite Bari & Soprano. Both have a B Chamber & a 5 Facing.

Rico Graftonite Bari & Soprano. Both have a B Chamber & a 5 Facing.

I should mention that my Medusa came stock with a beautiful Zinner mouthpiece. I didn’t think that I would want chose the Rico over it, but after playing the 2 pieces on the horn for a couple of weeks, I decided that I did actually prefer the Rico. Go figure. :shock:

Rico makes the Graftonite mouthpieces for alto and tenor in 3 chambers (A, B, & C). A is the darkest sounding, and is intended for concert work. B is the middle of the road version, and is best for work in most bands. C is the brightest, and is intended for jazz and rock. For soprano and baritone the only chamber available is the B variety.

SATB Graftonite pieces all come in one of 3 facings: 3, 5, or 7.  WWBW describes the facing system of the Graftonite this way:

Facing (3, 5, or 7): The facing is determined by the distance from the tip of the reed to where it first touches the mouthpiece. The bigger the facing number, the farther back the reed goes before actually touching the mouthpiece. Changing the facing of the mouthpiece will generally change the volume of the instrument. With a shorter facing (3), less of the reed is vibrating, so the instrument will tend to be quieter, with a longer facing (7), more of the reed is vibrating, so the instrument will tend to be louder.

The Graftonite mouthpieces, combined with Rovner ligatures (either light or dark, depending on the horn and application) and Fibracell reeds have been my combination of choice for years now on baritone. I do not foresee that changing.

I have wondered why these these mouthpieces have been such “sleepers” though. They’ve been around a long time: 20 years or so. The Metalites especially were, until recently, extremely undervalued. I think it’s because they were (or are, in the case of the Graftonites) so inexpensive.

Musicians are a funny breed. For as little money as we make, we still have a snobbery about us that we have to have expensive gear. If we didn’t spend $300 or more on a mouthpiece, then we can’t be/sound/whatever as good as player X. Whatever…

For me, I have no qualms about playing a $25 piece. It’s all about the sound, and in the case of the bari, the projection. Hey, if I can get “the sound” out of a $25 piece, why spend $200 or more? Just putting that out there…

BTW, after owning them all (SATB) for a number of years, IMO the baritone Ricos are the best of the bunch. I don’t know why that’s the case, however a  number of other players and repair techs who have tried them all have told me the same thing.

An added bonus of the Ricos is that they are really tough wearing & very forgiving should they fall. That’s why I tend to recommend the Graftonite pieces for my younger students if they need a new mouthpiece. They can take the rigors of school use, with no ill effects.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2008 – 2009, Helen. All rights reserved.

Series NavigationRico Royal Metalite Mouthpieces

Comments

Rico Royal Graftonite Mouthpieces — 28 Comments

    • Thanks for the tip. Looks like they are at least $100. I have a Bruno Claude Lakey. It’s not like any I see on a web site – the Claude Lakey lettering is not on the reed plate. The only legible number on it is “0”. I have used it for symphonic band and it is decent for that but I do very little of that. Since I only want to use a mouthpiece that is economical to buy at least two of, and so hard to know if I’m going to like a piece/size I haven’t played, I’ll probably just stay with the trenches until a better option appears. After all, the Graftonite stands as proof that any piece over say $50 is way over priced from a functional standpoint.

  1. I’ve been using the Graftonite B5 for the last 4 of my 40 years on the Alto. There is nothing wrong with the material, chamber or tip opening. My only complaint is the trenches on the sides. I’ve not seen any other mouthpiece with those and don’t know why they thought it was a good idea. They interfere with mouth seal, even if just a comfort issue. I doubt the trenches account for the great price or anything good. When Rico starts making it trench-less it will be THE ONLY alto mouthpiece to buy. Until then, what would be another great priced readily available replacement for it or my former H. Couf Artist 4 * R?

    • You could get some food-grade epoxy (so you know it’s safe to stick in your mouth once it cures) and fill in the rail trenches yourself. That would probably cheaper, and almost certainly less frustrating, than going on another mouthpiece hunt.

      I do have a suspicion why they do it though — so they can mill every facing in the range, from 3 to 11, from identical blanks without having to touch up the rails afterward.

      • I agree with everything you said. Maybe I’ll try the epoxy but it’s pretty sad that the most sensible approach for a mere player is to become a builder.

        • I must say that I have never had a problem with the “trenches” on either Metalite or Graftonite mouthpieces, for bari, tenor, alto, nor soprano saxophones. But that’s just me, and of course YMMV, and obviously does.

          Mal-2’s assessment of why Rico does what it does is likely correct. If so, then it is unlikely that we will ever see the end of those “trenches”. This is likely one of the reasons that the mouthpieces have such a low price point.

          All in all, you get a lot of bang for you mouthpiece buck with a Rico Graftonite or Metalite. It’s easy to get that kind of sound by spending 4 or 5 times the money. I can offer up all kinds of recommendations for excellent m/p’s that will set you back even a $1,000 or more. However, I don’t see the point. For most players the Rico pieces are excellent, and do the job really well.

          That said, mouthpieces are a very personal choice, and you have to find the one that’s right for you. If you find that after 4 years you can no longer play on the Rico, then perhaps it’s time to take your horn to a shop with a wide selection of mouthpieces and try a bunch out. See what you like.

          My advice to players is always to try a bunch of pieces before you buy them though. That’s where people go wrong. They buy based on other’s recommendations, and often what’s good for one person doesn’t work the same—or at all—for another. The other thing is that often no 2 mouthpieces are identical.

          For example, I’ve play-tested Bergs and found them horribly inconsistent. Some are completely unplayable. (Mal-2 has a stainless steel bari piece, which amounts to nothing but a door stop that I got new with my baritone. Apparently the shop didn’t try it before sending it. Idiots. :dunce: )

          • Thanks for all the suggestions. I don’t think the trenches are a deal breaker either, else I wouldn’t still be in them after 4 years and several hundred shows. I am surprised the trenches justify such a price differential. I would pay more for a trench-less version. Smooth the bore conical right through to the chamber and it would be even better, but now I’m really asking too much I guess. I’d have to take a pretty big road trip from where I live to try out many options. I don’t see me paying 5 – 50 times the cost of the RG per piece after a wild goose chase. It’s good enough and apparently way too costly to beat.

          • To clarify: That Berg shipped with a convex table. No matter how you put a reed on it, it’s going to leak. Since it’s stainless, this is an immense pain to fix, and although I started work on it, I never finished.

  2. As one of, if not the first to try this piece 15 or 20 yrs ago in Toronto, you can’t go wrong with the B5. Also try a Bonade reverse tenor sax ligature, fits great, sounds great too, Bob

    • Hi there Bob. Welcome to my site.

      Always good to hear from another person who speaks highly of the Graftonites. They are really good bang for the buck. People need to to just get over their mouthpiece “issues”—and by that I mean their issues of thinking they need to spend hundreds of dollars on a mouthpiece. :twisted:

  3. Hello and I am following their recommendations with a b7 grafitonite baritone sax too, amazing sound, is every word of what you say seems the same even with the Otto Link, full and strong sound, with much body and clean, thanks again

      • Thanks, well I can see the words brilhart ,ebolin, and special, its kind of small, but it doesnt have the size on it, either that or it was rubbed off. Its all black and plastic. I can barely make out the etching on it, but it is bigger than a Selmer C*.

        • Get a B chamber, it’s the best all around chamber. As far as tip opening goes, I would likely suggest either a 5 or 7. A 7 should be 105, but that might be too open for you–or not depending on what you’re used to. A 5 would only 90, but perhaps more what you’re used to.

          Depending on what music store you order from, most have a return policy (with a restocking fee). Given that these m/p’s are so inexpensive though, it might be better to resell the m/p (if the first one isn’t right) through SOTW, eBay, Craigslist, or other online source.

          That would be my suggestion.

          Just another thought, the tenor mouthpieces are not nearly as well received as the bari & soprano pieces. I don’t know the condition of your Ebolin, but I have one, and it is very good. If it was between a tenor Ebolin and a Graftonite, I would choose the Ebolin. That’s just me though. I’m not saying don’t try the Rico, just don’t expect as good a mouthpiece as the bari and soprano Rico versions of the same m/p.

          • Given the cost and the design, using a Rico mouthpiece as a “blank” for refacing is also reasonable. The chamber and rails are designed in such a way that refacing will not require narrowing the rails or scraping the baffle as it does on almost all other mouthpieces. I think this is deliberate, so that they can mill all of their facings from the same set of blanks without any hand working whatsoever.

    • Hi Martin,

      I just wanted to add that tip openings of woodwind mouthpieces are not so easily compared.

      As a rough guide, the physical measurements can be readily compared, but because of the different playing characteristics (resistance, differing impedance in different registers, shifts in partials) caused by different chamber sizes and shapes, as well as the length of the lay (what WW-BW calls “facing”, which I understand as a more general term that includes both the curve of the lay and the tip opening), a numerical comparison between tip openings is not always meaningful.

      tl;dr

      In other words, there is a lot more to mouthpiece selection and comparison than tip openings.

      Although some of this can be predicted with a good understanding of acoustics, much of it comes down to the experience of play-testing.

      Peace,

      paul

  4. Got a graftonite B5 today for my tenor sax, having read your recommendation. Very impressed. I’ve put away my otto link super tone master wnich I’ve been using for about five years! I’m tninking of getting a few more in different sizes. 18 euros a piece from thomann.de. Unbelievable! Many thanks for the pointer and keep up the good work. By the way I actually prefer the larger size in the mouth, easier to seal.

  5. Hi, I just discovered your website :)

    My son plays a tenor sax with his high school. He has a Selmer C* mouthpiece as recommended by his previous director. He’s been using it without issue for the last 3 years. His new director would like him to start playing Baritone Sax, so he now needs a new mouthpiece. I was looking into the Rico Graftonite and/or Metalite. Also option of Yamaha 5C. I need to keep the costs down, but I want him to be able to play well. I believe the saxes he’s been using at school are pro and he has a very nice loud sound with the tenor. Need an opinion on Bari mouthpiece; and I don’t understand much about the facing numbers either. Any help you can give would be great!

    • Hello there El.

      For baritone in a school setting the Graftonite is the way to go. Get the B5, it is a great piece, with a good opening. As far as reed strength goes, most bari players who also play tenor, usually play a 1/2 strength reed harder on bari than they do on tenor.

      DO NOT GET A METALITE! Sorry to shout, but I wanted to make sure you got that. They are way too loud, and will not fit into a school ensemble setting.

      The Graftonite is a great piece that will work for concert and jazz bands. I use mine all the time if I’m playing in places where I don’t want to risk my $500 Berg Larsen. It sounds nearly the same as a really good Berg. I’m not kidding.

      I hope that helps, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

      Warm regards,

      Helen

  6. Hi,

    Would you recommend this to a very new and young player (7 year old boy wanting to learn the alto sax)? If not, which mouthpiece would you recommend for such a player? Thanks.

    • Hello.

      I’m sorry I didn’t reply before now. I’m in the process of moving my website, and had hoped to get it moved before answering. I’ve just hit some unexpected snags with the move, so I figured I’d better the answer your question before you completely gave up hope. (If it’s not already too late.)

      I don’t know if you’re still looking for this information, but if you are, the short answer is it could be. A Rico Graftonite B3 will likely work well. However, so will a plastic, Yamaha 4C.

      Hope this helps.

      Regards,

      Helen

  7. I have two of these also, A7, B7, Tenor, and are really very good mouthpieces.
    I also have other mouthpieces, like Metal Otto Link, and Dave Guardala, etc.. . . But Graftonite are worth much more than they charge for them. :mrgreen:

    • Hi there Blonski. Welcome to my site.

      Glad to hear that you’re also a Graftonite fan. Although I must admit, I like the bari and soprano pieces much more than I do those for alto and tenor. None the less, the alto and tenor pieces are very good pieces that play much better than a $25 or so mouthpiece ought to.

      Compared to my $300+ alto and tenor pieces, I still do like my Rico pieces over some of them. I think if people can get over the small price, and the larger mouthpiece (tenor especially), which in my estimation are both psychological barriers, then they could potentially be doing themselves a service.

      No one mouthpiece is right for everyone. I would never suggest that the Rico pieces—Graftonite or Metalite—are the piece that everyone could/should be playing. However, at their price point, if someone is looking for a new piece, there’s no reason not to give them a fair try. All in all, you won’t find a better series of pieces at better price.

  8. Just getting back into playing after many years away from it. I discovered the Graftonite series and tried them on soprano, alto, and tenor, and didn’t like any of them. Because I had been out of touch for so long I didn’t know that these Rico pieces hailed back to the ’80s, and that the Metalites were discontinued and then came back by popular demand. So, thanks, I appreciate the history lesson. I never owned a bari sax before but I wanted one. Knowing I would get one some day, I bought a Rico Metalite M5 Bari piece in anticipation of buying a horn. Well, I just bought a horn and am waiting for it to be shipped to me. I am excited and hopeful about the response of the Metalite M5 with the horn, given what you say. I hope I am not disappointed like I was with the Graftonites. I think the design of both types is wierd with the raised angle transition from the tip rail to the baffle – I’d never seen that ever on any mouthpiece. I wonder if it had anything to do with why the Graftonites did not work for me. I hope not since the Metalites have the same design.

    • Hi Niteowl. Welcome to my site.

      I can understand what you say about the Graftonites not being for you. Some players like them. Some players don’t. Apparently you fall into the latter group.

      As far as if you will like the Metalite goes, the M5 is a fairly closed piece, so even if you are comfortable with the transition from the tip rail to the baffle, the tip opening might not be big enough for you. I personally play a M5, but that’s because I got mine before they Metalites were back in production again. I traded an M11—which was too open—for the M5. Now I’m thinking of getting a new M7. Just food for thought…

      After you get your bari, please stop in again and let me know how things are going for you with the Metalite. I’m curious how you find it. I’ve heard people complain before that the feel of the Rico mouthpieces because they’re “too fat”, and don’t feel right in the players’ mouth.

      What kind of bari did you get? Modern? Vintage? Low A? Bb?

      Thanks for dropping by Niteowl. I’m looking forward to your update.

      Regards,

      Helen

  9. Hi vaiol123. Welcome to my site.

    Sure I would recommend one of these for alto, but there would be nothing wrong with going with a Yamaha mouthpiece either, since that’s what you’re used to. I’ve had students use both, and both are easy to blow.

    If you are going to go with a Rico Graftonite, I would suggest you give the B5 a try. The B is what Rico calls the “all around” chamber and gives the greatest flexibility in tone. It can be brighter when you need it to be, but also darker when necessary as well. Rico makes 3 tip openings, the 5 is the middle one. That is probably your safest bet when making the switch from tenor to alto.

    Hope this has helped.

    Regards,

    Helen

  10. I’ve been playing a yamaha 4c on a tenor for 3 years, but I was just offered to play an Alto in orchestra. Would you recommend these and if so, what size? Thanks!

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