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 — 18 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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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