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Dave Guardala

Dave Guardala is one of the most important and yet polarizing figures in the history of mouthpiece making. After years of trading/selling vintage mouthpieces, Dave Guardala introduced his own line of ‘custom made’ mouthpieces at $500.- per mouthpiece in the 1980s, breaking records for mouthpiece prices at that time (prices above $100.- were unheard of). In 1985, he released the first run of the two most popular models off newly acquired CNC machinery (at greatly reduced prices) instead of traditional casting techniques. This introduction of high-precision CNC machined mouthpieces was unparalleled at that time, and in combination with hand finishing and radical design changes (i.e., drastic reduction of width and weight and thinning of rails, high baffles), Guardala mouthpieces earned the highest reputation among saxophonists and secured Dave Guardala a place in history among the finest mouthpiece makers like Otto Link in the 1930s and Arnold Brilhart or Bobby Dukoff in the 1940/50s. During the late 1990s, Dave Guardala’s reputation got tarnished by the disappearance for a few years and repeated accusations from customers of freud. In the summer of 2007, Guardala was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, and extradited to the US where he is currently standing trial for freud.


In addition to the hand-made Guardalas (pictured below), a line of CNC machined mouthpieces are being distributed that are not hand finished. Guardala mouthpieces are listed in order of brightness below.

Model:  The Super King/R&B

Sax: alto, tenor

Material: metal

Chamber:  small

Baffle: high

Description: The ‘Super King/R&B’ is similar to ‘The King/R&B’ with a higher baffle. The chamber and bore are altered to make a better match with the high baffle. Brightness and power are extreme, making this mouthpiece ideal for music with electric instruments that must be competed with, such as Fusion, Rock & Roll, and Comtemporary/Pop.

Dave Guardala

(around 1987)

Model:  The King/R&B

Sax: alto, tenor, baritone

Material: metal

Chamber:  small

Baffle: high

Description: This is the second brightest of all Guardala models. It is patterned after the sound of King Curtis characteristic of the Detroit/Texas sound. The mouthpiece incorporates a small chamber and high baffle.

Model:  Studio

Sax:  soprano, alto, tenor, baritone

Material: metal

Chamber:  medium/small

Baffle: high

Description: The ‘Studio’ is the 3rd brightest Guardala mouthpiece. It has tremendous volume and unexcelled resonance and a full and balanced frequency response. The mouthpiece has a high baffle and a medium/small chamber. The sound is modeled after Michael Brecker during the period 1979-1982 (Brecker Brother’s Band). The Studio can be used for all applications that studio musicians encounter.

Model:  Bepop/Traditional

Sax: alto

Material: metal

Chamber:  medium

Baffle: high

Description: This model features a moderately high baffle with a slightly larger bore than the Studio, making the sound reminiscent of the ‘Cannonball Adderley/Phil Wods’ style. It is suitable for a wide range of playing styles.

Model:  Brecker Mark II

Sax:  tenor, baritone

Material: metal

Chamber:  medium/large

Baffle: high

Description: The ‘Brecker Mark II’ is a hybrid between the ‘Studio’ and the original ‘Brecker’ models. It has the high baffle of the Studio and the large chamber of the Brecker model, giving increased volume and brightness with great ease of playing, especially suited for Contemporary/Pop, Rock and Jazz.

Model:  Brecker

Sax:  tenor, baritone

Material: metal

Chamber:  large

Baffle: high

Description: This mouthpiece is the exact replica of the mouthpiece that Michael Brecker (below) used during the last six years of his life. It has a moderately high baffle with a large chamber, making it suitable for mainstream jazz. Brecker mouthpieces have ‘MB’ engraved in the shank with dotted lines. The ‘Brecker’ is one of the most popular Guardala mouthpieces.

Model:  Branford Marsalis

Sax:  soprano, tenor

Material: metal

Chamber:  large

Baffle: medium

Description: This is an exact replica of the mouthpiece Branford Marsalis playd. It has a moderate baffle and a large chamber, making is ideal for mainstream jazz with the ‘harder’ sound Marsalis (below) is known for.

Model:  Traditional

Sax:  soprano, tenor, baritone

Material: metal

Chamber: large

Baffle: medium

Description: The ‘Traditional’ features a large chamber and a moderate baffle, giving a ‘warmer’ sound with ni tubbyness. It can be used for mainstream jazz when a slightly darker sound than that of Brecker or Marsalis is desired.

Model:  Post Bop

Sax:  soprano, tenor

Material: metal

Chamber:  large

Baffle: medium

Description: The ‘Post-Bop’ retains similar characteristics to the ‘Crescent’, although it is more reminiscent of the late Coltrane and Post Hard Bop sound. This model is preferred by musicians who play smaller tip openings and harder reeds. It is perfect for Swing and Bebop.

Model:  Crescent

Sax:  tenor

Material: metal

Chamber:  large

Baffle: medium/small

Description: This model was designed with the Coltrane sound in mind. It is reminiscent of the sound John Coltrane’s on his Crescent album recorded around 1963. It has a slightly smaller tip (6, 6*) that the other Guardala mouthpieces, a large bore and a smaller baffle. The Crecent gives the darkest sound of all Guardala mouthpieces (which is still bright compared to designs from other manufacturers).

Shown here is one of the rarest and most collectable mouthpieces ever made, a Brecker mouthpiece hand made of wood. According to Jeff Powell, Dave Guardala’s partner, only three Brecker mouthpieces were made of wood on Michael Brecker’s request.

Model:  Fatboy

Sax:  soprano, alto, tenor

Material: metal

Chamber:  large

Baffle: small

Description: Having the largest chamber and smallest baffle, the ‘Fatboy’ is the lushest sounding Guardala mouthpiece. Few of these pieces were made. Note the unusual ridge at the top of the mouthpiece.

Model:  Custom

Sax:  soprano, alto, tenor, baritone

Material: metal

Chamber: 

Baffle:

Description: Dave Guardala made countless ‘one-off’ custom mouthpieces according to player’s specifications. The usually don’t have a model name and are signed with ‘DG’. This custom mouthpiece has a bullet chamber and serial number 5291.

Model:  Artist

Sax:  tenor

Material: metal

Chamber: large

Baffle: medium

Description: The ‘Artist’ is an early 1980s hand made Guardala mouthpiece that has features which places it between the Brecker and Brecker Mark II models. The side rails are somewhat thinner and convex.