“Written in „ SONIC “ 3.2006 May/June by Klaus Dapper, one of the leading Saxophone player in Germany.”
They are back again.
New Dave Guardala Mouthpieces
Dave Guardala may be one of the most illustrious names among the producers of saxophone mouthpieces. Around 1985, Guardala became world
famous and within a short time he was able to convince world class saxophone players like Mike Brecker, Tom Scott and Branford Marsalis of the quality of his mouthpieces exceeded all formerly known prices. When he
set the list price of his “ Fat Boy ” baritone mouthpiece at DM 1600,--, he easily supersede all other pieces. After that, nothing much was heard of Dave Guardala´s, the supply came to a standstill and
some years ago, everything seemed to have stopped completely.
First, we would like to introduce Dave Guardala. He lives in New York, his ancestors come from Italy. As a schoolboy, he played saxophone
and was busy with the improvement of saxophone mouthpieces. Later, besides being busy as a saxophone player, he bought saxophones in need of repair, overhauled and sold them. More and more, musicians who were
unhappy with their mouthpieces asked him to improve the playing quality of their mouthpieces. In course of time, Dave Guardala the mouthpiece specialist was more in demand than Dave Guardala the player. At some
point, Dave found out that the refacing, in most cases, resulted in a more compromise. Early in the 1980s, Dave decides to start his own mouthpiece production. The first mouthpieces manufactured by the Dave Guardala
Inc. were a huge success. The metal mouthpieces for tenor saxophone literally sent shock waves through professional circles not only because of their price but because of their superior playing qualities as
well.“ Professional Music Shop ( PMS ) „ formerly run by Nadir and Naim Ibrahimoglu was the first dealer who imported Dave Guardala mouthpieces to Europe.
What was so sensational about these mouthpieces ? Right from start, Dave Guardala used a new technology. Formerly, mouthpiece blanks were
made using casting technology. For many years, the famous Otto Link Mouthpieces were made by welding two halves or they were brazed, where as Dave Guardala used quite expensive CNC-milling machines. This new
technology allowed a so far unknown precision of the “ mouthpiece geometry “ . Now it had become possible to manufacture extremely slim metal mouthpieces with very thin rails. By doing so, it was
possible to produce resonance and vibration characteristics that could not have been reached so far. This procedure, however, required extensive finishing which justified the term “handmade“. By creating
his series of mouthpieces, Dave Guardala realised another quite radical idea: Being convinced that, with a complicated given mouthpiece geometry, ( chamber, baffle and tip opening gives
best results, Dave Guardala manufactured every mouthpiece model with only one opening.This was absolutely new.
Dave Guardala sees himself as one of the great innovators of mouthpiece manufacturing, in a line with Otto Link ( who made the first
standard metal mouthpieces for saxophone, Arnold Brilhart in the 30s, later Bobby Dukoff in the 40s and 50s. Starting with the big-chambered mouthpieces that were in use at the beginning of the 20th century, these
manufacturers were mainly interested in projection and volume. After his great success, Dave Guardala made mouthpieces for soprano, alto and baritone saxophones, reeds and - 1995 in co-operation with the company
B&S in Saxonia a special line of „Dave Guardala Saxophones“.
About 1997, the supply of mouthpieces came to a standstill. Dealers had to wait longer and longer for the mouthpieces they had ordered. In
2000, finally, there was a new line of mouthpieces that Dave Guardala had manufactured in co-operation with the American company Barrington („L.A.Sax“). These mouthpieces were named „laser-trimmed“
meaning that these mouthpieces were made completely using CNC - technology. Only the gold or silver plating had to be made separately. In 2002, Barrington went bankrupt; the Dave Guardala mouthpieces disappeared
from the market, only the dealers who had built up a large stock could supply mouthpieces.
In January 2005, Dave Guardala granted an exclusive world-wide licence to his German business partner of many years, the „Professional
Music Shop“ , now run by Nadir Ibrahimoglu only, to manufacture a new edition of his LaserTrimmed mouthpieces. Since then, PMS manufactures the current mouthpieces in Hamburg after Dave Guardala´s design. So
far, the models „New Crescent“, MB (Michael Brecker) II“,“King“ and „Super King“ are available for tenor saxophones only. They come gold-plated (0,2) but they are available in
silver-plating, too. Each model is available as a „handmade version“ with a chamber modified by Nadir Ibrahimoglu according to Dave Guardala´s design. Nadir Ibrahimoglu, in a way, has followed Dave
Guardala´s course from musician to dealer and repairman, from refacing to manufacturing mouthpieces. He who knows Nadir only as a dealer and may have some doubts in his abilities as a manufacturer, is invited to try
the new Guardala mouthpieces. He will be surprised.
We have been testing all models an we are quite enthusiastic. Although only one opening was available for each mouthpiece, there were no
problem getting used to the mouthpiece. The adjustment was made be choosing the right reed. The „New Crescent“ model comes close to the sound of John Coltrane, the „MB II“ is ideal for the Brecker-fan,
the „King“ resembles the sound of King Curtis and „Super King“ is meant for the friend of Rock`n Roll and Pop. The „New Crescent“- model has the largest chamber, the sound and the feeling is quite
close to the traditional Otto Link mouthpiece, it response easier, though and produces more volume while playing completely relaxed. The other models have progressively smaller chambers and , therefore, have a
harder sound. Even the quite loud and almost screaming „Super King“ allows to master the low register which is almost impossible with other comparable mouthpieces.
Since the Dave Guardala mouthpieces are not includes in comparative charts, we have asked for the measurements (in “/inch like Berg
New Crescent 107
Super King 126
Users of Berg Larsen mouthpieces have a guide now, other players may consult the internet lists to decide which mouthpiece fits their music.
For an additional price, the „handmade“ edition is available. Compared with the original model, this
model has a handmade enlarged chamber which takes some harshness out of the sound and the tones in the bottom register speak still a bit easier. „Handmade“, in this case does not mean „better“ but
„different“. The musician who misses something in the subtone area an who looks for shading in sound, should try the „ handmade “ models.