Before Syos: I tell you about the genesis of the project

Before Syos: I tell you about the genesis of the project

Ten years. A whole decade since a pile of confusing saxophone parts on my desk in Montreal sparked a wild idea. It was supposed to be a simple post-doc studying acoustics, but then the musicians came in, and everything changed. They played my weird, 3D-printed mouthpieces, their eyes glowing, and suddenly I wasn't just studying sound – I was on the verge of creating something that could revolutionize the way an entire instrument feels. Want to know how a chance encounter with a jazz pianist and a whole lot of coffee turned into a company that's putting custom-made mouthpieces in the hands of saxophonists around the world? Buckle up, because this is the story of Syos.
It's March 2024 and I realize that it's already been 10 years since I started working on Syos.

The Syos company was officially created in 2016, but I had actually started working on the project 2 years earlier. For those who don't know the whole story let me tell you!

In 2013 I went on to do a post-doctorate at McGill University in Montreal. The aim is to study the influence of the geometry of saxophone mouthpieces on the sound of the saxophone. I spent a few months doing acoustic simulations on my computer, and after a while I realized that what would help us to potentially improve mouthpieces was to better understand the link between mouthpiece geometry and musician feel.

I decided to compare my results with the musicians' opinions.

The only way to be sure of comparing the same geometries is to 3D print the mouthpieces.

I invite a dozen saxophonists to a study on pad resonators, and they are all very intrigued by the 3D printed mouthpieces on my desk. I let them test the mouthpieces, and they were all amazed at how well these plastic mouthpieces worked. Many of them ask me where they can buy them.

I'm surprised that musicians are so interested in this research project.

At the end of my post-doctorate in Canada, I was supposed to go to Mexico for another 2-year post-doctorate on the study of marine conch acoustics.

But for personal reasons, I finally had to return to Paris. Big change of plans. This saxophone mouthpiece thing is starting to get on my nerves. I say to myself that I've got to dig into this idea.

So I start having coffee, lots of coffee, with saxophonists in Paris. I didn't talk to them about my project, but asked them to tell me about their lives as saxophonists and, above all, about their problems.

As a result of all these interviews, I realized that saxophonists have quite specific needs, in terms of sounds and playing characteristics, that these needs are very different from one musician to another, and above all that they have trouble finding equipment, especially mouthpieces, that really meet their needs.

All these problems seem to confirm my initial idea: thanks to 3D printing, we can produce a unique mouthpiece for each musician, and by continuing my research into the link between the geometry of the mouthpiece and the sound perceived by the musician, I think we can create a mouthpiece that meets the exact expectations of each musician!

And so Syos was born!

Another amusing anecdote: one of the very first saxophonists I met in Paris, after telling him that I'd done my thesis at Ircam, said to me: "Ah, but I've got one of my students doing his thesis at Ircam, you should meet him!

So I contacted this famous student and we arranged to meet a few days later. I asked him about his saxophone playing, and he replied that he was a pianist! That person was Maxime. In fact, he was a student of this saxophonist, but in jazz workshops...

At the time, he was only halfway through his thesis. But we talked a lot about his research into sound perception, because it was an aspect that interested me a lot for my research into Syos.

We bumped into each other several times during the course of his thesis, and then one last time in early 2016, when he was about to defend his thesis. A few months later, we joined a startup acceleration program called NUMA and officially created Syos on August 29, 2016.

And that's the story!