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Should I buy a new (soprano) mouthpiece?

aldevis

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I spent my recent months trying new stuff, mostly on soprano, and I would like to share some thoughts.

The first question, comes from a member here, quoting a teacher that said "any mouthpiece you play, you will always end up playing like yourself".

This is very true, so why bother?

In my opinion, there are mainly three good reasons to change a mouthpiece:
1- a better match with your instrument (on soprano it can be quite an issue)
2- it allows to express yourself better
3- your taste is changing and you are trying to achieve new sounds, that you cannot get with your current piece.

1- Delicate issue. Often tuning on an instrument is simply matter of getting used to the mouthpiece/instrument combo. Even the correct position on the cork may take few hours of playing.
On the other hand, some mouthpieces tend to play particularly in tune, making the player's life easier.
I am thinking of pieces like Selmer, Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Bari. They don't react excessively to the players inconstancies, and usually are good pieces for doublers, for whom soprano is not the main instrument.

I personally find my playing quite restrained by such pieces. I find them mono-dimensional. I may like the sound of it, but I feel I cannot move further.

Hence

2- I prefer more flexible pieces. They can be hard work. I tend to like large chambers/big facings, but there is no rule.
A flexible piece allows to modulate your timbre, volume, articulation on a wider range.
Tuning might suffer....
I recently posted somewhere on this forum two clips of my New sequoia with the two pieces I cannot make my mind about; One is more flexible, but requires some hard work to keep it in tune, the other is the easiest piece I ever played, keeping a good flexibility.

If a student is gifted, I try to recommend the flexible piece, rather than the one that makes the work for him.

3- The worst scenario. I had crashes on many sounds; Marsalis to Garbarek to Brecker (yes, on soprano) to Liebman (yes, he often plays out of tune) to Lacy.
I think every attempt to imitate the idol of the moment adds something to the palette of sounds of a musician.
This does not always require a new mouthpiece, but I guess buying a new piece is part of the curse.

In the past I spent serious money on pieces I ended up selling. I currently have a limit of £200 for a mind-blowing mouthpiece. I usually don't try pieces outside this range; it is easy to fall in love with a piece and see the honeymoon fade in few months.
My soprano pieces, through the ages, include:
Otto Link Tone Edge
Bari (my Marsalis phase)
Dukoff (shame on me)
Guardala Studio (it was still reasonably priced at the time)
Berg Larsen or refaced replica (the longest serving piece: 15 years)
Pillinger L model, NYS and PJ

My professional instruments have been:
YSS62R
Yanagisawa curved silver plated (no model name)
Sequoia Lemon (AKA Limoncello)

Discuss
 
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aldevis

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Add on:
Trying as many mouthpieces as possible is the key.
It helps understanding what facing works for you and what kind of sound you prefer.
Developing a taste for sound is part of the training, like wine tasting.

There is no best mouthpiece...
 

Jeanette

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Thanks for that plenty of food for thought, might need a glass of wine to help digest it.;)

One question comes to mind. As beginners we are developing a lot of fine muscle control when using a mouthpiece, is a try out in a shop for an hour or so going to give a fair indication of how the piece will perform after a few weeks?

Should you take lots of different reeds/ligatures to try too as people have spoken of mouthpieces performing differently as they change reeds and or ligatures?

I read where one pro reviewed a particular soprano mouthpiece and loved it but 18months - 2 yrs later was selling it, perhaps we will never be satisfied.

Are we just doomed to spending lots of money in a search of the holy grail :eek:

Jx
 

aldevis

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Thanks for that plenty of food for thought, might need a glass of wine to help digest it.;}

One question comes to mind. As beginners we are developing a lot of fine muscle control when using a mouthpiece, is a try out in a shop for an hour or so going to give a fair indication of how the piece will perform after a few weeks?

Should you take lots of different reeds/ligatures to try too as people have spoken of mouthpieces performing differently as they change reeds and or ligatures?

I read where one pro reviewed a particular soprano mouthpiece and loved it but 18months - 2 yrs later was selling it, perhaps we will never be satisfied.

Are we just doomed to spending lots of money in a search of the holy grail:shocked:

Jx
I am in the lucky position to have mouthpieces available for a longer time. At least Howarth and Pillinger have a good trial policy. I always try them with Rovner ligatures, simply not to leave any mark.
About reeds, it is a gamble. Usually I stay on a similar facing than my previous piece, to minimize variations. And I use similar reeds. If you have to experiment big gaps, better try with a borrowed piece. I often have the "7 tip harder reed" moment on tenor, but It does not last. I am a supporter of the "8*tip, soft reed", I haven't yet tried the Steve Lacy approach (12tip, softest reed ever). I would not invest money on such an adventure, unless I have a serious crash on him an want that mouthpiece (Sopranoplanet makes it, I guess).

I have perfectly functioning mouthpieces that allow me to do my job, but exploring new sounds is part of the fun, as long as it does not become pathological.

A very famous British player is apparently like this: he stepped on stage once with 6 tenor pieces in his pocket, making tuning impossible for his fellow tenor player, that left the band.

As a general rule (I hope some other experienced players will step in), the more you play live, the less you worry about equipment.
 

aldevis

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Thanks for that plenty of food for thought, might need a glass of wine to help digest it.;)
Marques de Carano Gran Reserva 2005 (black label) is on sale for a fiver at Tesco until tomorrow.
 

Jeanette

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Marques de Carano Gran Reserva 2005 (black label) is on sale for a fiver at Tesco until tomorrow.
So tempting but I've given up drinking alcohol for lent.:( Well until Good Friday anyway.


Jx
 

Colin the Bear

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I don't think I've traveled as far as you on my saxophone journey. I love them all and am always on the lookout for anything I can afford that will improve my playing. It's an easier decision for me because there's so much improvement to be had technicaly, musicaly and competence wise.

I think at your level it all becomes a matter of mood and taste at any particular time.

Painters go through periods of fascination with a particular colour and I guess it's the same with musicians.

I suppose a new mouthpiece is much like a new brush or a new type of paint.

Oooh! That's set me off. I'm off to look for a version of "Portrait of Jenny"
 

aldevis

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Painters go through periods of fascination with a particular colour and I guess it's the same with musicians.

I suppose a new mouthpiece is much like a new brush or a new type of paint.
Great similitude!
 

aldevis

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Buy both, play the easy one on your bad days, and the tricky one when you're on top form.
Same advice as Tzadik! i will do it, but I will never recommend doing so to a student. I tried both in a loud gig tonight: they both work great, and the nuances disappear.
 

Lelly

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When I chose my sop mouthpiece I didn't even own the instrument - it was on loan. But I still went through my usual method of trying everyone in the shop until one just felt right. It was not the particluar tone it was just ease of playing and comfort. if you are going to play an instrument for any lenght of time you do not want it to be hard work.

I could easily have ended up wth the cheapest MP in the shop (of course, it was the most expensive). Same for other instruments. My Eb clari cost about £60 (and is junk) but I paid >£120 for the right mouthpiece.

I usually find that the right instrument/mouthpiece feels like a friend when i play it whereas any other feels like an interloper.

So, back tot he question, I would say change your MP IF you feel it is not playing the way you want it to but be sur to try as many as you can so you do end up with an improvement.

Lx
 

David Roach

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Points 1) & 2) in Aldevis' original post have always been my point of friction with soprano mouthpieces. I've been in ongoing playing situations for years where fine control, intonation and stamina have been paramount to me. Yet on returning home after gigs I have always yearned for more flexibility and often experimented (don't feel bad about he Dukoff! Bill Evans sounds GREAT on his #9!). But in the end I always had to scurry back to safety, which in my case is the Vandoren S15 or SL4 with Blue Box 3\3.5 or V12 3s.

A few mouthpieces have proved possible compromises. One is the Vandoren S25, an other is Ed Pillingers' pieces, and a third is the Missing Link from Sopranoplanet. But in the end, for me, it's a lot to do with reeds. Vandoren classical reeds give a rather clean, vanilla sort of sound, I have latched onto both ZZ and Hemke recently which both satisfy requirements of control and dependability whilst giving a bit more colour to the sound.

However, it's really more about approach, in the mind. I recently heard Will Vinson play in London which I thoroughly enjoyed, and he can get a perfectly modulated sound out out of an S25. So I KNOW it's about my approach, not really about gear; Aldevis is also right in saying that mouthpiece choice is as much about comfort (and facilitation) as it is about the inherent sound of any particular piece.

It won't stop me trying new gear though!
 
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aldevis

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two pieces I cannot make my mind about; one is more flexible, but requires some hard work to keep it in tune, the other is the easiest piece I ever played, keeping a good flexibility.
I just realized that after two years from the post, I still use those two pieces, with the larger chambered (Pillinger NYS) being the favourite.

It won't stop me trying new gear though!
Me neither....
 

jazzdoh

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I just realized that after two years from the post, I still use those two pieces, with the larger chambered (Pillinger NYS) being the favourite.


Me neither....
How did you find the Absolute sop pieces compared to your usually mpc's?
 

aldevis

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How did you find the Absolute sop pieces compared to your usually mpc's?
If we talk soprano, their ST piece is marvellous. Closer tip than my usual but one of the easiest pieces around and great tuning. Mine is an older model that would benefit from a slightly deeper bore: an issue that @Absolute fixed immediately on his following pieces. I just don't want to part from that little jewel.
I haven't tried their R model yet.
 

BigMartin

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I'm surprised there hasn't been more said about PPTs in this thread. I'm thinking of getting one. Anyone playing one and care to offer an opinion?
 
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