Have you considered that you may not be getting the most out of your instrument? Have you outgrown your student mouthpiece? Signs to watch out for are overblowing, difficulty reaching the upper register (which can also mean you have outgrown your student instrument), and stuffiness of sound.
All of these symptoms will mean that your progress may be slower than expected, and can result in the development of bad habits such overblowing and physical tension.
The solution? We specialise in identifying the correct setup for wind and brass players, whether you've been playing for 6 months or 6 years. We can ensure that you get the very best response from your instrument. Don't be fooled by the "one size fits all" theory. Here is some information that might help:
Let’s start with mouthpieces. There are three main variables that should influence your choice – these are the chamber size, facing length and tip opening.
The chamber is the cavity inside the mouthpiece before it reaches the main tube of the instrument. In short, a large chamber will produce a warm, rich sound, whereas a smaller chamber will produce a more focused and clear tone. The dangers with each are that if the chamber is too large, the sound may be “stuffy” or dead; if too small the sound may be too piercing.
The facing is the distance from the tip of the mouthpiece (where it opens) to the point where the reed meets the surface of the mouthpiece. A long facing is more responsive and “easier” to blow, but may result in a sound which is too bright. The short facing gives a darker sound but may feel more resistant.
The tip opening is the distance between the tip of the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece. This will determine how much “air” you can put into the instrument. A wide tip opening will allow for a higher volume of air to be blown, but may be more buzzy than a narrow one. A narrow tip opening will give a purer sound, but may have a tendency to “close up” (i.e. the reed no longer vibrates) when playing very loud passages. It should be noted that the wide tip opening will not necessarily be “louder” than the narrow one. If you want a mouthpiece with a wider tip opening, you may have to go down a strenghth or two in your reed.
At Sax & Woodwind, we stock a wide variety of mouthpieces by most of the leading manufacturers, including Selmer, Lebayle, Jody Jazz, Vandoren, Otto Link, Meyer, Bobby Dukoff, Pomarico, Yamaha and others.
Reeds: You must always ensure that the reeds you use suit the mouthpiece you have. For classical playing, the French style of reed such as Vandoren Traditional or V12, or Rico Grand Concert Select, provide the shorter table and thick heart required for this kind of tone production. For Jazz and concert band, Rico Royal, La Voz, Jazz Select, V16 and Java will give best results. You may find that if you play several styles of music, different reeds may work on the same mouthpiece for different tones.
Ligatures: The “soft” style ligatures made by Rovner, BG and Vandoren have created new ease of playing and articulation. The traditional style of metal ligature has evolved into the Vandoren Optimum (3 ligatures in one), while the advances made by Winslow and Harrison paved the way for all these changes. Each ligature will create a slightly different sound and resistance, further enhancing your ability to play a broad range of sounds.
If you're unsure whether you're getting the best out of your instrument, simply give us a call and book your free consultation now. For customers living outside Sydney, based in other cities or country areas locally or even internationally, brass and woodwind products may be hard to trial. Simply give us a call, or drop us an email - we are here to help!