In August of this year I switched mouthpieces. At the time I wasn’t really sure how it was going to work out, but in the back of my mind I fully expected to end up returning to the same model I’d been playing for the last several years, a Laskey 75 (both J and G cups). I’ve been around the “Mouthpiece Wheel of Doom” a few times, so I wasn’t expecting any dramatic changes. Over the last few months, though, I’ve really grown to like the new mouthpiece, a Houser Standley GS12 model in silver, with a stainless steel rim (Model E, with H-Kote).
In short, I feel like my sound, endurance, flexibility, and overall approach to the instrument have gotten better – not entirely due to the new mouthpiece, to be sure – but certainly helped along by it. Since trading up my Yamaha 667v for an Englebert Schmid a few years ago, I’ve been looking for a mouthpiece that fit the instrument a bit better. The Laskey wasn’t terrible by any means, but I always felt like I could be getting a little more efficiency and warmth of sound out of the instrument. Attacks seem more secure now, and there’s more of an envelope (not sure if that’s the right term) around the core sound, “more golden” as one former student put it. There are a couple of factors contributing to this, I think. One of them is the dimensions of the mouthpiece and cup shape. The Standley has a slightly larger, more V-shaped cup, less bowl-shaped than the Laskey, and for whatever reason this works better for me on this particular horn (how’s that for a qualified statement!) The second is the stainless steel rim with H-Kote, a titanium coating that imparts a similar feeling as gold plate, but is much more durable and long lasting (read Bruce Hembd’s review of his H-Kote rim). Flexibility is noticeably improved for me on this rim, compared to the silver plated rims I’ve played on in the past. Endurance – both long and short term – seems better as well, but this is only partially due to the new rim I suspect. In addition to the mouthpiece change I’ve also stepped up my practice regimen this semester in preparation for an audition, a recital in late November, and a recording session in December. The most gratifying thing about this experience has been getting some positive feedback on the difference in my playing. Recently I received the following email from a reader.
I wanted to comment on your fine effort with the latest Kop. study – #40. In reviewing the earlier studies I cannot help but notice a change in your playing which I suppose might come from more experience and confidence in doing more of these studies. But I also wondered to what degree your change in equipment has also influenced matters – new mp rim, new horn – of what I can see. I am quite convinced that your sound has changed; changes of various positions in your studio and perhaps better use of the recording equipment notwithstanding.What I hear is a warmer, concentrated sound, with more liquid slurs, more compact attacks, and what also seems to be less effort reflected in a more pronounced sense of musicality (not that your previous efforts were not musical!).