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Wednesday
Jul182012

Equipment selection

I'm not very dogmatic in what equipment students use.  I'm a bit of a "Whatever works best"  believer.  All too often,  teachers get in the habit of saying "everyone should be playing X mouthpiece on Y brand/make instrument.  In many cases, it's band directors who  believe that having everyone playing the same model mouthpiece and instrument will result in a more homogenous sound.  Or, perhaps, they take the opinion of whomever teaches that instrument for them and apply that to everyone.  In a beginning band situation, Having each student on the same model of mouthpiece and instrument can have the benefit of making it easier to  figure out what might be going wrong if a student is having trouble with something. The fewer the variables the better.  However, once a student is at a level that a new/upgraded mouthpiece or instrument is warranted, I don't have any strict rules of "you must play this brand/model."  The student's experience, level of seriousness, amount of care they take in their equipment, and the budget  available have to be considered.  Far too often have I been in situations where a student who would still be served perfectly well by the horn they started on has been pushed by a director into getting a instrument far "more horn" than they really needed.  Usually at considerable financial strain on the parents.  Only a couple of times have I had junior high students that would really benefit from having a Selmer Super Action 80.  And even in both situations, I tried to  offer less expensive alternatives that would still provide them many of the improvements and room to grow. 

 

 In the realm of mouthpieces, I'm even more open to variation.  I have a short list of models I tend to avoid due to consistent dissatisfaction with the results I saw from students using them.   but I have a longer list of mouthpieces I like just as well, if not better than, the Selmer S80 C*, which is the defacto standard among many school band programs.  Every student is different and a mouthpiece is a very personal item.  It needs to be chosen based on which one allows the player to make the best tone, have the best pitch to their ability, and provides the most ease in performing certain tasks.

I also, personally tend to prefer vintage mouthpieces that have been refaced by an expert refacer.  I have many reasons for this.

1: mass produced mouthpieces usually have facings applied by machine and, depending on the brand, quality can be highly inconsistent from one piece to the next.

1a: A good facing applied by an expert refacer will will be more symetric and be optimized for the best response across a range of reeds.  Most stock, mass produced mouthpieces I have found to not be very forgiving in reed variance.

2: In my experience, vintage mouthpieces seem to have been better quality blanks to start off with.  The internal dimensions lend themselves to better tone and response, moreso than many modern mouthpieces. 

3: buying a decent vintage mouthpiece like a "soloist style"  scroll shank Selmer  mouthpiece and having it refaced  should run around the same cost as a brand new S80 C* and, in my opinion, usually yield better results.

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