Archive for the ‘ Tips ’ Category

Changing Mouthpieces After Custom Trombone Fitting

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

While working with a great college player, his teacher commented, “his setup’s just all wrong.” In order to see how we could make it “right”, I asked a few questions:

Me: When were you set up?
Player: 3 years ago

Me: What mouthpiece were you playing on at the time?
Player: A Bach 5

Me: What are you playing on now?
Player: A 5 cup and 3 rim from… (doesn’t matter, so we’ll leave the brand out)

When he was fit to his horn, he was playing a mouthpiece that had a cup diameter that was significantly smaller than his current mouthpiece. His sound was big but needed more core. The highs were missing and focus was lacking. It was obvious that he was a very talented player that could play anything. It made me jealous.

Everything meshed when he was fit to his horn three years ago. But after changing mouthpieces, the instrument no longer worked as well as he needed. He was contemplating buying another trombone but he actually needed to address the relationship between the mouthpiece and the horn. Two cheaper options were available to him. First, he could work with different leadpipes to get the compression he needed. Or he could examine his mouthpiece choice. Why fall in love with a mouthpiece that doesn’t work? Switching to a new mouthpiece is the cheapest way to adjust the feel/sound.

On a related note, last night I played a gig with Mark and Jon in Milwaukee. Before leaving the office, I picked up a bass valve section destined for Korea and a bass prototype slide (I didn’t want to use a new stock slide). Basically, it was an off-the-rack bass trombone. I added two bass mouthpieces I regularly play (1.5 NY and CS1) and off I went.

I was able to make the horn work, but it wasn’t a perfect fit. I was able to get through the gig without too much discomfort, but if I had done a more thorough job of matching equipment, the feel and projection would have been much improved.

I know many people buy off-the-rack equipment, or when being fitted, a horn that their friends and/or teachers like but that may not be ideal. It’s important to give yourself a timeline to make your gear work. If it’s not working, don’t ride something into the grave. While our decisions are made with the best intentions, we have to move forward and improve as musicians. We owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our audiences. As for me, I probably won’t be running out to a gig with mismatched equipment again. While I made it work, life’s too short to just get by.

What mouthpiece should I purchase

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

The answer is always “the one that works best for your needs”.  Ok, that’s me being Captain Obvious but in all seriousness it sometimes is that easy.  Other times you might have to think a bit about what you are after.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked “what’s the difference between NY & Deco shapes?  Is it only cosmetic?”.  Now with the Nouveau blank it could get more difficult to choose… or is it.  The shapes (Blank is what I call outer shape) are unique, but it’s not just the shape that is different, it is the weight of the mouthpiece.  The weight of the mouthpiece really does control many things in the sound and feel of the instrument.

A heavier blank (Deco) will provide a very stable feel and if your instrument is not very stable feeling this is the mouthpiece for you.  The sound is also very rich and centered aiding in projection.  This all sounds perfect, why would you want anything else but “rich and centered”?  Well if your horn is a very centered and stable instrument then this style mouthpiece might double up with your instrument and make the overall sound confined and not allow you to shape the notes the way you want in timbre and color.

The NY blank is my medium or standard weight mouthpiece.  It has a very neutral approach and is not heavy or light.  The sound is wider than the Deco with a bit more highs on the outside of the sound than the Deco,  and this style of mouthpiece is a safe bet if you read all of this information and still can’t make a decision.

The Nouveau blank is a very light mouthpiece that is designed to open up instruments that blow a bit  tighter and are overly centered.  The sound is the most wide and brilliant of the three styles of mouthpieces.

The one thing to realize is your style of air.  If you blow very slow hot air and tend to be really dark sounding without enough clarity then you should consider a smaller mouthpiece in a lighter style blank to focus in your sound and help with clarity within sound and articulation.

If you play with very fast air and tend towards being bright and a bit explosive then consider a heavier style blank to keep the sound centered in the higher dynamics and the upper overtones from being too prevalent in the sound.

Everything is about balance and understanding what you want in feel and sound.   There are enough options within this line to fit most any trombone player.  If not, then just wait for the Alessi line and then you will have even more options to think about.

Add It Up

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Hi, this is Ron Knaflic. This is my first of many blog posts to come for Griego Mouthpieces.

Being one of the original guinea pigs for Christan I have witnessed first- hand the evolution of Griego Mouthpieces and their impact on trombone players. As many of you may know I work as the Production Coordinator for Edwards which is such a broad title and includes fitting trombones and trumpets to players.

I frequently get the question at fitting of “will I need a different mouthpiece?” The answer is always “maybe”. The reason for this is quite simple. The final product (i.e. your sound) is culmination of…

You + Mouthpiece + The instrument = Your overall sound

  • You = Body mass, breathe support, oral structure, mental state, sound concept and many more things.
  • The mouthpiece = The outside shape, where mass is located, the quality of the machining, and all of the internal shapes and dimensions.
  • And then the actual instrument.

Each component needs to be complimentary to get out of the way. If one element changes, others may need to adjust to compensate.

For those of you who are audiophiles will understand that the best sound comes from the right amp, preamp, cables, connectors, crossovers, speakers, the room they are in. The best setup is one that accurately represents the source, the recording.

Sometimes it’s practice or a lesson, sometimes it’a a new horn, and sometimes it’s a mouthpiece.

Shirt Size vs. Throat Size

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

So we all know that the shirts we buy have to fit our throats or else we get constricted airflow when playing our instruments (besides being uncomfortable in every day life). Working with instruments, mouthpieces, and musicians has given me insight into the overall picture more than any one element. I do believe all three are connected and when one is not in balance with the other two… life becomes more difficult.

It is important to be able to isolate issues in your playing so you can know if they are the mouthpiece, the instrument, or you physically. If the fit is not correct in the mouthpiece or instrument these issues can lead to physical issues which is also important to know and be able to diagnose. Quite often I see musicians playing huge mouthpieces because they are trying to get the air flow to be more free, open feeling as their facial muscles have become tighter as they have developed their embochure through their season. You can reach a point where you can pretty much play anything and sound good and this is the scary point where you can pick a bad piece of equipment and have it effect you later when you are not in good form. To get good air flow you do not have to always go to a larger diameter mouthpiece with more cup volume which probably has the same throat and backbore as your smaller mouthpiece. While the aperture of the face becomes larger with the larger mouthpiece, (cup diameter) and there is more cup volume, the venturi (throat) of the mouthpiece is the same size giving you the same compression point as the smaller mouthpiece you were on. This is one of the most often made mistake that I see.

Proceed with caution at this point as you could just get another mouthpiece (same as the one you are on) with a larger throat and often be content with the air flow but not mess with the balance of face/cup volume. When attempting change I never use the mouthpiece I am on currently. Leave it as a control and compare always back to it. If you change the mouthpiece you are on you will never have the “one” to compare to and only have the memory of what it was.

Muscle memory is an important aspect of playing one should consider when making changes so do not change three things and not be able to tell what did what. If the larger throat does not achieve what you are after you can then proceed to the next logical step which is, backbore, cup diameter and then last cup volume. All this being said, if the mouthpiece just has a terrible feeling rim then obviously your first step is a new mouthpiece with different style rim.

The more in tune you are with yourself, and your playing, the healthier you will become in your playing and your music. Approach change methodically and carefully and you will find yourself knowing why the new mouthpiece works for you.

Buzzing, part 2

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

First things first… get a pencil and paper and make a list of at least 20 songs that you know. Start with simple melodies like Pop Goes the Weasel, When the Saints, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, etc. before venturing into other idioms — just be sure the tune is melodic in nature. (Excerpts come later) Larger “classical” music is fine if you buzz, for example, the horn solo from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth or Bruckner’s Seventh. Hymns are also a great source of material.

At Christmas, as busy as it is for everyone, it can also be one of the times that your playing improves the most! All that time traveling (safely, of course) can be used to buzz carols. Let’s look at the process using Silent Night. Starting on the fourth line F, buzz the tune once. On the second time through, buzz the melody down an octave while still maintaining the sense of phrase as the first time. On the third pass, try it up an octave (3 spaces above the staff), once again maintaining the phrase — Jake would always stress singing through the mouthpiece. Next, try buzzing the tune down 2 octaves from the original octave. If that’s not possible, try playing it in tenor clef and down 2 octaves. Using this exercise, you’ll realize that in order to create a beautiful sound in all registers, phrasing the music is essential.

After playing a lyrical melody like Silent Night, try something contrasting and more articulate – Jingle Bells. Before buzzing, take a moment to clarify your articulation syllable by speaking clearly the following: Tah Tah Tah (or whatever syllable you wish to use). Then buzz the tune a few times. Players have different strengths and weaknesses. Some can maintain a wonderfully connected legato, while others can play in a Marcato style with great clarity and articulation. Jacobs always stressed a balanced approach to playing — legato, marcato, classical, jazz etc. In other words, don’t buzz the same Rochut, the same way, every day.

Now it’s up to you. Start this week by buzzing 15 – 20 minutes a day. After a week, add a second session of 15 – 20 minutes. I bet you will be surprised at the results after just a few weeks.

In my previous post, I mentioned that Jake said to NEVER buzz without a mouthpiece or rim. He maintained that without the physical properties of the rim to conform the aperture, then one could do harm to the resonating aspect and tonal applications that are necessary for a good tone. Good enough for me!

Next time: An approach using singing and buzzing to learn ANY excerpt.

Buzzing

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

One of the best ways to get in shape, stay in shape, or improve is by buzzing your mouthpiece. Arnold Jacobs was an advocate of buzzing and had specific ideas about it, stemming from his own experience in his youth. He was hospitalized at a young age for a period of time. After he began to feel better, he decided he needed to do something to alleviate the boredom of sitting in a hospital room all day. Being a cornettist, he knew that praciticing the cornet was out of the question, but he wondered about just playing the mouthpiece. So he had his mother bring it from home one day. He played anything that he could think of — melodies, bugle calls, fanfares — just to pass the time! When he got out of the hospital, he found that every aspect of his playing had improved — tone, endurance, range, sound — everything. He realized that he had made an important discovery.

Jacobs always stressed the importance of buzzing music. He would not hesitate to tell a student STOP if that student was mindlessly buzzing ditties, glisses, etc. He was always after the art form of telling a story (or as he said, Wind and Song!). His students would perform Pop Goes the Weazel, When the Saints Go Marching In, and nursery rhymes. He wanted his students to think of the product and not dwell on the process. He would then refine his comments by saying (to a trumpet player, for example): “Imagine how Bud Herseth would play that. Now buzz THAT on your mouthpiece.” Most players would not get through the entire excerpt without stopping to marvel at their own improvement.

Over the next few days, I’ll share some of my ideas about practical buzzing. I’ll also discuss why Jake said to NEVER buzz without a mouthpiece or a rim/visualizer.

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