The short answer: most commercially made mouthpieces (I’d say easily 80 % and likely far more) are just a mess in some way or other, and that means they do not play correctly. Practice all you want on them. You’ll learn how to make them play as best as you can after years of effort, have a miserable time doing it and almost certainly will end up dissatisfied in the end.
Sure. Lots of players suffer through it, but most of them never get anywhere with their music because it becomes onerous and way too difficult. And, it’s all for no reason.
Think of it this way: you get the front end of your car aligned to make it a smooth and safe ride, and to keep from ruining expensive tires over and over again. You need the same thinking for your mouthpieces.
Have your mouthpieces checked.
- Make sure the facing is crisp and accurate. It doesn’t take much to put it “out of alignment”
- Have the chamber inspected. You can do this yourself if you are thorough and will actually “see” what is happening there. Hint: is the chamber reasonably symmetrical or does it have some oddities in shape (front to back, or side to side).
- Is the window cut properly or is it off center
- Is the table flat
Many mouthpiece makers/ repairpeople will do this inspection for free or for a very small fee. Ask.
You may have the exact mouthpiece you require for your sound and music, but if it isn’t functioning properly, all kinds of things can occur, such as:
- Very reed picky and unpredictable
- Shuts down up high and/or down low
- Unpredictable intonation swings
- Extreme stuffiness, sometimes out of nowhere
You may think the problems are being caused by you because sometimes, there are no problems. But , 99% of the time, it isn’t you if your mouthpiece is not correct in these important aspects.
Tone is a whole other story, and not a complicated one at all. But if you have the tone you like but the performance is sketchy, get your mouthpiece checked. Correcting the aspects mentioned has no impact or virtually no impact on tone at all.
Know your equipment, just like any professional. It pays.