It happens often that I think a player already has the right mouthpiece, and I say so.
They are often shocked to hear this, because their current piece is not playing great and they know it. They are also shocked that I am not trying to “sell” them a new mouthpiece. The goal is always to get the piece and the sound right, in the most direct and efficient manner.
That’s when I recommend “rebalancing” to them.
WHAT IS REBALANCING ?
It’s a term I use instead of “refacing” because there is so much more that needs to be in balance on a good soprano piece. The facing, meaning the entire curve, is just one part. A mouthpiece can have an excellent facing and still be what I call an ” MSO “ ( a Mouthpiece Shaped Object ): it looks just like a mouthpiece but it really isn;t, not quite yet anyway.
To make an MSO into a real player, it requires a balance of facing, chamber size and shape, and relative tip opening. These things are all determined by the client’s ideas about sound and response, the preferred reed choices, the horn being played and the players themselves (their physical connection to the mouthpiece).
Facing refers to the very specific style of curve. One facing curve does not fit all players nor does it fit all styles of soprano mouthpieces. Generally we can call these curves either short, medium or long. There are many versions of each because a mere 1/1000th of an inch makes a world of difference on soprano.
Chamber size refers to the volume of the entire chamber, regardless of shape. For instance, a so-called large chamber soprano mouthpiece can be narrow and deep, wide but shallow in length and any number of variations on that. Those variations are real and they are important in terms of sound and response. Generally we can identify chamber size as either small, medium or large, with many variations on each, such as medium/small or medium/large.
Chamber shape refers to exactly that: the shape of the internal chamber of the mouthpiece. It may be long and narrow, or short and wide, or deep and round, or flat and high. This is a complex area and it has an incredible impact on the sound of a piece. It is possibly the single most important aspect of a mouthpiece in creating a particular tonal characteristic. And their as as many chamber shapes as there are stars in the sky, because minute, incremental variations of a mere 1/1000th of an inch changes everything on a soprano mouthpiece. It sounds far-fetched but I experience it every single day, and have done so for a long time now.
Tip opening is another thing altogether, and I will state this bluntly: tip opening on soprano mouthpieces is almost meaningless and determines almost nothing about the sound or playability of a soprano mouthpiece. Now, that’s a bold statement but I have plenty of experience that shows this to be so. It doesn’t mean that there is not a tip opening range that works for a given player better than another tip opening range. But it does mean that a .060 tip is basically the same as a .064 tip or a .057 tip. First, we are talking about very small differences in the opening itself. But, more importantly, so much of what players think is happening at the tip is just not so. The real crux of the way a piece plays is not the tip opening itself but rather what is happening directly behind the tip. That’s why tip opening is a real canard on soprano.
Let’s talk about your current mouthpiece, what you like and what you don’t like about it. You may be closer than you think to the sound and response you’re after. Really.