So, great discussions have arisen from the first post on this subject. It has prompted me to continue down this road a little further.
To briefly summarize the general responses asserting that concavity is preferable to a flat table and offers performance benefits of some kind (those benefits, other than accepting “reed swelling”, are not identified): some players prefer concavity and/or some mouthpiece makers purposely create concavity in their mouthpiece tables.
I would like to hear from players who have determined that designed concavity provides some performance benefit, and I’d like to know, as best as can be explained, just what that benefit may be.
I would suspect it would likely be associated primarily with response. I say that because one of the usual tell-tale symptoms of a table that is not flat is either a “sluggishness” or an inordinate amount of reed “resistance”. Sometimes there is both; sometimes it can be one or the other, in my experience.
Often, the “effective” facing length is affected, which complicates things further. By “effective” facing length, I mean the facing length that is created when a reed is able to “bow” because of inordinate concavity, basically allowing the thinner portion of the reed to “come away” from the true break point, and thereby creating a longer “effective” facing length.
Measure the facing length with a gauge and you get a certain length. Put a reed on, tighten the ligature, “bow” the reed into the concavity and you get a new, longer facing length.
So, longer facing length, slower response in general. Reed not firmly seated on the table, sluggish response, seemingly more resistance of a certain kind. These thing can and do work together.
I know that a flat table fixes the facing length with accuracy. The “effective” length is the same as the established length. The only variable is the reed itself.
Now, back to the idea that concavity can offer some performance benefit that a flat table does not offer. Can it be a benefit to tone? If so, what is it and how can we know it? We know that shorter facings tend to a brighter sound generally, and that longer facings tend to a less bright sound generally. What does a concave table do for tone, if anything?
I have no doubt that some people believe that concavity offers some benefit. I’ve never seen it, I’ve never experienced it as a player and I know of no players who have ever had any issues at all performing with a perfectly flat table. None.
But I have known hundreds of players who have been the performance victims of inordinate concavity in their mouthpiece tables, whether from major mouthpiece makers or any number of smaller makers, new and vintage mouthpieces as well.
And I know that every one of them found immediate and sustained improvement when the concavity was eliminated and the table was made perfectly flat. 100% of them.