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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000024.txt from 2005/12

Subj: [kl] Review of Bred Behn's Vintage Mouthpieces - Kaspar and Chedeville Model
Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2005 13:21:40 -0500

Hello all,

I have now had a chance to play on both the Kaspar and the Chedeville
models of Brad's new Vintage mouthpiece line. I have to say that I am
very pleased with the way that his Vintage mouthpieces play and would
not hesitate to recommend them to anyone. I realize that price will be a
barrier here for some and because of that, I do not anticipate that they
will be mass produced any time soon. Never the less, I can give them my
highest recommendation.

Before I get into a more detailed review (subjective opinion), I want to
say that working with Brad was a real pleasure. He is easy to work with,
and of course, extremely knowledgeable about his craft. He impresses me
as the kind of person to pay very close attention to details and the
small things, and let's face it, making mouthpieces is Greek to most of
us. I think his website does a very good job of explaining what he does,
why he does it, and what his goals are in doing that. There is also some
very good and basic information about mouthpieces and their design in

Brad likes to start out by asking you questions. Questions about what
type of reed you use, current mouthpiece, tip opening, type of sound you
like or aspire to make, and type of set up that you use. Things all
related to mouthpieces and sound production. Because a mouthpiece is
such a personal thing, he likes to find out as much about what you like
and play on in order to best serve your needs. This especially makes a
difference when dealing with him through the mail and on the phone like
I did. While I consider that the ideal way to pick out a mouthpiece
would be to go to the maker and then work directly with him/her in
person to find just the right blank and then work to get the right
facing, most of us don't have that luxury. Therefore, he tries his best
to find out what you are looking for. Obviously, the better description
that you can give him of what you want, the better he can try and meet
your needs. So you really need to have a good idea of what you want in
the first place in order to save a lot of time and testing.

Brad will then take the Vintage model(s) of your choosing, either the
Kaspar or Chedeville, or both, and apply a facing to try and match what
you have described to him that you want. He does not simply pull a
mouthpiece off the shelf, box it up and send it to you. He actually
modifies the facing to what you are asking him for, tests it to make
sure he is happy with it, and then ships it to you. That is why you do
not see the following about the Vintage line on his website, "available
in the following tip openings". He does state that he offers these
mouthpieces in a closed, medium, or open facing, but that is a pretty
big canvas on which to paint. He can apply the facing, within a
reasonable parameter of what he knows works well, to whatever you want
or need. If he feels it will not work well he will tell you. So each
mouthpiece in his Vintage line that he sells is, in effect, a custom
mouthpiece made just for you.

In my case, I told Brad that I tended to do well on a medium facing
setup. I told him that I was currently playing on a Zinner (made by
Zinner) that had a tip opening of 1.09. I was able to provide more exact
measurements for the rest of the facing from the Zinner website and then
we went from there. Brad actually felt that 1.09 was closer to being on
the open side than the medium side. He told me that his own preference
over the years had slowly changed, and that now he himself uses a more
closed facing than he used to. He also explained that the tip opening is
just one measurement of many, and while it is an important measurement,
the tip opening is only relative to the rest of the facing. Therefore,
it is possible to have a closer tip opening play more like an open one
and vice versa. It is all relative. What he did say was of the highest
importance is that whatever tip opening you use, it must be perfectly
balanced with the rest of the facing to produce an efficiency of sound
and thus resonance. Brad therefore sent me two Kaspar's and two
Chedeville's to try. He applied a closer facing more to his liking to
one of each, and then applied a more medium facing to the other two. He
told me that he was not going to tell me which mouthpiece had which
facing until I had decided which one(s) I liked. He also does not put
any facing information on the mouthpiece itself since each one, in
effect, is a custom made facing and not made up ahead of time. He does
keep a record of each facing applied to each mouthpiece. Each mouthpiece
has a serial number on it, so keeping track on this is easy to do.

Upon receiving the mouthpieces, I inspected each one to see if I could
figure out which one was the Kaspar and which one the Chedeville. Brad
had also not told me this because he wanted me to play them and decide
for myself which one(s) I liked, regardless of model or facing. He
wanted me to be as objective as possible and I have to say this did
help. The mouthpieces themselves are not marked "Kaspar" or
"Chedeville". I could see that there were two different blanks involved
and I could also see some of the differences with my naked eye, but
other than that, I did not know which one was which.

My first impression upon playing all of them was one of consistency. All
four mouthpieces had some of the same qualities throughout. They were
all very easy to blow through and they all had excellent articulation.
In talking with Brad, I found out that these are two of his goals that
he designed into each model of mouthpiece and from what I can see he has
met that goal.

I then looked again at each mouthpiece and noticed that the insides were
all finished to a very smooth surface. I could not see any tool or
machine marks, or any bumps or molding marks. No sharp edges sticking
out either. Just a very smooth surface from the baffle tip down into the
throat and finally in the bore itself. Even the side walls were
perfectly smooth. I would use the word polished, but the interior did
not necessarily have a highly polished look to it except for the bore
itself which did appear to have more shine. This may explain part of the
reason why his mouthpieces are so easy to blow through. It is this
attention to every detail inside the mouthpiece that impressed me.

Another difference that was easy to see was that one model had a larger
throat opening with a flatter baffle. The other mouthpiece had a baffle
that was more deeply scooped and actually got much narrower towards the
throat. I have never seen a mouthpiece that narrowed this much from the
tip to the throat. Another detail that I noticed was the shape of the
bottom of the window. The mouthpiece with the narrow throat also had a
small detail I had not seen before. Instead of the bottom of the window
being cut at a sharp 90 degree angle to the side rails, there was a
small radius curve which created a small rounded transition from the
side rails to the bottom of the window. Very interesting and I am not
sure what effect this has on the way this mouthpiece plays.

Another similarity between both the Kaspar and Chedeville models is that
they use a narrow side rail and tip. Chedeville's, in particular, are
know for this and I have a couple of Buffet C Crown mouthpieces that
have very narrow side rails and tip. I have also seen some Kaspar's like
this as well.

Comparing the sound produced between the Kaspar and the Chedeville, I
can tell you that it is pretty easy to tell which one is which by the
way they sound, assuming you have played on both and know what to look
for. No doubt, the sound difference is also due to the difference in the
blank and the baffle design. The Kaspar has more depth and roundness to
the sound. Some people would use the term "dark" or "darker" to describe
this difference. I believe that the difference in sound is also due to
the mouthpiece favoring the middle to lower harmonic partials which
tends to take the edge off of the sound. I also want to state that this
"darker" sound was not at the expense of having a nice solid core. I
never felt that the sound produced was muddy or spread in any way. I
have seen some mouthpieces that lacked a tonal center and the sound was
very spread and unfocused. Thus leaving one with the impression that it
had a "darker" sound when in fact it simply had a more diffused sound.
Brad's Kaspar model does not suffer from having a diffused or unfocused
sound. It simply favors a lower set of partials and has more depth of
sound due to having a different design. It also has that "reedy" quality
that Kaspar's are known for.

The Chedeville was exactly as I expected it to be, and much more. Brad
describes the sound produced by his Chedeville model as having a sweet
and effervescent lightness of sound, and I have to agree that this is an
excellent description. There is a very distinct and sold core of sound
that is also very compact. The Chedeville, to me, favored the middle to
higher partials which gives it a "brighter" sound than the Kaspar model,
with a little more edge. The best example that I could give you if you
want to hear what this mouthpiece is capable of sounding like, is simply
to listen to a recording of Harold Wright. I think his sound is a
perfect example of the character of Brad's Chedeville. While the sound
may be compact, it is so chock full of harmonic partials that it is just
alive and projects very easy. It is easy to just make the sound float
above everything else. I can describe this effect as the ability to make
the air around you vibrate, not just within the clarinet itself.

Another common trait between the Kaspar and Chedeville mouthpieces is
the resonance that they produce. Did I say resonance? Let me state that
again; resonance, resonance, resonance, resonance! Just incredible,
amazing resonance. I would have been sold on either of his Vintage
mouthpieces just on this one characteristic alone. Just amazing
vibration of sound. His claim that the rubber he uses for his blanks
produce superior resonance is not exaggerated in any way in my opinion.
You just have to try one to see what I mean. Of course, having a
perfectly balanced facing, baffle, throat, and bore add to this and
simply maximize the inherit resonance qualities that the rubber has, so
it is how it all works together that make it stand out above all other
mouthpieces that I have tried to date.

When you put all of these little details together, it all adds up to one
great mouthpiece. I found with his Vintage mouthpieces that I can use
less air, and yet produce more perceived sound. Less really is more in
this case. This is because there is an efficiency achieved when
everything is working together perfectly in harmony. In fact, with a
reed working perfectly with his facing, I am able to produce a real
useable sound with so little air that you could hear a pin drop, so to
speak, it is at such a low volume level. A volume level so low that only
amplification could take advantage of this. In addition, you can use a
very high volume level without the sound distorting either. I refer to
this aspect of sound production as the way a mouthpiece "holds" the
sound. The sound is produced the same, you just adjust the volume level
by the amount of air you put through it, but the sound is basically the
same throughout. This is another one of his traits that he designs into
the Vintage series mouthpieces. I find myself going back to playing some
dynamic long tones in order to re-adjust the working volume levels I can
now get with his mouthpiece. Imagine having a mouthpiece that would
allow you to take your useable volume level up and down one to two more
levels without distorting or losing the sound quality?

During my testing, I kept a sheet of paper with the serial numbers of
each mouthpiece and made notes as to what I liked and disliked about
each mouthpiece as I played them. I then compared the notes and went
back and played through them all again and narrowed the choice down to
two over the course of about a week. In the end, I ended up trying to
decide between one Kaspar and one Chedeville that I really liked. Both
mouthpieces played about the same as far as their playability. Both had
excellent articulation. In the end, I choose the Chedeville simply
because of the way it sounded. I found that I simply liked the sound and
that it suited my playing style slight better than the Kaspar.

I broke the news to Brad and he then told me what the tip opening was of
the one I had chosen. It turned out that both the Kaspar and Chedeville
that I had picked as finalist had the exact same facing and tip opening
(1.07mm). At least my choice was consistent between the two. Brad also
reminded my that he would be happy to make any other adjustments to the
one I had picked, either now or in the future. That is another thing you
get from Brad when buying one of his Vintage mouthpieces, the ability to
have it adjusted if you decided a few months down the road that you
would prefer something to be just a little different. He does this at no
charge, but you pay the shipping.=20

Right now, I am getting to know the new addition to my mouthpiece family
and I have to say that I am discovering new things every time I play it.
Things that I like very much. It has taken my playing to a new level and
I enjoy exploring these new possibilities.

One thing that I will also comment on, and this is something that one
should always do when testing a new mouthpiece, do not re-use an old
favorite reed when testing a new mouthpiece for the first time. Use a
new reed and try out several different brands and strengths until you
find one that works well. In testing, I found that I got very good
results on Brad's Vintage line with Vandoren blue box and V12 # 3.5
reeds. Brad told me that he uses Vandoren blue box reeds himself and
tests the mouthpieces with this reed set up. I also found that my Rico
Grand Concert Select Thick Blank # 3.5 worked very well. Vandoren 56 Rue
Lepic # 3.5 worked well also. However, I did find that other reed brands
that I have used on other brands on mouthpieces did not works as well. I
think part of this is because Brad's facing is so exact in the way it
all works together that you need to find a reed that works together with
this facing to get the maximum results. Using a reed that does not work
as well will give you less than optimum results and just an average
sound production from what I found. But, when I finally started finding
the right reed combination, the whole mouthpiece just came alive. Really
alive. I felt an immediate difference even in the way it vibrated in my
mouth with the right reed, so I would not use the term "reed friendly"
with this mouthpiece if you think this means you can slap any reed on it
and it will work well. It will not. You must have the right reed. Just
follow his suggestions for reeds to test with and you will be fine.

One last comment. Like many things that are discussed her on this
Klarinet list, this is a subjective review and is simply the opinion of
one person. Whether you get the same results or not is not guaranteed.
You will, however, never know until you try one. So I suggest giving
Brad a call and set up a test play of your own.

Tom Henson

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