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 Beveled Side Rails
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2018-09-05 20:10

I note that some of my mouthpieces have bevelled side rails. Is this a technique used by refacers to correct rounded edges without widening the window or do some makers start with a bevel?

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-09-05 22:59

Beveling the side rails allow the mouthpiecer to widen the window without affecting much change to the internal volume. It is also easier than widening the window in totality (sidewalls from the window to the baffle), which is potentially a sign of lazy craftsmanship. But it can be a good thing in that it is more easily "erasable" as the facing continues to be brought down - closer to the baffle, the window will become narrower to its original specs if so desired. Of course bringing a facing closer to the baffle will influence other elements of the playing experience which in turn need consideration....

In the end, everything influences everything. And as a bottom line - we want RESONANCE!

For reference - a wider window reduces wind resistance at the potential cost of tonal density and core. A narrow window produces a more resistant experience which can be balanced with a lighter reed, making an otherwise soft reed play with solidity. My suggestion is always to go with as narrow a window as possible, while achieving the desired blow-through. And if a client requests something which I feel is too free (in other words, I'd fear lack of core and supportive feel in the playing experience), then I would suggest going with a lighter reed to compensate...try and see. And Increases in total internal volume (on mouthpieces) will lower pitch. And a facing which is brought closer to the baffle as a result of too much refacing will make for a punchier response, brighter tone, and reduced tonal depth. Occasionally a mouthpiece is made from the factory with a baffle which is too low and either raising the baffle with an insert or bringing the facing down to the baffle's ideal profile brings more freedom, tonal ring, and nimble handling into the mouthpiece's otherwise dead personality.

And if you have a mouthpiece which has beveled rails, I'd suggest you look at the overall quality of workmanship and try to evaluate if it was a lazy job, or a job done with purpose, and careful consideration. It could go either way. Of course if it is shoddy workmanship, you might well benefit from a quality refacer's adjustment to bring out your mouthpiece's fullest potential.

Brad Behn

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2018-09-05 23:07

Wow, this is pretty complex. Thanks Brad.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2018-09-06 19:25

I tried to measure the rails and window on a few mouthpieces. The rails start off about 2 mm and tapers to 1mm at the tip. Correspondingly the window starts around 8 mm and increases to 11.5mm at the tip.
Do refacers measure these parameters?

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-09-06 22:14

Yes we do...or at least should use that information as basis of knowledge and then make adjustment as our experience dictates.

11.5mm internal width at the tip has become the standard of contemporary mouthpieces. Back in the pre-war era it was more like 10.5mm. Rails were narrower back then too. 1mm is on the wide side of riding a bicycle with low pressure and wide tires - it makes for a detuned, inefficient, laborious ride. In the bicycle world they call it "rolling resistance." And with respect to mouthpieces, wide rails make for a dampened, duller, more resistant mouthpiece, by comparison to a mouthpiece with narrow rails. And in the mouthpiece world we simply call it "resistance."

A mouthpiece with efficiency built into design (chamber, baffle, and material) combined with properly voiced "working resistance" from the facing yields superior results. It allows you to play with minimal effort on a light and lively reed; you can poise your sound by "coming away from the reed" rather than biting the focus in. The core-sound is self evident, which in turn provides little need to bite the sound in place. The facing's resistance curve, then holds the reed in such a way that the sound doesn't get shallow, spread or lacking in support, even though the reed is lighter than would be needed on an overly free facing.

And again, if the window is a bit on the narrow side, it allows you to use a lighter reed, and further the above purpose of efficiency. Bottom line, if one seeks resonance, efficiency is required.

Ideally it should be comfortable to play the clarinet. Too often in the US I see players working too hard. And that is in part a symptom of the mouthpieces available these days. Mouthpieces which are dull sounding, and free blowing mated to hard reeds, with a forceful approach by the player yield a clarinet tone, but is it a good clarinet tone? In my estimation - no. We should seek efficiency, comfort, and sweetness in how our sound is presented. Let our artistry unfold with freedom, ease, and beauty. That comes from the baseline of comfort.

Always strive for the most centered, resonant, sound with great core - while being comfortable. Yes - Tone and Comfort can both be achieved.

Brad Behn

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-09-06 22:47

Brad Behn wrote:

> And with respect to mouthpieces, wide rails make for a
> dampened, duller, more resistant mouthpiece, by comparison to a
> mouthpiece with narrow rails.

Brad, that has been my experience as a player, too. But I've always sort of wondered why, given two mouthpieces with the same curve and **window width** a wider rail makes any difference. The reed has a fixed width. If the window ends at the same place on the reed (same window width under the same reed) why is there any difference in the amount of rail contacting the reed? The excess rail width appears to sit outside the edges of the reed itself.

Again, I'm assuming the same window width for both mouthpieces. Or do wider rails imply a narrower window?


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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Ed 
Date:   2018-09-06 22:48

Quote: riding a bicycle with low pressure and wide tires - it makes for a detuned, inefficient, laborious ride.

While I would never think of disagreeing with Brad about mouthpiece design. (and while I don't want to get off topic here), I want to offer my 2 cents on this non clarinet topic. For years the thinking in cycling was that very narrow tires pumped up hard as a rock would have greater efficiency and yield a faster ride. In recent years, studies have been done indicating that somewhat wider tires at lower pressures actually have less rolling resistance and more control. Consequently, many riders and pros are riding wider tires than had been popular a number of years ago.

Regarding Brad's thoughts on reed strength, a somewhat lighter reed can really improve so many things about response, sound and flexibility, to say nothing of endurance.

Of course, there are varying opinions on this. A few years back, a colleague of mine told me that she was at a workshop taught by a very prominent player in the clarinet world, who advocated very hard reeds and who said that most players are playing reeds that are too light. He gets great results, but I doubt that most of us could get much of a sound on his set up.

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-09-07 03:20

Hi Karl,

The material of the mouthpiece vibrates sympathetically as a result of the reed's vibration. And so material composition, brittleness, hardness, elasticity, mass, density, and how it stores and releases energy, greatly affect how the reed vibrates, and feels in mouth, and sounds.

So if you have a mouthpiece with wide rails, and the reed when fully wet and expanded isn't as wide, the mouthpiece will play very differently than if you were to file the rails down to perfectly match the reed's width.

The narrower rails will vibrate with a different character, thereby reacting to the reed's energy in a more enthusiastic manner. This in turn can create a more energetic tone. Good I say - as this is a step toward efficiency, and efficiency begets resonance. Good.

Of course if the material of the mouthpiece is different, it will influence the reed's vibration differently.

But back to rail widths. So all things being equal, wider rails - making the mouthpiece wider than the footprint of the reed - will not resonate as quickly or as enthusiastically as if the rails are narrow - matching the footprint of the reed. Basically the increased mass of the wide rails make the mouthpiece more sluggish to respond to the reed's every nuance making the mouthpiece handle more like a Buick. Whereas narrower rails are quicker to set into motion; the reed feels lighter on its feet, making for a more nimble handling experience - like a Miata.

Hope that helps.

And back to material. If you agree with my premise why rail width influences the playing experience - regardless of the reed's footprint, it would be an extension of logic to suggest that because different materials resonate in their own unique way, that every material, from glass to metal, to plastic, and rubber, and every different rubber formulation, perhaps molded or in rod form, will all resonate with its own proprietary signature or unique voice.

Material matters.

Brad Behn

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 Re: Beveled Side Rails
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-09-07 03:32

Hi Ed,

Thanks for introducing to me something new in the bicycle industry! Well done my friend. I had no idea.

certainly a slightly wider tire with lower pressure will produce increased compliancy. The ride will be smoother, and the contact patch will always be in place - on rough road, and this helps "get the power down" and increase rider confidence.

So to have a setup which is sufficiently compliant for the clarinetist's full confidence is certainly a good goal, and to have the greatest tonal efficiency will enable longevity, and comfort, which are important as well.

Perhaps my analogy wasn't perfect, but I'll add that I wasn't comparing road bikes in a race setting. I as analogizing two extremes; the difference between any road racing bike, and any downhill mountainbike for example. The soft compliancy of the mountainbike tire will undoubtedly get one down the road a lot slower, and with a lot more effort.

And so when shopping mouthpieces, it is important we think about how a mouthpiece resonates, how much effort is involved in getting the thing going, how comfortable is the "ride" and how nimble is its handling.

Brad Behn

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