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 My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-02 09:33

Hi all, I’m Ilya from Yekaterinburg, Russia, I play second clarinet in the orchestra of Ural Opera Ballet theatre. I want to share my Behn mouthpiece purchase experience. Please don’t judge my English very much :)

Behn EPIC HCV is a mouthpiece just cries out for a long-read. I put a lot of time to write it (in foreign language!), because it deserves it.

PURCHASING AND REEDS. I was messaging with Brad since spring. Initially aimed at Zinner or SONO, I ended up purchasing his EPIC HCV mouthpiece recently.
My first impressions was very «mixed», as I politely wrote to Brad, but no, truly it was a complete disaster! :) I played European Legeres exclusively at the moment, but (for me personally) they were totally misfit on EPIC. Sides of the reed actually looks like wide wings outside of the rails, the sound was enormous hissy even on my lightest Legeres. Moreover, all construction was very flat in tune (we play at A=442 to 443), so my evening performance in the pit was a battle with tune. My fault, because Brad offers an option of Legerification of the mouthpiece, but I wanted to save some money and didn’t ordered it. I think you should consider one if you want an EPIC to play Legeres exclusively.
Brad recommended to try it with cane, and what for tuning concerns, he showed a great responsibility for the product he make: he offered a replacement — to make a completely new mouthpiece. I didn’t even asked for it, it was solely his own proposition. What a gentleman! I wanted it to be legerified this time. We agreed. Brad was leaving a town for some vacation, we decided to settle things down on his return. The mouthpiece was laying lonely on my table, I just looked at how beautifully it was made, and somehow came to a decision to give it another try. I found some old cane reed, put it on and blew. WOW! Just bang, head off, smoking pistol. It was AMAZING. I tried nothing like this in my life. I just knew I will never let this thing out of my hands. I immediately wrote Brad that I take all my words back and need nothing else but this exact mouthpiece.

FEEL AND TONE. I tried numerous Vandorens, Zinners and D’Addarios; however, I never tried these great things of the past (like Chedevilles) EPIC should represent. For me, EPIC HCV is a piece of its own. I can’t compare it to any previous experience. I play Buffet RC Prestiges which I don’t like for they’re too stuffy, but I liked very much my previous horns, R13s of 1950s. EPIC feels like these horns with a mouthpiece I played on them, Vandoren B45Lyre. I feel freedom, like a rubber blanket dropped down from the horn.
EPIC gives enormous dynamics to forte like B45L gave me, but it was 1.27 opening, and Behn is only 1.02! How in the world could that be possible? And on the piano side, I can easily start the sound from niente, just a clear sound, which was not possible on the B45L. Dynamic range is so huge, I can make whatever I want dynamic-wise, to completely hide behind the flute in pianissimo or to pierce an entire orchestra if I want to. Response is absolutely stunning, as well as articulation is. You know, «it just works». The sound is very well balanced, it’s not high-pass-filtered like BD5 and a-likes, but not a buzzer too. It’s just equalised «right» to me, and helps me to express.

RESONANCE AND PROJECTION. Entire clarinet vibrates and jumps in my hands when I play on EPIC. The fun story happened a few days after, when I played a first clarinet in the concert. It was a really great sounding hall, and I enjoyed much of my sound in it, reflections was returning back to me. We did some warm-up on the stage, and I asked our flutist, «What a great hall, isn’t it? It returns sound so good!» And she answered, «You know what? I hear very clear YOUR sound returns, but not mine!». And this exact dialog repeated with a bassoonist! Truly, I considered everything that was said about resonance and added projection of Behn mouthpieces just a marketing. I’m too old to consider such things to be true. BUT THEY ARE, it’s real, and it’s clearly audible by listeners.

TUNE AND IMPRESSIONS OF A MOUTHPIECE MAKER. About this part of the story I didn’t even told Brad yet — I hope he will not be mad at me very much :) With proper cane reeds (I use D’Addario Reserve Classic 3.0), EPIC tunes considerably higher than with Legeres, that makes it playable in 442 environment with shorter barrels… But I wanted a little more comfort, not to balancing on the edge, but to relax and let it go. I decided to bring it to our local repairman and mouthpiece maker/refacer, Vladimir Botalov, to shorten it a little on the tenon end. He made a job perfectly, ~1mm gave a huge difference in tune and didn’t sacrificed tone quality. Now my Behn EPIC is just perfect.
I also asked Vladimir his impressions about the mouthpiece. He told that it is the finest work of art; to finish baffle and facing like Brad did would take DAYS of work. It’s one of the very best mouthpieces Vladimir saw. And yes, he stated that material reminds him of the very-very old vintage mouthpieces, both of structure and smell. On my question, is the $780 price of the mouthpiece would be worth it — he sad, definitely yes.

Thank you for reading this long post. And my eternal gratitude to Brad for this wonderful mouthpiece.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: Ed 
Date:   2019-11-02 18:48

It is great that you were able to make that work successfully. Sometimes it can take a little time to find the right fit of reed and mouthpiece. Thanks for your insights.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: gwie 
Date:   2019-11-02 23:21

Congratulations, I'm delighted to hear that others have had the same experience with the Epic HCV! I just passed the three year mark with it.

Coming to Brad Behn completely changed my approach to playing--with his advice and mouthpieces, I moved away from a very resistant, high-effort setup I had played since graduate school after experiencing untenable levels of mouth fatigue, and now am delighted to be able to make it through 3+ hour rehearsals again. There's no price I can place on the improvement it has made for my overall playing health, and the amount of correspondence we had regarding my needs really demonstrated the depth of his commitment to his customers and the clarinet community.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: Anonymoose 
Date:   2019-11-03 05:40

Is your EPIC mouthpiece the closed facing Brad Behn offers (1.02)?
I wonder how such a soft reed can play so brilliantly on a close facing!

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2019-11-03 07:41

At 1:13:55 you can hear William Hudgins from the BSO on a Epic mouthpiece. He says earlier in the video it’s .96 tip opening and I believe 3,5 Aria reed although I could be wrong about the strength. I do know it’s a soft reed though.
Imo, he is the perfect example of a practically perfect clarinet sound.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: m1964 
Date:   2019-11-03 08:57

Igalkov wrote:
"...On my question, is the $780 price of the mouthpiece would be worth it — he sad, definitely yes..."

Hi Ilya,
Would you buy the mouthpiece if you did not play professionally?
I am an amateur player, have been using B45 and never tried anything else.
After a long break, I re-started playing 2 years ago and play in a band and in an amateur symphony orchestra. Rehearsals are once a week with each orchestra.
Thank you.

BTW, your English is fine.

Reply To Message
 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 13:04

Hi gwie, my story is somewhat opposite — I gradually changed my way of playing and feeling of an instrument from high-effort to “just playing”, and Behn EPIC became a climax in my current clarinet journey. I’m not very healthy man and have somewhat of a muscle weakness, and lungs capacity below average (I passed medical test on this), but the whole environment and our traditional school of playing pushes you to be like others. You can’t play BD5 on D’Addario Reserve Classics 4s? You just a pathetic man. I'm playing my 3s now, overblowing everybody else’s setup if I need to and feel good. Many thanks to all of this Bboard and it’s members to help me change this wrong attitude and to find Brad Behn.

Post Edited (2019-11-03 14:27)

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 13:09

Hi anonymoose, yes it is! 1.02. The tone is rich and full. When you go down by the reed strengths on EPIC, the more tone fills with overtones, without becoming thin. Just amazing!
Brad personally tested it for me with Pilgerstorfer Dolce #4. We just don’t have Pilgerstorfer reeds here, so I can’t try it, but it’s fine with D’Addario Reserve Classics. Tried it with Vandoren V12 #3 — the Reserve Classics are better for me.

Post Edited (2019-11-03 14:48)

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 14:43

Hi m1964, thank you! You’ve asked me a very complicated question. No one in the world knows an answer, neither me. Here in Yekaterinburg is nothing like an amateur orchestra, and I never saw anybody who plays clarinet just for fun. Guitar, accordion, saxophone, even violin, but never clarinet. «Russia is for serious», haha :) If you ask me, I’d say EPIC will definitely give you much more advanced experience, but how much «advanced» it would be? Will it be seven times advanced? May be, may be not. Brad Behn offers different lines of mouthpieces, he has mid-line SONOs for $350 and a discontinued Zinner line on sale for $200 with no returns. Zinner is completely not my thing, and it’s too bad for me, because if he finishes Zinners personally, with the same quality he finishes EPIC, it’s just a bargain, «grab and run». I can only advise to you to mail or call Brad personally and he will give you much more experienced answer.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 15:08

Hi Ed, thank you! Now, when some time passed, I can say one serious thing. We all have an ideal mouthpiece in our minds. How it will feel and sound. The advertising always heats our imagination, plays with our desires and then we knew that this exact mouthpiece (or anything else, it doesn’t matter) will be the mouthpiece we dreamed of. And the real thing is always not.
I’d watched all Brad’s interviews available. He speaks very well, very colourful, but I divided his words on 2, on 3, on 10, just because I knew these things doesn’t exist and will never be. And now, when: lighter reeds are better — check, added projection — check, vibrating resonance (of forte I actually feel my scull vibrates, it’s somewhat frightening experience) — check… It's «Pattern break», as we Russians say. It’s as close to the ideal mouthpiece I imagined as possible, so it’s scares a little. When someone tells the truth during advertising, it always scares :)

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 15:45

And I just completely forgot about it’s altissmo possibilities! I made a demonstration in this fun little video which I called «Ultrasonic Weber Quintet»:

Post Edited (2019-11-04 19:37)

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: m1964 
Date:   2019-11-03 22:13

Hi Ilya,
Thanks for replying to me.
I understand that no one can decide for me if Behn's (or any custom made) mouthpiece is worth the upgrade.
Since you mentioned that you used to play B45 lyre, do you feel the new MP is let's say twice as easy to play?
As we go up in upgrades, more money spent will return less so I do not expect a $1000 MP be 7 times better then B45.
Thank you

Post Edited (2019-11-03 22:23)

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-11-03 22:44

>>Brad personally tested it for me with Pilgerstorfer Dolce #4.
>>We just don’t have Pilgerstorfer reeds here, so I can’t try it.

Brad has them on his web site;

If he can send mouthpieces, he can send reeds. Ask him the best strength for your mouthpiece.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 23:12

Hi Ken,
Postage of the EPIC was $72, and I don’t expect shipping reeds by Brad to Russia will be any cheeper. Of course, I can buy from Great Britain like I do with Legeres, or other sources, but the fact is — in the store I have only Vandoren and D’Addario to try single reeds, and local Russian brands. Brad told me about Pilgerstorfer when mouthpiece was already in my hands.

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-03 23:32

I played B45Lyre for 12, maybe 14 years, and switched to another mouthpieces only 2-3 years back. My opinion is Behn EPIC not twice, it’s light years ahead of any factory Vandoren I’ve ever tried, in any possible way. It’s years ahead of any refaced Vandoren or custom made mouthpiece I’ve tried (sorry, no brand names for these, I respect small businesses). But it’s me: my sound concept, conservatoire education and I play clarinet for money in a major theatre's orchestra. Most of the equipment is needed only for the comfort of the player, and absolutely inaudible to the listener, besides, maybe, a bad reed. But as I told earlier, the projection of Behn, as example, is clearly audible by the listeners, in the large enough hall, not up close, and this thing I can’t do with any other mouthpiece.
If you’re in the continental US, you just much happier than me, because you have possibility to try it by yourself, without expensive shipping.

Reply To Message
 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: Ciscal 
Date:   2019-11-04 00:07

Nice review igalkov, thank you for the details!
I’m also curious about this mouthpiece;
As i live in Europe, it’s interesting to hear stuff about behn mouthpieces.
I like Hudgin’s sound a lot!
I play vandoren b40 in professional orchestra since a long time; and i am actually interested by something colorfull with good projection, but the close facing scares me a little.. coming from b45L could you tell me if it wasn’t too complicated to play with this mouthpiece in the orchestra the first time?
As i play v12 reeds do you think it could be ok to play at 442 in the orchestra with this mouthpiece?
Thank you,

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 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: igalkov 
Date:   2019-11-04 00:26

Hi Ciscal,
I’ve changed a few mouthpieces since a long time playing on B45Lyre, and came to a more closed setup before getting Behn Epic. Actually, my colleagues who tries my Epic play on more open mouthpieces like BD5 or Backun Philadelphia2+ and they have no problem instantly play Behn. It feels more open than it is. But I initially ordered a mouthpiece this close; Brad can make a mouthpiece with any opening you desire. As for the tune, my personal experience I shared with Brad I hope will serve for the future mouthpieces he will make for A=442 environment. Just tell him you need it to be tuned at A=442. As for the tone, it blends very nice with musicians who play mouthpieces I mentioned above. I can easily be a soft pad to principal when I play second clarinet or lead the group when I play first.

Reply To Message
 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: m1964 
Date:   2019-11-04 01:03

Thank a lot for your replies.
I may get Behn MP one day. I just ordered a new A clarinet because the one I have has tuning and intonation problems.
Thanks again.

Reply To Message
 Re: My Behn mouthpiece experience
Author: Ciscal 
Date:   2019-11-04 01:07

Thank you very much igalkov for your answer!
All your informations are very helpful!

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