Woodwind.OrgKeepersThe C4 standard

 New Topic  |  Go to Top  |  Go to Topic  |  Search  |  Help/Rules  |  Smileys/Notes  |  Log In   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 
 Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2005-12-29 15:16

The quest for the perfect mouthpiece can be quite unsettling. Finding something that works and sticking with it is a great pleasure. However, finding something that works and BREAKING it (like I did with the Kaspar Cicero 11 mentioned on this board about a month ago) is another situation altogether. So, my quest began again.

I've had wonderful experiences with Greg Smith's custom Kaspars, including a Grenadilla wood model fashioned after a Cicero 13. I found the articulation and intonation excellent, and Greg is a super gentleman as well. I've also had good experiences with Walter Grabner's CXZ_14 (the new version). But, in the back of my mind there is that nagging, "nothing like the genuine Kaspar."

So I've found a couple of Kaspars (and am waiting for the Cicero 11 to be repaired), I've got a Chicago and an Ann Arbor. I must say the Chicago is an absolute delight--although it has been refaced by Brad Behn--so not exactly pristine vintage. However, I find that getting a new mouthpiece from Mr. Smith, Mr. Grabner or other great makers mentioned frequently here on board, is a smooth-sailing adventure. No worries about tip repairs or blimps and flaws on the table, etc. Also, I'm convinced one of the reasons the Cicero 11 broke so easily is the material had gotten brittle over the years. Yes, I know it was also probably because of the tile floor--but you know what I'm saying. Also, the Cicero 11 had that funny vintage smell...

Probably opening a can of worms, but let's discuss the pros and cons of the genuine vintage over the pros and cons of the new vintage clones.

Post Edited (2006-01-04 18:39)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2005-12-29 15:31

I bought a new Chicago Kaspar for $25 in around 1963 and played it for many years. A couple of years ago, I had Everett Matson touch it up (it was a 15 -- a little to open for me these days -- and the rails had gotten worn). It still plays very well, with a buttery tone and fine response.

I keep it as a reserve and play on an Opperman, which has a livelier sound, and which Kal adjusted for my instrument and playing style.

I haven't played a Smith Kaspar, but I've tried a Sayre, which was quite different from at least my original.

Ken Shaw

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2005-12-29 15:35

I've found all the new models (of those I've tried) to be different than the original. I wonder if it's the materials? I know the makers study the measurements, etc. of the vintage.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2005-12-29 17:33

(Disclaimer - I can not reveal any specific details of composition or conditions because those belong to a client that paid for the information)
I may make some of the current sellers of vintage clone mouthpieces - not in a style and dimensions sense but the material itself - - - unhappy, but I can say IMO that it is near impossible to recreate the material or vulcanization process used in vintage mouthpieces.

Some of the reasons why:
The materials, latex used specifically, had a number of impurities that are not found in current sources of supply. With the advent of latex gloves the traditional sources of latex supply changed and the raw material had to become more processed than latex supplies of 20-50 years ago. Of course many of the older blanks used sulphur based catalysts. Some of these sulphur catalysts were mixed to give hybrid catalysts and the mixture ratios were not well documented. Sophisticated modern analytic techniques can of course document these abnormalities from pure compounds but another major factor comes into play - the vulcanization and curing process.

Mouthpiece blanks are vulcanized using high temperature, vacuum and pressure during a graded regimen. Cooling and curing steps follow. Historical research has uncovered some of the conditions used to create the classic mouthpiece blanks (with no true accuracy however). The problem of course is that impurities in the raw materials alter the vulcanization process. The number and type of impurities as well as properties of the latex itself can have a significant effect on the vulcanization process and activity of the catalysts which cascades down to the cooling and curing steps. Timing of all these steps is critical and has a significant effect on the qualities of the finished blank. Records of timing and curing for classic blanks are obscure and incompletely documented. The configuration of the equipment has also changed - another variable.

With the advent of computer controlled vulcanization "eggs" now used as the industry standard all the parameters can be precisely controlled and approximations of "classic" parameters can be used to create "somewhat like" products but not a clone with the exact properties of the parent. It is also difficult to conduct aging experiments but there are definitely changes in the molecular structure in the vulcanized rubber over time.
L. Omar Henderson

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2005-12-29 18:05

Thus the smell of some vintage, huh Doc? By the way, whatever you did to the vintage mouthpiece I sent you really helped. I can't remember what kind of mouthpiece it was, a Gale I think.

So, the vintage mouthpieces probably have more variables from year to year due to the inability to "lock in" a specific formula of ingredients? And now the blanks are able to be made exactly the same time after time?

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2005-12-29 18:38

Well, I will leave consistency for modern mouthpiece makers to argue. Even mass produced mouthpieces - second hand information - can be variable because during the cooling and curing steps there can be dimensional changes in a given mouthpiece even molded from the same rod master mold which can be different between mouthpieces in the same batch run. The obvious planning of the parameters of the table and rails may belay other changes in the baffle and chamber. All of this is black magic to me so I can only comment on the things that I can document, analyze, and measure myself.

The vintage "smell" is usually due to the sulphur catalysts used and can be temporarily removed by chemical treatments that I have developed if they exceed "vintage" and approach "obnoxious".
L. Omar Henderson

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: frank 
Date:   2005-12-29 20:09

Ratio this, sulphur that....blah blah blah. It makes no major difference. Most vintage mouthpieces I have tried/own sound worse than an average Vandoren. Yes, I said AVERAGE. Our standards of workmanship are far better than the past. Most things in life in regards to this improve. I think people (mainly amatuers) get too wrapped up in the technical nonsense about products. The proof is to whether you have a good sound or not. The audience doesn't care if you are playing a Kasper or a Bundy mouthpiece. A good mouthpice makes playing easier. When music is all about the technique of how to make the music as oppsed to the music itself, why bother playing? You will sound like a robot. The worst thing anyone could say to me is that I sound cold or lifeless when I play. Marcellus played a Kasper because that was the best mouthpiece then. It isn't some magical end all be all product. He sounded great on a crystal too. The point is all the great players sound great because THEY are great. It isn't the mouthpiece How many times have you heard Harold Wright in an interview talk about the reason why his sound was so good was because of the sulphur content in his mouthpiece? BTW, this isn't a personal attack. This topic annoys me to a degree. Afterall, I am just a humble AF musician and serial orchestral gigger.  :)

Post Edited (2005-12-29 20:16)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2005-12-29 22:55

The long treatise on mouthpiece rubber formulation and manufacture is just the scientist part of me presenting evidence for peer review and critique to make the point that the material cannot reasonably be recreated. I guess that the hidden meaning of debunking the new fad or "trying" to recreate the classic mouthpiece material is that in truth it cannot (IMO) be done without a hugely expensive excursion into experimental land. Paying an extraordinary fee for the "kings clothing" with the name of a classic mouthpiece material does not make it a better mouthpiece. These recreations may or may not have better acoustic properties than present rubber formulations used by current manufacturers. My advice is for mouthpiece makers to create new classics.
L. Omar Henderson

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2005-12-29 23:40

Not a silly question at all -- it is a possibility and one recent entry into the mouthpiece game is using, I believe, special CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) milling machines to accurately reproduce their specified dimensions on mouthpiece blanks inside and out. The technology is present but the investment is huge for the special equipment involving tasks of milling the inside of the blank accurately. Laser sculpting has so far not been applied to this task that I have heard of. So far the algorithms for all the variables to adjust a stock mouthpiece to the individual player are not present and the personal interactions with a mouthpiece artisan are the only good approach -- presently!
L. Omar Henderson

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Mark Charette 2017
Date:   2005-12-29 23:52

L. Omar Henderson wrote:

> Not a silly question at all -- it is a possibility and one
> recent entry into the mouthpiece game is using, I believe,
> special CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) milling machines to
> accurately reproduce their specified dimensions on mouthpiece
> blanks inside and out.

Just to let everyone know - CNC hasn't been a big deal in many, many years [ first reference I can easily find is 1957, US Air Force. MC ]. I was programming CNC using the language APT 20 years ago [ Looked it up - 1st reference I can find to APT is 1961! MC ] - and the CNC machines were already old hat in the automotive industry. The main improvements are in the software cutter path optimization codes (for the big stuff like intake manifolds, engine blocks, and gear sets).

Automated laser & probe CMM (Coordinate measuring machines) have also been around at least as long. I'd guess at least 30 years for both, since the languages and technologies were pretty robust 20 years back.

The real advantage to CNC machinery is repeatability & speed. The standard machining problems (compensating for cutter wear, reflow of material, chatter, etc.) still apply, but once you (more or less) solve the problems you can produce many nearly identical items for a very low price.

Things made with a CNC mill should actually cost significantly less than something made with a hand operated milling machine - that's why major manufacturers have adopted them lock, stock, and barrel.

[ A pretty nice 9x49 CNC controlled 4-axis, variable spindle speed mill can be had new for under 15 grand. MC ]

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: archer1960 
Date:   2005-12-30 14:08

The "new" big thing in producing complex shapes is "3-D printing", but it's quite slow (and therefore expensive), so is usually only used for rapid prototyping at the moment.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Bill 
Date:   2005-12-30 15:02

I have a Kaspar Cicero 13 refaced by my (then) teacher and a very old Rick Sayre K13 (pre-"fish") with his original facing. They sound nothing alike.

I am of the opinion that the closest I will ever come to playing a mouthpiece like Mr. Kapsar "did 'em" is playing on my Rick Sayre - who was his main pupil.

With all this lovely equipment on hand, last night I spent one of the nicest hours playing on my Grabner CXZ_SW2 with a throat opening so wide it seems almost the circumference of the chamber itself. Less focus than my old table HS** or even a Terry Guidetti "Pedler." But who needs focus?! The Grabner just SANG on my old 21K series Buffet. It's been months and months since I have played as well. It was great fun - my sound spread out like a richly-colored carpet in the room.

It was another night in the cigar box for Kaspar, the Cheds, Wells, and the other fabled treasures. It actually _is_ all relative.


 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: frank 
Date:   2005-12-30 18:23

[ edited. MC ] I am a big fan of great equipment. I have tried and/or owned nearly every make of professional mouthpiece out there. I am not kidding. Kaspar and Chedeville included. I know very few pro players who still use actual vintage mouthpieces. I have "convinced" a few vintage playing friends to use something different after I let them try my stash. I think most of the time a person gets too wrapped up in the mystique of a vintage. The attitude is that since Marcellus or whoever played it, it's gotta be good. Not many people would readily admit that because of the flak they would take. But, when a skilled person tries a BETTER mouthpiece, they tend to switch. I've seen this happen multiple times. For the most part, the players I've seen using real vintage have tended to play on only that for years without trying anything new, and they aren't equipment fanatics. Burt Hara plays a Bettoney that's been refaced I think. He is the only one I can think of actually. Burt played my setup and for some uncanny reason, he sounded exactly the same! Wow!
I will try Behn's mouthpieces. I read his site and I am intrigued. I just got two of Grabner's mouthpieces and like them. They Kaspar 11 model and the SW1. They play WAY better than my vintage Bonade, 2 Kaspars, 3 Cheds, and 2 ancient wooden Buffet Cheds. Without major rework done to the mouthpieces above, I couldn't play any of them in a professional setting. And... I do not play for free anymore.  :) If a Kaspar works best for you, stick with it. I am a firm believer of using the best equipment for you. Trust me, if my knowledge of chemistry or manufacture would make me a better clarinet player, I would hit the books!

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Chetclarinet 
Date:   2005-12-30 18:51

I am a confirmed player of vintage Kaspar mouthpieces on clarinet, e flat and bass clarinet. I own many fine vintage Frank Kaspar and Frank L. Kaspar mouthpieces and use them professinally on a weekly basis. Over the years , I have owned, played and tried many of the current Kaspar "Copy" models made by such fine makers as Charles Bay, James Pyne, Greg Smith, Rick Sayer, and Clark Fobes. These modern copies are very very good, made with excellent materials and craftsmanship. Any of the above mentioned makers, and others including Richard Hawkins, Brad Behn, etc. make really fine mouthpieces, with excellent tonal characteristics and equally excellent response. However, inspite of the absolutely high level of modern mouthpieces that are available, I still prefer to play vintage Kaspar mouthpieces. I have several favorites, two original 13 Ciceros, an older Chicago refaced by Jeffrey Lerner and a great playing Cicero 14 faced by Brad Behn. The sound and "color" possibilities for these mouthpieces, in my opinion are still superior to any other mouthpieces I have played over tha past 40 years. There are many professional players in the US still using the vintage Kaspar and Chedeville mouthpieces--some refaced by modern makers, some origiinal. For most players, obtaining really fine Kaspar's and Chedeville mouthpieces is very dificult, as the quality and condition varies unfortunately --do to age, re-facing, abuse, etc. from terrible to terrific.

I am an active buyer, seller , and collector of Kaspar mouthpieces, some original, some re-faced and still find some very nice mouthpieces from time to time. I would recommend that anyone interested in purchasing Kaspar mouthpieces from various sellers and collectors request(actually insist!) on an adequate trial period and a return guarantee. I also feel that the majority of clarinet players in the USA can find less expensive, excellent quality mouthpieces that will fit their individual playing talents without purchasing hard to find Kaspar and Chedeville mouthpieces.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2005-12-30 19:34

I also get paid to play--and I use my Kaspar. I know many professionals who use genuine Vintage Kaspars all the time as their main mouthpiece (including my friend Chet). But, my question was exactly what you were addressing, Frank--sometimes I wonder if the extra need to have the vintage ones refaced for maximum performance is a good idea, or if the new clones are about as good. So far my experience has been, no...the vintage are better. Brad Behn refaced my Kaspar Chicago and it's a gem to play. If you're a collector and not a player, you probably don't want to reface the mouthpiece. I've owned some Chedevilles and some Kaspars that were perfect (like the one I broke) without needing refacing.

Chet, ditto!

Post Edited (2005-12-30 19:36)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: DAVE 
Date:   2006-01-01 19:46

Well, I have searched for years for a mouthpiece that has the sound that I like and have played many fine modern mouthpieces. But recently I purchased a Kaspar from Chris Hill and I can honestly say it is the finest mouthpiece I have ever played. It has something about it that I have not found in any other mouthpiece, a compact core to the sound, a ring, lively articulation, etc. And yes, I too get paid to play.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Gregory Smith 2017
Date:   2006-01-01 22:17

It may seem a little off-topic at first glance but there is something known as the "spirit" of an object such as a reamer, etc, - inanimate objects that are commonly misunderstood as "dead" or "dumb". Skilled makers of instruments and mouthpieces refer to this literally as the "spirit" of the reamer. No two reamers are exactly alike no matter the accuracy of any dimensional copy.

For instance, one imparts the "spirit" of the individual reamer or other tool to each and every mouthpiece or barrel that they make (along, of course, with the makers' own individual sense of artisanship). This combination of artisanship and "spirit" of the tool itself is what springs to life each and every unique piece.

Gregory Smith

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Llewsrac 
Date:   2006-01-01 22:45

I began playing a Kaspar Chicago 14 Clarinet mouthpiece 44 years ago. I have played many, many different Kaspars in those 44 years. I have also played just about the same number of every major or minor brand mouthpieces produced over the last century. Many of these mouthpieces in their original facings, others refaced by top people, sometimes improving upon, sometimes not improving upon the original makers art. In all cases I return to try and match the sound I hear in my ear of a mature clarinet sound. This highly sought after sound is the result of listening to over 106 years of recordings (poor recording qualities by todays standards, but even through the hiss and crackles a core tone can still be heard) and for me, I come closest to reproducing that sound on Vintage original, or vintage refaced Frank Kaspar or Frank L. Kaspar mouthpieces.
The science behind the original Kaspars, Henri Chedeville's is well worth knowing and understanding, but the science does not necessarly make the same mature sound for all Clarinettest. Kaspar mouthpieces work the best, so far for me to produce a mature sound that I am proud to offer up to the publics ear. If I could produce that quality of sound on a plastic Vito and a plastic stock mouthpiece I would, but I can not. The quality of the tone produced is always most important and the equipment used to produce that tone quality is always second in importance. That makes a vast amount of tonal concepts and a vast amount of equipment to produce your sound concept. And if that sound is good people will want to hear you, if not good, no one will be beating down your door to hear you play, thus it is time to start listening to different and better produced tonal concepts and discover the equipment and the Artistic Craftsman, vintage of modern that will work for you and the sound you wish to fill our ears with.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2006-01-02 03:03

I'm afraid that I do not attach the same spiritual significance in the use of the tools in my job as Greg Smith but my observations, first hand, of some of the great modern mouthpiece makers - Gregory Smith, Richard Hawkins, Michael Lomax, Grabner, Redwine, Pyne, Behn (not an inclusive list to be sure) leads me to believe that they have a special talent. I have studied the mouthpiece variables - some of which I probably have not discerned - and have come to the conclusion that at present there is not way of modeling, in a mathematical way, the interactions of these variables in mouthpiece performance. I call it black magic because I have no way to explain it with my knowledge, but it is a true art form taken to a very high level. Perhaps there were masters of old that did it better or had rubber formulations unavailable to current makers to make classic mouthpieces. Perhaps aging of the rubber has given it special acoustic properties? For the great majority of players these current masters perform a great service and offer the best available mouthpieces in our time. Most of us will not be able to afford or even adequately evaluate a great classic mouthpiece.

I have seen these mouthpiece artisans sit across from a player and sand a little here, gouge a little there until the mouthpiece was the best for the clarinetist sitting across from them. There are measuring tools to be sure but those final adjustments are pure art and some talented and experienced judgment decisions.

I believe those seasoned and talented professionals that say that the classics are the best but can not help but wonder if it is nature or nurture - is the sound and familiarity with a given mouthpiece patterned into their minds so firmly that others never quite match the same pattern? I have a good ear for tone but not the talent or proficiency to make a judgment myself.
L. Omar Henderson

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Gregory Smith 2017
Date:   2006-01-02 18:51

I think that the main thrust of my post was to point out that even the individual tools cannot be duplicated (in much the same way that a machine made mouthpiece produced "by the numbers" with the help of a CNC or spinning diamond machine, etc. produces a variable result). Aside from the handmaker's artistic ability, the "spirit" of an inanimate object is something worth pointing out.

That real phenomenon has a name given to it by those that use them - hence the name (literal or metaphorical) "spirit". It does not refer to a spirituality in general but to uniqueness of one inanimate object to another.

That's why, no matter how exact the copying of dimensions, there will never be two mouthpieces, barrels, clarinets, etc, that are the same. That is why I have no worries that anyone can copy my mouthpieces to such a degree that threatens my work.

The same applies to Chadash bores for his barrels and clarinets. The tools cannot be copied so that no matter how methodically one attempts to do so, the result will always be different enough from the original to the degree that the "copy" will always be another animal.

There are degrees of accuracy concerning repeatability of prototypes within the making of a product but that's a different, although related subject.

In fact, as Omar points out, the making of musical instruments for artists will always involve, at the most important stage of making or adjusting a mouthpiece, the intimate involvement of the handcraftstman themselves. That's why music and artisianship are known as and referred to as an art.

So, from my point of view, there will never be the day that hand mouthpiece makers will be seen as obselte because technology will replace them as, unfortunately, it was stated in a prior thread a few months ago by a new mouthpiece maker/enthusiast.

That's why his following statement posted a few months ago seems more than a little silly:

"This mouthpiece is available in several facings that....I have spent a great deal of time designing, refining and measuring with state of the art computerized profile measuring machines, CNC technology and laser equipment. The goal has been to provide an exceptional mouthpiece which is made ACCURATELY....and not just using a simple glass gage, tip measuring tool, sandpaper and a few files."

Accuracy and technology should not be confused with artistry.

Gregory Smith

Post Edited (2006-01-02 20:59)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2006-01-02 21:37

You're welcome. Happy New Year! And, keep on finding out all that good stuff about mouthpieces. Mouthpiece artisans are a valued lot among us.

Oh, and Alseg, I give up. The one on the right has some discoloration, so I'm guessing it might be the new one--that is, if this is a trick question.

Post Edited (2006-01-02 21:39)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Shorthand 
Date:   2006-01-02 23:57

I have to agree with Dr. Henderson's last post. AFAIK, the physics of a reed are not well enough understood to be able to accurately model the acoustics of a mouthpiece. Its a turbulent environment with a variable geometry that we don't quite understand, and the best fluid dynamicists around still mainly use trial and error in turbulent fluid flow modelling.

I do think, however, that there are only about 5 things that would determine a mouthpiece's characteristics:

1: Dimensions
2: Surface Roughness
3: Surface Roughness Direction
4: Material Density
5: Speed of Sound in the material

(Perhaps also shear, tensile, stress/strain constants (Young's Modulus and its friend? - I forget the names - but they're closely related to speed of sound.)

Doing nondestructive speed of sound tests on existing mouthpieces should be pretty straightforward. Has anyone tried?

Remember that it took centuries to figure out that what made the Stradivarii impossible to even get close to in tone was that the wood was transpored by river and therefore waterlogged. Now they are getting much closer with modern fine violins.

Surface roughness is actually extremely hard to reproduce accurately in a space like a mouthpiece bore while also maintaining narrow dimensional tolerances. Its also small enough where its hard to measure with a laser, especially a red one. Also, like Dr. Henderson said, any time you machine something or cast it or whatever you change what's called the residual stress profile (OK, its really a tensor, but we won't go there). There is pushing and pulling within the piece and it will settle into a slightly different shape. While you can minimize this with certain materials or by machining a rough cut, letting it settle for a few days (or annealing it) and then make a small finishing cut, you'll never really be able to zereo it out in anything except a metal (or some glasses should probably be OK.)

You never will replace an artisan. However, it might be interesting if Greg is doing his adjustment work on a computer and then the mouthpiece is made at a central machining facility and drop shipped to the customer to try.

The last thing to remember is that part of what's going on here is that the Kaspars on the first R-13's are what set the standard for the clarinet sound. The 30-50's were the golden age of the clarinet as people finally figured out how to make great Boehm and Albert/Oehler system instruments. I don't know if its a good or bad thing that innovation has really stagnated since then - there have been no major steps forward, but instead mainly variation based on personal taste.

Honestly, forget the mouthpiece debate, I'm waiting for Legere to start simulating the grain in reeds, as I think that's the last major step they need to really simulate the behavior of cane.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Gregory Smith 2017
Date:   2006-01-03 00:55

Shorthand said:

"You never will replace an artisan. However, it might be interesting if Greg is doing his adjustment work on a computer and then the mouthpiece is made at a central machining facility and drop shipped to the customer to try."


Absolutely not. I have but one of those "old fashioned" lathes for holding reamers, many bore reamers, glass gages, feeler gages, tip wands, sandpaper and other abrasive types galore, and most importantly, many tools for the all important finishing that I've made myself from scratch. I use almost all of them with each and every mouthpiece.

I receive pre-designed semi-finished (very "semi") machined blanks from Zinner - blanks that I've designed after many visits to his workshop in Bavaria over a period of many years. I handwork every aspact of the semi-finished blank until it plays in a completely finished manner to the degree that I personally would be comfortable taking that mouthpiece down to a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert on any given night and play it in concert. That seems to be the acid test to me.

I then speak personally with each and every one of my potential and returning clients to determine what their needs are before diagnosing what it is that they want/need to fulfill their wishes.

It is my observation based on extensive experience that one cannot achieve anywhere near the same consistency and level of quality from a line of machine made mouthpieces compared to well made hand-worked mouthpieces - even those that advertise their machine made mouthpieces dubiously as hand "FINISHED".

Maybe cosmetically they're hand finished but there is no clarinetist and craftsman/artisan on the "finishing" end of the process to use their artisianship that I believe is needed to create a mouthpiece that lives up to it's full potential.

From my point of view, it's just not possible to accomplish that any other way. Those that play machine made mouthpieces at the highest level in the profession are playing one mouthpiece in fifty - prescreened by testers in and outside of the company - or end up going through many, many a mouthpiece themselves. Or, if not, a very high degree of luck has been visited upon them.

Gregory Smith

Post Edited (2006-01-03 02:33)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Alseg 
Date:   2006-01-03 01:16

Heck, they can not even agree on Planck's constant, and I do not see anyone rushing to buy machined Stradivarii.

OK....the original question about the pictures was "which is new, which is old, or are both the same, and if so, are both new or old ?"(by old I mean 1950s or earlier. New means 2004-5)

Note the brownish powder on the specimen on the right from machining.
The one on the left is highly polished.

Both produce shavings that are brittle and fragile
Both stink like burning tires when turned or sanded.

Give up?
More hints tomorrow.

-Where the Sound Matters Most(tm)-

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Shorthand 
Date:   2006-01-03 04:39

Wow, Greg, great post. I'd have to agree, there are aspects of finish and surface roughness that you'll never be able to automate. (And God alone knows if you're compensating for different grades of rubber, etc. as you go.) I was more wondering if it would be better if you could. It would definitely shift the economics into a more winner-take-all market, though, which I think would actually be a bad thing and stifle innovation (see Microsoft).

If there were serious industrial applicaitons for getting the surface roughness of a 3d piece of plastic just right, someone would figure it out, but the economics aren't there and never will be.

Alseg, I'd assume the one with the big "imperfections" in a different color is is old one - but I also get the feeling you're trying to trick us.

One last, 3d "printing" is extremely limited in the materials you can use and still requires finish machining in an application like mouthpieces, so its really no help.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Shorthand 
Date:   2006-01-03 04:40

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: Stat failed for /usr/local/apache2/vhosts/test/BBoard/keepers/1.jpg (errno=2 - No such file or directory) in /usr/local/apache2/vhosts/test/htdocs/clarinet/BBoard/read.html on line 484
Attachment:  IMG_0015.JPG (1k)

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: Stat failed for /usr/local/apache2/vhosts/test/BBoard/keepers/2.jpg (errno=2 - No such file or directory) in /usr/local/apache2/vhosts/test/htdocs/clarinet/BBoard/read.html on line 484
Attachment:  IMG_0018.JPG (1k)

I've shrunk the pics. As they're out of focus there really isn't much lost information here.

Wow, Greg, great post. I'd have to agree, there are aspects of finish and surface roughness that you'll never be able to automate. (And God alone knows if you're compensating for different grades of rubber, etc. as you go.) I was more wondering if it would be better if you could. It would definitely shift the economics into a more winner-take-all market, though, which I think would actually be a bad thing and stifle innovation (see Microsoft).

If there were serious industrial applicaitons for getting the surface roughness of a 3d piece of plastic just right, someone would figure it out, but the economics aren't there and never will be.

Alseg, I'd assume the one with the big "imperfections" in a different color is is old one - but I also get the feeling you're trying to trick us.

One last, 3d "printing" is extremely limited in the materials you can use and still requires finish machining in an application like mouthpieces, so its really no help.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Alseg 
Date:   2006-01-03 14:20

Thank you, shorthand, for shrinking the file.

(I finally reloaded my generic photoshop application, and got lost trying to figure out how to fix the size.
I am better at pics of the doggies and scenery than with macro photos.)

Yes....it is a trick question.

The material is the same!!
Both are hard rubber from the same source.
And....it is new material.

It is VERY TRICKY to work with using wood-oriented tools.

I have renewed respect for anyone who attempts to make mouthpieces.

Obviously, as seen in the pictures, I used the material to make barrels. The one on the left is nearly finished. The one on the right works ok, but is ugly.

One thing I learned.... the thickness of the material affects the sound moreso than with wood. I have to work out the ideal shape before commenting further.
I recorded a snippet of music using the barrel on the left and sent it to the materials expert. I will then reshape the barrel and repeat the recording process to see if the spectrum changes.

I will comment that it does seem to allow projection and coloration akin to grenadilla, with perhaps a bit of (dare I use the D word?) uh...warmth.

Thanks for playing along with the quiz

-Where the Sound Matters Most(tm)-

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2006-01-03 14:45

Always up for a challenge, Allan. Thanks for unveiling the mystery.

I agree with Allan that the thickness of material seems to have as much to do with sound as anything. I don't like duck billed mouthpieces because it is harder for me to control the sound and intonation. Just a personal thing, I guess--but I've always found that if I put a thick mouthpiece patch on a duck-billed mouthpiece it improves that problem. So, perhaps it is added thickness in that area that makes the difference.

I know also that the baffle of the mouthpiece makes a huge difference. Some have said they think Frank Kaspar's "secret" was in the baffle. I'm baffled. Pardon me, pun just slipped out.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: William 
Date:   2006-01-03 17:08

My favorite mouthiece is the one that I have played for most of my "career"--or like D Bonade has suggested, the one that I "went home and learned how to play". It happens to be a vintage Chicago Kaspar #14, and the only other mpc that came close was a Charlie Bay (Ithica, 1970) copy of it. The Greg Smith zinner clones--Ched & Kaspar--probably could have become "the ones" if I had played them from the beggining as they are great products. But, yhou just have to spend the time to learn how to play them and feel comfortable. Vintage or clone--doesn't make any difference. You dance best with the gal you know and like the best. Newer versions might be more "attractive"..........well, you know the rest.

Brenda wrote, "Also, the Cicero 11 had that funny vintage smell..."

That reminded me............... some years ago, when I was still searching for that perfect sax sound, a friend of mine lent me his favorite metal alto sax mouthpiece to try for a few days. When I returned it, he accussed me of not returning the same mouthpiece claiming "it didn't play the same". Actually, what I did was carefully wash the mpc before trying it, and--inadvertantly--cleaned all of the gunk from the chamber which had apparently accululated from many years of use. It came out looking pretty nice all cleaned up, but he still says that "it never played the same as it used to". (And, Brenda, it lost that "vintage" smell as well)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Gregory Smith 2017
Date:   2006-01-03 17:49

Shorthand asked:

"I'd have to agree, there are aspects of finish and surface roughness that you'll never be able to automate. (And God alone knows if you're compensating for different grades of rubber, etc. as you go.) I was more wondering if it would be better if you could. It would definitely shift the economics into a more winner-take-all market, though, which I think would actually be a bad thing and stifle innovation (see Microsoft)."

The basic answer it seems to me is probably not.

I don't agree with the premise that developing any particular type of finish or surface roughness would itself result in a new standard for making a "best" mouthpiece. Efficiency and flow dynamics do not, of and by themselves, a "best" mouthpiece make. Surface texture and finish may be part of the equation but not in a make or break way.

Some of the best mouthpieces I've played have had entirely different finishes and surface roughness. What to do with the surface roughness or finish (while taking into account many other factors simultaneously) by actually playing the mouthpiece is what matters - both to the maker/player and their client.

The basic problem is that age old conundrum that not everyone is looking for the same thing. If "best" or "most efficient" flow dynamic is the end game, then I have a difficult time understanding how the science of that is the path to any "best" playing design...no matter how well it is controlled or how sophisticated it's development.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2006-01-03 18:31

I want to thank Gregory Smith for his insights and knowledge of the art of making mouthpieces - certainly an education for me. It has added many new variables to an already unsolvable equation for me to ponder and study.

I know that Gregory has a fine collection of the classic mouthpieces made and finished by the originators. I would ask his opinion about the great popularity and "aura" surrounding some of the "classic" mouthpieces of Kaspar and Chedville - or others. Do you think it is the rubber compounding, some subsequent aging and maturing of the rubber compounds used, the finishing by these classic masters, or what other factors lead to the mystique and high collector and player attention paid them? Are we perpetuating the endless circle of pattern and sound by making copies to emulate the patterns of articulation, tone and response of these mouthpieces or are they models of perfection themselves? Do you see evolution in mouthpiece design transcending the current models and configurations of mouthpiece architecture? I know that the playing of the mouthpiece is the ultimate test but the designs reached thus far by the evolutionary process of invention, trial, error, and refinement may take many paths that reach the same end goal. Are modern designs better than the classics?
L. Omar Henderson

Post Edited (2006-01-03 18:52)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Scotti 
Date:   2006-01-03 19:45

This might be a good time to ask a question I've been wondering about for a while. Greg Smith, where did you learn your mouthpiece skills in the beginning? I'm sure you've learned a ton since then, but I am just curious.


 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Sylvain 
Date:   2006-01-03 20:05

To sort of come back to the original question by Brenda. I don't know much about mouthpieces, but I know a few people that do and they all have very different views.

Here are a few examples of professional players I know. I will not give names.
One has played Vandoren mouthpieces all his life, tries many plays the one he likes.
One has been playing the same beloved Ched all his life.
One owns 50+ mouthpieces, plays a vandoren although misses a beloved Kaspar which has been now refaced too many times.
One owns 50+ mouthpieces, including some great vintage but prefers to play modern hand made for his needs mouthpieces.

My point is that every professional player I have met has a different story with regards to mouthpieces. Some advocate the vintage holy grail, some advertise one to one custom work with contemporary mouthpiece makers and some find in machine made mouthpieces qualities that they feel are missing in handmade ones. Looking at the community of professional players as a whole, it is my intuition that no correlation can be made between mouthpiece prominence and factors such as modern, old, machine made or man made. If anything, machine made Vandoren mouthpieces with no custom work prevail among the professional comunity.

FYI, I am not a professional player, I own 5 mouthpieces and the one I currently use is not a VD.

Sylvain Bouix <sbouix@gmail.com>

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2006-01-03 20:37

When I sold my Buffet R-13 and bought the Opus II, it didn't give me the sound I was wanting. Also, I had Greg redo the tip because it had gotten a little "rough edge" on it and he did a wonderful refacing job, but still didn't sound exactly like I wanted on the Opus. I bought another vintage Kaspar that sounded better and I needed to raise the money to pay for the new Backun bell and the vintage Kaspar. The guy I sold it to really loves it and has offered to sell it back to me. But, I still needed to pay some on my credit card. It's a personal thing. I would love to get Greg to do one for my Opus when I get a few bucks ahead.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: mnorswor 
Date:   2006-01-03 22:10

Well, as a veteran collector and probably one of the people Sylvain was speaking of, I'll chime in...

There are pros and cons to everything, especially mouthpieces. In my opinion, however, the clarinet community is far too concerned with what equipment this player or that player is using, particularly the mouthpiece. I too have fallen victim to all of the hype surrounding the most elite players and I went out and bought several Chedevilles after I heard about them and who played them for the first time.

Without discussing each and every mouthpiece I've ever played, my own story was one of trial and error. I own over 50 mouthpieces of all vintages, from Kaspars, Cheds, Bettoneys, Lelandais, to modern makers including Fobes, Pyne, Vandorens and others. As my playing was changing rapidly as a student, I switched often because I felt that I needed either this or that thing added into the sound. Sometimes I went to an older mpc or sometimes to a modern one.

Ultimately, what I was searching for was a setup that allowed me to make my own unique sound on the instrument. I never had aspirations of sounding like Marcellus, Wright or any of the above because I knew that I'd never achieve it to the degree that I wanted to. Nor should I!

The other thing that I discovered is that as a generality, clarinetists are the least flexible bunch of people I know with regard to sound quality, timbre, etc. Can you imagine 2 violinists ever sounding the same? or cellists? or particularly singers? NO NO NO!! Yet with clarinet players, the aim seems to be to sound like someone else, either a Morales, Stoltzman, Wright or whomever else you'd like to insert here. I wanted to sound like myself and needed to find equipment that would bring out my good qualities and hide some of the lesser qualities. Gosh knows we've all got them.

I went through years of trial and error and finally came up with something that works for me. I play on both types of mouthpieces, both new and old. A Kal Opperman for my regular clarinets and Cheds for my bass and Eb as well as an old Selmer and a Fobes for bass. (All of my bass mpcs have different qualities for different types of music.)

What I'd like to put forward is that there has been a general shrinking of thought with regard to sound and what not because of the recording industry. In some of the older recordings I have, I could easily pick out Berlin, Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia based on the clarinet players sound. Nowadays, I can't do that so much anymore. Why is it that everyone wants to sound the same? Is this really art?

In so far as modern makers are concerned... they're artists, and completely necessary artists at that. These people like Opperman, Fobes and Smith work with their customers to help them find a mouthpiece that suits the individual, not something that suits the masses. Granted, many of us don't have the opportunity to work with them because of proximity issues, but then again, there are telephones!

As far as material is concerned...IMHO, it does make a difference because it too is a vibrating material and does contribute to the sound that is produced, just like a reed does. What material is best...that you have to figure out for yourself. For me, I find many good things in modern materials and in older materials. Find something that allows you the freedom to sound like yourself, not a copy of someone else. Let's stop comparing and have some personal integrity here. And remember, it's your life's work, you don't have to get it perfect right now!

For what it's worth,
Michael Norsworthy

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Gregory Smith 2017
Date:   2006-01-03 22:40

Scott asked:

"Greg Smith, where did you learn your mouthpiece skills in the beginning?"


By observation: Elmer Aiello of the Woodwind Co. (then a part of the LeBlanc Co.), Everett Matson, and Rick Sayre.

By experience: Using the techniques observed by these three gentleman, I learned via trial and error what worked and what didn't when it came to adjusting or reworking my own existing, mostly playable mouthpieces. This was all, I thought at the time, in the service of my own playing.

Later on, when the drought on good blanks finally came to an end, I naturally transitioned from an original Kaspar or Chedeville into my own personal version of the Zinner blank. Only after considerable thought and experimentation did I decide to start making them for other clarinettists.

I had the basic carpentry and other related skills to begin with because both of my grandfathers were contractors and had incredibly well stocked buildings full of tools. I learned from them some fundamental skills about how to handle, use, and build/fashion tools.

That was at a very young, pre-teen age but as it turned out, it was very important that I was exposed to that kind of world at that early age. It's amazing how alot of what I learned then seemed to carry over into my work with mouthpieces and the making of my own mouthpiece tools. The experience that I gleaned from those early experiences also helped me in my understanding of the cause and effect of techniques applied by Aiello, Matson, and Sayre.

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2006-01-03 22:47

GBK, the Greg Smith Kaspar was relisted twice before it sold. And, you are right about the last listing not mentioning the reason for selling it. I don't know why I decided to drop the reason, unless I thought it didn't matter to most people and they would ask if they were interested. The first listing clearly stated it was because of the equipment change. The mouthpiece was flawless.

Here's the item number for the first time it was listed. Please check it out.


Post Edited (2006-01-04 19:45)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: Gregory Smith 2017
Date:   2006-01-04 01:48

Replying to Omar and to observations by others:

I may have a slightly different, perhaps unique perspective, coming from the background of being both a performing professional symphony clarinetist and a mouthpiece handcraftsman. Then again, perhaps not.

Trying to be as objective as possible though, I honestly do not think that it matters whether one needs to play on an original or vintage anything to sound their best and feel most comfortable (the two for the most part seem to be inextricably bound). Too much is made of a seemingly artificial differentiation.

Just the experience of observing one's everyday's personal, unique choices in life generally should be instuctive as to the situation, if not just as a general principle.

One of the things that I have the biggest problem identifying with is the notion that because a large group of professionals play machine made, or more specifically Vandoren mouthpieces, that therefore favor amongst top professionals lean to the Vandoren company because of the quality of their mouthpieces. There are several reasons that I find this observation misleading insofar as the all-important "personal choice" is concerned.

Although I am not in the position of speaking for or about everyone (or anyone in particular), my observations based on my experience from being in the business is several-fold.

To reiterate what I've said in an earlier post, "Those that play machine made mouthpieces at the highest level in the profession are playing one mouthpiece in fifty - prescreened by testers in and outside of the company - or end up going through many, many a mouthpiece themselves. Or, if not, a very high degree of luck has been visited upon them."

Further, factor in that:

There is a proportion of the VD mthpc. professionals that are primarily looking for publicity and compensation - monetary or otherwise. This is true throughout the entire realm of musical products but does not eliminate VD per se. Call me a purist but it's also why I personally choose not to procure endorsements or accept endorsements as my philosophy is that the product should speak for itself.

As has been mentioned earlier in this thread, there is a relatively large subset of individuals that have not the time, energy, desire, locale, etc, to try the many handmade mouthpieces that are presently being made by more than a handfull of handcraftsman. Most clarinettists outside the US and Canada (primarily Europe and Asia) have had little or no exposure to any handcrafted mouthpieces until the relatively recent past - and even then, only to a very few types that cannot be customised to the individual player by the handcraftsman themselves. It's almost axiomatic that that kind of vacumn would lead one down the road to the default position of finding the best of whatever is available in the most quantity.

The final point being that with the vast distribution network internationally of a huge company over many decades making VD mthpcs ubiquitous through the networking that only a huge international corporation's financial resources could generate and sustain, has contributed disproportionately making them a forerunner for exactly those reasons.

Factoring out for those top professional players that fit any of the above criteria, it becomes apparent to me anyway, that there is not a substantial majority of those players that play VD mthpcs. purely because it is the best mouthpiece available for them.

But what do I know? I used to play the now defunct Morre reeds but have chosen to play Vandoren V12's since then - and only after trying every reed mthpc. combination I could get my hands on.

I'm not trying to slight Vandoren or Vandoren artists in general because I truly believe that there are a number of top professionals that know their VD is the best for them. I'm just trying to suggest that there are powerful, sometimes overwhelming undercurrents in the music business that don't necessarily leave one with as clear an impression as one may think at first blush.

Gregory Smith

Post Edited (2006-01-04 01:52)

 Re: Vintage, or Vintage Clone?
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-01-04 02:43

[ It's time to digest all of the above information and let this thread rest for a while. If someone has something important, not previously discussed, write us off-line and we can reopen the thread - GBK ]

 Avail. Forums  |  Threaded View   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 

 This thread is closed 
Search Woodwind.Org

Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale

The Clarinet Pages
For Sale
Put your ads for items you'd like to sell here. Free! Please, no more than two at a time - ads removed after two weeks.

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact charette@woodwind.org