Frustration is nothing new for me as I learn to play again. I’ve had my share of bad days and bad weeks and I deal with them much better now than I used to handle them. These days I usually just shrug my shoulders and know that this too will pass. Early in my quest to learn this beast I would try different mouthpieces if I was having a bad day. I had four or five of them sitting on a table next to me and I would try one after another until I found one that helped just a tad. Then I’d use it for a couple of days until it didn’t help anymore and I’d go back and use the old one. Even when I was doing this I knew it was a bad idea and then when I had my first lesson with Scott Bacon early in 2009 he said no more changing mouthpieces. I’ve stuck with the same one, a Moosewood B12, until about three weeks ago.
One of the horns I was testing (and the one I bought last week) during my quest for a new horn was a Dieter Otto 180K. Andrew Joy plays on them professionally and I contacted him about the horn. He suggested that, for the Otto horns, I go to a mouthpiece with a cup shape rather than a cone shape that the Moosewood has. At my latest lesson with Scott Bacon he switched me to a Laskey 75G mouthpiece.
For the first week I played really, really well. My term for this is new mouthpiece euphoria. Then two weeks ago I went to an audition and although my warm-up right before the audition went fairly well, I played poorly at the audition. I was suspicious that my mouthpiece euphoria had ended but my playing improved again and didn’t really deteriorate until this past Thursday. Some of this is due to the new horn but I had this horn on loan for at least 6 weeks and generally played very well on it. I think that the stiffness in my chops, poor tone quality, and most likely my loss of endurance is due to the mouthpiece change. The other thing that I’m experiencing is some numbness in my upper lip and a touch of numbness in my lower lip after I warm up for about 20 minutes and right after I started using this mouthpiece I noticed that the feeling of my skin on my upper lip is smoother – almost like I lost a minute layer of skin – and I have two subtle ridges where the mouthpiece touches my lip. These ridges were more pronounced last week but the difference in the smoothness of the skin hasn’t changed.
So…..yesterday, being very frustrated, I tried my Moosewood mouthpiece again. I played a few phrases with it and then the same phrases with the Laskey and back and forth like that for about 15 minutes. The two things I detected were a subtle change in tone – the Moosewood sounded a tad brassier – and the Moosewood felt a little funny. It didn’t have that aah factor like when you put on your favorite comfy sweatshirt. For the rest of practice – I toughed it out for about 45 minutes – I used the Laskey.
I’m not sure what to do. Visually the rims on the two mouthpieces look very similar. The shanks are different. Is it possible that the change in shank style could cause this change in my chops? I suspect that the culprit is the rim. My Moosewood has a screw on rim and the Laskey doesn’t. I don’t think Moosewood has a cup shaped mouthpiece. Are there manufacturers that have cup shaped mouthpieces that I can screw on my Moosewood rim? Should I stick with the Laskey I have and hope that my chops get better? I’m tempted to use the Moosewood today and see how it goes though it may just add to my problems.