The “Blind” Test
Last week I mentioned there’s a “blind” test you can perform to make sure you choose the best mouthpiece. In this post, I’ll lay out the process for this playing test.
At this point you’ve chosen your mouthpieces, you’ve ordered them, and you have them in hand. You could have up to 9 mouthpieces (mp), so make sure you keep track of each one (and their results) as you play them. I suggest laying them out in a certain order: left to right, grouped by brand/model. Take out a piece a paper and keep track of each mp and make a quick note concerning their performance quality as you go through the steps below. Make sure you have the right style of reed for your mp. Jazz mp’s need jazz reeds, and classical mp’s need classical reeds.
Here are the preparations for the playing test:
- Have 2 reeds available to play
- Try both reeds on each mp in each test
- Tune every time you change the mouthpiece or reed
- Make sure the reed is on straight (this will affect the sound)
- Pay attention to what you like, and won’t you don’t like- record information
Here are the steps for the playing test:
- Play a D major scale, 2 octaves
- Play the same scale at f (loud) and p (soft)
- Check different notes for response (ease of starting a note)- use multiple dynamics
- Be aware of tuning at all times
- Play a fast passage
- Play a slow passage
Steps 5 & 6 don’t need to be long (could be 4- 8 measures). The important thing is to play the same passage, the same length, on each mouthpiece. We’re going for continuity and efficiency. You could be playing up to 9 mouthpiece, so being efficient will reduce experiment time without loosing quality or results.
After playing through all your mp’s, choose 1 mp from each model. Now that you have your 3 favorites (if you had 9 mp’s) you’re ready to invite a friend over to hear you. If there are 2 mp’s of the same brand/model that you really can’t decide between, it’s OK to add it to the mix and have 4 for the next playing test. Have an unofficial ranking of the mp’s going into the next step. By the end, you should have your favorite mp chosen.
Playing Test with a Friend
The test with a friend is going to be very similar. However, you want to make this as short as possible for your friend who is volunteering their time to help. If you have 3 mp’s ready to go, with the right reeds, then this should be a positive experience for your friend rather than long and drawn out. I would recommend choosing a friend who is a musician, rather than someone who will think everything sounds nice.
- Have food and beverage ready for your volunteer (beverage must not impair their ability to judge 😉 )
- Have them face the other direction so they can’t tell what mp you are playing
- Provide each mp with a number and announce each before you play
- Have listener make a quick note on each, and choose their favorite at the end
- Play a D major scale, 2 octaves
- Play your fast passage
- Play your slow passage
By now you’ve chosen your favorite mp and your friend has too. Now it’s time to compare results. If you both chose the same mp, then you have your answer. If not, make your choice based on all info. In the end, you make the final choice.
By the way- if your friend plays saxophone, have them try the top 3 mp’s too.
The Best Mouthpiece
Even thought this process is thorough, you’ll walk away confident that you’ve chose the right mp. If you have any questions along the way, just let me know. You can also share what mp you chose after going through the steps. We’d love to hear your results!
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