WHY AFTERMARKET PRODUCTS?
By Mike Vaccaro
Mike Vaccaro Sax and Clarinet Mouthpieces
As the science of instrument-building and the knowledge of acoustics have progressed, the needs and desires of instrumentalists to push the envelope on their performance skills have advanced as well. Adding to that, the increased overall skill level of today's players and increased competition, players are looking for ways to gain an advantage. One way is to improve their equipment. To meet this need, small businesses have sprung up, with the goal of providing musicians with the equipment to help them achieve greater skills. While these products don't replace practicing, they do make your practicing easier and aid in faster learning and increased enjoyment of music.
These aftermarket products include:
- Clarinet Mouthpieces
- Clarinet Barrels and Bells
- Saxophone Necks
- Flute Headjoints
You purchased a new or used instrument. If you purchased it with some knowledge of what you were looking for, it is likely to be much better than what you'd been using. So if it is better, why consider aftermarket products like a barrel, bell, mouthpiece or even a ligature?
The simple answer is: because that clarinet can become even better.
The fact is, if you try 20 or more clarinets, one will be much better than the others. Why is that? If you try 20 barrels, bells, mouthpieces and ligatures, one of each will be better than the others. Guaranteed!
There are many sources for aftermarket clarinet products. Some of these products will work for you and some of them won’t. If your goal is to sound as good as you possibly can, and to play with greater ease, it's in your best interest to at least try them.
I can dare to say that almost any mouthpiece that you purchase on a new instrument will not do the job for you.
Why is this? Simply put, the manufacturer does not know who you are, how you play, or where and in what situations you play. They are instrument makers and not mouthpiece makers.
Although it might be in their best interest to have a mouthpiece maker finishing a mouthpiece for at least their top-of-the line clarinets, it's an expense they are just not willing to take on, as it is a very competitive market and their job is to sell clarinets. The manufacturer also assumes you will have your own mouthpiece or will be looking for one.
Thus, the mouthpiece is most likely the first aftermarket product that you will be looking for.
Where to Start? We think a good place is Mike Vaccaro Sax and Clarinet Mouthpieces, our sister site.
Clarinet Barrels and Bells
Custom clarinet barrels and bells allow you to choose the color of your sound, the resistance you desire, the pitch qualities of your clarinet, and the overtone series of your clarinet. The most important of these may be the bell, which is the major factor in the overtone series and is where the nodes for certain notes are lined up. The barrel is big factor in the ease of playing, the color of the sound, and, to a smaller extent, pitch. The barrel can fix a flat high F, having to use complex fingerings for the throat tones that slow technique down, and can fix other problem notes.
By the same token, many manufacturers don’t make their clarinet barrels and bells at the same time or from the same piece of wood that the clarinet is made out of. The barrels and bells for several manufacturers sit on a shelf and at the end of the production line a barrel or bell is selected (for no apparent reason) and the clarinet goes off to the wholesaler and retailer for sale.
What they are saying is that one design and set of dimensions fits all. It probably does not.
You may have a clarinet that plays perfectly for you. In that case, you need do nothing. If you are hearing pitch or timbre problems, if your technique is affected because of pitch problems that require false fingerings, or if you are having problems of any kind that a repair person cannot fix it is time for you to try aftermarket clarinet products.
Again, you're in luck, as this very site is dedicated to providing excellent aftermarket clarinet barrels and bells.
Saxophone necks act much like a clarinet barrel. It has only been in recent years that there has become a variety of manufacturers and private makers that produce fine aftermarket saxophone necks. For the same reasons as above regarding barrels, if you are a saxophone player you will want to at least experiment with them.
The same can be said of flute headjoints. Though expensive, every professional flutist I know is on a constant search for the perfect headjoint. Of course those are the ones that have not found one yet.
The Unending Search?
Just think how lucky we would all be if the first instrument that touched our hands was perfect in every way. Having the right equipment to start with would save thousands of hours of hard work and suffering. Oh Well! IF you are not that lucky, the search is on.
With all these articles, if you read them and find that you have questions, please don't hesitate to phone me or contact me.