Advice on Baritone Mouthpieces

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Apr 12, 2016.

  1. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    I'm currently learning to play on a Besson New Standard, with an Alliance B6 mouthpiece, and finding myself a bit between a rock and a hard place. Background; started on it last October, but lost a good 2 / 3 months due to heart surgery (February), followed by severe chest infection (early March; I'm not in the first flush of youth, either - see avatar!)

    From bottom G through C to middle G and then up to middle C I can manage, but that's when I have problems with air leaking out at the right side of my mouth unless I either:
    1: brace my embouchure really hard - which is knackering;:(
    or
    2: press the mouthpiece harder against my mouth for the higher notes - which is knackering and painful.:(:(

    At the mo, the maximum I can practise for is 30 - 40 minutes, at the end of which I feel shattered. I've tried looking at the info put out by different mouthpiece makers, but they seem to suggest this one for players wanting a rich sound, or that one for a bright sound, or the other one for those with strong embouchures - none of them seem to have noticed that there are beginners around, with weak embouchures, who'd like to be able to practise for a reasonable length of time without feeling as though they'd been humping sacks of coal - and who'd be happy, for the time being, to get a reasonable sound of any description!:rolleyes:

    So here's my question; do I just keep slogging on until my lip muscles toughen up? Or do you think a smaller or different shaped mouthpiece would help me bridge the gap from where I am now to where I can cope with a mouthpiece which would make me sound like the foghorn off the QE2?

    Thanks in advance,

    Jack E.
     
  2. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    I think most people on here will advise that changing mouthpiece to fix a problem is usually an expensive and ultimately fruitless pursuit. I reckon all players with a sound embouchure setup will get a decent sound out of any mouthpiece. The best guys seem to settle on a mouthpiece for reasons of sound-colour, comfort, and habit.

    From your posting, it sounds as though you know that the problem is your embouchure. Which usually leads people to recommend exercises involving long, moving notes played ppp and then ff, and exercises around lip flexibility.

    Applying pressure to achieve compression is damaging and ultimately limited: because how much pressure will you need to get top C if you are already needing pressure in the middle of the stave?
     
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  3. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    DS2014: I think you've misunderstood my question.

    I'm not looking for a quick fix, let alone a permanent one, and I don't expect to find one. I'm fully aware that I need to strengthen my embouchure, and learn to control it at will. I simply wondered if a temporary change of mouthpiece could make it a bit more comfortable for me whilst I'm still at the 'raw beginner' stage.

    I think, if you read my post again, you'll see that I've managed to work that one out for myself.

    Jack E.
     
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  4. Graeme Euphonium

    Graeme Euphonium New Member

    Good advice from DS2014 also invest in a few lessons with a good teacher.
     
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  5. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Sounds like you are putting your heart and soul into your music Jack. Can you break up your daily practice routine into smaller time slots throughout the day and increase strength this way?
     
  6. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Sorry I spoke, Jack. Hadn't realised you're like a one legged man asking if a new pair of trainers would cure his limp.
     
  7. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    I have a lesson every week, Graeme - and I'm sure I wouldn't have made anywhere near the progress I have without it!

    Best regards,

    Jack E.
     
  8. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    So you didn't read either of my posts.
     
  9. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    Good evening, Mesmerist - I started doing two shorter sessions a day, rather than one long one, this week, and found it helps a lot (being retired makes it a lot easier than if I was still working! :) )

    Best regards,

    Jack E.
     
  10. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Hello Jack. Why the Baritone? Did it choose you or was it the only spare instrument? Did you get a chance to try out any other brass instruments?
     
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  12. ari01

    ari01 Active Member

    A serious point though on choosing the Baritone is that a lot of the repertoire requires you to be comfortable playing up to top G and A for significant lengths of time, not just the odd one here and there, plus I find that the Baritone always seems to get very few rests because of its unique position in the band...
     
  13. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    Hi, Mesmerist - it was first suggested to me by a friend who plays bass, who thought - judging from the build of my mouth - that it would suit me. When I had a chance to try one, and listened to the character of the sound, that was it - I was hooked! After attending main band practises (just to watch, listen and learn as much as I could), and listening to the different instruments playing, that just confirmed the choice for me. With no disrespect to other people and their choice of instrument, I'm really not interested in playing anything else - though, having said that, if I was offered a go on something else, I'd give it a try, just to see what it was like.

    But it's the sound a good player can get from a baritone which drew me to it in the first place. I've no way of knowing what standard I'll be able to reach, but every time I get a good sound from my baritone, it gives me such a BUZZ that I really can't see myself ever wanting to change to something else!

    With best regards,

    Jack E.
     
  14. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    Ari01 - in fairness to the band I'm learning with, the first baritone player did warn me about that, so I do realise that I have to be well up to snuff on the high notes and staying power, even to play third baritone - but many thanks for making those points, just the same! :)

    Then again, if it was easy-peasy, learning to play baritone wouldn't give me any sense of achievement, would it? ;)

    Mind you, that doesn't mean that I think any of the instruments in a brass band are easy-peasy. How trombonists manage to whizz that slide from top to bottom and back again for a fast run of notes - and get it to stop in the right spot every time - is quite beyond me. I've also developed a great deal of respect for the percussionists while watching the main band rehearsing, with the way they have to keep track of the music whilst having a rest for eleven bars, and then have to come in with a fortissimo quaver on an offbeat, knowing that - if they mistime it - it will stick out like a clap of thunder!

    As for percussionists' music . . . o_O :eek: :confused:

    With best regards,

    Jack E.
     
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  15. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    There are no easy answers and no quick fixes - that's already acknowledged and not looked for. I believe a Wick 9bs is a good investment though, and that sometimes we expect to progress more quickly than is realistic for us.

    I suggest that (even) more discussion with your teacher is needed and that you recheck how good a match your facial structure is for a baritone mouthpiece .......... other instruments in the band could also give you just as much if not (eventually) more joy to play.

    A Trombone (same pitch as the Baritone) could suit you better, typically only the first Trombone plays notes above the stave and the Bass Trombone (still the same basic Bb pitch) plays very low and often below the stave; the middle or 2nd Tenor 'chair' can be the 'best of both worlds'. The Eb Bass is another option and uses a larger mouthpiece that might suit you better. They're often overlooked and whilst players need a good pair of lungs the Eb has (IMHO) a lovely sound - well, when given a skilled driver and the right music.

    Good luck, progress will happen whatever you try. It may take much longer than you expect though as what seems simple and easy often is not; and facial muscle can take many months, years even, to develop.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
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  16. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    2nd Tenor - many thanks for your very detailed response, and for your suggestions. I will be discussing my embouchure, and how to strengthen it, this evening with my teacher. I will also take the time to reflect on the points you made in your post, and discuss them with him, too.

    Much the same, then, as when I was learning to be a steam loco fireman. That also looks pretty simple when you watch an expert do it, but it takes a lot of time, study and practise (and LOADS of sweat!) to do the job really well (including arranging your work so as to be free to spot signals for the driver and exchange single line tokens on the move). There's a heck of a lot more to it than just "bunging a few shovelfuls of coal on, now and then" - which is why it took me about seven years! :D

    But, with playing brass - as with firing locos - I'm in it for the long haul. Just as well, eh? ;)

    With best regards,

    Jack E.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  17. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    An excellent choice of instrument ! Only 2 of us having to balance up to all those others. Instrument of the Gods.
     
  18. ari01

    ari01 Active Member

    Any more than 2 and it wouldn't be fair on the rest of the band ;)
     
  19. David Evans

    David Evans Member

    Wonderful choice of instrument but you will need to develop a thick skin to withstand 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' and the envy of the rest of the band. Being a 2nd Bari is akin to being the viola in an orchestra and solo Bari parts do tend to be non-stop, even 4 bars rest would be nice. You will find that your MD doesn't know quite what to do with the Baritones and after you have really played out of your skin, note perfect, wonderful tone and phrasing the MD's comment will be "Well played Euphs".
    But welcome to the best section in the band, you will love it.
    David
     
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  20. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    Actually, there are three in our band . . . :)

    Jack E.
     
  21. Jack E

    Jack E Active Member

    It must be tough at the top, David, but you can console yourself with this thought; somebody's got the be the hero - it's a rule! ;)

    According to our 1st baritone, she rarely gets a breather even when the piece has no solos for her!

    Fair play to our MD - he's as quick to give praise as he is criticism, to all sections! A good bloke, all round - and very good at giving loads of encouragement to the rawest of beginners.

    Hmmm; I think it will be a while before I'm good enough to get into the band, as distinct from being one of their learners, David - but onwards and upwards, eh? :)

    With best regards,

    Jack E.
     
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