More on Crystal Mouthpieces

I was reading your article about crystal mouthpieces on and became very interested in crystal mouthpieces. So last summer when my friend and I went to a music store I asked to try two of their crystal mouthpieces. I was really surprised by their sound and found one of the the crystal mouthpieces to be quite excellent. So I bought it and took it home with me.

The only problems I had with it were:

My two top front teeth, which rest on the top of the mouthpiece, hurt. I tried to put a patch but the patch didn’t stick on the crystal.

Also, upon removing my mouthpiece from the barrel I dropped my mouthpiece and shattered it.

I was wondering if I put padding around the mouthpiece itself, would the mouthpiece be protected?

Thank you for your articles on the www. I really find them intriguing and very entertaining as well.

Many thanks for your note about crystal mouthpieces.

First of all, your statement about the patch not adhering to the crystal is simply strange-sounding because in all the time, the many years I played crystal, I always used a patch and it may have been the same patch. The clear plastic patch, (Charles Bay used to make them, ) is fine, however you must place the patch on the mouthpiece when the glass is clean and dry. I remember changing the position of my patch on the crystal many times. I also found that it was not so much that the mouthpiece hurt, but that the material was quite hard and was disturbing to the teeth after years of using hard rubber which seems to be comparatively porous.

Now, once you have “shattered” your mouthpiece, it is the end; there is no afterlife even though you wish it to be. I can remember finally making the decision to return to rubber because of my fear of shattering another mouthpiece, and I must say that I regretted the decision. However, my glass mouthpiece had broken; you cannot melt it down and reshape and reface it. It’s over!

There were however so many really great advantages to it. One I remember was leaving the reed on the thing. Sounds incorrect now, however I never took the reed off the piece – perhaps once in ten days or more and sometimes longer. Yecch!! It sounds pretty disgusting, but it worked for me, and my feeling was that if I left the reed on for one set of concerts, or about a week, all of my colleagues in the orchestra would have an easier time maintaining pitch; you see I thought at the time that reed changing was, to an extent, pitch changing, at least in a minuscule way … so much for the obsessive clarinetist.

When you get a good crystal, the sound seems more seamless, and the legato seems to almost sustain itself while rendering a more covered, less strident quality, and frankly I thought that the look of it was really neat. Did I mention that once I changed mouthpieces about one minute before a concert? It was ice cold in the hall; I knew I was going to be flat, so I changed for a mouthpiece that I knew to play sharp, and voila! … after I warmed up, I played sharp.

The great Fernand Gillet, first oboe in Boston at the time of Serge Koussevitsky and all the great Prokofiev and Bartok premiers, taught at the New England Conservatory where I studied chamber music and solfege with him. What a great teacher!! He would look at your fingers during a passage and say, “hold this finger this way, and thinking of waiting for just a split second on this passage. Sure enough it worked, always. He knew at which place you were rushing and by asking you to concentrate there he forced you to magnify that passage, concentrate more, and voila, you got it right. Anyway, Mr. Gillet as we always called him, and who claimed to be the only man that was receiving pensions from both the Boston Symphony and the Lamereux Orchestra in Paris, he said, “Never change the reed immediately prior to the performance. Even if the new reed is better, the change you use to accommodate it will be insecure and might make you regret that decision”. He was always right.

In any event, it was great to talk to you . Hope that you find another beautiful crystal.

Best of all good success to you

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