The mouthpiece is as close as it gets

Dear Sherman,

I have an old Leblanc L7, which I had refurbished several years ago, and am thoroughly pleased with it. I am playing with a Vandoren M13 mouthpiece and using Gonzales FOF 3 and Vandoren V-12 strength 3 reeds. I have had consistently good luck with them on the M13. Lately I have been playing a little sharp which concerned me. I tried my B45 mouthpiece and was horrified that I could barely get a sound out with either reed. My question for you, is the B45 shot (it’s probably more than 20 years old!) and is the problem with the sound production me or the mouthpiece? I am using the same embouchure that I’ve had since college (nearly 30 years ago!) I love the M13. I was slightly alarmed that I could produce no sound with the B45. Any thoughts as to what is happening?

You’ve been a great help to me in the past! Thanks for your help!

Sincerely , LT

Dear Leisa :
Thank you for your letter of December 9. First, I am happy that you are completely satisfied with you Leblanc L7, which I consider one of their best instruments. I probably mention frequently that I owned a set of L7s, that had been played by a professional who cam from an Albert system background, and he had the little finger keys installed with rollers, which pleased him and me too for that matter, once I became used to them.
I have also owned and been quite favorably impressed with the Van Doren M13 mouthpiece, which is as I’ve said, Van Dorens answer to the Chedeville mouthpiece of yesteryear. Mine served me quite well, and every now and again I give it a few honks just to see if it is still “my baby”, so-to-speak. It is the same, but I have become much more mature in my desires for mouthpieces and those that I play now, Hawkins and Fobes San Francisco are simply much better than the Van Doren. In its time for me, it was really a fine mouthpiece, making many intervals less difficult and it was more in tune than had been my B45, which I remember ruefully, as it had been a replacement for a magic crystal that I had , a perfect gem of a mouthpiece for me, broken by an idiot second violinist of my orchestra who came by at intermission at a chamber music concert and knocked my horn to the ground, shattering the mouthpiece. In retrospect, I should have kept it and tried to have it repaired, but I didn’t have the good sense to do that and started a long string of Van Dorens with the B45, their most popular, ordinary dull mouthpiece in their lineup as far as I remember.
The M13 was a huge step forward for me and for Van Doren as well.
However to concern myself with your particular problem, the mouthpiece , as a line, plays a bit sharp, which goes along with your letter. I have found that the Hawkins and the Clark Fobes, made on Zinner blanks, ( a whole new response experience, a very sensual feeling and sounding mouthpiece.) These Zinner blanks are made in Germany and are highly thought of in the industry, at least in the US, though there is the possibility that they too may be a bit high. The fellow who makes the Gennusa doesn’t have good things to say about Zinner concerning pitch, however one must always consider the source of all such commentary.

As far as you using the same embouchure you used 30 years ago, I would have to say that the movement of your teeth in 30 years time make that a difficult embouchure to swallow. You certainly go about it in the same manner, but these things are in a constant state of flux.
Now, please do not go back to the B45 and expect something which has disappeared years ago. Kind of going back to an old cast-off lover for no reason , and I’m told there never is. You can’t get a sound out of it, is the reason you dumped it. Don’t even think about it, but revel in your lovely M13, and look into what unearthly pleasures the Zinner blank may have to offer. Tell me how it goes and…..enjoy.
best, as ever, Sherman

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