Happiness is a new mouthpiece


Equipment is a topic that has come up quite a few times in Horn Matters.

Still though, I can be as excited as the next person to finally break through and get an equipment issue sorted out. Last week a new mouthpiece arrived with some others I had bought for students to try. But this one was purchased for me, a Houghton H-2 cup in brass. I knew it would be similar to the Houser San Francisco cup I had used on other horns some, in particular I liked how the SF cup made my smaller Geyer style horn feel but not sound, it had a brittle sound on that horn, at least for me and my embouchure setup.

But backing up, I made my original two solo CDs (Canto and Les Adieux) playing on a big Paxman 25AND, seen here when it was shiny and new. I loved that horn, used it for years, I had absolute confidence in my intonation and it was the most ergonomic for my left hand of any I have owned. But I had switched to other horns as my primary instrument, and then when I changed over to using a plastic rim (due to metal allergies, more here) I never could get it to feel right on any mouthpiece I could use on it. A little stuffy, a little unfocused. It was a puzzle that I was getting close to giving up on — I was considering selling and moving on.

But then the Houghton H-2 arrived and the horn is back! Totally back. Not stuffy. Not unfocused. Due to some magical combination of the cup itself and the fit of the mouthpiece into the instrument.

With that sorted out then the other horns I have quickly fell into place too. My Paxman triple feels great on the SF cup (it has a slightly larger shank, a three piece model — somehow I had not used it on this horn previously) and the Geyer style horns I use work best on Moosewood. Horn playing suddenly has became a lot more fun again as the horns I use regularly all feel more dialed in and in focus.

While this specific mouthpiece may not work for you at all, there is an underlying truth that happiness can be a new mouthpiece, the right one can dial everything in and the wrong one leave you feeling like it is you that can’t play. The fact is that you can visualize great tone and articulations all day and not ever get them if you are on the wrong mouthpiece. Don’t give up on the search.

University of Horn Matters