After over 30 years of use, my cherished ‘David Guardala’ mouthpieces are being retired. In 1983, I contacted David at his home in Hicksville, and he invited me to visit him there to pick out a mouthpiece. I was gigging in Atlantic City, and Philadelphia, so the trip wasn’t too long. He was incredibly inviting, and after reviewing my horn (Tenor MkVI 220,xxx) he did two things. 1. Suggested making a mouthpiece with a short/high baffle, with a smaller tip opening than I was using, and reducing the reed strength … I was working too hard. 2. Overhauling my horn – he immediately saw that it was ‘bowed’, or bent from the center point of the neckstrap ring due to pressure of my playing.
He was so correct for both … I worked at it and reed strength went down from a 4 to a 3. Doesn’t sound like much, but it really is. His overhaul was one of the best I had ever had … that’s saying a lot, because Saul Frompkin did my overhauls and repairs normally. What happened with him later is a shame, and I purchased my alto and soprano mouthpiece during that time period between 1983-1985.
So this is all a background to today … after some research, listening to others, and using what I already know after 53 years of playing … chose ‘DRAKE’ mouthpieces. I like his designs, using historical designs, with updates that embellish those designs for ‘up-to-date’ results. Aaron Drake is responsive and makes his mouthpieces upon order from what I’ve experienced. I gave him my information (horn make, mouthpiece, reed, style of play), and what I wanted out of his mouthpiece. His recommendations were spot on, and upon receipt of my alto mouthpiece … it was an immediate love affair.
I chose his Jazz Alto/VRJA – 7*/.085 tip opening (upon his recommendation). It is a rollover baffle, with a medium chamber. Made of his own resin, and comes with ligature/cap. Price is $270.00 (Feb 2016). I wanted something that would be a lot more accepting of standard jazz playing. Smoother tone, but didn’t want to totally lose the ‘edge’ for producing ‘Sanbornish’ tone/play. Now I’m moving over to his NY Jazz/NYJT1 – 7*/ .108 tip opening. Price $325.00 (March 2016). Will be doing the same with my curved soprano soon.
Reed: I’ve been using Vandoren V16s for quite a while. They have more ‘heart’ and a little thicker tip. They also hold up well on metal mouthpieces, and by using the ‘Reedjuvinate’ holder system, reeds have been lasting months. That said, they aren’t a good choice for the Drake mouthpieces, so upon recommendation from Aaron Drake, I’m moving to ‘Rigotti Gold’ reeds. Rigotti has a lot more categories to choose from for strength, so I did more homework to try to ‘guess’ for what strength I needed … will see if I was right or not.
Ligature: Drake mouthpieces come with ligatures of his own design. They work, but not optimal in my opinion. So I went to my current choice for ligatures … ‘Silverstein’. They made a difference on my Guardala mouthpieces, but even more on the Drake. Absolutely love them.
Not sure if I’m going to see my ‘Guardala’ mouthpieces. Certainly could recoup my expenses for the Drakes, and then some.