There comes a point where no matter how many scales, finger exercises and hours behind the music stand you have, you’ll need enhanced accessories to elevate your performance. But how do you know when it’s time to move to a new trumpet mouthpiece, clarinet reed or set of violin strings? We’ll tell you in this comprehensive accessory upgrade guide.
For woodwind and brass players, the mouthpiece is perhaps the most important accessory on your instrument. It’s the primary tool that takes your air and turns it into sound. As you progress through your musical career, you’ll see that upgrading your mouthpiece can completely change your tone. You can make some pretty impactful changes to your beginner instrument when you transition to a new mouthpiece. Step-up mouthpieces set the stage for an enriched performance because of their material, manufacturing, tip openings and engineering.
Once you make the upgrade to a new mouthpiece, whether it’s a saxophone mouthpiece, clarinet mouthpiece or trumpet mouthpiece you’ll likely notice a few things:
- Warmer, more even tone
- Improved intonation
- Ease of blending
- Improved projection
- More reed choices
If you’re ready to enhance your sound, here’s what we recommend:
Here’s the bottom line: if you play a reed instrument, you should know that better reeds make a better sound. Once you’ve gotten to know your instrument, you’ve probably discovered what type of music you enjoy playing the most. Are you interested in playing jazz or do you want to stick to a more traditional style? The anatomy, material and strength of a saxophone reed or clarinet reed all define your upgrade strategy.
The vamp is the inclined “peeled” part of the reed leading to the tip. A long vamp makes the reed flexible and responsive, which is a great choice for jazz musicians. A concert clarinetist, on the other hand, may prefer a shorter vamp for improved focus.
Are you getting into marching band? Perhaps it’s time to move away from the traditional cane reed and go with a synthetic reed. As their technology improves, they’ve become the most reliable reed because they’re unaffected by humidity and weather. This is PERFECT for musicians in marching band who’ll play rain or shine.
This is one of the most important things to consider as you upgrade. Identifying the right balance for your skill level is essential. Your experience really comes into play here because a stronger/stiff reed will take advanced breath support and embouchure. The strength also dictates how bright or rich your tone is.
As a beginner musician you may have played on or likely heard of Rico Orange Box, Mitchell Lurie and Rigotti. As you look to upgrade, explore Vandoren, Rico Royal and Legere Signature Series as additional options.
Upgrading violin strings or other orchestral strings can have less to do with where you are in your musicianship, and more to do with the specific sound you’re hoping to achieve. As you decide which strings to use, keep material and tension at the forefront of your mind.
Gut core strings - Gut strings are known for their warm sound and rich overtones. Their advantage is their pliability, but with pliability comes sensitivity. Gut strings are not forgiving to temperature change or humidity. But if you’re looking to take your playing to the next step, gut core strings might just be your best bet. We’d go with Pirastro Oliv if a gut core string is the sound you’re after.
Synthetic core strings - If you’re not quite ready to commit to gut core strings, synthetic core strings are a promising option. These strings are made with a kind of nylon. They share many of the tonal characteristics of gut strings but are more stable in pitch and have a faster response. Consider trying out Thomastik Dominant 4/4 strings.
Steel core strings - If you’re not taking the classical genre route, you might be interested in steel core strings. This material has a quick response with a clear and brilliant tone. Fiddlers tend to embrace the quality of sound from this material. We’d recommend trying D’Addario Helicore strings for violin and cello.
Medium gauge - As a beginner player you likely played medium gauge strings. The advantage of this type of string to an emerging musician is its balanced tone and response.
Heavy gauge - Looking to bring more volume to your performance? A thicker gauge will do just that by providing a fuller, more powerful sound to your instrument.
Light Gauge - If it’s a brighter tone you’re after, go with a lighter gauge. Often a player will notice the sound of their strings is dull or unfocused, so he or she will explore a lighter tension string to achieve the desired sound.
No matter what instrument you play, it’s exciting to progress in your musical abilities! If it’s time to upgrade your accessories, we’re always here to help. Contact our knowledgeable staff who can discuss the best option for you and your instrument.