David Monette designs trumpets and trumpet mouthpieces.
Monette got into the business when he realized that "for centuries, wind players have been using instruments and mouthpieces that are inconsistent in pitch, timbre, and resistance as they play from soft to loud and from low to high. Almost universally, we have had to play 'high on the pitch' and muscle the instrument around, or we have had to use alternate fingerings to play in tune. Various physical techniques, such as the 'pivot system' have been used by players to shift the pitch-center of their bodies to compensate for the inconsistent pitch-center of their equipment. This affects not only range and endurance, but also sound, response, and intonation."
In other words, for centuries, a big part of trumpet technique has consisted of an effortful array of compensations for the instrument's built-in inconsistencies. You have to continually shift your posture and adjust your embouchure to maintain good intonation etc.
So for centuries, it was universally accepted that these compensations were just part of playing the trumpet. But Monette suspected that everyone was working much too hard. He went back to the drawing board, questioned centuries' worth of traditional instrument design, and investigated whether a better mouthpiece would make trumpet players' lives easier.
His innovations have resulted in a massive improvement over the old standard, one that defies dispute and which he articulates simply and clearly in this brief video:
Here's the image Monette used to demonstrate the differences in seated posture when playing octave C's using a traditional mouthpiece vs. one of his own design.
While I don't play the trumpet and I imagine that most of you don't, either, the superiority of Monette's designs should be immediately apparent.
So why don't all trumpet players use his mouthpieces? You'd think anyone would be an idiot to choose a mouthpiece that requires so much extra work from the player. But have a look at the mouthpieces on offer at The Woodwind & Brasswind, one of the world's largest instrument sellers. They have 174 different trumpet mouthpieces in their inventory, spanning 21 brands.
Monette is not even among their offerings.
I'll ask again: why wouldn't you play on a Monette?
I can think of a couple of really bad reasons.
Monette's mouthpieces are pricier than the average. A traditional trumpet mouthpiece will set you back somewhere from $100 to $180, whereas for a Monette you'll spend upwards of $250.
But just think about the price you pay if you don't spend that money: hours in the practice room developing strategies to compensate for inferior equipment, then an entire career of tying yourself up in knots instead of just making beautiful music. All so you could save about a hundred bucks.
The other bad reason that comes to mind is that you've already spent a year or ten playing on a traditional mouthpiece and you don't want the hassle of changing your approach. You've invested a lot of time practicing those compensatory moves and figuring out how to produce consistent intonation and a pleasing timbre despite your inferior mouthpiece.
Switching to a Monette mouthpiece would most assuredly mean a major technique change. You'll have to retrain years of deeply ingrained postural and embouchure habits. But the result is guaranteed to include a far less effortful overall approach and secure intonation, with all that energy and focus that used to go into those compensations freed up so you can invest them in expressive nuance and enhanced stamina.
Seems like a no-brainer to me. But the vast majority of trumpet players still do not play on Monette mouthpieces.
In spite of the fact that the best ones do.
I'm obviously sharing this because there are many implications here for what a similar paradigm shift would entail for us as singers. I'll leave you to consider what those might be and will offer my point of view in the next post.