The news of these new products came to me in an email from a friend and fellow player Rob Portnoy. I have had the pleasure of playing with Rob on many occasions in the showrooms of Atlantic City. He often played the low reed chair but is equally adept at playing all the woodwinds. Rob’s email was sincere and passionate and made a good case for checking out Aaron Drake’s mouthpieces. I did just that for the purpose of review here.
The website for Drake Ceramic Mouthpieces (Formerly Drake Ceramic Instruments) offers many soundclips as well as thorough explanations of the products themselves. Prior to actually playing on one of these mouthpieces, I did a bit of homework on his site. Following the trial, Aaron was very accommodating with regards to a few questions I had.
A Vintage Resin New York .108 tenor sax prototype was sent out to me for the purpose of this review. The packaging was attractive and functional. I particularly liked the corrugated plastic storage case for the mouthpiece. I had not seen one like this before. The mouthpiece came in one box and two Aaron Drake Signature Series Ligatures came in the other.
The ligatures came to me in two varieties, one with an added ceramic plate and the other made entirely of the vintage resin material. The O ring designs slipped on easily and snuggly. This was also my first experience with this design. I found that I did prefer the “double rail” ligature without the added ceramic plate. They both worked well but the latter gave me a more direct, punch which I liked. The added ceramic plate seemed to smooth out the sound, which many may prefer.
The mouthpiece itself was a true pleasure to play. Although it is a hard rubber style mouthpiece, the beak was relatively low and the width somewhat narrow – something I liked as I tend to prefer metal mouthpieces on tenor sax. The line and response felt very even. There was a free-blowing feeling with just enough resistance to aid in control. The altissimo and subtone both felt easy to control. I did notice the low or non-existent baffle made it a bit more challenging to get the extreme altissimo out. This is not a fault of the mouthpiece but a compromise I often encounter when playing on mouthpieces without large baffles.
The sound characteristic of the mouthpiece was very interesting indeed. The resin is made with ceramic particles added. The sound is similar to hard rubber, yet not exactly the same. It also did not feel “tubby” as some hard rubber mouthpieces can. In the end, the sound was full, very clear and easily shaped. I could easily and comfortably play this piece on a gig.
In the end, I was favorably impressed by the piece I tried. The simplicity of design and packaging seems reflected in the projected price tag of $310 for the NY model. The quality is high and the price tag low for a custom mouthpiece made entirely in the USA. Certainly much time has gone into the development of this seemingly “simple” product.
I look forward to having the opportunity to try other products from Aaron Drake and Drake Ceramic Instruments. Thank you to Aaron for the opportunity to try his products.
You can find out more about Drake Ceramic Mouthpieces at DrakeCeramicMouthpieces.com