Lee Adams from his custom shop in Atlanta, as well as the Jerome Callet trumpets and Flugels, exclusively offers the Northern Brass Mouthpieces by GR at Callet.com. The brief on these designs was to create a range of mouthpieces that can help to give a really solid upper register while at the same time solving some of the problems that are often inherent with these types.
Many ‘lead’ style mouthpieces while helping the upper register to slot and to give a feeling of solidity, achieve this at the expense of sound quality across the lower and middle registers. I was very interested to find out how the Northern Brass mouthpieces might be different and to try a few for myself…
I generally play on a .660 inner diameter (3C-ish) mouthpiece for most things, so Lee has sent me a few different models to try, all approximately that size so that I can acclimatise to them quicker. There are 2 different rim shapes: The #3 is what we would describe as a ‘standard’ width, slightly rounded and with quite a gentle inner bite. The #4 has a slightly wider, semi-flat rim also with a pretty gentle bite.
For each of these 2 rims, I also have 2 cup depths to try, a *** which is a shallow cup and a **** which is medium shallow. All models have the GR #1 backbore which is focused and flexible.
I started off with the medium shallow cup and the more standard rim: 3-66****. This is nearest in specification to what I am generally used to, and I normally find it most helpful when getting into a new range to start off with a good point of reference.
First of all, I was struck by the clarity and depth of sound through the middle register as I played some long tones and simple flexibilities to get acclimatised. That focus, and core of sound actually got richer as I moved up the registers too. Articulation was easy across the range and this immediately felt like a comfortable blow.
From here I moved onto the medium shallow cup with the slightly wider semi-flat rim: 4-66****. The slightly wider contact area on the chops gives a massive feeling of comfort and the placement of the high point on this model makes it feel like a slightly smaller mouthpiece than the 3-66****. This initially felt odd to me but after playing for a while and allowing my chops to adjust, found that as my ease of flexibility and core of sound increased, my effort levels decreased. The perfect combination! If I had been trying a stack of mouthpieces in a trumpet shop, I probably would have skipped right over this rim shape after the first note. However, I was really glad that for the purposes of this review I persevered for longer. It was definitely worth it.
Next up are the shallower cup models, first of all sticking with the #4 rim: 4-66***. This mouthpiece makes me nervous! I have never really got on with the shallower mouthpieces that I have tried to play, often finding that I am bottoming out very easily and losing far too much sound quality than I would be happy with. On first inspection, this does not look any different. I was again surprised when I began to play. The sound was immediately brighter than the **** cups that I had just been playing, but the solidity of sound through the registers remained. Sizzle in the high register was easy, but not at the total expense of core sound quality. Also, the shape of the rim and inner bite still allow for that comfortable feel that you do not always get on these more specialised upper register mouthpieces.
Finally, I tried the 3-66***: This also has the shallow cup, but with the slightly more rounded rim. The thing that immediately strikes me about this model is ‘volume’! Brightness, tonal core, flexibility and articulation are all easy, but the efficiency is incredible. Yes, the upper register sizzles as you would want from this kind of mouthpiece, but the volume and projection were just so easy.
These mouthpieces are all available in .630, .640, .650 and .660 inner diameters, and there is also now a slightly deeper cup available too. Looking at the range as a whole, you have to say that Northern Brass in collaboration with GR have really achieved their goal in creating high efficiency mouthpieces that fill a gap in the market – mouthpieces that are designed to give you the solidity in the upper register while at the same time allowing you to keep your core sound, flexibility and articulation. Exceptional!