I thought I'd start a thread about this because our hardware - the horns and mouthpieces we use - seems sometimes to override all else, and so many go looking for that magic horn or mouthpiece that's going to make it all easy. I also wanted to start it because I've been doing some minor tweaks myself, and I thought I'd post some some of my anecdotal observations about it. It's a bit long, but bear with it if you can.
Typically I'm not one to mess with my gear too much. My philosophy had always been to find something that works pretty well, and any other deficiency I might have could be dealt with in the practice room. Then came the day when I had someone custom tailor the gap of a mouthpiece for me, and I began to realize that sometimes even a minor change can have a pretty dramatic impact. I find this to be particularly true of my Schilke B6, which seems to be pretty sensitive to even small changes.
The whole thing started up a little less than a year ago. I had a couple of gigs in a row where things just weren't where I wanted them to be. My accuracy was such that I missed a fair amount, simply from over/under shooting notes, and it would take me half the gig to finally get things dialed in. Additional time in the practice room didn't seem to be helping much either.
With that in mind, I decided to try to find a mouthpiece that might help - I figured part of the issue might be with the round inner rim on my Schilke 14A4, so I did some online research, and decided to give Warburton a call. I spoke with Ken Titmus, who set me up with a 4SVW and a KT backbore, but to that end, I wanted to try a couple of backbores. The 7 didn't do much for me, but I like the KT backbore, but I kept the DKT and EKT, (each seating a bit further, in order KT, DKT, and EKT seating the furthest into the leadpipe, and going from playing tighter to more open) with the idea that I could dial in gap for whatever horn I might have at the time.
To further try to help matters, I've always felt that slotting with the B6 is pretty slippery, so I wanted to try to add some weight here and there to see if that might help. To that end, I have a set of Curry heavy Hex Caps, but even one of them seemed to be a bit much, so I decided to go with just the brass shims and O-rings in valves 1&3. This helped things considerably, but I've always wondered what it might be like to put a brace on the tuning slide, so I ordered the removable tuning slide brace to see if it would dial in slotting a bit more.
So here's where things get interesting. Adding the brace seemed to tighten the horn up a bit, so I've been messing with the shims, and different backbore. I'm heading into the gig tonight with the EKT backbore and no shims, which seems to be a nice combination. I'll post an update to let you know if it got me where I wanted to go.
So, if you've gotten this far, here's the question: At what point do we stop fiddling with hardware and start simply dialing in our own playing to the gear?
I know from past experience that enough time in the practice room can often times help - we'll micro adjust ourselves to the gear to find the maximum efficiency. But I'm also of the belief that even minor changes in hardware can make a difference. Even switching out backbores that internally are dimensionally the same but that have different gaps can make a mouthpiece feel and respond completely different.
Just curious to see how you guys feel about it.