Monday, July 13, 2009

Random Thoughts...

Random Thoughts on Mouthpieces, Reeds and Other Stuff
By Mike Zucek

Yes. I know. Judging from this blog’s title, it sounds like I couldn’t come up with a suitable topic this month; and that would be exactly the case! I’ve got a horrible case of “writer’s block”, and thought if I just started putting down thoughts that randomly came to mind, I could work through it. So here goes:

· Arnold Brilhart, designer of many famous woodwind mouthpieces, was actually part of the “Manhattan Project” to develop the first atomic bomb. His expertise with early forms of injection molded plastics led to his involvement.
· Rico cuts ALL its reeds with natural diamond cutters instead of the more common carbide cutters. Cane is a very abrasive material and wears out carbide cutters very quickly. The long life of diamond cutters makes for a product superior in consistency.
· At one time, Rico made a reed line for the Japanese market called “Nova”. These were Mitchell Lurie clarinet and Frederick L. Hemke sax reeds packaged as a private label brand for Yamaha.
· Getting back to Arnold Brilhart; as far as we can tell he made the first mass produced synthetic woodwind reeds. These date back to just after WWII and were injection molded plastic with a molded-in “grain” on the cut. They were either silver or gold in color and were sold under the “Enduro” brand.
· In addition to making “Roy J. Maier” reeds as a private label brand for The Selmer Co. in the seventies and eighties, Rico also marketed the same reeds as “RJM” brand reeds in many export markets.
· Rico produced a synthetic reed in the early 1980’s called “Rico-Plex”. These were actually produced from the same molds as Arnold Brilhart “Enduro” reeds but in a “natural” cane color.
· Lastly, when Rico first introduced the Brilhart-designed Rico Royal “Metalite” and “Graftonite” mouthpieces in the mid-eighties, we used to demonstrate the strength of their material by intentionally bouncing one off a hard surface to prove it wouldn’t break. (I remember repeatedly doing this at the Mid-West clinic Rico display!) At any rate, we once had a visit from the staff of a very well-known music trade magazine. Being eager to show off the new mouthpieces and their ability to withstand harsh treatment, one of our top executives let loose with the “unbreakability demonstration” by throwing a Graftonite mouthpiece against the wall in the production area. The mouthpiece hit the wall, bounced back and hit the executive square in the forehead and then hit the floor and bounced around. Sure enough, the mouthpiece didn’t break, but our executive needed some first-aid to stop the bleeding!

“See you” next month!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rico… global and/or local!?

Dealing with artists all over the world, I frequently have musicians from one part of the globe asking about the situation of Rico in other corners of our planet.
A simple fact is that more and more players (whatever their profile is) are exposed to Rico and therefore can test and choose what works best for them from our reed line.
Rico is not ONLY played in North America by jazz players! We have more and more top classical orchestra players from Europe or Asia… and of course USA and Canada using Rico reeds. RICO is a GLOBAL brand not only repertoire wise but also geographically wise. That’s why Rico remains the leading reed manufacturer worldwide.

Now, can we define specific trends when dealing with musicians from different countries and musical cultures? Of course! And that’s why it makes our job even more interesting!
Without speaking about specific “schools”, there are facts that we take into account when collaborating internationally with musicians or in our R&D approach.
Here are a few examples:

  • Germany with a specific clarinet system that requires adequate mouthpiece and therefore reeds. Rico designed the Reserve German reed for this purpose.
  • England with a tradition of “more opened” mouthpieces that require softer reeds. Rico worked with English players on the calibration.
  • Another tradition in some Eastern European countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey where the traditional clarinet requires very soft reeds.


Because the saxophone is one of the most recent designed instruments, we don’t have such “musical cultural” gaps when dealing with the international saxophone community.
However, the tradition of classical saxophone being rather recent for example, a lot of players from Eastern Europe came to this repertoire after playing clarinet or bassoon… or jazz and therefore with sometime specific requests when choosing reeds.

For saxophone jazz players, it’s surely the easiest situation when it’s definitively a “globalized” market, mostly dominated by the American jazz tradition.

It’s our job to understand these trends, traditions, musical cultures that make the music world so rich to offer the best to clarinet and saxophone players all over the world when picking a reed.
By understanding the “local” dimension, we enrich our “global” offer!

That’s why Rico is proud to propose such a large selection of reeds and accessories to make sure that each musician can find THE sound he/she is looking for.