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!


  1. Interesting facts. Short of blowing through a box of each tenor reed type myself and arriving at my own conclusions -- and of course this is the best way for me to find out, I am still curious: can you comment about the design philosophy Rico designers had in mind for each of your tenor saxophone reeds?

  2. Here's my random tought:
    I just switched to the Rico Reserve reeds. Great reeds. I HOPE YOU'LL KEEP MAKING THEM WITH THE SAME STANDARD.
    Some years ago I switched to the Rico Jazz Select. Unfortunately after a few years I had impression that their standard had deteriorated.