This page contains a full review of the Sparx Cornet Mouthpiece Series by Alexandra Kerwin of alexandrakwerin.com.
The Sparx Cornet Mouthpiece
Produced by Ted Sparks’ Musical Services
and Gary Radtke of GR Technology
Sparx Flying (from Canada to New Zealand)!
The search is over! After years of swapping from Eb to Bb cornet and finding it very uncomfortable, I have finally found a solution thanks to Ted Sparks and his amazing mouthpieces.
Across many brass playing forums and websites there have been many discussions on soprano mouthpieces and indeed where the soprano sits sound wise in a brass band. Many players these days opt for a brighter sound, which enables easier high register playing so players often go for trumpet mouthpieces with an adaptor or that have been modified for the cornet. This can then result in the soprano being overpowering and having a sound that doesn’t blend with the rest of the section. Using a very shallow mouthpiece can in some players also reduce the amount of control over quieter passages and make it much more difficult to be in tune over the whole range of the instrument.
On the other hand however, having a deep cup mouthpiece can be great for blending with rest of the cornet section but what happens when you need the projection and power in the upper register? Then the player can resort to exerting excess pressure resulting in a reduced register. The same is true although to a lesser degree on the Bb cornet.
I like many other soprano players am on a quest to find the ideal mouthpiece. It seems that you need to sacrifice something in order to gain something else. i.e. buy a shallow mouthpiece and you gain the ability to play in a register that only dogs can hear but you then sacrifice a mellow cornet sound and vice versa. Ultimately I need two mouthpieces that are compatible for both my Bb cornet and my soprano. I can be playing a very technical solo on my Bb cornet then immediately I could be playing a slow melody on the soprano, I therefore need mouthpieces that are compatibile for both instruments.
It was having been involved in one of the aforementioned discussions on a brass forum that Ted Sparks contacted me. I had heard many good things about these mouthpieces from Jens Lindemann and Ian Porthouse and I was intrigued about what these mouthpieces would be like. I like most women, love to be sent parcels and pressies! I eagerly awaited the parcel from Canada and ran in quickly with the package. They shone beautifully in the New Zealand sunshine. Ted sent the Sparx 2B Soloist mouthpiece, the Sparx 2 mouthpiece and a 2C for my soprano.
I myself had recently tried a trumpet mouthpiece on my sop and whilst it did extend my range slightly, I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice my usual mellow tone. As soon as I played the 2C I was hugely pleased with the tone that it delivered. I was tentative about ‘going upstairs’ so to speak as I didn’t want to be disappointed about a lack of response in the upper register but I needn’t have worried as it was a luscious sound with no loss of register.
I tried the soloist mouthpiece next for the Bb cornet and again was delighted at the responsiveness and this gave a very impressive tone throughout all registers. I am used to a very deep cup on my Bb cornet so I actually preferred the Sparx 2 mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is also everything I have looked for in a mouthpiece for my Bb. I recently gave a premiere of Simon Kerwin’s work for Bb cornet called ‘Grand Master’ with this mouthpiece, it gave me all the projection and free blowing qualities that the solo requires, this was in the middle of a concert programme where I was playing soprano so using both Sparx mouthpieces worked beautifully and I didn’t struggle to adapt to the different instruments.
As there have been a lot of discussions and indeed criticism of players’ sound quality recently in the band press, I would urge cornet players, soprano players in particular to think of the tone they produce and not to sacrifice one of our greatest assets just so we can play a top Z loud enough to shatter a champagne flute!
Alexandra Kerwin 2005