O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

Interview with master mouthpiece designer and craftsman Gary Radtke

This interview was conducted via email during 
January and February of 2001.
Gary Radtke is the designer/manufacturer of 
the Chase Sanborn Signature Mouthpieces.
O.J. uses the GR/CS 66 model and is a satisfied customer.
GR will soon be introducing his complete line 
of Compu-Balanced mouthpieces.

What is your background? Where do you live and work? How did you become interested in tools?
My background includes being a trumpet performer, teacher, High School Band director, Music Department head and 20 plus years of machine tool building, tool making, manufacturing, and design. I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I live between Milwaukee and Madison in a small community called Dousman. I own and operate GR Technologies.

I have been interested in mechanical devices since infancy. I started playing the trumpet at age 8. My grandfather had Al Hirt records and I loved them so trumpet was my choice. I played trumpet and French horn in high school.

In 1972 I entered the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh as a Biology Major (pre medicine program). I took several music classes and had my first trumpet lesson for Allen K. Butcher, Professor of trumpet. The following year I changed my major to music. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education Degree, a major in trumpet and a minor in flute and percussion. I had a very strong Music Theory, Composition and Arranging background. After College I traveled on the road, furthermore, backing up big name acts, arranging, composing, copy work, and some studio work. After that I was a High School Band Director for several years. I left teaching to join a company that had an Orchestra. This is where my manufacturing background got started. I continued to play the trumpet and learn the skilled trades.

TEACHERS
Allen K Butcher, former Professor of Trumpet at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh was my first private teacher. Mr. Butcher is a former student of Vincent Cichowicz and Bill Adam. Mr. Butcher was a very good musician and teacher, his teaching is responsible for my concept of sound. His teaching inspired me to become a music major. I am still in contact with Mr. Butcher. He is in his 70's and still active performing and teaching. I am also very close to his son Paul A. Butcher. Paul is a remarkably gifted trumpet player, musician, teacher, and composer. He teaches at Southeastern College in Lakeland Florida. In 2000 Paul's student, Phillip Lassiter won the ITG jazz solo competition.

Dennis Najoom, Co-Principal Trumpet with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Besson Performing artist. I studied with Mr. Najoom during my summer breaks while in college. Mr. Najoom helped me gain ground after changing to a music major. His musical style and teaching really helped me to become a much better musician. I played naturally but my music needed work. I came to the right teacher. The next summer we worked on orchestral excerpts and the results awarded me with a great audition and a spot in the University Chamber Orchestra. The last summer I worked on my senior recital music. I played a contemporary Bb trumpet piece, a piccolo trumpet concerto, a C trumpet concerto, some brass works, and an improvised jazz piano and fluegelhorn duet. The recital went well. I am still in contact with Mr. Najoom and he has visited my shop.

Renold O. Schilke, Schilke Music Products and former Chicago Symphony Orchestra member. I studied with Mr. Schilke when I was doing some very demanding shows and lead work in the late 1970's and early 1980's. His concept of the natural approach to trumpet playing helped me endure the demanding playing schedule. He was an amazing teacher and always very kind and warm to me. I was fortunate to have had that opportunity.

What advice can you offer to someone searching for a new mouthpiece?
Make a plan. Ask yourself these questions: What do I have? What do I need? What are my playing needs? What are my strength and weaknesses? What specific problems do I need to address? Have I had any physical changes such as an injury, face, teeth or body structure? Knowing that there is no one mouthpiece that is perfect for every situation. What am I willing to compromise? Any great mouthpiece is the best compromise for that player. Answer these questions: Know yourself and your playing requirements. Do your homework and research. Have a concept of sound in your head.

In 1990 I had a complete mouth reconstruction. I had too many teeth for my jaw to support. I had 8 teeth pulled and braces for many years. The braces pulled my existing perfect teeth back and pushed them further into my jawbone. I have a wire glued behind my front teeth and I wear upper and lower retainers every night. Having to learn to play the trumpet all over again had changed my thinking. Before everything was natural and easy. Now I can understand the player's problems much better. It is this situation that taught me all I know about mouthpieces and dealing with change. It also led me to start GR Technologies.

What can one expect in the way of improvement from a mouthpiece?
First we must find a rim that matches the face. From there we need to get a mouthpiece with the correct blow resistance. Last, the mouthpiece needs to have the proper sound for the player's needs and be a good match to the player and equipment.

The results should be better accuracy, slotting, intonation, and sound.

How do you know when you've "found it"?
You've found the right mouthpiece when you don't have to think about the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece and the person become one. Then you can concentrate on the music not the equipment.

Is it a life long search?
It doesn't have to be a lifelong search. Just follow a plan and use your common sense. If you work hard and search you will find what you are looking for.

What is the timeframe that can reasonably be expected to break in a new mouthpiece? Should it feel good right away? What advise can you offer during the adjustment period?
A new mouthpiece should feel good immediately and get better over the next two weeks. It may still improve after that point. Most people adapt quickly. When making a mouthpiece change you must make a commitment to the new mouthpiece for at least 60 days. Take all your other mouthpieces, put them in plastic cups, fill the cups with water, and place them in the freezer. If you get the urge to go back to your old mouthpiece you will have to defrost them, by that time the urge will have passed. Warning, do not increase your practice time, adjust first. Allow your body to adapt a little at a time to avoid problems.

There are some simple exercises to help to adapt to a new mouthpiece. I learned these from Bill Adam when going through my return to the trumpet after the mouth reconstruction. One simple exercise is to remove the tuning slide and place the mouthpiece in the receiver. Start with soft breath attacks on the lead pipe. The pitch is concert E flat. Each time make the sound more vibrant and just blow the embouchure into place. Relax, breathe deep and focus the face. Remember to keep everything open and just blow. You can augment this study up the overtone series.

How much does the horn influence the selection of a mouthpiece? Will some mouthpieces work with some horns and not others?
The horn does influence the selection of a mouthpiece. Especially the C, Eb, D, F, G, A, and Bb piccolo. When speaking of the Bb trumpet bore and design can make a difference, although, the single most important area is the gap.

Yes, some mouthpieces will work with some horns and not others. I recommend different backbores for the smaller horns.

How do I know if the gap is not optimal? Is it worth having adjusted?
The gap is not optimal if the horn does not slot or it feels too resistant. I have a simple formula to use for setting the gap. This has never failed me. Measure the exit wall of the mouthpiece. It is usually about .020" to .030". Then measure the step in the receiver and leadpipe (effective leadpipe wall). Multiply the exit wall of the mouthpiece by 5 and the leadpipe wall by 1.5. Example, .022 mouthpiece wall X 5 = .110". Now the leadpipe, .020" leadpipe wall x 1 .5 = .030". Add the .110" and the .030" and you get an optimal gap of .140". If you are +/- .025" things should still work fine. If you go much more a bit of resistance will be added but the horn will speak and slot. If the gap is too little slotting can be a problem and the horn will feel less resistant. It is definitely worth having the gap adjusted.

How did you develop the computer program that you use to design your mouthpieces?
For years I was analyzing mouthpieces and began to look for patterns in good designs. I mentioned my findings to Brian Scriver and this concept began. Brian encouraged me to continue to develop these ideas. Several years ago I had done mouthpiece designs for trumpet players and had other mouthpiece makers make the mouthpiece. Then after getting acquainted with Charles A Macaluso I tried to put one of his designs in terms that the mouthpiece makers could understand. Mr. Macaluso and I found it difficult to communicate with the mouthpiece makers about the mouthpiece. At this point we worked back and forth for many months on the parameters that mathematically defined the mouthpiece. The efforts of our teamwork produced the mouthpiece parameters and mouthpiece design programs. The difficult part was to come. Putting the math to the Brass.

Mr. Macaluso is the author of, The Trumpet Construction and Performance. Mr. Macaluso is a trumpeter and a mechanical engineer. He was graduated with Honor from Stevens Institute of Technology with Mechanical Engineer and Master of Science degrees. He also was graduated from the Columbia University Executive Program in Business Administration. He is a registered professional engineer, a patentee, an author of numerous articles and technical papers, an elected Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honorary society. He is listed in "Who’s Who In Finance and Industry". Mr. Macaluso was the Operating Office and Member of the Board of Directors of a Fortune 1000 Corporation. He is now retired and in as independent Management Consultant. He is also the founder and active leader of a 17-piece orchestra.

What are some of the design parameters you have identified that affect the performance of a mouthpiece? How do they affect the feel and performance?

MOUTHPIECE DESIGN PROGRAM PARAMETERS - GR Technologies

INPUT DATA

RIM
     1) Inside Diameter/2 (Surrogate)     r3
     2) Outside Diameter/2                r02
     3) High Point Diameter/2             r0
     4) Bite Radius                       Rb
     5) Curvature Radius                  Rc
     6) Outer Radius                      R0
     7) Rim Angle                         a Alpha
     8) Relief                            L1

CUP
     9) Cup Depth                         Lc
     10) Cup Conical Length               L2
     11) Cup Angle                        b Beta
     12) Throat Depth                     Lt
     13) Cylindrical Bore Diameter/2      rb
     14) Throat Maximum Diameter/2        rt
     15) Throat Angle                     g Gamma

BACKBORE
     16) Mouthpiece Length                Lm
     17) Backbore Length                  Lbb
     18) Exit Transition Length           Lex
     19) Initial Taper                    T1
     20) Average Taper                    T2
     21) Exit Diameter/2                  rex


(click on picture to see a larger image)

All the parameters are important. The most important parameters to the trumpet player are the ones that deal with the rim. The most important part of the mouthpiece is the match between the face and the brass. This area is player specific. It is different for every player and no one way is right or wrong.

These parameters were designed to mathematically define the mouthpiece and allow for communication between the musician and the mouthpiece maker. I have specific parameters that I manipulate in my design program to get a specific results. I am the only person with the complete understanding and knowledge to do these manipulations.

What kind of equipment do you use to create the mouthpieces?
I own and use all the tools of a journeyman toolmaker, gauge maker, and machine tool builder/repairman. Including inspection equipment, gauging equipment, indicators, micrometers, hard gauges, fixtures, and many built by me for my own use. I have a complete machine shop in Dousman, Wisconsin with several CNC Lathes, CNC Mill, surface grinder, CNC engraver, automated polishing equipment, ultrasonic cleaning equipment, and state of the art inspection equipment. I use several CAD-CAM programs to design and communicate with the CNC equipment. I also have digitizing, reverse engineering programs as well as programs designed by us to analyze and design mouthpieces.

What are the unique qualities of a GR Mouthpiece? What do you strive for when designing a mouthpiece?
My mouthpieces are designed with the computer program. There are no speed bumps to get in the way. They blow very evenly from top to bottom, slot very well, the sound has a core full of overtones, play very efficiently, articulation is great, and will aid the player to play correctly.

What are you doing right now?
I am working on new manufacturing technology and a symphonic mouthpiece line.

Any other workers in the workshop?
I have help from time to time but I do all designs, machine set up tooling, and inspection. Brian Scriver does a great deal of work on the marketing and sales end. Brian has an excellent grasp of this new design concept. Mr. Macaluso is always there to give me direction on business; furthermore, we are always discussing new ideas and my R&D results. My Mother Joan Radtke, a Tailoring instructor at a local College is responsible for the design and production of the GR Horn Bags and Hats. My Father Bob Radtke, a retired Cost Accountant helps out when the fish are not biting. My father has an extensive background in cost accounting and he has helped me get structure in this area. My wife Lorraine, helps out with the books, processing orders, and arranges shipments to and from plating.

Are you in collaboration on any new projects with any pro players?
I developed the Chase Sanborn line with Chase. This line features mouthpieces developed for the professional musician. Chase has very diverse playing requirements and our goal was to accommodate all situations. We accomplished this by using the same rim parameters, alpha angle, and L1 for both the 66 and 66S. This allows the player to switch between them to change the sound and keep the feel the same. The S cup has a small cup volume but the same blow resistance as the 66. This was done to keep the feel the same if you needed to switch between them. The Chase Sanborn mouthpieces have a Compu-Balanced Designed Cup and that is why they slot well, have great intonation, and allow for an easy change in tone color. See the Brass Tactics website for more information, www.brasstactics.net .

The GR Compu-Balanced Mouthpiece Line has a different goal and playing characteristics than the Chase Sanborn line. I offer the S, MS, M, MX, L, LX, MC and others. These are designed for use in the Bb trumpet to accommodate all players from students to pros. The S has a small cup volume with a somewhat high alpha angle. The alpha angle drops and L1 changes as you go to a larger cup volume. This allows a player to find the correct cup volume and rim feel for their embouchure.

I am working on the GR Signature Mouthpiece Line. There are several ready to go and more on the way. These are the mouthpieces designed for top pros. I will have more information in the near future. This keeps changing, in fact, while doing this interview I have been approached buy several top pros and manufactures.

The GR Symphonic Mouthpiece Line is coming soon.

I have a very special project with very special player in the works. This is for a signature symphonic mouthpiece. I am working with Steve Haefner of the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra. Steve went to the Eastman School of Music, he is one of the strongest players you will ever hear. He has the unique ability to play the Brandenburg twice with out missing a note. Steve is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. We are moving forward with this project and it should be ready sometime this year. If you want that big symphonic sound this will be the answer. The only requirement is good chops.

What plans do you have for the future? Are you going to make mouthpieces for other brass instruments?
My top priority is to educate the brass world on the parameters. This will enable them to communicate about the mouthpiece. The biggest problem is trying to figure what they want. The players can not put their feeling into words. So far the parameters have allowed me break through this communication barrier.

I will and have made mouthpieces for other instruments. My program works for all the brass. For now the trumpet is my first priority and I will stay focused on that until I have reached a logical point to move forward. Actually the trumpet is like doing 5 or 6 different instruments. You have the Bb, C, Eb-D, F-G, A-Bb piccolo, the fluegelhorn, and rotary horns.

What is blow resistance?
This is the amount of resistance in the mouthpiece. It is a function of the throat-cylindrical bore and backbore. This number is measured in velocity of head. I use this when analyzing mouthpieces and matching the player to the mouthpiece. The bore size alone doesn't provide me with enough information to accurately make a match. Blow resistance is a function of diameter and length. I also calculate the volume of each mouthpiece. This includes the cup, bore and backbore.

How do you feel about drilling out mouthpieces to change resistance?
Many years ago manufactures made mouthpieces with a small hole and just opened it up to match the player. This solved some problems and caused others. When you open the bore of the mouthpiece you make it longer. This function of length plays an important role in the performance of the mouthpiece. This makes the mouthpiece slot, has an effect on the size of the note center, as well as, intonation.

Another way to decrease resistance is to increase the backbore length and leave the bore (cylindrical bore) the same. This requires expensive backbore reamers and will make the bore shorter. It will make the mouthpiece more flexible. The longer the bore the better it slots, the shorter the more flexible. The question is what are you willing to give up to gain something else? Another way is to let me use my knowledge and the program to do this for you.  If you drill out a GR mouthpiece you will destroy it. The mouthpiece is designed as an entire entity. If you have special requirements I can accommodate you.

Why is the Chase 66 so much more effective than his former Bach 3C?
I don't know the exact year the Bach 3C was designed but lets say the cars of that time would not drive as well as the cars of today. This is due to technology. What makes a rocket go to the moon? What makes a car more efficient? What makes heart and brain surgery possible? It is technology! The same technology we put into the mouthpiece. The cars of today are more efficient as are the Chase Sanborn mouthpieces and the GR Compu-Balanced designs. Vincent Bach was a true genius and only now technology is starting to surpass what he did in the 1920's to 1960's. He did not have computers or even a calculator, just a slide rule.

Can you use the GR mouthpieces on different horns like the C and Piccolo?
I design different mouthpieces for the different pitched horns. Usually the difference is in the backbore and a cup to match that horn.

It is possible to use something that is not designed for that horn as long as it matches you and the horn. If it works use it. This can be done and many people do it. The pro players I deal with usually want a design that matches that horn and their playing needs. Some players require a different mouthpiece for different requirements on the same horn.

Can you make an exact copy of another mouthpiece?
Yes I can but I won't. Most old mouthpieces are not efficient and I am only interested in improving them. There are other problems that come up when trying to copy such as poor machining and no manufacturing datum's. There are several makers that specialize in this area so I do not. To make an exact copy will cost a lot of money. It is very expensive and takes lots of time.

What I do is reverse engineer. I digitize the mouthpiece and get the parameters I need to put them in my program. Then the program will analyze it and I can lay the improved designs over the old version and see the differences. Now I have something I can use to communicate with the player and adjust the parameters to get the desired feel, sound or blow resistance. This can be costly but once it is done I keep the drawing and program on file. I can make it years down the road and it will play the same

What is the biggest problem when switching to a GR mouthpiece?
One word of warning when playing a GR or Chase Sanborn mouthpiece. Take it slowly and let your body adjust. The mouthpiece feels so good and responds so well that some players just can't control themselves. They over do it and suffer the consequences. Remember when you were a child and you got a new bicycle. The next day you rode it as much as possible only to wake up with a sore butt and legs that wouldn't let you walk up stairs. Use common sense! I get phone calls about this phenomenon every day.

Contact info:

GR Mouthpiece Technologies
P.O. Box 96
Dousman, Wisconsin 53118-0096
U.S.A.
(705) 715-7060

Website: www.grmouthpieces.com
o.j  /  c.s - 2001