My dirty little secret is that I've been playing a Monette B2 (STC1, the weight designed for non-Monette trumpets) since the fall of 1998. I usually apologize by saying that "I am experimenting with it" but after a couple of years, I guess you have to face the fact that you are actually playing on it. I got it in partial trade for a trumpet I was selling without ever having played a Monette mouthpiece before, just so I could see what all the fuss was about. The B2, according to Monette, is similar to the Bach 1.25C. It tends to the deep side and has a large bore. I'd been playing Schilke 18s and been trying to move smaller anyway (I played a Schilke 20D--a madman I was--in college) and a Bach 1.25 is about Schilke 16 or so. I gave it an opened-minded hearing, did the exercises like the three octave C's that Monette has in his mouthpiece propaganda, and got a friend and went to a place in which I often play and had him sit next to me, stand in front 25 feet and then go to the back of the hall and compare things I was playing with my Schilke 18 and the Monette B2. The frightening conclusion was that sitting next to me, he liked the my sound on the 18 (like I did), but from both spots out front, he liked the B2 hands down. No question. I duplicated the experiment with a different friend on a different day, and, believe it or not, he said exactly the same thing. I thought I had a pretty decent sound on the Schilke 18 but figured if I sounded that much better on the B2, I ought to figure out how to play on it. With other mouthpieces I didn't like opening up the throats (perhaps because I play a Schilke B1, a large ML bore trumpet, and I needed to get some resistance somewhere), but the Monette has worked fine. I lost a bit of range at first, like anytime you switch to a larger mouthpiece (although this wasn't larger...), but it came back. I've played on it since, with the exception of those few gigs (or even songs) where I have to play lots of high notes. I've never sounded better, so I've been told. The scary thing is that apparently one's experience behind the horn can be quite different from someone listening on the other side.
So that's my experience with Monette. I am not sure what he does differently (probably a combination of a number of very small things) but the mouthpieces are different.
In March 2004, I saw a used silver plated Kanstul copy of a Monette B2 Prana advertised by a private party for $35 and I jumped on it. Kanstul makes digital copies of many popular mouthpieces which are alleged to be exact duplicates and sells them at reasonable prices. The Prana is Dave Monette's latest mouthpiece which he sells for a breath-taking $299 and has a waiting list. Trying to find out what separates the Prana from the standard Monette is difficult, at least through officials channels. The Prana (at least the Kanstul copy I have which I assume to be accurate) has a shallower cup (like maybe a Schilke B, maybe just a touch deeper), but is clearly shallower than the Monette B2, has a mammoth throat (I've never measured it--it would probably scare me to death), and a wide open backbore. It immediately, despite the shallower cup, gave my lower register (i.e., from D beneath the staff and lower) a richness and security far improved over the B2. Again, I had to grow into my upper register, the bore and backbore requiring noticeable more air or you lose the pitch. In addition, it was easier to add an edge, if I wanted it, to the register about the staff (again, I assume because of the shallower cup) without sacrificing tone quality in the staff. Once the adjustment was made I preferred the mouthpiece over my real Monette B2. It wasn't even close, really. I've played it regularly since.
I have spoken with real Monette loyalists who insist that Dave's $299 version is even better than my $35 copy. This may be true... but following the adage that one should never test drive a car more expensive than you can afford, I may never know. I suppose if I should stumble on a real Prana on eBay for $175 (gah!) I'd might spring for it, but then again, sanity may win the wrestling match with my checkbook and I may just take a deep breath and go practice more.
In July 2006, I switched back from the Prana to the standard B2. I was working on something that was in the low to middle range for which I wanted a very round lyrical full dark sound and tried the standard B2 again. It sounded much better than the Prana for some reason. I think it has to do with how our ears take any mouthpiece that sounds differently than what we are used to and slowly we change technique until we are match the sound in our head (for good or bad), regardless of the mouthpiece. So I'll work with this for a while again, and see what happens.
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