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Bob Ackerman Visits Ted Klum Mouthpieces

To all whom it may concern:
Yesterday Feb 1 , 2014 was an important day for me.
In the afternoon I visited the shop/studio of Saxophonist Ted Klum and Ted Klum Mouthpieces. Having had similar opportunities in the past with many others like the NY Woodwind Company & Penzel Mueller in the 50’s; the Babbitt Company & Elmer Beechler in the 70’s ; Geoff Lawton, Van Doren & Selmer Paris in the 80’s: and many other individuals like Everett Matson, David Hite, Claude Humber, to mention a few; I have a good basis of comparison.
Ted’s place takes a back seat to none. A saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer as well as being facile with the computer, Ted is the true “Renaissance Man”. In the 90’s, as I made the switch from businessman/musician to composer (classical & jazz)/ performer, he conducted several recoding sessions for me for which I am very grateful. His work helped me launch my career as a composer. (www.msrclassics.com Interplay for the latest classical and Flying Under the Radar, for the latest jazz, both albums (3 disks each ) contain many examples of Ted’s work.
We first met on the phone in the early 80’s when I was doing the mouthpiece work myself. By the end of the 80’s I turned things over to him as there was no point in competing with the quality which I already saw in his work and I was really too busy playing, writing and selling good Vintage horns and mouthpieces. In the last 25 years I have been privileged to witness a consistent growth on his part. In the last 10 years I watched the evolution of his own models and own several of them including Acoustimax Altos (that I was involved in the initial testing of), Versitone Acoustimer Alto’s, Focustone and Resotone Acoustimer Tenors, Focustone Acoustimer II Tenors, Focustones Tenors in Brass & Sterling plus many which I have dealt to the general public. As time has gone on I have pulled back some on selling and while I still promote things like Ted’s work, at age 74 I mostly play and write.
Everyone serious about their work should visit and experience Ted’s shop. He has an amazing amount of state of the art tools and machines, a full recording studio with a 1914 Steinway and the ability to let you hear what you really sound like.
I soon hope to do a video in this facility showing serious players some things worth trying in terms of horns and mouthpieces..
For the last 3 years, Ted has had the good fortune of having Sebastian Knox working for him. Trained by Ted, Sebastian is the next generation of this evolution and the two of them as I experienced yesterday are unbeatable. Over the last 3 years I have been studying very carefully all the Vintage models I found interesting. Otto Link Alto & Tenor; Meyer Brothers, NYUSA, USA altos & tenors, Brillhardt Great Necks and other serial #’s Ebolin, Tonilin and Rubber; Goldbeck Sop, Alto & Tenor (Frank Kaspar Goldbeck tenors); Hollywood Gregory’s Model A & Master, Hollywood & Ventura Dukoffs, Rubber Bergs,
and many more! In most cases I had Sebastian tweek them up but retain their original integrity.
When I arrived yesterday I was amazed at how much development had taken place since I was there last. Focustone Handcrafted now have 10 versions. Mine were back around versions one or two. Ted quickly said that I needed version 9 for my style thinking primarily of my new 1946 King Super 20 Tenor. Sebastian & he each made me one and I had to get both as they both were great on this horn. A year ago I got a Tonamax Tenor for my TenorMadness tenor. Now he has the Tonamax for Alto also.
Alto players beware the Tonamax is killer. These pieces are machined from the best German Rubber which starts out in a solid rod.
Just go on Ted’s website and listen and watch him playing How Deep is the Ocean. As a player, you have to realize first that these are made by a guy who can really play. This is the NEW STATE of the ART!

Thanks Ted as I could go on and on!

Sincerely,
Bob Ackerman
 

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I'm with you 100%, Bob. Since we last ran into each other at Ted's old shop, I've been to the new one a couple of times and had a good amount of custom work done by Sebastian and Ted. They really are some of the best guys around. The alto piece Sebastian made for me last time is the best mouthpiece I have ever played on, and I'm still thrilled that I get to play it every day.
 

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Thanks very much for the interesting story about your visit, Bob. I notice that you said: "Focustone Handcrafted now have 10 versions". I'm wondering how on earth you would decide which version you would choose if you were unable to try them out!
 

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Hi Bob, I had a similar experience at Ted' place. I had the opportunity to try several models of his mouthpieces and settled on a Tonamax 6. The groove is phenomenal at his place and I got all the help I could ask for. This is how it's supposed to be.
Just to jog your memory, we used to play at a session in Lyndhurst at Bob Poeschl's apartment with Roy Cumming, Mike Mellilo, Hank White and Eddie Crawford. Your playing was outstanding and made me work harder to improve. Glad you are a respected musician & historian now.
George Hicswa, tenor sax
 

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I do envy you guys, being able to visit the shop and try pieces! I do hope I'll be able to do that one day when I visit the USA. However, I'm making up for it - I have acquired so many TK mouthpieces (and have one more on order) that I virtually have a TK shop of my own right now here at home :)
 

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I tried a Klum a few weeks back. I can't remember the the model but it was a superb piece. So nice on the Borgani tenor.
Nice to hear of your trip! thx:)
 

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I tried a Klum a few weeks back. I can't remember the the model but it was a superb piece. So nice on the Borgani tenor.
Nice to hear of your trip! thx:)
I had the pleasure of visiting Ted's shop/studio 2 weeks ago...i was interested in tring the london model tenor mouthpiece...i met Ted and Sebastian,,, they were both very helpful..... a/b'd.. it against my RPC 117... wow....it blew the RPC away,,i couldn't believe what i was hearing out of my 1950.. S20.....What i didn't like was the heaviness of the piece...it felt like a brick...i'm going back with my Wolf Tayne 120 that was refaced by Jary Custom Mouthpieces ..If the London model blows this away..i;ll have a decision to make..Either way..Ted's Mouthpieces are second to none..10 years ago,,i purchased a mouthpiece from Bob Ackerman..it was refaced by Ted..I loved it and still have it....
 

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What i didn't like was the heaviness of the piece...it felt like a brick...
I actually like a "heavy" piece. And it's not like it weights a ton, so not that difficult to carry around :)
 

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Sebastian I am looking for an alto piece. Is there a list of players using Ted Klum pieces? I want to google them to see what they sound like and get a feel for the vibe of the mouthpieces. I have already googled the names of mouthpieces on youtube and heard whats available that way.
 

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Sebastian I am looking for an alto piece. Is there a list of players using Ted Klum pieces? I want to google them to see what they sound like and get a feel for the vibe of the mouthpieces. I have already googled the names of mouthpieces on youtube and heard whats available that way.
I'm sure Sebastian will get back to you eventually, but it's difficult to maintain such a list in part because many players switch frequently or play multiple pieces.

Perhaps the most well-known alto player who has played on one of Ted's pieces for a long time is Will Vinson. He's playing the Versitone Acoustimax in the clip below:

 

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I'm sure Sebastian will get back to you eventually, but it's difficult to maintain such a list in part because many players switch frequently or play multiple pieces.

Perhaps the most well-known alto player who has played on one of Ted's pieces for a long time is Will Vinson. He's playing the Versitone Acoustimax in the clip below:

yes I saw Will. Thanks! hadn't seen this particular one. I will enjoy it. I'm told he is one of the very very best players so I want to listen more to him.
 

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Sebastian I am looking for an alto piece. Is there a list of players using Ted Klum pieces? I want to google them to see what they sound like and get a feel for the vibe of the mouthpieces. I have already googled the names of mouthpieces on youtube and heard whats available that way.
Hi DM, it's been a while (6 years) since I worked for Ted but here is what I can say about his design and finish concept which he imparted to me. I have heard many, many brand name, or high profile players in the 4 years I worked for him. Nobody ever sounded the same when trying the same thing twice! Otherwise, everyone who plays would sound like Ted, if you know what I mean.

I'm not going to say that gear doesn't matter because it does, and good players depend on gear that works. That being said, there is an end to what you can learn about sound etc just by looking at the gear. What I liked about what Ted does and his products do is that they can help you figure out what is you and what is the gear. It gets out of your way and leaves it up to you to make it be what you want.

His Acoustimax changed 3 times over the years since it came out but what I dug was no squeeze chamber. The squeeze helps 'pop' the sound out but I play mostly tenor so Meyers always feel thin upstairs to my ears. It's cheap compared to other similar products, very easy to keep the pitch and will project if you know how to do that already. The voice felt like a cross between a vintage Tone Edge Link and a Brilhart Tonalin. Some cut but open sounding. No guarantee it will do this for you of course.

His NY model was a project to copy his personal Meyer Bros that he opened to around 85 and then we retooled to cut to different sizes and came up with a unique design that is in the 'traditional' camp for alto. Also, no squeeze, beautiful rubber that rings and a bit more lively feeling than the Acoustimax in my experience. That could be different for you. I liked it on my Conn.

The Contemporary is after my time as is the London Alto but I really liked how it filtered Ted's own alto playing (which I know very well) and gave it some nasty and some cut.

Anyhow, the long and short of it is this: a good setup acts like a filter to either emphasize or de-emphasize a quality of how you make a sound. I've just heard way too many people trying out gear in small rooms to understand that we don't hear a lot of what is going on behind the horn. The better the player, the less you notice the change in gear. Playing music is a little bit of an illusion to create the image to the listener that what we are doing is easy and natural, and not lots of hard work.

Hope this helps!
 

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Well said! Most demo recordings showcase the player, not the equipment.
Thanks Keith! I know it's not the answer a lot of people are hoping for but I'm not going to string anyone along with promise of something you can't buy.

Lots of great choices now in the market and tons of free education online. The only thing you can't sell is the time it takes to learn to play in a way that you hopefully like. Kenny Garrett said he didn't even know there was anything unique about his alto sound until he heard a recording of himself with Mercer Ellington and began to develop that voice. I think that's the best way: find something you like about how you play and nourish it.
 

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Well said! Most demo recordings showcase the player, not the equipment.
That's definitely true, especially if by "demo recordings", you mean something like one-time recordings of a player playing on a certain piece of equipment.

However, I think that the OP was looking for a list of players who use Ted's pieces on a regular basis, which I think can be a bit more informative. In particular if a big-name artist, who presumably has access to many different mouthpieces, chooses to use a certain mouthpiece ("mouthpiece X") to achieve a particular sound, then there's a good chance that that particular sound is easier for that artist to achieve on mouthpiece X than on other mouthpieces. Of course, physiology and physiognomy differ from person to person, but for a player looking to achieve a similar sound, mouthpiece X might therefore be a good starting place.

Regarding Ted's mouthpieces in particular:

I've been using an Acoustimax on alto for the past few months and I really like it, but mostly because it's easy to play. It's free-blowing, the response is very even across the range of the horn, and the intonation is very consistent across the range of the horn. I don't know why the intonation is better, but one thing I've noticed is that the chamber seems to be more conical than that of my Meyer-type mouthpieces.

I actually prefer the tone that I get from my Meyer and Meyer-copy (MC NYC) and, if I were primarily an alto player, I'd probably put in the extra effort required to even out the response and intonation on those mouthpieces. But I prefer to play on the Acoustimax because (1) it takes less effort to play well and (2) it gets me in the neighborhood of that Meyer sound.
 
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