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Refaced mps, my first experience

2657 Views 15 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  dexdex
I just got them back. 2 dull and dead STMs I recently decided to have refaced, to give them a chance not to remain in a drawer. I had bought them cheap on a local auction site.
1. Alto STM 7*
2. Tenor STM 8 (not the one I currently play)
The refacer I chose for commodity, being in Switzerland, is Jo Schnabl, Mouthepice-Pro.
Germany is close to Switzerland (wirklich ?), and postal services are fast and reliable.
After a first contact by mail, I sent him the mps, and then I explained my expectations by mail.
Alto: bring it back to life, as I have actually never come across a somehow playable alto STM. Jo told me that Sonny Stitt used to play on a STM on alto, which I had never realized.
Tenor: make it THE lush low-end + harmonics mp.
He checked the mps, confirming they were stock and probably from the 80s. Another mail exchange where Jo detailed the work he was planning, and ... there we go.
I got them back, nicely packed in small foam tubes, like those used to insulate plumbing pipes.
First comment: the machining is very nice and smooth, great high precision job. The bare brass looks through, as well as the thin silver layer at certain places.
Second comment: my tenor is currently at the workshop, therefore it doesn't make much sense to check the tenor mp on the tech's Elimona.
So: let's go for the alto !
First impression: the Légère reed looks strange on that shiny mp, usually I play a black HR mp. On the first couple of notes, I'm immediately struck by the easiness. The whole range just pops out without effort. Strangely, the STM seems to project a bit less than my stock Meyer 7M. What about the lig ? I adjust the Rico H I use on my tenor STM, and ... magic, it works. The mp now has that similar behaviour tenor STMs have: roundish as long as you play gently, but building up some edge as soon as you push.
Great job, Mr Jo ! I'm gonna love that alto piece.
A suivre ... (once my tenor's back home).
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Jo was actually recommended on this forum, as I asked for refacer contacts in Europe.
In the meantime, I continued to noodle on my alto, trying several ligatures. The Rico H is the best fit so far.
Noodle winks to Julian, David, Paul and others...
Control and intonation are different, the horn's (and mine..) weak spots are different.
Merci koumou.
Got my tenor back. First notes with the refaced STM 8. Using a Rovner lig, as the Rico H doesn't want to fit. It is a "fatbody" STM. Mhm, not bad, but not really impressing. Good response, all over the range, free blowing, waaayyyyys better than before. But, not ready to replace the good old STM I've been playing for some years now. Gonna have to find a "real" ligature to test it in good conditions. No time just now to browse through my ligature museum. Later...
Ok, there we go. New Year holidays gave me some slack to better "faire connaissance" with the refaced STM 8. I also received a batch of new Carbon reeds, to put the older ones on pre-retirement.

Short: Jo also did a great job on that piece. Really. It just takes some time to get used to it.
The biggest difference compared to the stock STM I've been playing since almost 10 years: the curve on the refaced seems to be longer, as I have to take more mouthpiece to control it. This prevented me, at the beginning, to play the altissimo as before. The low end is better and fatter. What I was asking for.

I first felt it like being too dark, lacking the projection and brilliance of my good old one. I like that bluesy screaming I can get with it.

Working on the "new bite position", and with new reeds, I'm almost there. The refaced is almost as edgy as the old one. Actually, it sounds richer, and the pitch is a bit less locked, it makes the horn feel more spread, more ... vintage. I just have to push a bit more, and the edge is there, but with more power.

To put it straight: EXACTLY what I was asking for. Totally amazing.

To be honest, I'm not yet totally comfortable, but I have no doubt it is heading in the right direction. BTW, I'm still using a Rovner, having nothing better fitting the size of the beast. But placing it at the far end, and tightening it like "un bûcheron", it will do so far.

So, if you look for a great refacer in Germany:
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CB: good question. Why do you think it took me decades before I considered the refacing alternative ?
All mps stated in my signature are "of the shelf" ... so far. All 4 bought used, most from those orphan drawers music shops have. All are "survivors" of many changes. Nothing unusual.

1. why do these overhyped CNC mouthpieces cost SO much ? This industrialized technology should make them cheaper than the handmade pieces of art. Someone must be cheating...
2. why aren't the established "market standards" (Link, Meyer, Berg, etc...) doing a better job ? On purpose ?
3. why are the above mentioned over-hyped and over-priced CNC mouthpieces... also disappointing ? Any great sounding alto or tenor out there playing any of them ?

It really took me some time to make-up my mind. A refaced tenor STM I played at a friend's home recently kind of triggered the process: you can have the STM sound and feel, but with better response, fatter low and high end, etc..
Having also some dogs lying around, I decided to ... take the risk. Except a couple of €€s, I had nothing to lose.

Here I am. :silent:
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As far as one can understand from Jo's website, he is using hi-tech methods. He obviously doesn't disclose the whole process, machining and tooling. But from the results I can see on the 2 mps I got back, it really looks more like high-precision machining than some kind of wizard handcraft. No random file scratches like on old Bergs.
He also mentioned computerized curves to chose from ("let's chose an early Babbit alto facing"). That pretty much means CNC machining.
He offers the brains, vision and know-how of the craftsman (plus his own musicianship), but the precision and consistency of modern machining.
I assume this is what most refacers do today.

Forgot to mention, we went the standard refacing way for both mps :
It IS AMAZING ! I've been playing some more today. This mouthpiece brings out the "big horn" nature of the MkVII. It takes a lot of air, and makes the whole horn vibrate like never before. With a Carbon reed, definitely NOT a setup for the wimpy. More on the Dexter G than on the Kenny side.
Circa 85% of that sound is you....the mouthpiece is simply a way of channelling it.
Yep, I'm quite happy to believe it too. The main goal in working on your setup is to get rid of all the obstacles the hardware keeps building against you.
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