Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 22:38:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject: [TPIN] Sensory Evaluation Testing (Was Mouthpiece Rotation)
The testing of mouthpiece rotation ("clocking") is a subject which
more appropriately resides within the field of Experimental
Psychology, not trumpet teaching or playing.
Several issues must be addressed related to this type of
testing. First, rarely do we encounter a "black/white",
"yes/no" condition related to variables of trumpet
performance. Mouthpiece rotation is one of those
subjects. A definitive answer (i.e., "yes", mouthpiece
rotation makes a difference in performance, or "no") is elusive, and
overly simplistic. Researchers skilled in Sensory Evaluation
procedures would be aware of dozens of subtleties and nuances
between "yes" and "no". Unless trained in the specifics of this
sophisticated testing paradigm, few trumpet players possess the
requirements to design, execute, and analyze such tests.
In Sensory Evaluation testing, protocol must be carefully
established. The test must be carefully designed with regards
to issues such as test environment, temperature, musical test
materials, trumpet(s) and mouthpiece(s) to be employed, etc. etc.
etc. Variables must be reduced to only the one of mouthpiece
rotation. The tests must then be meticulously executed, preferably
under double blind conditions (in which neither the tester nor
presenter have awareness of the rotational position of the
mouthpiece). All data must be recorded on pre-designed test
sheets. Finally, results must be analyzed statistically.
The large issue is "why are we interested in such a test?"
Many of the results posted on this subject over the past day suggest
that players are interested in engaging in such an experiment to
either assist a student or to improve their own playing. With
such a goal, it is unnecessary to spend the considerable time and
money for Sensory Evaluation research. If a student has been
helped, or thought they were helped, the goal has been
achieved. If a player has engaged in only a superficial
comparison of positions, and formulates an opinion, it is not
required that he/she confirm their opinion through scientific data.
Instrument and mouthpiece makers and designers are those who should
have an interest in such experimentation. To my awareness, no
maker has ever established a test protocol, completed testing, and
published the results of mouthpiece rotation. Many claim that
they have done such investigations, but have not published for a
variety of reasons.
Following the strict procedures required for Sensory Evaluation
testing, I tested, circa 2000, between 15 and 25 highly professional
west coast trumpet players related to the subject of mouthpiece
rotation. Of the test sample, not one player could, under
stringent testing conditions, statistically demonstrate an ability
to perceive any musical differences between different mouthpiece
rotational positions beyond the level of chance.
It is the makers who bear the responsibility of conducting such
research, but are woefully neglectful about doing so. In their
defense, the process of operating a manufacturing facility leaves
little time to also engage in systematic scientific research.
For individual players and teachers affiliated with a University, a
visit with a Professor of Psychology (whose specialty is in the
field of sensation and perception) would be illustrative of the way
such research could be conducted. As with the makers, most
musicians who have spent a lifetime of learning to play and teach
the trumpet do not have time to carry the burden of research.
Finally, it must be observed that such research is usually a
thankless endeavor which rarely permeates beyond the "inside world"
of research, and even more rarely exerts any effect whatsoever on
trumpet performance or pedagogy. One poster made a comment
about doing research on the mouthpiece-leadpipe gap. Well, it
was done nearly 40 years ago and I have not one time seen this
excellent PhD Dissertation mentioned on Internet trumpet
forums. In this case, a highly skilled musician/acoustician
engaged in the voluminous research required for a PhD Dissertation
only to find that, in the year 2012, few know it even exists!!!
Research into trumpet design and performance is one of the most
rewarding pursuits in which I have ever engaged. It is,
however, a very lonely obsession. Scientific research often
carries the side effect of peeling away much of the mystique which
is such an integral, and fascinating, part of trumpet playing.
R. Dale Olson