UPDATED BLOG ON LATEST ON KETTLEWELL FRICTIONLESS MOUTHPIECE DEVELOPMENT:
HISTORY OF THE KETTLEWELL FRICTIONLESS MOUTHPIECE
This is an abridged version of a full history now being written.
On August 27, 2017, Brian DeCelle of MTD Consulting in Valencia, California, chief designer and cutter on the Psardo Elite and Gold Bar harp project, successfully handcrafted the first functional Sleeve type Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece.
The path to this was not fast or easy.
The concept for the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece was first put to paper in November of 2016 by David Kettlewell in response to an email he received from a young man who played chromatic harmonica in Asia, who complained of persistent lip irritation including nasty blisters. “Can’t something be made which eliminates this problem for us players?” the young man asked.
David thought about it and concluded that the conventional design for a mouthpiece was obsolete and due for reinvention…the idea of moving to new note hole positions on an instrument by sliding the lips on a metal piece, lubricated by saliva (which dissipates quickly…making movement difficult) seemed less than ideal.
The initial concept came to David quickly over the next two days…a sleeve which the lips rest upon (Slider) having 5 holes, running friction-free left and right on a lower portion (Base), most easily made by the Base being a slightly modified conventional mouthpiece.
The biggest decision to be made was whether the mouthpiece design would be patented, or not.
“I concluded the greatest good would be done if all players could enjoy the frictionless mouthpiece as quickly as possible, and at the lowest cost possible, and the best way to do that was to make the idea available for free to any and all who choose to make it, worldwide,” said Mr. Kettlewell.
David continued, “I was concerned that if I held a patent, I’d have to sign a binding contract with one manufacturer for up to 3 years, and if they sat on the invention, which they might do because it could impact their cash flow on conventional mouthpiece instruments, nothing might happen for years. I wanted to enjoy the mouthpiece quickly, and for others to do so. The best way to accomplish that was to give it away to all.”
This decision was not well received by some. Mr. Kettlewell was criticized by close friends for throwing a great financial opportunity away, others criticized him for gifting it, saying it was a worthless idea.
An early supporter was Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci, who said from the outset that the mouthpiece was the future of the instrument. Another strong supporter was and is Rocky Lok of King’s Harmonica Quintet, considered the finest classical player in the world today.
In order to stop patent applications, the idea with drawings was made publicly known through a formal process called Donation To The Public Domain, done by Mr. Kettlewell in January of 2017.
The first firm to attempt the build out was a respected maker of custom instruments in Holland, The deQuelery Instrument Company. They opted to deviate from Mr. Kettlewell’s original design and use a flat bar Lower. Mr. Kettlewell felt that the design would not hold its shape under load of mouthpiece screws due to the instability of flat bar brass, and would leak air. The design, although noteworthy in many regards and certainly beautiful, did not prove successful in prototype form. But DeQuelery was first with drawings and it is to their credit, and they released their drawings quickly…just a few days after Mr. Kettlewell donated the invention to the public domain.
5 months later, on July 20, 2017, Mr. Kettlewell flew to the San Fernando Valley, California, to visit MTD Consulting, a design/cutting shop owned by Brian DeCelle. DeCelle was the lead designer to bring inventor Phil Sardo’s innovations on chromatic harmonica to life in the Psardo Elite and Gold Bar Harps.
The day before Mr. Kettlewell left California, Brian DeCelle presented his engineering drawings to Phil Sardo and David Kettlewell for the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece.
The basic idea of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece is simple, the lips rest on a 5 hole Slider which can slide easily left and right on a slightly modified conventional mouthpiece held on the instrument by a small lip at bottom of the Slider sides, and stops either end.
Brian DeCelle took a new and revolutionary approach….A Delrin lined Slider and 4 ball bearings at bottom of the slider to provide frictionless but precise movement. As the unit wears, the bearings can be adjusted with a small screwdriver to effect perfect tolerances.
This original design was then modified by Brian to include slightly curved sides on the Slider which meant the only areas the Slider would touch were at the very top of the prepared conventional mouthpiece where the holes are, and the 4 adjustable bearings at bottom of the slider running on side channels cut in the conventional mouthpiece.
Brian’s design exceeded Mr. Kettlewell’s expectations, and the concept was approved immediately for build out.
Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci has said that the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece will revolutionize the instrument in the same way that the shoulder rest did for violin, or the pianoforte for harpsichord.
Other manufacturers are now in the process of early stage development of their own versions of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece, but Brian DeCelle was first, and Mr. Kettlewell will be playing Brian’s version in practice and performance on a Psardo Elite 16 hole harp with stainless steel reeds, and custom button.
Approximately 8 months elapsed from the gifting of Mr. Kettlewell’s idea to the public domain to a working prototype.
Credit is due to Brian DeCelle, Phil Sardo, Andrea Antonello Nacci and Rocky Lok for their strong support of this endeavor, to the benefit of players of the chromatic instrument worldwide.
Said Mr. Kettlewell, “It is difficult to accurately project how the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece will impact and affect play of the chromatic harmonica in the decades and centuries ahead. Why? Because all the chromatic harmonicas we’ve played for over a century have had the conventional mouthpiece, so it’s hard to wrap our heads fully around the impact this invention will have. I believe that the ease of movement to new note hole positions will make the instrument far less cumbersome to play, more enjoyable to play, enhance the popularity of the instrument, and open the door to new styles of play. The impact of truly effortless movement to new note hole positions is hard to fathom, for all of us. It is worth remembering that none of it would have happened without the struggles of all those having a hand in this great task. Those who contributed to the effort are mentioned in the history above. Yes, I had the idea, but others brought the idea to fruition (such as Brian DeCelle) and of course, they carried the risk. Modern machinery helped, but in fact machines can do no better than the imagination of the designer, and of this Brian DeCelle proved the master. It is my hope that those who met this task head-on, and succeeded will prosper as a result; I will assist them in this as I am able.”
I have now posted complete instructions for how one may build a workable SLEEVE type frictionless mouthpiece on this website, just go to the link at top of the homepage entitled KETTLEWELL FRICTIONLESS MOUTHPIECE, and go to the page STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS ON BUILDING A KETTLEWELL FRICTIONLESS MOUTHPIECE.
I’ll keep you posted on which firms will be releasing their designs of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece for sale, and when.
Brian DeCelle will be making his first cuts today of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece. He will send photos and videos, which I’ll post.
I am working now with GoDaddy and with Word Press support organizations to revamp our website MASTERSOFHARMONICA.COM into a much stronger service for you.
In the last 4 years, we’ve grown from having about 14 videos to about 250, and have gone from 0 to 10 Facebook Groups.
I’d like to link them all.
The strongest Facebook group we have is LOVE OF CHROMATIC HARMONICA, it’s link is
Our YOUTUBE CHANNEL…MASTERS OF HARMONICA is a wonderful resource, with about 250 videos total.
Videos cover harmonica reviews, how to play the instrument, repair advice, customization advice, and performance tips…it’s the largest repository of chromatic harmonica FREE training free in the world at present…
Our PLAYLISTS on the Youtube channel provide you fast access to specific areas of interest…