A Definitive History of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece

20170909_112636_resized_1-169x300 Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece

“The Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece represents a major step forward for the instrument, creating an instrument which for the first time meets the standard of a professional orchestral instrument. It is an invention on par as the shoulder rest for violin.”
             Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci




Final prototypes in Delrin for Seydel Saxony are being cut now, as is a new ultra-thin titanium model with Delrin layer underneath.

Mr. Kettlewell is also experimenting with new complex curvature upper portions of the Slider, to match the shape of the lip.


There are 2 learning curves when one begins the study of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece:
– The first is to reset your neuromuscular memory; as your body adjusts to the new feel and ergonomics of the Frictionless Mouthpiece. You experiment with ease of movement left and right, and landing squarely on new note hole positions. Your first two days will feel like you are attempting to play a cello. You will seek a comfort in play. This phase lasts from 3 days to a couple of weeks, and you’ll find your progress rapid, improvement is noticeable day to day. At the conclusion of this time period, you pretty much have the same skill level you had prior, but are now enjoying the ease of movement to new note hole positions, the more relaxed embouchure position, and a cleaner harp as saliva is no longer dribbling into your instrument…you play it dry. These things I fully expected with the Frictionless Mouthpiece.
– The second learning curve is quite different from the first, and will go on for a much longer time period (years)…for you are now pushing into the world of what the conventional chromatic harmonica mouthpiece cannot do…developing NEW skills and articulations not available to you before. You learn how the clearer attack on the note (facilitated by the Frictionless Mouthpiece) affects phrasing, and you find that the improved accuracy translates into more than the clarity of one note…to an ability to craft phrases more precisely…which your listeners interpret as “more fluid phrasing.” Learning to control that precision to what you consider optimal effect is a new thing. You learn the new ease of the glissando, and your ear begins to guide you regarding what you choose to do with it. You experiment with larger intervallic leaps, and ponder what that means to how you will choose to play a given piece.
Your body learns to relax more in play.
The overall pattern you come to understand is what was said clearly by Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci…
“There is no question based on David’s reports and videos that the Frictionless Mouthpiece represents a major step forward for the instrument, providing a different and better sound, which opens the door to styles of play not available to players of chromatic harmonica before. It is an improvement on par with the shoulder rest for violin…significant in history.”
Andrea suggests that the invention of the Frictionless Mouthpiece will result in more acceptance of the instrument by academia, and more composers interested in composing for chromatic harmonica…that the instrument has taken an irreversible quantum step forward to the high levels of design and performance evidenced by the flute, oboe, and clarinet.
From my experience playing the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece, I can say that all the above is true…and more.
I believe it will take one generation for the majority of players worldwide to utilize the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece, which is about the same time it took for the shoulder rest for violin to find full acceptance.
(Photo: Seydel Saxony with Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece)
 20170909_112636_resized_1-169x300 Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece
the player does not wet the lips, the instrument plays much drier, and needs much less cleaning…the lips pretty much stay on the Slider in the same position. (Salivary response lessened…I will add an observation that the fact the player’s lips are not moving directly on the mouthpiece back and forth, and shaping, decreases the body’s salivary response. In other words, you make less saliva.)
– Historically, chromatic harmonica players tend to play notes of smaller intervallic jumps…often contiguous holes…due to the ergonomic challenges with conventional mouthpieces. This will likely no longer remain true, and that means potentially…a new voice to the instrument.
– It is my impression that players new to the instrument will adapt to the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece  naturally and quickly. Intermediate and Advanced players face the truth that it requires development of new body memory.
Having played the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece for about a month now, I can say that the invention brings a surprising number of changes to the instrument in play.
We are still exploring this area, and I am very grateful to Andrea and the many other friends who have helped me think all this through.