Helping children choose the right instrument will be easier, if veteran music teacher David Heintz's new invention takes hold.
Heintz, who has taught music for 25 years, is seeking a patent on a hybrid clarinet, brass and flute mouthpiece he designed to help young children decide if they have what takes to play a musical instrument without buying every instrument to try out.
He's also formed a company, Clarflupet LLC in Pike, N.H., and he is working with custom molder Johnson Precision Inc. of Amherst, N.H., to design and produce a polycarbonate clarflupet.
The orders are starting to come in, but it was long process to come up with the design.
``One of the age old problems in starting students is how they choose the instrument,'' Heintz said in a telephone interview.
He said that most pick what instrument is available, others react to social and peer pressure, and still others pick because of images they see or what instrument is aesthetically pleasing to them.
``We're looking for a way to provide exposure'' to different instruments, he said.
With the clarflupet, a student can use one instrument and, by turning it different ways, he or she experience what is like to play the mouthpiece of a clarinet, a trumpet or a flute.
What he was seeking was something that was durable enough for a young child.
The idea, according to Heintz, has been something he's been pondering since he was a 10th grader and started playing a trumpet that happened to be in his home. As he got into teaching music, he saw a need and tinkered with various possibilities.
Heintz' early versions had after-market thermoset plastic clarinet mouthpieces and brass mouthpieces affixed to PVC pipe.
As he applied for the patent, he also approached a number of companies about the idea. Johnson Precision stepped forward to work with him.
``We went through a developmental process and got the basics,'' he said, noting that the idea progressed as he turned to rapid prototyping.
Spike Jones, the manufacturing coordinator at JPI, said that once a three-dimensional model was turned into something that Heintz could actually handle, the process became much more doable.
He said the process took a few months, but the minute matters, such cutting the weight of the part by a few grams, and subtle changes to the curve of the instrument created the right feel. There was also the concern of keeping cost down by allowing it to fit a standard machine.
``It is one of the more unique things we've done and if every school system adopts it, we might be building many more,'' Jones said.
Heintz has a commitment from one school system, and he is promoting the idea to other music teachers.