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The Perfect Mouthpiece

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
A seemingly never-ending topic of heated discussion among euphonium players is "mouthpieces." Everyone from young students to professionals to retired hobbyists wish to have the perfect mouthpiece. It is fair to say that you like a given mouthpiece the best, that it is the best choice for you, or even that it imparts certain specific qualities compared to other mouthpieces. But it is also fair to say that there is no perfect mouthpiece for everyone.

As one progresses on their instrument, it is natural to go to a larger mouthpiece. Beginners often start with something like a Bach 12, progressing to a Bach 6-1/2AL by junior high or high school, and then to something larger as they go to college.

In looking at common professional mouthpieces, the Bowman BB1, Schilke 51D or 52, Bach 5G or 4G, Mead 3SM or SM4, Wick 3AL or 4AL, and many others are fine mouthpieces. My choice is the Wick 4AL, but it is not perfect. It is the best one for me of the ones I have seriously tried. I am not looking for a new mouthpiece now, but perhaps that will change in the future.

I have not been immune from the quest. There were times when I tried a mouthpiece, usually after being taken with its sound or response or something at an exhibit. When I got it home I still liked it. But after playing it for a week or two I found that there were some funky "issues" with it. It might be really stuffy on certain notes, or some notes or ranges may not really center properly. Sometimes these problems are subtle and hard to detect when first testing. For that reason, I generally recommend that people stay with commonly-used mouthpieces that have a track record. It takes a player with very mature abilities and who is very analytical to really judge a new model that has not been tested in the field.

I always remember Claude Gordon's advice to a trumpet player who seemed obsessed with always trying the latest and greatest mouthpieces. He suggested the following:

Take all the mouthpieces your own and put them in a brown paper bag. Take the bad and row out to the middle of a lake. Reach into the bad (without looking) and pull out a mouthpiece. Then throw the bag overboard. Take the remaining mouthpiece home and practice with it!

It's not bad advice.

I haven't checked back over all the words I have written about this in this forum and others, but I don't THINK I ever said that the 4AL I play is the best mouthpiece for everyone. But it is certainly one a person should try. Remembering Gordon's advice, I think the biggest mistake is to be on a never-ending quest for a mouthpiece that will solve all your problems. In most cases, any mouthpiece change will get you some advantages and some disadvantages. If you play a Bach 6-1/2AL and change to a Wick 4AL, you will get a much nicer tone and low range, but you will lose some of the focus in the high range and your endurance will be set back. If you change from a Wick 4AL to a Mead 4SM or 3SM, the changes will be more subtle, but there will still be both pluses and minuses.

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Updated 08-30-2020 at 04:18 PM by davewerden

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