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Thread: Choosing a New Mouthpiece: Struggles of a New Horn

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  1. Choosing a New Mouthpiece: Struggles of a New Horn

    Hello, forum.

    I recently purchased a new horn, one I intend to play through college. However, as it is an old Besson, it has a European shank, and all the mouthpieces I own now are invalid. I currently play on a Bach 6 1/2 AL (small shank), but I feel I should look for something with a darker, deeper tone that will allow me more artistry. I am a little uneasy about swapping both horn and mouthpiece all at once, though. I do not want to confuse my playing, especially as I want (naturally) to continue improving. Should swapping both be a problem?

    I am considering either a Wick SM3 Ultra or a Shilke 51D. Both of those are popular mouthpieces for standard repertoire. However, as every player is different, I wanted to ask the forum for opinions or additional options before I purchase either of these.

    I am a very flexible player. (In range and strength more than speed) I've never had much trouble with range, and my tone is often commended in the high and extremely high registers. This is impaired a little by the new mouthpieces as far as I can tell (as to be expected with the deeper cup, of course). Is it important that I get a mouthpiece for high register work?

    As far as I can tell, there's not a ton of difference between the two. Sure, they have their difference, but I can't really tell how the small qualities will effect my playing in the long run. I realize, yes, that it is personal preference, but I am unsure how to choose which I prefer. (Or if there are other alternatives I should consider)

    Thanks all.
    Sebastian Davies
    Student, Euphonium Fanatic, etc.

  2. Here's my formula for mouthpiece selection:

    - Know what your ultimate goal for your mouthpiece is. Do you need to play a lot of high parts, low parts, etc? What kind of sound are you looking for? How often can you practice? etc.
    - Try to attend a show or place of business that will let you try a variety of mouthpieces. Play a melodic etude along with something more technical. Listen to the sound of your horn (ideally with someone else there to give you their opinion), and listen to your chops. Make sure to breathe properly so you're not jamming your lips in the mouthpiece.
    - Once you select a mouthpiece, stick with it for 2-3 months. If it works for you, then stick with it. If not, take note of what you did and didn't like about the mouthpiece, and start the process over again.

    Good luck!
    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Adams E3 Custom .60mm yellow brass bell w/ Parker 4G Houser)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY) and 10 piece ensemble (Getzen 1052FD bass trombone w/ Bach 1G)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    NYC metro area
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    Quote Originally Posted by XenopodTheEuphonist View Post
    [snip] I am considering either a Wick SM3 Ultra or a Shilke 51D. [snip] As far as I can tell, there's not a ton of difference between the two. [snip]
    I'm afraid I disagree with you - the Shilke has a rim diameter of about 1.00 inch and the SM3 has a rim diameter of about 1.03 inch, if memory serves me correctly.
    Have you considered the Brian Bowman BB1? It's a modified Shilke 51D, according to what I've read, and it's often used with the European shank Willson euphonium.
    Dean L. Surkin
    Mack Brass MACK-EU1150S, BB1, Kadja, and DE 101XTG9 mouthpieces
    Bach 36B trombone; pBone; Vincent Bach (from 1971) 6.5AL mouthpiece
    Steinway 1902 Model A, restored by AC Pianocraft in 1988; Kawai MP8, Yamaha KX-76
    See my avatar: Jazz (the black cockapoo) and Delilah (the cavapoo puppy) keep me company while practicing

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by XenopodTheEuphonist View Post
    Hello, forum.

    I recently purchased a new horn, one I intend to play through college. However, as it is an old Besson, it has a European shank, and all the mouthpieces I own now are invalid. I currently play on a Bach 6 1/2 AL (small shank), but I feel I should look for something with a darker, deeper tone that will allow me more artistry. I am a little uneasy about swapping both horn and mouthpiece all at once, though. I do not want to confuse my playing, especially as I want (naturally) to continue improving. Should swapping both be a problem?

    I am considering either a Wick SM3 Ultra or a Shilke 51D. Both of those are popular mouthpieces for standard repertoire. However, as every player is different, I wanted to ask the forum for opinions or additional options before I purchase either of these.

    I am a very flexible player. (In range and strength more than speed) I've never had much trouble with range, and my tone is often commended in the high and extremely high registers. This is impaired a little by the new mouthpieces as far as I can tell (as to be expected with the deeper cup, of course). Is it important that I get a mouthpiece for high register work?

    As far as I can tell, there's not a ton of difference between the two. Sure, they have their difference, but I can't really tell how the small qualities will effect my playing in the long run. I realize, yes, that it is personal preference, but I am unsure how to choose which I prefer. (Or if there are other alternatives I should consider)

    Thanks all.
    Some people are less sensitive to size differences than others. I am one of those people. I can't tell a great deal of difference between the feel of my 51d and my Art Lehman mouthpiece, although the Lehman is much more taxing endurance wise. If neither one has an advantage in tone, go with whatever is easier. Playing isn't an athletic event. You don't get points for using a larger mouthpiece. Even if a bigger piece gives a "better" sound, that needs to be balanced with ease of playing, endurance, etc.

    Mike

  5. The very nature of my playing requires that I use mouthpieces of various shapes and sizes. British baritone, tenor trombone, euphonium, bass trombone, and tuba all have very different mouthpieces, and I have to be able to be proficient on all of them. The key in a situation such as mine is to keep the feel of the mouthpiece as close as possible on each instrument.
    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Adams E3 Custom .60mm yellow brass bell w/ Parker 4G Houser)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY) and 10 piece ensemble (Getzen 1052FD bass trombone w/ Bach 1G)

  6. Consider baby steps

    Quote Originally Posted by XenopodTheEuphonist View Post
    I am considering either a Wick SM3 Ultra or a Shilke 51D. As far as I can tell, there's not a ton of difference between the two. Thanks all.
    -There is a ton of difference between the 6 1/2AL, 51D, and a Wick SM3 Ultra. Forget the specs, here are the obvious differences.


    1. The 6 1/2AL has a relatively small rim diameter (slightly larger than a 7C) and a relatively shallow cup (deeper than a Bach 7C). A large shank 6 1/2AL has the same backbore as the tenor shank, because Bach does not increase the backbore, just makes the wall of the shank thicker.
    2. The 51D has a slightly larger rim and MUCH deeper funnel shaped cup with more open backbore. It will play "larger" than the 6 1/2AL, give the opportunity to get a richer sound without nearly as much degradation of the high range. The nearest equivalent to this mouthpiece in the Wick universe is probably a SM6M.
    3. A wick SM3 Ultra is a MUCH larger rim size (1.04"). It has a sharper rim edge than the Bach or the Schilke. It is probably similar in depth to the 51D but has a bigger backbore. All of these affect range and endurance, requiring more strength. You can get a much larger sound, better lower range, and a wonderful sound, at the expense of endurance and range.


    I played a Bach 6 1/2AL on the same kind of Besson you are playing, from my Senior year in high school through my entire college career (6 years). After I graduated in 1973, I played an old Conn and the Bach was just fine. I didn't have a good horn until my brand new 1980 Sovereign which came with a Wick 4AL. I continued to play the 6 1/2AL on the Sovereign for several years because the change to the 4AL was so demanding. As much as I loved the sound, I just did not have the strength, embouchure, or stamina to play the 4AL initially. It took me at least 2 years to finally make the switch over, and even then when playing very long days or very high solos, I would sometimes fall back to the Bach. I will say that as I got more mature (well into my late 20s), I got stronger as a player (physically) and filling the 4AL became easier. Now, 35+ years later, I still play a Wick 4AL (or a Doug Elliott close equivalent).

    I am not your teacher, and I recommend that mouthpiece changes be made with the help of a teacher, so consider this advice worth what you paid for it....

    A jump from a Bach 6-ish to a Wick 3 is a jump of 3 rim widths (in both Bach and Wick measurements) whereas the 51D is probably only a jump of 1 rim width. I would recommend you continue to play the 6 1/2AL using a shank adapter (small to medium) and purchase the 51D medium. Start to make the change to the 51D to see how the sound of the horn changes and how your range and endurance are affected. Do this for at least several months as suggested above. If you like this, then I would keep the 51D. If you want an even bigger sound, consider a Wick, but the SM3 Ultra is too big. I would back down to a 4 or 5 rim size isuch as either a SM4 Ultra or a 4AM. The rim shape of the 4AM is more comfortable for those changing from Bach.

    Keep in mind you will get stronger and your face, jaw, and core strength will continue to change as you mature into your middle/late 20s. DO NOT START A PROCESS OF CONSTANTLY SWITCHING MOUTHPIECES LOOKING FOR THE MAGIC BULLET. This is how some players end up screwing up their embouchure and can impede the development of your musical artistry and sound concept.

    Just a last word. Both David Childs and David Thornton performed using Wick 4AL's well into their 30s. They had well established careers and were recognized International artists. When they changed mouthpieces (starting around 2010 or so), the reasons were commercial as well as artistic. In David Childs case, he plays an Alliance DC3 (which is close to a Wick 4). The DC3 actually plays a little "smaller" than the 4AL. And while Steven Mead has been playing a succession of mouthpieces for the last 2 decades (SM3, Alliance E2, SM3 Ultra, SM3 Ultra X) it is rumored he now frequently uses 4 rim size instead of 3.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1052HS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  7. Quote Originally Posted by daruby View Post
    And while Steven Mead has been playing a succession of mouthpieces for the last 2 decades (SM3, Alliance E2, SM3 Ultra, SM3 Ultra X) it is rumored he now frequently uses 4 rim size instead of 3.
    I recently spoke with Steve Mead and he confirmed he uses a 4 size variety of one of his signature mouthpieces. 3 sized mouthpieces have a big fat sound but they are chop killers if you play a lot of high stuff like Steve does.
    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Adams E3 Custom .60mm yellow brass bell w/ Parker 4G Houser)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY) and 10 piece ensemble (Getzen 1052FD bass trombone w/ Bach 1G)

  8. Quote Originally Posted by daruby View Post
    -(SM3, Alliance E2, SM3 Ultra, SM3 Ultra X)
    Thanks for the detailed description of the mouthpiece effects. (This goes for everyone who contributed) I think it has helped a lot.

    What is the difference between an Ultra and an Ultra X? That is confusing and not well described on their site.

    Should a 4AL be one of my considerations?

    Thanks.
    Sebastian Davies
    Student, Euphonium Fanatic, etc.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by XenopodTheEuphonist View Post
    Thanks for the detailed description of the mouthpiece effects. (This goes for everyone who contributed) I think it has helped a lot.

    What is the difference between an Ultra and an Ultra X? That is confusing and not well described on their site.

    Should a 4AL be one of my considerations?

    Thanks.
    Based on an email discussion with Steven mead, the Ultra 4 and the Ultra 3 are the dame depth, the same as a Wick 3. The difference is rim diameter, 26 mm vs. 26.4 mm. The Ultra 4X is a little bit shallower than the Ultra 4. I have had both the Ultra 4 and 4X and did not find much difference between the rims, although some folks have commented that the 4X rim is sharper. Compared to my Wick 4AM, the ULTRA 4X rim is sharper, but it feels slightly larger. Sound wise, I definitely prefer the 4X on my Willson. The 4AM sounds more resonant, but lacks core and has a "tinny" quality to the sound. But, of course, this may not apply to you.

    Mike

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Farmington Hills, MI
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    260
    Quote Originally Posted by mbrooke View Post
    Based on an email discussion with Steven mead, the Ultra 4 and the Ultra 3 are the dame depth, the same as a Wick 3. The difference is rim diameter, 26 mm vs. 26.4 mm. The Ultra 4X is a little bit shallower than the Ultra 4. I have had both the Ultra 4 and 4X and did not find much difference between the rims, although some folks have commented that the 4X rim is sharper. Compared to my Wick 4AM, the ULTRA 4X rim is sharper, but it feels slightly larger. Sound wise, I definitely prefer the 4X on my Willson. The 4AM sounds more resonant, but lacks core and has a "tinny" quality to the sound. But, of course, this may not apply to you.

    Mike
    A few years ago I switched from the SM4M to the SM4XM. I tried the regular Ultra (SM4MU) at the same time. I chose the X mainly because of the smoothness in slurred passages. It's effortless. Also the high range speaks very well. The low range takes more work but I have learned to give more breath support and it helped the low range immensely. Our Brass Band recently played the wonderful Peter Graham piece The Torchbearer at NABBA. There is a fantastic solo for Euphonium in this piece that goes up to a Db concert above the staff and down to a pedal C concert. The X allowed me to cover the entire range.

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