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Thread: Thoughts on Downsizing

  1. #1

    Thoughts on Downsizing

    I have played mouthpieces on the larger side for a pretty long time. In college I spent 4 years on a Wick SM3.5. When I picked the instrument up again 6 years ago I stayed with the SM3.5 for a year. Then I spent a couple years going back and forth between a 3AL and an SM3U, before spending most of the last 3 to 4 years playing the 3AL. In those days I was playing daily and in pretty good shape.

    I got a Doug Elliott mouthpiece last Fall with a 105 rim, roughly the size of a 3AL as far as I understand. For various reasons, I only play a few times a month these days, and I have found that I wasn't very happy with several aspects of my playing (mostly interval accuracy/flexibility, endurance, intonation). Obviously the biggest problem is reduced time on the horn. But I decided to buy a plastic Kelly 51D just to kind of dip my toes into a smaller mouthpiece to see what differences I noticed and to see if going small was something I was interested in. It could all be in my head, but in general it seems that I can play with much less effort on the small mouthpiece and I don't seem to get as tired. I always felt that my low range suffered on smaller pieces, but with practice I seem to have a pretty functional range from low F up to a high C (above high B-flat), which for the playing I do now is sufficient. It does seem to have a smaller sound than then DE105 setup.

    My plan is to keep playing on the Kelly 51D and try to really focus on making the best sound I can on the small piece for now. Then I want to ultimately size up a bit, but not up to what I had been on. I'm thinking to a DE102 rim. Can anyone share any of their experiences on going larger to smaller mouthpieces? Not really looking to change my mind, just curious to know what others have experienced.

    Andrew

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    First, what horn do you use? I'd think you'd want a large horn like a Miraphone 5050 or Besson Prestige if you are using 3 size mouthpieces but mouthpiece choice is very personal. Regarding the 51D size, they are about 5mm narrower than a Wick SM3.5. That will certainly make your high range speak more easily and as you note get you to adapt to play with ease in the lower range. The tone quality of the 51D is considerably lighter than a large Wick as well.

    Here's my recent personal story. I play a Willson 2900 with medium shank. Most of my playing is in brass bands so I've used Wick mouthpieces or years, most recently an SM4MX. Great mouthpiece but it made me suffer in the upper range unless I was really doing a good job supporting my air. So I changed to a Doug Elliott 102 rim with the I cup and short I medium shank. It's a bit narrower than the Wick but otherwise quite similar. It's been a worthwhile change.

  3. #3
    I can't imagine downsizing to a 51D. I sorta kinda downsized from a 6.5AL to a Schilke 44E4. Haven't had a reason to look back. I get everything I want from a 24mm (or smaller) rim and I only have a couple of 9'Bb horns that don't hate large mouthpieces. I still use a 12C on my British Baritone Horn because I don't like it plays with the 44E4 or 40B and I haven't bought anything else yet.

    Ideal size is kind of a thing that's between you and your horn. Your embouchure will have some effect, but at the end of the day, there is a limit to how big your mouthpiece can be before the horn says NOPE.
    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.

  4. If the DE 105 rim feels right on your face then why change it?

    What DE Cup do you have and what shank?
    I'd go smaller in the cup if I was you and perhaps change to a 8 shank (if you have a 9 now). I'm assuming you're using the EUPH-series.
    Euphonium: Adams E3 Custom Series (SS Bell)
    Trombone: Benge 175F


  5. #5
    Thanks all for the thoughts.

    I play a standard JinBao clone (Schiller Elite), so not a big horn. My DE mouthpiece is a EUPH series (105 rim, I cup, I8 shank). I was going for the same general feel on my face as the 3AL but reduce the internal size to see how it would affect my tone in the higher registers and some of my intonation tendencies, especially in the middle register. It didn't really seem to change those things too much, so I thought I would play around with diameter to see what the results were. I have been playing the Kelly 51D for a few months now so when I go back to the DE it feels like a huge jump, which it obviously is.

    The question of why change what feels right is a great one. It is mostly curiosity to see what else is out there. I am not an exceptional player, and sometimes I find myself wondering if I really need such a large mouthpiece when so many great players seem to get the job done on things smaller than the 3 size. I ultimately want to give a DE102 rim a go, but will probably hold off on that for now.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on whether a smaller mouthpiece actually requires less embouchure strength? Like I said, I don’t have a ton of free time at the moment and part of the interest in a smaller piece is wondering if something exists that is a little more enjoyable to pick up and play without feeling like I am struggling. I plan on keeping the DE105 rim in case the small experiment doesn’t work out.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by aroberts781 View Post
    I have played mouthpieces on the larger side for a pretty long time. In college I spent 4 years on a Wick SM3.5. When I picked the instrument up again 6 years ago I stayed with the SM3.5 for a year. Then I spent a couple years going back and forth between a 3AL and an SM3U, before spending most of the last 3 to 4 years playing the 3AL. In those days I was playing daily and in pretty good shape.

    I got a Doug Elliott mouthpiece last Fall with a 105 rim, roughly the size of a 3AL as far as I understand. For various reasons, I only play a few times a month these days, and I have found that I wasn't very happy with several aspects of my playing (mostly interval accuracy/flexibility, endurance, intonation). Obviously the biggest problem is reduced time on the horn. But I decided to buy a plastic Kelly 51D just to kind of dip my toes into a smaller mouthpiece to see what differences I noticed and to see if going small was something I was interested in. It could all be in my head, but in general it seems that I can play with much less effort on the small mouthpiece and I don't seem to get as tired. I always felt that my low range suffered on smaller pieces, but with practice I seem to have a pretty functional range from low F up to a high C (above high B-flat), which for the playing I do now is sufficient. It does seem to have a smaller sound than then DE105 setup.

    My plan is to keep playing on the Kelly 51D and try to really focus on making the best sound I can on the small piece for now. Then I want to ultimately size up a bit, but not up to what I had been on. I'm thinking to a DE102 rim. Can anyone share any of their experiences on going larger to smaller mouthpieces? Not really looking to change my mind, just curious to know what others have experienced.

    Andrew
    Absolutely nothing wrong with downsizing. Even Steven Mead has downsized. And plenty of superb players use a 51D. I believe Ben Pierce uses a 51D on a Miraphone 5050. The size of a mouthpiece is very personal, but also may not make that much of a difference. When I took lessons with Roger Behrend (who uses s 51D and Willson 2900), I brought in a group of mouthpieces to audition for him. He did not like my sound with an SM3 or SM4, but he like my sound with a 51D and my Art Lehman mouthpiece. It's hard to get twp more different designs. The 51D is a fairly narrow, deeps "U" shaped cup with a tighter throat and backbore and the Lehman is a huge funnel cup with a very large throat and backbore.

    I find the 51D to have a darker sound than say a Wick 4. The sound is more focused, but darker and smoother. The one thing I have noticed is that with a smaller rim diameter there is more of a sweet spot in placement, and if it gets a little off the sound suffers more than if the larger is size is off a bit. Also, if you can get 95 percent of the sound with 80 percent of the effort, is it worth it? That's a personal choice that only you can answer. I do note a real 51D sounds different than the Kelly version, which has a fuzzier sound.

    Mike

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbrooke View Post
    The 51D is a fairly narrow, deeps "U" shaped cup with a tighter throat and backbore [snip]
    Have you considered the Bowman BB1? It's a tweaked 51D and I find it gives me a nice tone on my Mack Brass horn. I was using a Steve Mead 4UX for a while, and I've tried the Kadja, but I find the Bowman gives me the easiest high range (in warmups I can regularly hit Db5 and sometimes squeak out an Eb5).
    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

  8. #8
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    Mar 2012
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    Farmington Hills, MI
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    Mouthpiece choice is dependent on personal choice as well as intended use. For example the classic 51D is best for a concert band as opposed to a brass band. It's too focused for brass band use. Wick and similar mouthpieces blend better in a brass ensemble setting. Certainly a narrow diameter with medium deep bowl mouthpiece like the 51D makes for a great high range. It speaks very clearly in that register. Then again Steven Mead, Demondrae Thurmond and others have no high range issues with larger mouthpieces. Steven (prior to his new, not yet released Wick mouthpiece) had been playing an SM4X or U I believe switching from a 3U. The Warburton Demondrae is a 2 or 3 size mouthpiece. Both put huge amounts of air through their horns.

  9. #9
    Thanks for the insight Mike, that is very interesting to hear your experience comparing mouthpieces in lessons with Roger Behrend.

    At the risk of sounding like a total slacker, what you said about getting 95% of the sound for 80% effort would be an acceptable trade-off for me at this point in my playing. Obviously good playing requires 100% effort, but I'm trying to find out if I can downsize to something that helps me get the results I am looking for with a little less effort. Of course, every time I think about what I'm looking for (good tone, good intonation, decent endurance and range, etc...), the answer is more practice, not more mouthpieces!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    California
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    27
    I downsized from an SM3 to an SMU4 then to a 51-D within a year or so. Its hard to argue with the sounds of roger Berhend, Col. Colburn, and Hiram Diaz. I find that the bigger mouthpieces helped cover up a less than ideal embouchure with more air; similar to how you can get more horsepower out of a less efficient by using more fuel. (That could just be me though)I could still play, but I listened to some recordings when I was at my biggest equipment wise and thought I sounded too diffuse and almost like small bass tuba. I play on a Giddings exl now, which is a little wider than a 51D, but has a HUGE throat. (Though it is pricey)
    Also faxx makes a copy of the 51d that you could snag for like $40 If youd like a metal one with minimal investment.

    Alex S
    Last edited by AlexS; 05-13-2020 at 04:26 PM. Reason: Parenthetical addition

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