Having not played my instruments much over the past two years, about a month ago I decided to finally bite the bullet and replace the mouthpiece receiver on my 1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba. Other threads on this forum (somewhere) describe my program of dent removal on that horn and cutting it from A=435 to A=440. But while the horn at that point was certainly "playable" in public without much embarrassment, I never got the tone and intonation from it that I'd hoped for. And playing it in tune was something of a challenge -- even conceding the issue of having just the 3 valves.

The original receiver was one of those "small European" tuba receivers that takes a shank roughly the size of a contemporary bass trombone's. But bass (or contrabass) trombone mouthpieces never worked well on it for me. So I'd resorted to a "shank adapter" made by Matt Walters at Dillon Music, which I believe was the last "small European to standard American" adapter he made. It worked better than anything else I had found, but still not what I'd hoped. The time had come to take the final step and gamble.

I had a new standard US tuba receiver that had been sitting around for about 10 years. So out came the air/acetylene outfit and I went to work removing the old receiver and replacing it with the new one. This was pretty simple EXCEPT (of course ) the diameter of the mouth pipe end didn't quite fit the diameter of the receiver end that had to go over it. Close, but I wasn't about to fill the void with solder if I could avoid it, I didn't have a tube expander I could trust, and I didn't want to risk splitting that mouth pipe. Then I remembered the old junk trombone I'd bought from Goodwill years ago. Yes! One of the crooks in it had a segment out of which I could cut a cylindrical "shim" (collar) to match the mouth pipe to the receiver. And voila! It was done. It even looked good, though the new receiver is brass rather than the 1924 double-plated silver of the original.

The improvement in sound and pitch was immediately noticeable -- and MUCH better than I'd expected. I was very happy with the butchering I'd done. But then there was the renewed question of what mouthpiece to use. The intonation was noticeably improved, but not perfect. Duh, what a surprise! 3 valves. So ... to the mouthpieces!!! ...

I currently posses only 6 tuba mouthpieces (having cut back my collection some years ago): Miraphone TU-17, Perantucci PT-63, Kelly 25, Schilke 66, Kellyberg (Conn 120S clone), and Wick 3XL. The first three are German "bowl" mouthpieces, the fourth and fifth are Helleburg "funnel" mouthpieces, and the Wick is ... er ... a Wick (more bowl then Helleberg, I think, but not Germanish). It's my mouthpiece for the Wessex Champion Eb horn I have.

In a number of places on the web you'll see claims that the old American horns "favor" (or even "were made for") Helleberg mouthpieces. I don't know about that, but this horn seems to like the bowl mouthpieces pretty well EXCEPT none of them yielded quite the intonation that the Schilke and the Kellyberg did. Close, and they would be "acceptable", but the big problem was with the 1+2+3 valve combinations (particularly the E-natural below the staff). And I do have a 3rd valve "kicker" to lower the 3rd valve combinations.

The horn does seem to like the Helleberg mouthpieces a bit better -- at least in terms of intonation -- and more than it likes the Wick. But the real shocker to me was that the winner turns out to be the Kellyberg.

This isn't a shock so much because it's the intonation winner (it is, after all, a bit larger than the Schilke 66 and might be expected to lower the pitch a bit), but because I've had that mouthpiece for over 25 years and NEVER been able to use it (or any other 120S or clone)!! Whenever I put it on a larger bore horn (like the Wessex or my Cerveny BBb) it seemed to suck the air out of my lungs. But on this horn, it's great. It's a little more demanding that the 66, but the intonation is better overall, and definitely on the lower 3rd valve combinations. I COULD use the 66, but it requires an extra effort in embouchure adjustment on some pitches that the Kellyberg handles more in its stride.

I now regard this horn as truly playable -- and a lot of fun (not that it's capable of what the Wessex is). I know that a long-standing received view is that these old American Ebs prefer (or "need") a small and relatively shallow mouthpiece. I won't argue about that. But it never worked for me, and what I wanted was a tuba that would play in tune with relatively little effort and sound good. I suspect that what I have deviates from the "original conception" of the instrument and from it's original sound. But I'm not in it for re-enactment value, and I'm happy with the result.