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Looking for the right mouthpiece

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  • hsmhp
    Member
    • Mar 2009
    • 44

    Looking for the right mouthpiece

    After playing euphonium in our local community band for a couple of decades, I started doubling euphonium/tuba to fill a need in the band. I bought a Mack Brass TU210 rotary valve 4/4 tuba (I didn't want to invest a king's ransom in a tuba since I'm retired and I wasn't certain I would be able to make the switch--really nice horn, by the way).

    I've been trying mouthpieces that would work with this horn. Last night at practice I was trying out a Conn Helleberg 120. I liked the range and how it sounded, but my articulation was sloppy. The player who sits next to me (a band director with a MMus, tuba performance) told me that the funnel-shaped Helleberg doesn't work as well with a rotary tuba and that I should look in the direction of a bowl-shaped mouthpiece. I've also been trying out a Schilke 69C4, which is bowl-shaped. The articulation is better with this mouthpiece, but anything below a Bb is hard to reach.

    So I'm open to suggestions for the Goldilocks mouthpiece: the range and depth of the Helleberg and the improved articulation of the Schilke. Any thoughts?

    Thanks, David
    David Smith
  • ghmerrill
    Senior Member
    • Dec 2011
    • 2385

    #2
    (In the context of my trying countless tuba mouthpieces on different tubas over more than a couple of decades ...)

    Why are you going with such large mouthpieces? I know that the Conn 120 is one of the most popular mouthpieces on the planet, but I cannot use it. Likewise the 69C4. Yikes! These don't fit me well and the 120 sucks the air out of my lungs. But there's NOTHING wrong with Helleberg mouthpieces on a rotary tuba.

    I won't go into an (absurdly long) list of possibilities for you (that I have tried personally), but I think that you REALLY need to start with a smaller mouthpiece. Something in the size range of a Bach 25 (but maybe a Faxx or Kelly verision) would be great as a starter. This advice is similar to what I've heard Oystein Baadsvak give at a couple of master classes -- to students who were using mouthpieces which he felt were way too big for them. So ... stop the madness with the big mouthpieces. (Do NOT under any circumstances move to a Bach 24AW.)

    That being said, my all-time go-to no-fail tuba mouthpiece is a Schilke 66. It's a "smaller" Helleberg. I used it for decades on my big Cerveny 4-valve rotary horn, and it was (for ME) perfect. It's not the best mouthpiece for every horn for me (on my large compensating Eb I use a Wick -- but that mouthpiece and horn were made for one another; and on my little old Eb I use a Kelly 25, so bowl instead of funnel), but still the Schilke 66 works well on either of those. Don't go big. Go smaller, at least until you learn the horn. It's NOT all that much like a euph, especially in the low/contra range.

    Your low range problem is nothing more than inexperience with playing an instrument new to you. You won't solve it by choosing a different mouthpiece. You just need to practice.

    By the way ... In my tuba-playing capacity I have sat next to a suprising number of tuba players in community bands who won't venture above the F at the top of the staff and won't venture below the (first) Bb below the staff. But that limitation (if there's nothing wrong with your horn) isn't imposed by equipment. It's self imposed by lack of practice and skill development. This stuff takes effort and time. Give it time and effort, and you'll get there. Don't think of a tuba as just a big euphonium -- though physically it is.

    One more thing ... I"m not sure that Schilke makes a non-Helleberg tuba mouthpiece. But the 69C4 is definitely a Helleberg. Take a look at the description on the Schilke site of the "Schilke-Helleberg II" mouthpieces and you'll see them compare these to the 69C4 and note that the 69C4 is a Helleberg as well.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 02-09-2024, 05:20 PM.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

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