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Thread: The Mouthpiece size arms race

  1. #1

    The Mouthpiece size arms race

    I have spent a lot of time searching for and playing the largest mouthpieces I can reasonably play on, most recently on a Doug Elliott 106. This is in part due to the fact that one of the guys I play with, who I admire as a player, plays on an old besson (he purchased it early 70ís), and plays a Bach 1 1/2G on it.

    Apparently the marine band guys at the time played bessons with 1.5 Gís and thatís what he was trying to emulate at the time, and it just stuck. Somehow, he never seems to get tired.

    I, on the other hand, do get tired!

    Regardless, Iíve been thinking a lot lately about ďcharacteristicĒ sounds on the instrument. At what point is big too big? At what point does the sound become uncharacteristic?

    Anyone else experience this? Have you played mouthpieces that are likely larger than youíre truly comfortable on in the interest of something larger?

    Iím currently rediscovering the wick 4 rim size - 26mm, give or take, variations maker to maker, etc. itís far less ďsmallĒ than I once thought.
    Mike Taylor

    Illinois Brass Band
    Fox Valley Brass Band

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by miketeachesclass View Post
    I have spent a lot of time searching for and playing the largest mouthpieces I can reasonably play on, most recently on a Doug Elliott 106. This is in part due to the fact that one of the guys I play with, who I admire as a player, plays on an old besson (he purchased it early 70ís), and plays a Bach 1 1/2G on it.

    Apparently the marine band guys at the time played bessons with 1.5 Gís and thatís what he was trying to emulate at the time, and it just stuck. Somehow, he never seems to get tired.

    I, on the other hand, do get tired!

    Regardless, Iíve been thinking a lot lately about ďcharacteristicĒ sounds on the instrument. At what point is big too big? At what point does the sound become uncharacteristic?

    Anyone else experience this? Have you played mouthpieces that are likely larger than youíre truly comfortable on in the interest of something larger?

    Iím currently rediscovering the wick 4 rim size - 26mm, give or take, variations maker to maker, etc. itís far less ďsmallĒ than I once thought.
    It was a vogue in brass band circles a while back but generally the bigger the mouthpiece the worse the sound in my opinion. The 4AL 26mm mouthpiece has worked for a very long time and seems to offer the greatest opportunity for technical flamboyance without the hollow, nasal sound characterised by players using huge mouthpieces.

    There is a well known British euphonium soloist, not perhaps from the very top echelon, who uses a very large Bach, and his sound when he goes below bottom G is awful, precisely the opposite of what you'd use one for in the first place. If I was playing something like George Lloyd's Diversions On A Bass Theme I might be tempted to go up to a 3AL or similar because there is a lot of rattling around in the lower register, but otherwise I'd stick to the normal gob iron.

    Focus in the sound is great but we Brits like a very intense sound and that seems to dwindle away with larger mouthpieces. Luckily the large mouthpiece willy waving competition seems to have run its course, although the high note obsession isn't running out of any steam.
    1983 Boosey & Hawkes Globe Sovereign
    Vincent Bach 4GB

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magikarp View Post
    It was a vogue in brass band circles a while back but generally the bigger the mouthpiece the worse the sound in my opinion. [snip]
    The exception that proves the rule is Walter Barrett, who uses a Doug Elliott 114 rim with his Yamaha 641 (modified with a trigger). I don't know the cup and shank sizes Walter uses. I've sat next to him in concert band settings, and he has a beautiful tone throughout his range. I understand he used to use a Schilke 60.
    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 miketeachesclass View Post
    I have spent a lot of time searching for and playing the largest mouthpieces I can reasonably play on, most recently on a Doug Elliott 106. This is in part due to the fact that one of the guys I play with, who I admire as a player, plays on an old besson (he purchased it early 70’s), and plays a Bach 1 1/2G on it.

    Apparently the marine band guys at the time played bessons with 1.5 G’s and that’s what he was trying to emulate at the time, and it just stuck. Somehow, he never seems to get tired.

    I, on the other hand, do get tired!

    Regardless, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “characteristic” sounds on the instrument. At what point is big too big? At what point does the sound become uncharacteristic?

    Anyone else experience this? Have you played mouthpieces that are likely larger than you’re truly comfortable on in the interest of something larger?

    I’m currently rediscovering the wick 4 rim size - 26mm, give or take, variations maker to maker, etc. it’s far less “small” than I once thought.

    When I used to take lessons with Roger Behrend, I brought in a bunch of pieces to try out with my Willson 2900. The two he liked best where a 51D (which Roger uses) and my Art Lehman mouthpiece. You couldn't ask for two more different designs. The Lehman cup is about a Bach 1/1/4 depth, very conical, and has a throat that you can put a pencil through with room to spare. But, boy was it tiring to use. I find that I have an easier time playing high notes with a 103 rim than with my 51D. So, some people benefit from the larger rim, But, the problem is that most of the time when you go to a larger rim you size, you get a deeper cup. It seems that euphonium players have become obsessed with how big their sound is in the low/ mid range and forget that they also have to play other stuff.

    Mike

  5. #5
    I know Steven Mead is talking about downsizing lately. When I first got to know him, while we were both Sterling artists, he was using a 2AL sometimes and a 3AL the rest of the time. Recently he has talked about the strain of performing many of today's works that require a lot of high-range playing. I have inferred that his newest multi-numbered-lettered mouthpiece version is somewhat shallower.

    As I get older I'm finding that there is simply less muscle mass to work with (or so it seems). My practice schedule improved greatly when I retired about 18 months ago, and even so I'm not having an easy time building sufficient strength. My latest experiment is with the Alliance mouthpieces. I've been playing on the DC3, and just today I began testing a DC4. The latter may be a better answer for me, but time will tell.

    Both DC's have a larger backbore than my 4AL. But I did a couple quick A/B comparisons of my 4AL and the DC4 and the DC4 was better in tune on a high Eb - the 4AL was flatter. Just a quick observation. In general a larger backbore can free up the high range, but it becomes more taxing on the chops.

    The Lehman mouthpiece is an interesting design for sure. Arthur got a lovely, huge sound from it and could play very high. BUT his high range did not have the center I would want. The mouthpiece just made that too hard to obtain.

    And I am in the camp that says we don't want our sounds to get TOO large. At an ITEC several years ago I heard a recital by a euphonium player who was using a Willson and apparently a very large mouthpiece. Except for a couple notes, I could have easily thought it was a tuba playing. That was fine if you want to sound like a tuba, but it is not what I think "our job" is. I think we benefit from a larger sound that does not get edgy when we want to project, but we don't want to go so far that we lose the center and get too diffuse.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  6. #6
    The rim size is (mostly) immaterial, it's the total volume that influences the sound. I say mostly, because there is some difference, but it's more subtle. But the problem is most mouthpiece designs are proportional, meaning the larger the rim, the deeper the cup. It's important to use a rim size that fits your embouchure! That's why I'm sold on the Doug Elliott system, I can use a rim size that feels comfortable to me and then tune the sound to what I like by varying the cup depth.
    --
    Barry

  7. My chops have stayed right around 26mm for the last 40 years. I have found that going any larger than a Wick 4 (any version) just doesn't work. And depending on the horn, a Bach 5G is my preference (tenor shank English baritone or American baritone). Having already lived with an Alliance E3 and DC3 for extended periods of time, I found the rather narrow rims with sharper edges uncomfortable. Recently I have been experimenting with a Mercer & Barker MB5. It is nominally a 25.95 mm rim. It has the wider/rounded rim shape of the 4AL with mass distribution similar to the DC3. It is much heavier than the 4AL. I find it allows me to play with less pressure across the range. It will take some getting used to, but so far, I like it. Earlier, I had tried the MB5F (same as MB5 but flatter rim shape). The flatter rim just did not work for me. Once I got my hands on the MB5, I found it immensely more comfortable.

    Doug
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by bbocaner View Post
    The rim size is (mostly) immaterial, it's the total volume that influences the sound. I say mostly, because there is some difference, but it's more subtle. But the problem is most mouthpiece designs are proportional, meaning the larger the rim, the deeper the cup. It's important to use a rim size that fits your embouchure! That's why I'm sold on the Doug Elliott system, I can use a rim size that feels comfortable to me and then tune the sound to what I like by varying the cup depth.
    I'm not sure I agree - Even with Doug Elliott, Going from a 105 to 106 on the same cup/shank combo is a more than subtle difference for me. That said, absolutely, cup volume makes a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    And I am in the camp that says we don't want our sounds to get TOO large. At an ITEC several years ago I heard a recital by a euphonium player who was using a Willson and apparently a very large mouthpiece. Except for a couple notes, I could have easily thought it was a tuba playing. That was fine if you want to sound like a tuba, but it is not what I think "our job" is. I think we benefit from a larger sound that does not get edgy when we want to project, but we don't want to go so far that we lose the center and get too diffuse.
    I agree with this whole heartedly, I think - It's taken me years to get there, but actually focusing on what the horn is intended to do rather than "AS DARK AND BIG AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE". Maybe a product (in America, at least) of euphonium players being taught primarily by Tuba players in most colleges?

    Quote Originally Posted by daruby View Post
    My chops have stayed right around 26mm for the last 40 years. I have found that going any larger than a Wick 4 (any version) just doesn't work. And depending on the horn, a Bach 5G is my preference (tenor shank English baritone or American baritone). Having already lived with an Alliance E3 and DC3 for extended periods of time, I found the rather narrow rims with sharper edges uncomfortable. Recently I have been experimenting with a Mercer & Barker MB5. It is nominally a 25.95 mm rim. It has the wider/rounded rim shape of the 4AL with mass distribution similar to the DC3. It is much heavier than the 4AL. I find it allows me to play with less pressure across the range. It will take some getting used to, but so far, I like it. Earlier, I had tried the MB5F (same as MB5 but flatter rim shape). The flatter rim just did not work for me. Once I got my hands on the MB5, I found it immensely more comfortable.
    Doug
    Interesting about the M&B mouthpiece. Did you order from them directly?
    Mike Taylor

    Illinois Brass Band
    Fox Valley Brass Band

  9. Quote Originally Posted by miketeachesclass View Post
    I'm not sure I agree - Even with Doug Elliott, Going from a 105 to 106 on the same cup/shank combo is a more than subtle difference for me. That said, absolutely, cup volume makes a difference.

    Interesting about the M&B mouthpiece. Did you order from them directly?
    I find a substantial difference on the DE between the 103 and 104, particularly if I get the "S" rim. (ex. 104S) I find the 103 works pretty well for me with the EUPH J cup and J9S shank. The M&B is made in England and I purchased mine directly from Karl Mercer using Paypal. Very nicely made mouthpiece.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  10. #10
    Unprofessional and Unpopular Opinion: 24mm is big enough.

    There's a lot to say about cup volume, and I consider it the most important thing. Unfortunately, cup diameter does play a part. It's practically impossible to prove, but if you monkey around with enough instruments and mouthpieces, you can definitely feel the difference in how the instrument is reacting to the cup diameter. I tinkered with that whole idea of using the same cup diameter on everything and found out right quick that 24mm on a Euphonium does not feel like 24mm on a Bass Trumpet. Pretty expensive mistake, but YOLO.

    As far as buckets and toilet bowls, yeah it works. A small enough Tuba mouthpiece is viable on a proper Euphonium, and it's hard as heck to play. Why bother? Even if I literally never play in another ensemble for the rest of my life, I want 8 partials.

    My current go-to is a custom JK EU 12B. 24mm, ~5G depth. Big dark sound, but more focused than what I get from anything else on British Euph. Easy to play.
    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.

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