Is your mouthpiece oversized?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 2nd tenor, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I guess it's worth talking about "difficulty" with respect to bore size...

    There are multiple dimensions to it - I've almost always found larger bores (and larger mouthpieces) immediately easier to play, there's a larger target (a less rigid slot) for each note which allows for things to be easily played without chipping notes and so on.... But this comes at the expense of efficiency and endurance.

    But this all sits on a spectrum - so it becomes a balancing act... You wouldn't give up all your playability for endurance, or all your endurance for playability... So you look for the best balance of both.

    Throw sound into the mix and it's not necessarily an easy decision.

    I'm not sure how much of this can (or should be) prescriptive - rather, it's useful knowledge and a pause for thought against rushing into the furthest extremes in either direction without careful consideration.
    Jack E, 2nd tenor and MoominDave like this.
  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I feel sure that you are correct on all three counts and mostly people do just get on with using what they have oblivious to the fact that things could, quite likely, be easier for them. Let's stand back a moment and reflect on the challenges of playing a bigger version of an instruement and one with playing characteristics deliberately altered. It seems to me that we are still in danger of saying that 'one cap fits' when that clearly is not the case - for neither heads or instruments. The Championship level player perhaps forgets the struggles and battles of learning how to play and progress up the sections; s/he always had the intellect and aptitude to do well whereas the rest of us really do have to work with what we've got and be satisfied with less. So whilst reflecting on the challenges let us neither over or under state them and then also recognise that what for some is easy or a trivial alteration for others is hard or a crucial change.

    I don't read the Trombone Forum any more but if you can recall particular gems of wisdom given out by Chris Stearn then a link or two would help us all.

    I found Jack's aircraft analogy was usefully illustrative of a point I was trying to make. Fighter aircraft are deliberately unstable such that they are more able to perform extreme manovers and therefore only useful in the hands of those skill enough to use them and a liability in the hands of those who aren't. Though you're not going to mess up to anywhere near the same extent on an instrument some are surely acousticly designed or set up to be best for a top level or professional player and their characteristics are not at all suitable for lesser players. Would you agree and where does that leave us with trying to understand what might lead players to selecting the most efficient (rather than particularly nice sounding) mouthpiece for them and their instrument? In terms of efficiency (not purely tone) do many of us play Mouthpieces that are oversized?
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I think you overstate the difference between championship players and the rest.

    (I also resent the implication that it all comes easy for us - I put in about a dozen hours a week, plus band practices, I'd hardly say natural ability counts for more than that!)

    Anyway, back onto topic...
    I don't think much equipment is designed to only be any good for top section players - some players choose to use knife-edge setups that require pinpoint accuracy in technique, some choose wide-open setups that require extraordinary physical exertion to really drive them properly.
    I've met guys who use DW2's on front row in championship section (to my mind, a honking huge mouthpiece I wouldn't dream of using - for anything!) and I've met guys who've used shallow Warburton's (right down to SV cups!) on front row too - they're very different approaches and these guys get great results, but they're both (IMHO!) at the extremes of what can work...
    Most people can, and do, use equipment that lies somewhere between the extremes.
    MoominDave likes this.
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Well, trombones are what I know best, so I keep coming back to trombone examples. For which my apologies to players of other instruments.

    Rath make trombones that slot very centredly. It is not as easy to bend notes around on them with the lip as it is on most other trombones. But the sound quality is not very complex and interesting compared to the sounds that trombonists prize. Raths are very popular with brass band players. Much less so with pros.
    Old Conn trombones often slotted rather widely; notes could be bent around much more, and an interesting and complex sound quality practically drops out of the bell. Old Conns are very popular with pros; for example, the bass trombonist on the LNOTP last night looked to be using a Conn 62H (60s/70s vintage).

    Rath trombones are notably easy to play, as are Edwards trombones - and that includes the biggest bore sizes they make. A nice Rath of whatever bore size will do a beginner no harm at all; a nice old Conn of the same size is much more likely to take longer to get used to. Somewhere on the long and winding road between rank beginner and accomplished pro lie all of us...

    Here's a sample of his thinking.

    I tend to find that I prefer similarly a slot that is more wide than is currently fashionable in trombone design. It also tends to come with some interestingness of tone, for some unclear interconnected design reasons.
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    The first statement fills me, and may others too, with hope. Thanks.

    I hadn't ment to imply that anything comes easy to either you or DT and I can but admire the efforts that you put in and wonder how you find the time to do it (sacrificing other worthwhile things or just don't sleep?) With luck I'll get to put in a couple of hours tonight and (in terms of hours per week) maybe do half what you do, still a respectable amount I believe. Now it's still light and not raining so I better get back outside and on with the 'chores'.
  6. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Another question - could somebody explain what a "chipped note" is, please?

    I've done an internet search which turned up plenty of discussions about what might cause a chipped note - but none of them explain what it is!
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's another term for a split, one where you pee-yang onto the right note
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  8. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    I have used a DW 4AL and an SM 4 for 30 years plus but sometimes wish I could not my top range comfortably with my 3AL as I think I could put more weft into bottom and pedal notes
  9. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Dave - and what an appropriate question for me to ask. I played in public for the first time today with the Junior Band - and was chipping like a beaver on speed, even though when practising at home it rarely happens. Trying to play a low E and hitting A with monotonous regularity. Maybe because the pieces called for f and ff in places, and I was just blowing too hard? :oops:
  10. Fettler

    Fettler Member

    I do like the term 'weft'. It's one of those words that is hard to define, but instantly conveys meaning.
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Auto correct is a dammed pain sometimes, I suspect you ment to say : .... 'sometimes wish I could get my top range comfortably with my 3AL' ....

    As a Euphonium player surely you never touch the low stuff - there are Basses below you for such tasks - and you're best off ensuring that your high register is secure? In my experience, and within limits, the low notes do sound more comfortably with a bigger mouthpiece and the tone sometimes seems richer but if you can't easily and reliably produce A, B and C above the stave then surely it's an overall loss.
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Ah! Even you have put too big Mouthpieces into instruments. I guess that as you were twelve at the time you can be excused :) .

    Edit. As an 'aside' I compared the output of a group of Mouthpieces recently; some I owned, others were borrowed and they were made by different companies. Of the group the piece that gave the 'lushest', 'richest' or most desirable tone was not the one with largest diameter cup, the top end on it was easier than the bigger cups and the very bottom end not noticably different.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
  13. GordonH

    GordonH Active Member

    I can't comment on trombones, but as far as cornets are concerned:

    1. The actual size difference between the largest and smallest rim sizes available are less than 1mm. What people are uaually responding better or worse to is rim shape / bite rather than the absolute diameter. You could argue about where the diameter should be measured from anyway.

    2. The perceived difference in tone felt by the player between different mouthpieces may not be evident to the audience. How an instrument sounds at a distance is quite different to up close. Mouthpieces that sound fluffy up close might sound different in a concert hall.

    3. Mouthpieces are more about efficiency and articulation than sound or range. Mouthpieces affect the ability to play fluidly and articulate nicely more than any other part of the instrument set up. Some mouthpiece/player combinations will go very sharp or very flat in the upper register which makes playing less easy. As you get older efficiency becomes more important. You need a set up that lets you get more out of your diminishing resources.

    4. More than one mouthpiece IS necessary if you need to play in more than one style unless you make a compromise. For example, a trad jazz player who also does brass band might get away with a Wick 4B as a compromise, but they might sound a bit better on a 4 in brass band. If you do play on more than one mouthpiece they all need to be compatible with each other - not necessarily identical rims, but somewhere in that area in terms of lip engagement so you are using the same muscles.

    Overall it is finding a diameter and rim profile that suits you.

    I used to play euphonium and never felt I needed more than one mouthpiece. I used a 4AL!
    Tom-King likes this.
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    In the same way that tenor trombones never touch low stuff because there's a bass trombone there for that... i.e. First thoughts mislead, and both tenor trombone and euph see low writing in places in brass banding.

    Euphonium in brass bands regularly goes down to low G or so - it's very comfortable there. Sometimes it goes much further - there are pedals written in places. You're right - the sound isn't distinctive enough in that register to demand regular usage, but it does happen. If you play euphonium in wind bands, you'll find it is common to write the instrument in its 4th valve register in that context where there are fewer conical low brass options available to the writer.
  15. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I suppose that there is a disparity in experience here and perhaps that's to be expected as we play at different ends of the ability spectrum. On second Trombone I've never ever (that I can recall) been called on to play lower than G or needed a trigger other than for convenience and on first I've always played higher than the second. I didn't play Bass Trombone much but everything asked of me was achieved with a Wick six and a single trigger. Hence my belief that the Basses took care of the low stuff. I haven't played Euphonium though, of course, I'd like too; listening to them playing and talking to those players has led me to believe that they don't go lower than G or maybe F#. In my mind the low stuff is the peddle notes (A,B,C) and those above them until the trigger or fourth valve is not longer necessary.

    Interesting about the Wind Band and the Euphonium. For a short while I played in a Wind Band, we were missing a Euphonium player but some of the time we did have an Eb Bass player. The Eb Bass part sounded, to me, more demanding than it would have been in a brass band arrangement so perhaps it overlapped more with the Euphonium; I guess that the scoring can be very different between the two groups
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
  16. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I've been doing a lot of experimenting in the lower register on my euph since I changed instrument. (Missing the bass a lot) I have discovered notes I never believed possible down there in the dark and all quite playable! I can't quite get the pedal pedal C in tune, but I'm working on it. :D I'm also finding new notes (to me) at the top end. I even managed a super F the other day (I was going for the d and missed :eek:). All of this on a Steve Mead 4SM. I could never get that high on the 51G I was using when I first got my euph! No, I will NEVER play cornet!!! ;)
  17. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Thanks for supporting the thread Mike and apologies if I've misunderstood something. Congratulations bye the way on your acquisition of skills on the Euphonium, a lifetime of Bandsman's skill and experience in action.

    As best I can search (without a manufactures name) the 51G will have a cup size of circa 25.5 mm, the 4SM is listed as 26.0 mm - as are Bach's 4G and Wick's 4AL. (Euphonium Mouthpiece Guide)
    Your route has been to go for a Classic Euphonium mouthpiece ( and then work with it (with a lifetimes skill behind you) to get a fantastic range. That seems logical in that you have the chops to do it, you have the skill to use it well and that mouthpiece has been expertly designed for, optimised and proven to suit a Euphonium. I note that the search (Wick and Mead's) for special or magic sound quality rejected larger possible sizes.

    Having optimised what can be extracted from the Euphonium what I wonder is to what extent the cup size could be reduced without practical detriment - to the extent that someone paying to listen would notice or care. Then, if a reduction was possible, would it ease the load on the chops such that endurance and efficiency improved; bandsmen play for a couple of hours a day but a professional musician could be playing for much more and so would welcome any assistance, newer players and those with not quite so strong chops might also benefit from a smaller piece too. I suspect so, but is the optimum for the better Bandsman/woman playing for just a couple of hours slightly on the big side for other players?