Larger Mouthpieces

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by tenorhorndavid, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. After band this week we were discussing mouthpieces and the quest for larger diameters, deeper cups etc. for a bigger sound. Not being too technical on these matters I presume there must be a point when the ‘balance’ between the mouthpiece, instrument bore and bell becomes 'unbalanced' which will affect intonation, tuning etc.
    When I played flugel I always wanted a larger mouthpiece than a DW2 (because I’m really a tenor horn player!!) but presumably a mouthpiece of 18.00mm+ diameter would cause these problems.

    So is there a maximum to which we can push mouthpiece diameter, depth for an instrument?
    I hope this makes sense and isn’t too confused!! ;)
  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Definitely. For any given player, diminishing playing returns set in at some point as the size is increased from small to large. The picture is obscured by the fact that as a player grows stronger, they will move to larger mouthpieces - so larger comes to be seen as automatically better, in some cases.

    Bass trombone is an instrument where this limit has been extensively probed, and there exist a large number of mouthpiece models for it that I personally consider too big for my playing. It's not a question of control, but one of producing a characteristic trombone sound; if I put a Schilke 60 (say), with its 29 mm diameter, into my instrument, then I can produce a vast amount of edge and volume, and run around in the pedals as if it was the normal register. But when I drop below forte, the sound is too fat to make blend easily with the tenor trombones; it loses focus, and is less attractive to listeners. If I go further, and put my Bach 30CB (a contrabass trombone mouthpiece) into my bass, with its 30 mm diameter, the macho extreme works well, but I struggle with control.

    Coming from the smaller end, if I use a Bach 1-1/2G (allegedly a 27 mm diameter, but actually more like 27.5 in other maker's terms), I can easily make a characteristically trombony noise throughout the register, but I find it very hard work to do the low register shouting that you need to in a brass band.

    So in a brass band, I compromise on a Bach 1-1/4G. In other ensembles, I vary down to a Bach 2G (or even 3G or 4G for Classical stuff) on bass as appropriate. The key is to sound like a trombone at whatever balance level is appropriate to the ensemble you're playing in.

    So much for my personal playing on the bass trombone - I know that there are lots of bass trombonists out there who play on much bigger equipment than me. Most of those that I'm aware of either play in the US or in the brass band scene - notably, the vast majority of UK pros do not use bigger mouthpieces than a 1-1/2G regularly - because, for them, the playing demands made are not arduous relative to their advanced techniques, and conductors and fixers prefer the sound that smaller mouthpieces make. Band players often adopt the 'quick fix' method to getting a booming low register - often unfortunately at the expense of a better sound in the normal register, it must be said, while in the US, a different sound concept is popular - Charlie Vernon of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with his Schilke 61 and removed leadpipe is the archetype.

    The equation is simple - to make a bigger mouthpiece work, you need to have more facial musculature. Charlie Vernon is an awesome player who does sound like a trombonist, but you can sometimes hear him strain even after all the years of all-day practising and fitness work that he has put in. He has made things a little easier for himself by going back to a leadpipe now, but is still using a gigantic Laskey 95D mouthpiece (29.5 mm diameter).
    If you don't put in enough time to acquire and maintain the strength required to work a monster mouthpiece, the results will be worse than if you played something a bit smaller - kind of obvious, really, but you hear people making this mistake over and over again.

    I've talked about bass trombones because I'm most familiar with them - and also because I don't think that the same issue has arisen with other brass instruments. Uniquely among the brass, the bass trombone's speciality has become to delve right down into the basement, and so the factors that have driven mouthpiece design have resulted in a rather different philosophy from any other brass instrument. BBb tuba could go the same way - more and more models of giant tuba mouthpieces are appearing on the market...
    But I almost never see players of other brass instruments playing mouthpieces that are too big for them. The odd euphonium, yes, but never a horn, cornet, trumpet, or flugel player. And this is because these instruments have more incentive to 'play it safe' - playing too large a mouthpiece sounds good, but the extra split notes will see you beaten to the 1st part by someone else who doesn't sound quite so good, but is more secure.

    When I depped for the Chicago brass band at NABBA in March, their soprano cornet player was a man named Guy Clark. He played soprano on the biggest trumpet mouthpiece he could find (a bored out Bach 1, I think?), and made a gigantic, wonderful, golden sound on the high stuff. Speaking to him afterwards, he commented that he used a bored out flugel mouthpiece on his Bb trumpet. But these sizes are not standardly available - I think there is market space yet for some properly big sizes for the smaller instruments.
  3. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Phew! I think that just about sums that up........;)

    I agree with Dave, moving to a bigger mouthpiece does not automatically give you a bigger sound, you need to have developed chops as well, otherwise the sound will become more diffuse. Your lower register will become easier, as will blowing louder due to less resistance, but at what expense?
  4. 8th position

    8th position Member

    I think it was Sam Pilifian who said "use the smallest mouthpiece you can get away with" [and still get the right sound]
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    And somebody else (was it Denis Wick?) said "use the largest mouthpiece you can get away with" [and still maintain security]


    To be honest, I think the smallest one with a good sound is exactly the same size as the largest one with security - this one is the "optimum size".

    [N.B. One's optimum size will change depending on the instrument and the group.]
  6. 8th position

    8th position Member


    Speaking of Denis Wick, he talks a lot about matching the mouthpiece to the instrument, and also how different mouthpieces in his range were designed with specific acoustics in mind - trombone 4AL for the Festival Hall (if I remember rightly) for example

    ROBTHEDOG Member


    There have been several posts of a similar nature..

    I remember hearing Bill Watrous (American Jazz Trombone) do a live clinic with a very small Bach 16 trombone and a 12C and he played the Mahler 3 trombone solo with a huge sound. He always said to develop the sound he would also warm up and ensure the pedal register was in place before he did any major blowing.
    Worth a listen to Arturo Sandoval register ... not a good recording but shows you can play any regisiter ??

    It's all about 'volume' and support of the air.. Generally I like a bigger mouthpiece but sometimes use a shallower cup if it's a bit of a roast up. On Euph & Trom typically I use a 1,1/2 G and also carry a Holton 181 as it's a little shallow which I had the shank shaved for Bari or small trom or a Bach 3.

    Our Bass Trom player recently took delivery of a Rath 9 and he's fallen in love with the Rath MP not sure of model but maybe the Mark Frost one. -

    On flugel or cornets for that matter I much prefer the sound of DW - Again we had 3rd cornet player at J&C played with a 2FL with a shaved shank, massive rich sound on large bore early sovereign. Some people have concerns about intonation of swapping and changing mouthpieces, but just use the tuning slide between your ears !! There's some great reading in the Bach mouthpiece and embouchure manual...

    However, as they say each to there own there'll be a contrary view on every point..
  8. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I think I posted this in another thread, but it fits here. When looking for my first proper chosen mouthpiece (Rather than the one that happened to be in the case when I first started playing) Morgan Griffiths at band supplies told me to:

    "Use the biggest mouthpiece you can fill, but the smallest one that does the job you need."

    I suppose that would be a similar way to describe what moomindave and 8th Position have posted earlier. Being a BB player and usually on the lower part, I need a fair size gob iron - albeit I do find it hampers my note production higher up. But if I switch to a smaller mouthpiece, my low register becomes annoyingly short. (And it doesn't go beyond a pedal B-natural at the best of times.)

    I keep switching between a PT50+ and a bach 18 (On the PT for the past 6 months now) and haven't really found a compromise. The PT is great down low, but sounds hard and compromises control. The bach has great control, but hampers pedal register playing.

    I suppose what I should do is save up for a bach 12 - although whether it's the size or the shape of the PT which is denting my top register i can't decide.
  9. E flat fred

    E flat fred Member

    I play euphonium and have two mouthpieces, a Dennis Wick 4AL and a Vincent Bach 4G.
    Please can someone enlightem me as to what the letters and numbers signify as they look nearly identical at first but I am sure there will be a vast difference.
    Thanking readers in anticipation of your adnice
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    American euph player Dave Werden (and occasional tMPer) compiled a mouthpiece comparison chart which you can view :cool::tup here.
  11. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    4AL vs 4G is a pretty standard comparison - the 4AL is like a 'more open' version of the 4G.
    In very simple terms:
    4 = rim size for both makers
    A = deep cup (DW)
    L = large shank (DW)
    G = deep cup (VB)
  12. E flat fred

    E flat fred Member

    thank you
  13. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    Can anyone tell me about this Italian sounding name for a mouthpoiece is. They are really good. I iwas wondering if anyone knows their name? I have a DW3L at the present. Can anyone do a comparison?
  14. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Its a Cumberlini Ringini, large boar, very similar to Lean Bach bindless!
  15. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    :clap::D Ha ha!!!