How to Choose a New Mouthpiece

It never ceases to amaze me when I see a horn player come into the shop with a new, very expensive instrument, who’s playing it with a mouthpiece that someone gave him or her in high school or a teacher fished out of his junk drawer. It seems almost like an afterthought. It shouldn’t be. The mouthpiece is the interface between the player and their instrument and choosing the right one can make a dramatic difference.

Choosing a new mouthpiece can be a daunting task. But, it doesn’t have to be. Every mouthpiece needs to meet three requirements: 1. It has to suit the player, 2. It has to suit the horn, 3. It has to produce the desired sound and response.

The first step is to find the right rim. It should be comfortable and allow clean articulation and a smooth legato. The inner diameter of the rim can vary to suit thick or thin lips or to accommodate uneven teeth. A wider ID (inner diameter) allows more of the lip to vibrate and can help a stronger player play with greater volume and flexibility. The contour of the rim can be wider or narrower, flatter or more rounded, or have a reverse peak. Generally, wider flatter rims provide better endurance and thinner, more rounded rims allow greater flexibility.

Next, the cup and throat should compliment the instrument. The key here is the venturi, the narrowest point at the beginning of the mouthpipe. Large bell horns like Conn 8D’s have a slower overall taper and the venturi is quite small. Medium bell instruments, like Alexanders, start larger and have a much quicker taper. So, what’s needed is balance. 8D’s work well with large throat mouthpieces that balance the small venturi. Alex’s need smaller throats to perform well. Generally, mouthpiece throats in the 10-16 range work well for most people.

The shape of the cup affects sound quality and response. More curved, cup shaped side walls make a brighter sound and work well with both large bore instruments and some smaller horns, like Alex’s, Paxmans, and Yamahas. Deeper, straighter sided cups have a darker, less focused sound quality and work well with Geyer-style instruments. Shallower, more cup shaped mouthpieces favor higher harmonics, deeper, straight sided mouthpiece favor the lower register.

There just isn’t one mouthpiece that will work for all players, all instruments, all music. When you settle on a mouthpiece be aware of its basic design and dimensions. Then, if you want to make a change, you will be starting from a known quantity and you can be systematic in your search. No mouthpiece is perfect, the question is: “Does this mouthpiece help me move in the direction I want to go?”

E. Schmid Rims for Screw Rim Mouthpieces

Schmid_rim

As Engelbert Schmid’s mouthpieces have become increasingly popular, a lot of our customers have asked for Schmid rims to use with Osmun cups. so, we now have two Engelbert Schmid copy rims. All four standard sizes are available as metric rims and the smaller sizes (17, 17.5mm)  are made for standard (Giardinelli thread) cups as well. Here are the rim sizes for Schmid’s mouthpieces:

  • 17mm-Schmid models 4 thru 6.5
  • 17.5mm-Schmid models 7 thru 9.5
  • 18mm- Schmid models 10 thru 12.5
  • 18.5-Schmid models 13 thru 13.5

We also have Schmid Digital rims in 17.5 and 18mm, as used on Schmid Digital mouthpiece models 1 thru 3.5, available as metric rims (fits our metric and Paxman Halstead Chidell cups).

You can see our full range of cups and rims on our mouthpiece page at osmun.com.

What About Your Mouthpiece?

One of the reasons that people rely on Osmun Music is because we understand “Mouthpiece Limbo” and how it can affect any brass player. If you are having problems with your mouthpiece(s) or are looking to improve your current set-up, please feel free to contact us. Our ever-growing experience with student, amateur, and pro musicians makes us a great resource for pointing you in the right direction.

Just another service we offer…

Douglas Yeo

Douglas Yeo

Boston Symphony bass trombonist Douglas Yeo is one of our favorite customers. When he’s not working with the orchestra or maintaining his gigantic web site (yeodoug.com), he’s a devotee of early brass, specifically serpents and ophcleides. Ohecleides are like the bass version of keyed bugles, sort of like a saxophone with a cup mouthpiece. Berlioz wrote a lot of ophecleide parts, including a comic duet for ophecleide and bass drum in Benvenuto Cellini.

Original on the left, our wider copy on the right.

Original on the left, our wider copy on the right.

Recently, Doug asked us to build him a special mouthpiece for his ophecleide.  He had gotten one he liked from an Australian maker but it was too small for him.  We copied it and then enlarged the dimensions to Doug’s standard 28mm inside diameter. The outside of the piece had to be modified as well to accommodate the wider cup. It’s important to maintain the wall thickness so, after redesigning the cup, we carried the same contour to the outside.

Copying a complex outside shape can be a challenge. It’s possible to make a cast and digitize the outside the same way we do the cup and rim but unless there is a need for absolute accuracy it’s usually more satisfactory to do it the old-fashioned way, by measuring and making a drawing. (Of course, once the drawing is made it’s converted to a computer file so the CNC lathe can cut it.) In this case the fact that we were making major changes to the contours made drawing the obvious choice.

This picture clearly shows the difference in diameter between the original and the copy.

This picture clearly shows the difference in diameter between the original and the copy.