Mouthpiece material

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hyperbolica
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Mouthpiece material

Post by hyperbolica » Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:00 am

Materials for instrument parts like bells, slides, crooks can have a subtle effect on the sound or feel of the instrument. That may be easier to hear from behind the bell than in front of it.

I've recently experimented with mouthpiece materials, specifically rim materials. I've used Kelly plastic mouthpieces on tuba, and thought they deliver slightly less power than a brass mouthpiece.

But I've also tried silver and gold plated brass, lexan and stainless steel rims on my Doug Elliott trombone pieces. In this case, the lexan rim didn't seem less powerful than the brass.

If you consider the silver plate as the standard, the gold plate was more slippery, the lexan more tacky and less cold, and the stainless gave a noticeably brighter sound.

Doug doesn't make stainless parts as far as I know, but Parker does, and they fit Doug's threaded cups. I got a 4g, and it fits the inside cup very closely, but not perfectly. Your thumbnail will still catch on the ledge.

If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this part. My lips tend to shed a lot of skin. When I play, that skin builds up on the outside of the mouthpiece rim, and I've got to clean it every 30-45 minutes of playing to keep it from getting too gross.

The reason I bring this up here is that the buildup doesn't happen on the lexan rims, which is a big bonus.

So my material preferences are:

1- lexan for weight, thermal and hygiene
2- stainless for sound quality
3- gold plate for looks
4- silver plate for economy

I started the experiment to see if there were some relation to allergies, but I wasn't able to make that connection.

I'm interested to see what effect a complete stainless mouthpiece would have vs just the rim but I'm not so interested as to pay for one. Can anyone fill in the blanks?

Also has anyone else had problems with lips shedding skin?
Last edited by hyperbolica on Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
Doug Elliott
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Doug Elliott » Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:33 am

I have also noticed that Lexan stays cleaner. I have no idea why that is but I like it for all the same reasons you do.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Bach5G » Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:48 am

I love my lexan.
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BGuttman
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by BGuttman » Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:33 am

I have a Benterfa wood. My experience is much like yours with the Kelly. I call it my "chamber mouthpiece". I don't use it much for that reason. Certainly a handsome looking mouthpiece. Not sure which wood it is, but it looks like walnut.
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BigBadandBass
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by BigBadandBass » Sun Jan 10, 2021 7:05 pm

No lexan piece, but I can speak about the Lip gunk and stainless. I have the same exact issue, for the longest time I thought it was me putting on too much chapstick but yeah over time it seems like layers and layers of my skin just kinda come off (wonder if it's pressure or allergies or something). On the Giddings I've played it wasn't so much of an issue, but it did still happen, about half as much as it happens now with my Ferguson. It doesn't seem to affect my playing much, it has just become a habit of mine to empty spit and wipe the mouthpiece during rests and wash my piece every night when I brush my teeth
mbtrombone
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by mbtrombone » Sun Jan 10, 2021 8:07 pm

So I am a little lost with your inquiry.

As far as the feel/sound of stainless, I have tried a full stainless vs. brass silver plated vs. brass gold plated of the exact same mouthpiece size.

The brass silver plated mouthpiece was the easiest to play and seemed to create the nicest over tones. The brass gold plated mouthpiece was much slicker on the face, but wasn't quite as brilliant with the over tones. Finally, the stainless steel mouthpiece was good on the face, but the sounds wasn't as nice with over tones, more core/fundamental so it sounds good in the right section, but doesn't generally blend super well.

These were just my experiences. There are plenty of people who use Stainless Steel and sound wonderful and blend well with others. I just am not one of them. I settle with the gold plated brass because of a silver allergy, but I wish I could just play the silver plated mouthpiece because it seems to sing just a slight bit better.

As far as the skin thing, I just let it build up, and clean the mouthpiece once a week. It happens for me on all mouthpieces including Kelly mouthpieces. OH well.
hyperbolica
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by hyperbolica » Mon Jan 11, 2021 7:57 am

mbtrombone wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 8:07 pm
So I am a little lost with your inquiry.
Yeah, I think you understood. I was looking for the sound of stainless and the plastic hygiene properties.

Some plastic mouthpieces are lexan and I think some are abs. Kelly and DE are lexan.

Anyway, I think we agree on the stainless sound, I'm probably oversimplifying, but I tend to play on the dark side, and the stainless makes my sound more interesting.

I was surprised that just a stainless rim made that much of a noticeable difference.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Posaunus » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:32 am

hyperbolica wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 7:57 am
mbtrombone wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 8:07 pm
So I am a little lost with your inquiry.
Some plastic mouthpieces are lexan and I think some are abs. Kelly and DE are lexan.
Wedge makes mouthpieces of both Delrin (black) and Acrylic (clear) plastic.

https://store.wedgemouthpiece.com/tromb ... materials/

https://store.wedgemouthpiece.com/shoul ... -or-brass/
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by timothy42b » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:41 am

BigBadandBass wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 7:05 pm
t doesn't seem to affect my playing much, it has just become a habit of mine to empty spit and wipe the mouthpiece during rests and wash my piece every night when I brush my teeth
Good habit. I don't have the lip gunk but I play near the basement sink and I rinse the mouthpiece every time i finish playing. It just seems like the crud is likely to accumulate more in the mouthpiece and leadpipe area than anywhere else.
hyperbolica
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by hyperbolica » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:52 am

timothy42b wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:41 am
It just seems like the crud is likely to accumulate more in the mouthpiece and leadpipe area than anywhere else.

For me, it accumulates around the outside of the rim. It hardens into a gray concrete. I use warm water and a rag to take it off. The lexan rim doesn't allow it to accumulate for some reason. I haven't tried the other types of plastic.
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by LeTromboniste » Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:05 pm

I really liked the feel of delrin on the lips, but it is just much too light and made my tone completely dead and way too dark. Adding mass to it made a huge difference.

Likewise with wood and cow/ox horn. Very nice feel on the lips. Mine are for period instruments and work really well in that context, but for modern trombone they would be much too lightweight.

My favorite material is raw brass. All the advantages of a brass+silver in terms of sound and weight, but I find that once it has developed a nice matte patina (it takes several months of daily playing, at least for me), it also is much nicer on the lips, feels slightly porous and less hard that silver, and also, for some reason, seems to get warm faster and stay warmer.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Burgerbob » Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:09 pm

How much of the "plastic mouthpieces don't make sound" statement is just the difference in feedback?
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by MTbassbone » Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:19 pm

I like Doug's lexan rims just for the comfort factor, and I don't play outside. For whatever reason its just more comfortable. I wish I could quantify it and be able to tell you why. I have played a few stainless pieces, and they sounded dull. With other mouthpieces I am fine with silver plate. Gold is too slippery for me. I have never had a delrin rim, but I believe I have read there was some potential outgassing or something similar with this material. Maybe someone else will know.
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BigBadandBass
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by BigBadandBass » Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:29 pm

hyperbolica wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:52 am

For me, it accumulates around the outside of the rim. It hardens into a gray concrete. I use warm water and a rag to take it off. The lexan rim doesn't allow it to accumulate for some reason. I haven't tried the other types of plastic.
This happens to me too! Usually close to the corners of mouth. I wonder again, if this is caused by genetics or technique, I have a kelly 5g I buzz on while driving and it is totally still clean, but on my Ferg L or Marc EBT1 it would accumulate after a long day of playing (3-5 hours of practice and 1 or 2 ensembles). My shank and cup are usually totally clean though.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by PhilTrombone » Tue Jan 12, 2021 7:34 am

Also has anyone else had problems with lips shedding skin?
Do you suffer from chapped lips? I get this issue in the cold months, but it does not seem to cause a "sloughing" off onto the mouthpiece. Perhaps a bit of lip moisturizer would help you. Playing with chapped lips severely affects me, so I make use of it. I am currently using Burt's Bees products.

I don't like having it on my chops while actively playing, as it interferes with making a seal. So I keep in on for a few hours a day, and wipe it off to play.

Re materials. I prefer gold plating, which just feels the best for comfort (for me at least). I have not tried other materials besides the standard silver plate, so I have no comments on those.
hyperbolica
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by hyperbolica » Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:43 am

I don't have chapped lips, and I don't use chapstick or anything. There was a time when I used liquid vitamin e, but I've stopped using it and I don't notice any change. The skin on my lips do feel kind of paper thin, but they don't often split. I'm not playing a ton of hours, mostly 30-90 minutes 5x a week or so.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by LeTromboniste » Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:01 am

Burgerbob wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:09 pm
How much of the "plastic mouthpieces don't make sound" statement is just the difference in feedback?
Depends what you mean. They often feel like you need to push a bit more to get the same loudness but I think you're right that most of the difference is just a perception from behind the bell. You can certainly play loud enough with a mouthpiece made of a lightweight material.

My experience is more about the tone. My tone with delrin was insanely dark, to the point of being "dead", especially when pushing to louder dynamics. Not just behind the bell, but clearly audible when recording myself, and according to unanimous feedback from colleagues based on section and ensemble playing. It was a Wedge so I didn't know how much of it was the material and how much was the different shape and needing to get used to it. I tried to make it work for a while but wasn't satisfied. The problem was solved as soon as I added mass to the mouthpiece. It was still a bit dark for my taste compared to brass, but it instantly went from "yeah there's something wrong with this" to "okay it works".
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Doug Elliott » Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:15 am

Delrin and gold are both very slippery, and I think the reason for darker sound is that the slip causes a less definite stopping point for lip vibration. Lexan, being sticky, sometimes sounds brighter.

With a sound analysis app I can actually see the difference in higher harmonics in the sound, between different rim materials.

I think that is the reason more than weight. But you say adding weight helps some... so maybe it's both. Adding weight would tend to stabilize excess motion, so that could affect the slip too.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Posaunus » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:07 am

Doug,

Have you looked at the sound spectrum from stainless steel mouthpieces? I find their "lip feel" to be comfortable.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Doug Elliott » Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:23 pm

No
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:33 pm

Doug Elliott wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:23 pm
No
:biggrin:
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PSJ
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by PSJ » Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:40 am

No one has taken on Aiden's question....How much of the "plastic mouthpieces don't make sound" statement is just the difference in feedback? I am interested in this part of the discussion also.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Doug Elliott » Wed Jan 13, 2021 8:12 am

This is no definitive answer. People respond differently to all of the different materials - and their relative friction, which I think is the main difference.
hyperbolica
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by hyperbolica » Wed Jan 13, 2021 8:59 am

PSJ wrote:
Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:40 am
No one has taken on Aiden's question....How much of the "plastic mouthpieces don't make sound" statement is just the difference in feedback? I am interested in this part of the discussion also.
Try a buzzing comparison with just the plastic and metal mouthpieces. That should answer the question. I have a brass 24aw tuba mouthpiece and a plastic Kelly 18 tuba mouthpiece. There is noticeable difference in the vibration you feel in your hand when buzzing.

The air column is where the sound comes from, but the air column induces the metal which reinforces air inside and outside the instrument's air column to vibrate.

As OP, my original question had to do with a partially plastic mouthpiece - really just the rim. The only material that made a noticeable difference to me was the stainless steel. With complete mouthpieces, I grant there is a noticeable difference between plastic and any metal. I think that the more plastic is in the mouthpiece, the less will be the strength of the vibrations. So from a sound production point of view, using a plastic rim on a metal mouthpiece is a better idea than using a completely plastic mouthpiece.

"Plastic mouthpieces DO make sound", just less of it. And the more plastic, the less sound, to simplify it somewhat.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by timothy42b » Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:29 am

hyperbolica wrote:
Wed Jan 13, 2021 8:59 am

The air column is where the sound comes from,
Yes.
but the air column induces the metal
Yes.
which reinforces air inside and outside the instrument's air column to vibrate.


Um..................not sure at all there's anything to that. Evidence?
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Doug Elliott » Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:43 am

The throat of the mouthpiece is the smallest bore and the point of maximum compression of the air and sound wave. An elastic material at that point would dampen the vibrations and therefore reduce amplitude.

Only anecdotal evidence, but it totally makes sense.

Even the .015 thick tubing of the outer slide, and the even thinner thickness of the leadpipe, is elastic to some degree and does affect response and sound, especially at louder volumes.

And anything that reduces the material vibration, like any weight applied along the way (heavier mouthpiece, "tone ring," Wick booster, Sauer brace, lefreQue, etc.) will change things.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by hyperbolica » Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:52 am

timothy42b wrote:
Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:29 am


Um..................not sure at all there's anything to that. Evidence?
If you vibrate a piece of metal, say a motor, it makes a sound. Sound is pressure wave through air. Even if you replace the source of vibration with a pressure wave (sound), it still works. It loses amplitude every time it transfers media, and isn't anywhere near the power of the original source, ie lips vibrating, but sound does make metal vibrate, and metal vibrating does feed back into the composite pressure wave.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by PSJ » Wed Jan 13, 2021 12:54 pm

Ok, I understand that the throat is the place of most compression, but then why are a number of trumpet players I know playing the lexan/composite/whatever cup mouthpieces with the brass shank? The throat is still the cup material and the backbore/shank is brass.

So that asks another question. Does the physical coupling of the outside of the shank to the inside of the leadpipe make a difference and do different materials matter. I understand how far the shank goes in the leadpipe and how the end of the backbore couples to the leadpipe internally for the airflow makes a difference but what about the material?
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by Doug Elliott » Wed Jan 13, 2021 3:30 pm

What are these trumpet mouthpieces you refer to? The throat is usually in the shank, or crosses the interface between cup and shank, I think Warburtons are like that. At that point there's considerable thickness so elasticity of material is less of an issue.

I would not think the material coupling of the taper would have any real effect one way or the other. Added mass anywhere would effect adjacent tubing, however, since they're all connected.
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Re: Mouthpiece material

Post by timothy42b » Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:29 pm

The impedance mismatch between brass and air must be huge. I would think it is based on the different speeds of sound in the media. If so the energy transfer between air and brass must be small.

I'm not sure how rigidly the mouthpiece couples to the rest of the brass structure. I just tapped a mouthpiece in a brass trombone and in a plastic trombone, and they sounded the same. Either way, the structural part of the system has a set of resonances just like the air column does, though they don''t line up as nicely.

Any time systems are coupled, at the resonant frequency of one the transfer is maximum. Vibration absorbers are how many mechanical systems (and high voltage lines) survive. At the resonant frequency of the mouthpiece you would be sucking energy out of the sound wave, not adding to it. Of course I'm speaking of the frequency of the mechanical mouthpiece system, not the air column contained within it.
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