Stainless steel, heavy tops?

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Reedman1
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Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:56 am

I’ve been wondering lately whether stainless steel and/or heavy top mouthpieces really help you project or play louder, or whether that’s an illusion caused by reduced mouthpiece vibration near the player’s ears. Is there anything to it?
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Matt K
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Matt K » Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:56 am

It's possible, though testing that is difficult sine I'm not aware of anyone who makes the same mouthpiece with the different variables you mentioned (e.g. all of the permutations of lightweight, heavyweight, steel, brass, etc.). Even the Bach "megatone" mouthpieces are not the same internal dimensions as the number would lead you to believe.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:03 pm

Maybe Doug Elliott or someone like him has experimented along these lines?
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Matt K
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Matt K » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:19 pm

Doug has made some heavyweight cups. He is lkely to speak for himself. It occasionally was brought up on the TTF and my recollection was that the weight wasn't an important factor, all else equal, which it it often is not.

Steel is a bit of a different story. I have a G&W Chinook in both titanium and steel threaded for Elliott rims. They do play differently. I can't directly compare them to anything because the inside is so different but comparing them to themselves, the steel tends to project more and the titanium tends to be 'darker' although with less of a fundamental that you might expect. Granted, I haven't measured them to see how identical they are so take that with a grain of salt.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Burgerbob » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:35 pm

Heavier weight mouthpieces, up to a point, allow me to play louder before getting overly bright.

I wouldn't say steel mouthpieces are necessarily heavy, though.
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Reedman1
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:42 pm

I wonder if anyone has done a controlled test with the only variables being mouthpiece material and mouthpiece weight. I’d think a premier mouthpiece maker would be interested in this kind of test.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Doug Elliott » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:43 pm

Everything "makes a difference."
As to whether lighter or heavier is better or worse, or what the effective difference actually is, I think it depends on the horn AND the player.
Players respond differently (or not at all) to different weights or different style blanks, and the same probably goes for different horns.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by blast » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:45 am

As Doug said, everything makes a difference. A player in London wanted to experiment and asked if he could borrow one of my Mt Vernon 1 1/2G mouthpieces. He had it CNC copied in Brass and Zirconium at great expense, then also in copper. He let me try them all. The metals made a big difference to feel and sound, but the differences were complex and for me, hard to quantify. I have been playing one of his brass examples since Christmas.

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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 4:36 am

Thank you for your responses — this is quite interesting. So, given the same physical dimensions of the mouthpiece, the same horn, the same player, the material of which the mouthpiece is made makes some difference; but change the horn and/or the player and there’s no telling what difference it will make? There’s no consistent characteristic to a given material, or to the weight and shape of the blank?
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Doug Elliott » Thu Apr 26, 2018 7:23 am

A change that might benefit one horn or player may be completely the wrong thing on a different horn or player.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:33 pm

There’s no general rule of thumb, then?
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Kbiggs » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:24 am

Matt K wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:56 am
It's possible, though testing that is difficult sine I'm not aware of anyone who makes the same mouthpiece with the different variables you mentioned (e.g. all of the permutations of lightweight, heavyweight, steel, brass, etc.). Even the Bach "megatone" mouthpieces are not the same internal dimensions as the number would lead you to believe.
On the variable of weight alone, I thought Greg Black offered mouthpieces with the same internal measurements, but were available with different weight “blanks” or exoskeletons—light, regular, medium, and heavy...?
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Doug Elliott » Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:04 am

Basically, if you're having an issue in your playing, don't expect a different weight mouthpiece to fix it. There many more variables that are far more important, both in mouthpiece size details and in what you're doing and how you're doing it.

The flexibility of my mouthpiece system allows fine-tuning in ways that I consider to be extremely important. And then there's the fine-tuning of your playing mechanics, which has also been the focus of my teaching for several decades.
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Matt K
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Matt K » Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:18 am

Reedman1 wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:33 pm
There’s no general rule of thumb, then?
Or even beyond that, my observation is that any two or more variables that change cause the interaction itself to change. Or more simply: The general rule is that when you change two things, they're likely to change at different rates.

That's one of the reasons I'm generally hesitant to recommend weight changes before someone has explored the differences in backbore, cup depth, or throat. All it takes is a couple of minutes in Doug's basement trying out the various cups/shanks alone to realize how much of a low hanging fruit that is. I also usually recommend someone clean out their mouthpiece as a lot of people who I've heard saying they are exploring options have a ton of crud in the mouthpiece. When your throat is .281" and .263" feels stuffy... I mean, that's 2 hundredths of an inch or slightly half a mm.
Kbiggs wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:24 am
Matt K wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:56 am
It's possible, though testing that is difficult sine I'm not aware of anyone who makes the same mouthpiece with the different variables you mentioned (e.g. all of the permutations of lightweight, heavyweight, steel, brass, etc.). Even the Bach "megatone" mouthpieces are not the same internal dimensions as the number would lead you to believe.
On the variable of weight alone, I thought Greg Black offered mouthpieces with the same internal measurements, but were available with different weight “blanks” or exoskeletons—light, regular, medium, and heavy...?
Greg does offer different weights, but they're all in brass. I mentioned the megatone because it isn't an uncommon observation that the megatone works better for them therefore weight makes a positive difference when the reality is that they're basically just two different mouthpieces at the end of the day. So someone making such an observation and then seeking affirmation would also likely pose a similar question.

EDIT: Doug beat me to the punch though I think what I wrote is still useful so I'll just post this anyway
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:30 am

Matt K wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:18 am
Reedman1 wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:33 pm
There’s no general rule of thumb, then?
Or even beyond that, my observation is that any two or more variables that change cause the interaction itself to change. Or more simply: The general rule is that when you change two things, they're likely to change at different rates.

That's one of the reasons I'm generally hesitant to recommend weight changes before someone has explored the differences in backbore, cup depth, or throat. All it takes is a couple of minutes in Doug's basement trying out the various cups/shanks alone to realize how much of a low hanging fruit that is. I also usually recommend someone clean out their mouthpiece as a lot of people who I've heard saying they are exploring options have a ton of crud in the mouthpiece. When your throat is .281" and .263" feels stuffy... I mean, that's 2 hundredths of an inch or slightly half a mm.
Kbiggs wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:24 am
Matt K wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:56 am
It's possible, though testing that is difficult sine I'm not aware of anyone who makes the same mouthpiece with the different variables you mentioned (e.g. all of the permutations of lightweight, heavyweight, steel, brass, etc.). Even the Bach "megatone" mouthpieces are not the same internal dimensions as the number would lead you to believe.
On the variable of weight alone, I thought Greg Black offered mouthpieces with the same internal measurements, but were available with different weight “blanks” or exoskeletons—light, regular, medium, and heavy...?
Greg does offer different weights, but they're all in brass. I mentioned the megatone because it isn't an uncommon observation that the megatone works better for them therefore weight makes a positive difference when the reality is that they're basically just two different mouthpieces at the end of the day. So someone making such an observation and then seeking affirmation would also likely pose a similar question.

EDIT: Doug beat me to the punch though I think what I wrote is still useful so I'll just post this anyway
So what if you change only one variable at at time? Say, make an 11C (I play 11C) with brass blank and silver plate, normal milling for the blank for the given maker; then make a heavy top version of the same. Identical rim, cup, throat, backbore, and shank. Then make a stainless steel version of the first one. Then get a studio player with one trombone, a recording booth, earplugs, a dB meter and an audio spectrometer, and have the player play the same test selections as similarly as possible, not adjusting for changes in feel. If a human player is not predictable bough, I believe there is a robot player somewhere. OK, I realize it’s a lot to do, and probably expensive - but wouldn’t the results be better than anecdotal? And wouldn’t that data be somewhat useful?
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Matt K
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Matt K » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:01 pm

You could, although it would be expensive. As mentioned by someone else, you can get a couple different weights for a Greg Black piece and see if you notice a difference. You're about $400 in the hole if you go with the heavier and lighter blanks. I suspect what you'd discover is that the influence is minor relative to interior dimensions and strongly influenced by the player and they horn they are on. (E.g. in your experiment to come up with an actual generalization, you'd have to add weight as a dimension to your steel piece and have dozens of players play all of them without knowing which one they are playing and also have them play all of them on different horns. Useful? Maybe! Time consuming? Definitely!)

Now, don't neglect the placebo effect. I'm a big fan of using that to your advantage. If you think change x will do y, then x is likely to do y whether or not it has any plausible reason for doing so. Heck, there have been studies that indicate that even if you tell a person they are taking a placebo, they have a physiological response to the placebo!
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Doug Elliott » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:19 pm

"not adjusting for changes in feel"
That's never going to happen.

Also, most players playing the same "test selection" several times, playing the exact same equipment, will experience differences from one time to the next. So even though that sort of test seems reasonable, there's not a lot of validity to it.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Neo Bri » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:45 pm

Doug Elliott wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:19 pm
"not adjusting for changes in feel"
That's never going to happen.

Also, most players playing the same "test selection" several times, playing the exact same equipment, will experience differences from one time to the next. So even though that sort of test seems reasonable, there's not a lot of validity to it.
That's why the test must be done with mechanical lips. And lots of sound analyzers. And lazerz.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 6:09 pm

OK. You have all been most informative and helpful. I guess the answer to my original question is, “maybe, sometimes, for some players.”... Is that about right? But, PS: if you did think it was worthwhile to test mouthpiece variables in isolation, how would you go about it?
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by blast » Sat Apr 28, 2018 1:46 am

Start with a few thousand bucks..... find an engineering company.... get them to copy a mouthpiece in different metals, using a CNC lathe.
I thought I had covered that.
Metals make things different,sure.
Practise makes far more difference..... and it's cheaper

Chris
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:13 am

OK, got it. Thanks, everybody.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by PhilipEdCarlson » Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:01 am

blast wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 1:46 am
Start with a few thousand bucks..... find an engineering company.... get them to copy a mouthpiece in different metals, using a CNC lathe.
I thought I had covered that.
Metals make things different,sure.
Practise makes far more difference..... and it's cheaper

Chris
I'm convinced practice is far more important.
Cheaper? not so much
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Matt K
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Matt K » Sat Apr 28, 2018 8:22 am

Well, I think that in general it's important to consider what degree of proof is required and why one is doing such research. Chris's response may sound coy, and while I can't speak for him, I think I can explain my thought process and how it has changed over time and hope it might elucidate on why there is a reluctance to give generalizations or even advice on how to arrive at such advice. Also, I'm the consummate gearhead, but an amateur nontheless, whereas Chris, Doug, and others who have responded here have much more experience in the industry so I'd weight their responses more heavily than mind.

So with that said, you had mentioned you wanted something more than anecdotal which is quite difficult and you'd probably be surprised to find what are commonly accepted axioms of mouthpiece design being not so common. For example, I used to be of the mindset that a larger rim equated with a darker sound and better sounding low notes and a smaller rim equated to a brighter sound and better ease of access to high notes. Currently, I don't really find there to be much a correlation between them. I've switched to Doug's rims for everything for a period of time (XT104N) though now I use an LB114 for bass as well. These are large rims on the spectrum of what the options are on the given on the respective instruments, and yet I find these rims to offer essentially both a "brighter" and a "darker" sound than smaller rims, as well as universally better access to the high range - for me - than smaller rims. Even the LB114 doesn't restrict my access to high range really. And Chris himself recently switched from something slightly larger to something quite smaller (Bach 1.5G). Check out the "Who in their right mind plays a 1.5G" post from the archives. It's long, but WELL worth the read. Well, most of it. It gets a little contentious, but still worth the read.

Similar with cups and backbores, I was continually surprised at how much of a difference the backbore/throat made on the feel of an instrument. Often times I find that a deeper cup does not respond the way that you would think. Sometimes I can get a brighter sound out of the deeper cup, sometimes I get a darker sound out of a shallower cup. So on and so forth. It changes from instrument to instrument, who I'm playing with, etc.

So in other words, if I were trying to test something like that out, the first thing to do is make sure that you understand your own playing (thus Chris's remarks about practice). This was insufficient for me without the advice of some people well above my pay grade (among them Doug).

Secondly, I'd focus on the 'low hanging fruit' equipment wise. The interactions between underparts on playing. I have about 3 for my small bore that I regularly use depending on the context after having tried probably half a dozen.

Once I had that figured out, I'd probably get a Wick "tone booster" as the weight control since you can have an otherwise identical mouthpiece with them. It might not fit everything, but you could have it modified. That would still be a heck of a lot cheaper than having mouthpieces made. I'd try it on at least 2 dozen underparts. (E.g. a Elliott E/E2, E/E3, E/E4, E/EAlto, ... C+/D2, C+/D3, ... A/A2, A/A3, etc.) that way I'd be relating the experience I had with the various cup depths/shapes and backbores and then adding in the new variable. You might find, for example, that the shallower the cup, the more of a difference is made (because there is less mass on a shallower cup much of the time as the shank needs to be made longer to compensate for the depth of the cup). You might also find a negative relationship where say, a smaller cup makes a positive influence but a larger cup has a negative influence (these are, of course, subjective terms I'm using because I don't know what your results would be).

Now, testing steel might be a bit of a challenge. Your best bet would probably be to work with either Houser, Giddings, or Matt Frost on that. Bear in mind that, as I mentioned, steel feels differently so I'm assuming that you're using the same rim for all of these. Probably silver plated brass if you're like many players. Repeat the same procedure with your threaded, steel underparts. Giddings produces a Joe Jefferson model that has a sleeve that screws onto it. (Picture attached below). They say of it:
Additionally, this mouthpiece features an outer sleeve, which adds more zip to your sound offering clearer articulations and more core to your overall sound.
So that's the opposite experience many have with weights, though who knows about steel. It looks fairly light, but I imagine they could build one that adds more weight. Rinse and repeat the above procedures making small changes in the cup and shank but with the differing weights.

After that, you'd have your generalization! But you can see why much of this is done ad-hoc or with a specific instrument or player in mind. Even mentioning what I did above is super time consuming.

AND, perhaps most importantly, if you're simply seeking to make your 11C heavier to see if it makes it easier to play in some respect, just get a "Tone Booster" or similar and just put it on your 11C. Relatively cheap, simple to add and remove. The results will be anecdotal and hugely influenced by the placebo effect, but so what? I'm a huge fan of the placebo effect. Sometimes our mind is much more of a negative influence than the world itself. So get the mind out of your own way and it'll help!

I did that with my rotor. I had a delrin valve cap made. Looks awesome. Doesn't corrode like a brass one. And I think it makes the horn play better. Does it really? Who knows! But it was well worth it for me to think it plays better!
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blast
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by blast » Sat Apr 28, 2018 11:38 am

Reedman1 wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:13 am
OK, got it. Thanks, everybody.
I don't want to upset anyone.... and yours is a perfectly reasonable question. I just feel it is important to put this in an overall context in terms of what helps you in different areas of playing. For the general readership.
I sometimes find myself in the odd position of being asked to try stuff when I am not really interested. You cannot mess around too much in a professional orchestra. The different material mouthpieces were one such case.... I gave feedback. During the course of testing I was able to model the rim of one of my MV Bachs onto the back part that had been copied. I really liked, and still like, the result and find myself playing on it. Basic brass. Zirconium was VERY interesting, but would retail at around $6-700,so is a non starter. Not as good a blend in the section either.... but better than stainless steel.

Chris
Reedman1
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Reedman1 » Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:33 pm

Wow... deeper topic than I even imagined. Matt K, thanks for your long, thoughtful and detailed response, and your suggestion to try a "tone booster". Great idea! All of you have given me a lot to think about. Thank you for putting so much thought and energy into your replies, and sharing so much of your personal experiences.

I find trombone mouthpieces to be quite a unique case. Well, the trombone overall... but mouthpieces particularly. On trumpet, I never heard of anyone saying that a certain mouthpiece was too big or too little for a certain horn. Either the shank fit, or it didn't; either it suited the player, or it didn't. On reeds, the mouthpiece is about comfort and whether you want a round, classical, tone, a screechy rock tone, or a middle-of-the road tone, and how easy it is to color your sound. It was actually pretty easy to understand. In all cases, the effect on intonation is a consideration, of course. Maybe as a reed player I was unaware of variations and experiments with mouthpiece design. As a trumpet player, I was mostly concerned with comfort and timbre. On trombone, the mouthpiece seems to have a still more pronounced effect on my playing overall - comfort, how much energy it takes to play, timbre, volume, harmonic series... it's quite a challenge. I enjoy the exploration, of course, or I'd give up. But I'm amazed how much more there is to know - and very grateful to those of you who are so generously sharing your knowledge in answer to my questions.

Thanks, all.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by dsmndng » Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:31 pm

Thought I'd add my own two cents to this dead thread... It really does come down to just practice and approach.

Recently made a bunch of mouthpiece changes over the past year due to this very subject.

I was hanging out with a fellow trombone friend - playing each other's gear - and I picked up his Elliot Mason Giddings and Webster piece: both heavy and stainless steel. The weight and/or material gave a quick response that I liked and the sound seemed to project better - something that I had been seeking for my steady gigs that were unamplified.

I eventually picked up a megatone 6 1/2 AL because of that piece and soon after settled on a Denis Wick 6BS with the tone booster.

Took that setup on the road for the better part of a year and enjoyed it because I thought the response was good, projection was improved, and the low register speaker easier.

However, recently I changed my sound concept, experimented a lot of with my embochure, and changed my approach to playing. Now I play without the tone booster (and my counterweight for that matter) and I find that my response is good, projection has improved, and the low register speaks easier... but that's just my experience.
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Re: Stainless steel, heavy tops?

Post by Doug Elliott » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:55 pm

So to summarize in case anybody missed it:

The effect of more weight: the response was good, projection was improved, and the low register speaks easier.

The effect of less weight: the response was good, projection was improved, and the low register speaks easier.

A better physical approach to playing makes far more important of a difference than anything else.
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