What difference does mouthpiece material make?

This is too a broad question and also very difficult to judge!  I ask it because I came across a now-discontinued Sterling Silver Yamaha 14B4 trumpet mouthpiece a short while ago and was very interested to find out…

1. What difference the silver makes…and

2. Why they were discontinued.

Question 2 is probably pretty straightforward to answer. Where they are still showing as available in the UK, the retail cost of them is around £300, which is most certainly not a price bracket that we are accustomed to with Yamaha.

What difference the silver makes requires some playing and listening, so I have lined up 3 mouthpieces that are all advertised as having the same rim and cup profiles from Yamaha and will test them on a Xeno 8335RGS and a Bach 180ML37:

Standard 14B4 Trumpet Mouthpiece

Custom GP (heavyweight) 14B4 Trumpet Mouthpiece

Custom 925 Sterling Silver 14B4 Trumpet Mouthpiece

I played each mouthpiece on both trumpets at a range of dynamics and registers using a variety of attacks and articulations. I took notes based on how they ‘felt’, and also recorded them closely-miked to get an idea of how they would perform for me in the studio. I also asked a trumpeter friend (although they may not be for much longer after the racket that I subjected them to!) to listen from the other side of the room and take their own notes.

The whole lot makes for a long (and not particularly interesting) read, so I have done a summary below and would very much welcome thoughts from other players (and indeed designers and manufacturers) on these and any other mouthpieces made from non-brass.

The Standard mouthpiece gives a nice even sound across the range, although it gets overly bright for me in the upper register and doesn’t really open out enough for my taste in the lower registers.  This is probably partly to do with the fact that although I generally have always played on 14 style (Bach 3) rims, I have also always opened out the throats to give less resistance.  The brightness and ‘edge’ that I was experiencing was also picked up on by my audient and to a lesser degree by my close-miked recording.

The Custom GP mouthpiece is also brass and has more mass around the outside of the cup.  Immediately I felt a huge tonal difference.  The sound was much more centred and had a richer and more solid tonal core across the registers.  I could not however get a brightness of sound (even on the 8335RGS) at louder dynamics that I would want.  Interestingly, my listener at the other side said that there was not much difference at louder dynamics to the standard model.  This was also the case listening back to the recording, suggesting that the biggest difference with the GP model is in feel and comfort from a playing perspective rather than necessarily in sound.

The Sterling Silver model has a similar volume to the standard (a bach-ish style blank) but is certainly a few grams heavier than the standard due to the material.  It felt instantly different – more tonal core (quite similar to the heavier GP), but surprisingly also a massively quicker response.  Unlike the GP model, what I was feeling as a richer sound did actually come across to the audience and the difference could clearly be heard on the recording.  Generally you would expect this from a tighter or shallower-cupped mouthpiece, but not necessarily from something like the 14B4.  The rim and cup profiles, the throat and backbore should all be the same as the standard model, however this mouthpiece responded completely differently.

I mentioned earlier that I generally open out my mouthpieces to a 25 or 26 throat. This silver model has a standard narrower 27 throat, yet has a strange combination of the open sound that you associate with a larger mouthpiece with the quick response and overtones that you can get from a smaller more resistant piece.

What do my fellow trumpeters think? I would be really interested to hear what you have thought about non-brass mouthpieces.  There are obviously a lot of options now available made out of synthetic materials and plastics. Has anyone experimented with metals other than brass, and is there scope and/or a financial viability for designers and manufacturers to explore this further?

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