Know Your Vincent Bach Mouthpieces

Have you heard of Vennture Mouthpieces? Doug McVey is making a big name for himself in the trumpet mouthpiece world and it’s absolutely deserved. As well as making his own lines of fantastic brass instrument mouthpieces he is a real master of custom work. His VennCAD software is available free-of-charge from his website and enables anybody with an idea to combine cups, rims and backbores to create the mouthpiece of their dreams. If you’re interested in mouthpieces then I’d recommend you take a look. I also highly recommend you listen to one of the many interviews that he’s doing at the moment such as this one: Trumpet Gurus Hang Podcast

I was taking a look at the wealth of information available in the VennCAD software recently and thought it would be interesting to revisit a topic that I have discussed before. In one of my earliest posts about Vincent Bach mouthpieces (click here) I made a reference to how not all ‘C’ cups are created equal.

Something that Doug discusses differently to the marketing materials of most trumpet mouthpiece manufacturers is the topic of a mouthpiece’s cup volume. He’s less bothered than most about the shape of a cup, or the diameter of a rim, but what the volume of the cup is and the consequences that this has on the acoustic properties of the instrument. The volume of a mouthpiece cup will change the frequency of the sound that is produced when you tap the end of the mouthpiece with your palm. This “pop frequency” is a good way to compare the sound that you can expect to be produced when you put that mouthpiece into a trumpet. As this experiment is performed without the variable of the player being involved, it can give you an objective understanding of the physical properties of the equipment without the need for subjective opinion interfering. He’s much better at explaining this than I am so I suggest you go and listen to the podcast.

There is a lot of interesting information to be uncovered when considering a mouthpiece as a three-dimentional shape, rather than a product of its two-dimentional components. For example, a Schilke 15B (which I had in my rotation for years) has about the same cup volume as a Vincent Bach 11C. That’s not information you’ll find on a comparison chart, or that you’d instictively believe by looking at them.

Interesting observations

The points I thought people would find interesting are what follows, and I won’t ramble on too much about what it all means. In terms of cup volume, here is a chart of some popular Vincent Bach mouthpieces listed by size. Who knew that a 7C is bigger than a 1-1/2C? That’s not the only thing most players would find surprising. All measurements are in cubic inches.

An awful lot of players choose to play a 3C because they consider it to be fairly medium in size. In the grand scheme of things, when you consider other brands, it is. But clearly when comparing it to other Vincent Bach mouthpieces, it is not – even the 10-1/2C is bigger! There’s a lot of talk along the lines of how it’s easier to play than a 1-1/2C, but still big enough to get a “legit sound”. Again, this is true, but I am pretty confident that players also think “It’s bigger than a 7C, so that makes it alright. I won’t be criticised by everyone for using a small mouthpiece.”

I find it pretty funny that teachers tell pupils that they need to move onto a bigger mouthpiece and then unknowingly move them onto a smaller one, often more than once!!

Other factors

Of course there’s more to a mouthpiece than just the cup size, but a the effect of a backbore and throat combination can often have counter-intuitive results. In the interview Doug explains how a larger backbore actually creates a brighter sound. This is interesting because often we tend to think of a backbore in terms of balancing the resistance that it provides when we play, but may end up making a choice that takes us in the wrong direction in terms of the desired sound.

If you consider something like a Vincent Bach 1-1/4C with a 24 throat and a 24 (larger) backbore. Compared to the stock design, the larger throat reduces the brilliance (higher overtones) in the sound, but the larger backbore would encourage them, thus the two would cancel each other out to a degree. The mouthpiece may feel a little more ‘open’, but it would end up sounding basically the same as the stock model.

When you read the earlier Bach mouthpiece manuals (that I shared in my previous post on the subject) you can see that Bach intended his various cup sizes to match various different sizes of trumpet, rather than thinking of people playing the B-flat trumpet in different styles. That’s why some might say that there aren’t really any traditional Vincent Bach mouthpieces that are ideal for playing lead trumpet, for example.

Anyway… I said I wouldn’t ramble so I’ll leave it here.