Breslmair Mouthpieces Measuring

Problems for musicians and producers

Subsequent measuring or measuring of mouthpieces poses great problems not only for the musician. Only modern computer technology makes it possible to define a mouthpiece exactly by means of free-form measuring techniques. At this point, however, I do not want to consider this topic, it is too specific and not applicable in everyday life.

Lengths and outside diameters can be measured with conventional precision. Micrometre screws and calipers allow measurements with an accuracy in the hundredths of a millimetre range. The bore of a mouthpiece can be determined by means of drill shafts (non-cutting side of the drill), more precisely, but hardly available, this measurement can be obtained with so-called dowel pins (standards) (precisely ground, hardened steel cylinders with a certain diameter).

The problems start with determining the cup width (or inside rim width). There are no parallel surfaces or cylinders in this area that can be measured exactly. Radius follows radius and does not allow a diameter to be determined. Some manufacturers give bold measurements of their cups in their brochures. What is missing is an indication of where these values were measured. Unfortunately, there is still no standard in this field that could provide the musician with comparative values worldwide.

We were interested in the data of a renowned manufacturer and checked them in some cases. We suspect that the stated value was reached at different points in the respective models, which leads us to conclude that these are merely estimates. (Inaccurate production and sloppy finishing can also lead to enormous deviations).

The result for the musician is that these data represent fictitious values with which he can do absolutely nothing, because no comparisons with other manufacturers are possible.

Measurement of the cup widths

Let us therefore stick to the method of "measuring" the cup widths by means of a coin. Every interested person uses his or her personal coin. No matter which currency is used, you only have to know the thickness and the diameter. If you put this coin into the cup, it will stick out or lie more or less deep inside, depending on the diameter of the cup. Be that as it may, a relation can now be established between different cups that has some significance. It would be wrong to say that a mouthpiece has a wide rim just because the outer diameter is e.g. 29.0mm. What is decisive is the ratio of the outer diameter to the inner diameter. From this, a ratio value is calculated that identifies the rim as narrow or wide.

Another feature that emerges all by itself over time is the so-called "friction ring". If you regularly place your mouthpiece on a hard surface (not recommended!) you will notice that it scratches its rim, originally smooth polished shiny. The highest point of the rim emerges matt, scratched in a ring shape. If you measure this diameter on several mouthpieces, you will notice differences.

This is where most of the pressure on the musician's lips occurs. This ring should lie within the inner half of the rim. The further it is from the centre of the mouthpiece, the sharper the rim (exact application). At this point it is not possible to make any concrete statements, since the rim must be seen as a whole and should trigger a feeling of well-being in the musician. However, if there are problems with endurance, attainable pitch or timbre, this aspect will also have to be looked at more closely.

At the centre of the consideration

surely lies the cup of a mouthpiece. It seems to hold the solution to all problems. It is the starting point for all melodious and shrill sounds. It shapes the sound, forces the airflow, constricts the lips or gives them too much space. It is too deep and also too shallow. It is compatible with pump valves, but not with rotary valves...

If you ask us, as manufacturers, what the ideal cup should look like, we can only say: it must be adapted to the musician, his music and his instrument.

However, for all the research that brass instruments and mouthpieces had to endure, no results could be obtained that gave the manufacturer concrete procedures. Master craftsmen, in collaboration with their test wind players, empirically produced mouthpieces that tried to do justice to their ideas of sound. Countless models were created and discarded; the model ranges of many manufacturers are almost unmanageable. Who should know about the advantages and disadvantages of individual products and be able to make recommendations?

Our standard cups are the models G1 to G4. Karl Breslmair took these over from his father, who constantly tried to make top mouthpieces.

The constancy of forms

The consistency of the moulds has always been a major problem for mouthpiece manufacturers. Handmade mouthpieces always remained unique pieces and prototypes. The system of tone formation is so complicated that even the smallest differences due to manufacturing tolerances can lead to significant changes in the sound or playing behaviour.

To eliminate these errors, we work with the most modern production machines, partly using diamond tools. This enables us to achieve a repeat accuracy in the micro range. Any compromises in this high accuracy have to be accepted anyway due to subsequent operations up to galvanisation.

You may already be wondering why we do not give specific details about cup shapes. To this we can only say that far be it from us to quote banalities or copy from other authors. This subject is far too delicate to be described by saying that a deep modular kettle makes a nice big sound and a shallow modular kettle is better for high notes. I give preference to V-shaped cups over C-shaped cups. The latter may be more suitable for perinet systems (more resistance due to congestion) but sonically a V-shaped modular cup comes out on top in both cases (Viennese style).

However, what about the drilling itself? Should one drill 3.8mm or give preference to 3.6mm? These are already subtleties that cannot be answered in general terms either. If the core lies rather high, we achieve different properties than if it lies low. Very important is the length of the core itself. Every section of the cup and a change to it also causes a change in sound and response. The shank bore cannot be chosen wisely enough to give a model the life it needs.

Each of our models goes through an extensive test programme before it is included in the standard range. Countless combinations are tried out before we dare to make a recommendation.

In the end, it is the critical musician who will decide which type he prefers. No large assortment can satisfy a musician if he does not know in which direction to look, and no flowery descriptions can give him an impression of how a mouthpiece really feels on the lips.

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