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 Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Reformed 
Date:   2019-11-24 02:16

As an oldie, I must admit to coming from a view that plastic mouthpieces were mass produced for students and beginners and that they wear very quickly. The orthodox view was that hard rubber / ebonite was the only option for a quality / professional player. Well maybe also crystal for the risk takers.

Over the last few years, I have moved to using German mouthpieces on reform Boehm clarinets.

I am struck by the number of German / Austrian mouthpiece and clarinet makers now using what is variously termed plastic, acrylic or Plexiglass. The makers include Wurllitzer, Maxton, ESM, AW Reeds and even sometimes Zinner. Many of their products are reassuringly expensive.

I think that each maker uses their own recipe for the mouthpiece material.

I have a Maxton mouthpiece that I particularly like. At least to my own ears, the resulting sound is just gorgeous.

Has anyone used a plastic mouthpiece long term? Is the reputation of plastic mouthpieces as soft and quick wearing now wrong?

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2019-11-24 05:46

You probably already know this, however, ESM makes the acrylic MCK1 for the American market and it's priced at $143.

Post Edited (2019-11-24 07:26)

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-24 06:29

Germans have been at acrylic for a LONG time. I went through what you are experiencing back in 1984 when I received my Wurlitzer 100Cs. They came with a couple acrylic mouthpieces and I was a bit shocked. I wrote back basically saying something on the order of,"Well surely you have hard rubber mouthpieces?" They did not.

It turns out though that despite what some manufacturers say, the material of the mouthpiece plays a VERY small part in the sound (much like the clarinet itself). It is the attention to the detail of the dimensions (how the wave form vibrates within the tube) that is MOST important. Plastic gets a bum rap because it is also the material of choice when NO thought is put into the architecture and finishing and the result is a crappy product (which just happens to be made of plastic).

I have had a few years on the ESMs which are extraordinarily well made mouthpieces. Their greatness is in how constant they are from one to the other. Once you find YOUR dimension (mouthpiece model) in the line up, you can pretty much guarantee that you can go to the store and pick up another and it will play exactly the same (no exaggeration).

I have a clear acrylic Wurlitzer M3+ that is a killer with #3 Legere German cut reeds. If I ever return to the Oehler system, that will be my weapon of choice.

...............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2019-11-24 06:42

Paul, how did the ESM mouthpiece play for you? I find them very interesting. Did you come across a problem that made you stop using it?

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2019-11-24 07:51

From my readings, acrylic is a much harder material than "hard rubber". One site mentioned that acrylic is10 times tougher than glass. This, to me, means that the acrylic facing would probably never wear out. Even Ridenour's ad for his bass clarinet mentions that it is made of hard rubber and Dupont acrylic. He goes on to state that this combination is harder, more stable, and durable than pure hard rubber. He also states that it will never discolor, warp, or oxidize.

So...the question in my mind is...why do we keep saying hard rubber is the "best" material for pro mouthpieces? Is it simply because it's easier to work with?

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-24 13:54

I was using (and still have) a number of ESM MCK-1 mouthpieces that work really well for me. I pointed out in another current thread that I have been rather quick of late to experiment with "new" mouthpieces as an extension of the rather revolutionary path Bas DeJong and his Viotto N-1 for Boehm clarinets sent me on about five years ago.

The upshot (and not the topic.......sorry) is that I am trying to simultaneously optimize for Legere reeds, and make the playing experience as close to the traditional German experience (in terms of effort vs. output) as possible.

Now back to topic.

Think of acrylic as you would a sheet of plexiglass. It is NOT more durable than standard hard rubber (though there are some vulcanized rubber products that are particularly "soft"). But it will not discolor or break down chemically like vulcanized rubber. One citation from ESM is that they prefer the material for being more "sanitary." I'm not entirely sure how they mean that, but I can tell you that acrylic will never smell like an old rubber mouthpiece because the material is really inert.

..............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Reformed 
Date:   2019-11-24 19:42

Thanks everyone, that reassures me somewhat in making the Maxton my daily "go to".

Interestingly, I see that since I purchased that Maxton about 15 months ago they additionally offer their mouthpiece in "Flexilis" which they also describe as "synthetic rubber". The plastic is still offered and described as "PMMA-Compound" (in German).

I do have 3 Wurlitzer acrylic mouthpieces, that I picked up cheap on the auction site. They seem to be very well finished but Wurlitzer's bore modifications extend to the mouthpiece so they do not play in tune on my Yamahas.

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2019-11-25 01:49

Hi Paul, per the following link, acrylic is definitely harder than hard rubber.

By durable, I meant that an acrylic mouthpiece could be dropped onto a hard surface and it will merely bounce around (per Ridenour). Dropping a hard rubber mouthpiece has been known to cause chips or breakage at the mouthpiece tip.

However, to me, the real clincher comes from Ralph Morgan. The Shore D hardness of hard rubber mouthpieces, per Morgan, varies between 82 and 95. He claims the lower Shore D hard rubber mouthpieces produce a darker tone while the higher Shore D hard rubber mouthpieces produce a brighter tone.

Look for "SHORE ā€œDā€ HARDNESS SCALE FOR HARD RUBBER MOUTHPIECES" in the following article:

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-25 05:14

The hardness scale in the first link does not seem to be related to vulcanized rubber. But I am not really sure how they are measuring that (compressive strength? tensile strength?).

What I can comment on is the day to day use of a mouthpiece.

First example:

After about a year on one particular ESM, I noted the same sort of "dulling" that you see on a vulcanized rubber mouthpiece at the points along the tip and side rails where the reed vibrates.

Second example:

While clumsily placing a Bay ligature on an ESM "Blue Heaven," I missed and hit the very tip of the mouthpiece first. This was not a "jamming" sort of maneuver, but just the effort you'd normally use to "place" the ligature. What I got was a good thin but obvious dent from the very tip to through a portion of the playing surface of the tip rail. I was particularly upset with myself because I'd only had that mouthpiece a few days at that point. Now the Bay (for all familiar) does have an edge like a set of Ginsu knives, but it still shows that acrylic mouthpiece is NOT bullet proof (or maybe it is Tesla Truck bullet proof.......ha).

..............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Higher end plastic/acrylic mouthpieces?
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2019-11-25 06:43

Thanks, Paul, for your very informative response. I guess there's nothing like shared real life experiences to dispel theorized assumptions or predictions.

To me, that's why this BB is so important!

Post Edited (2019-11-25 07:54)

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