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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentMouthpieces(Moderators: BGuttman, Doug Elliott) Difference between gold and silver plated
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Proximitus
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« on: Oct 01, 2010, 02:40AM »

So, as the title says, what is the difference between gold and silver (and platinum or lexan) plated mouthpieces? Difference in sound or just a different feeling on the lips, one being more comfortable then the other?
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BGuttman
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 01, 2010, 03:41AM »

We've discussed this many times.

There are two common platings on the metal: silver and gold.

Silver is the most common.  So I won't talk about it per se, but will use it as a reference.

Gold plated mouthpieces certainly look nicer.  Gold appears to be slipperier than silver, so if your playing style involves a lot of movement of the mouthpiece on your mouth this can be an advantage.  As to whether it plays differently, I have the same mouthpiece in silver and gold and found they played exactly the same.  Some people are allergic to silver and must use a gold plated mouthpiece.  Downside of gold plate is that it is much thinner than silver and wears off easier.

The next most common mouthpiece is plastic.  You can get a plastic rim for a Doug Elliott system, or you can get a completely plastic mouthpiece like a Kelly.  Nowadays most plastic mouthpieces are Lexan (polycarbonate) but there was a nylon mouthpiece made by DEG many years ago (it was awful).  Plastic is "stickier" than silver; i.e. the mouthpiece tends to stay where you put it.  My experience is that plastic absorbs some sound; plastic mouthpieces aren't quite as loud as metal ones.  Plastic warms up faster; a plastic mouthpiece doesn't feel cold on your face after a long rest.  Plastic is the best choice when you have to play outdoors in sub-freezing weather also.  While you can dent a metal mouthpiece if you drop it, that usually doesn't happen to plastic.  Also, plastic is much easier to scratch than any metal.  Because plastic mouthpieces must be molded rather than machined, there are limited sizes available.

Stainless Steel has become a popular material.  It's very hard to machine and only a couple of makers use it.  Stainless steel is very good for people who are allergic to silver or gold.  Stainless is much denser than the brass used for silver or gold plated mouthpiece and thus it has a different sound.  I don't own one so somebody else will have to talk to how it plays.  Stainless steel mouthpieces tend to be expensive.

50 years ago there were aluminum mouthpieces.  They only came in small sizes and were popular with some jazz players, probably because they had a bright collection of overtones.  I don't think anybody makes mouthpieces from aluminum any more.

There are mouthpieces made of titanium.  Titanium is even harder to machine than stainless steel and thus the mouthpieces are extremely expensive.  I can't talk to how they play since I never owned one.

There is even one maker who makes mouthpieces from wood.  I actually own one.  There are several different types of wood used, but I can only talk about the one I own.  I actually had two (different sizes) but sold the one that was too small to a friend.  He loved it until one day his wood mouthpiece split.  He managed to glue it back together, but this indicates one of the weak points of this mouthpiece.  Mine seems to absorb more sound than the plastic mouthpieces.  I would refer to it as my "chamber mouthpiece".  It also requires an incredible amount of care.  You have to oil it to keep it sealed.  You can't take it outdoors in cold weather.  Also, it has a plated brass shank; it really is only a wood cup and rim.

At one time Olds offered a mouthpiece with an ivory rim.  Unfortunately you can't use ivory for anything any more, so I doubt you will find one unless it's been in a case for some 80 years (after which it probably won't be usable any more).

I'm not aware of any other coatings or materials being used.  We talked about using Titanium Nitride, but I don't know of anybody actually using it.
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« Reply #2 on: Oct 01, 2010, 05:57AM »

Stainless steel is denser, and definitely harder and more elastic than brass. Playing one after using "standard" silver plated brass mouthpieces is like dropping a race car engine into a family sedan: it can be hard to control at first, especially with respect to volume.  I have a much easier time blowing holes in walls with my G&W Euros than I do with my Bach 5G and 5GMT. It just seems more "alive". It also tends to add some brilliance to the sound so it takes some getting used to before this can be tamed.
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 01, 2010, 06:27AM »

Thanks for all this info! Tried looking it up on the internet, but never got quite a detailed explanation like this one~!

Very interesting to! Was always curious on different types of materials
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« Reply #4 on: Oct 01, 2010, 06:46AM »

Stainless is much denser than the brass used for silver or gold plated mouthpiece and thus it has a different sound.

My understanding is that the stainless steel alloy used for mouthpieces is actually slightly less dense than brass, but harder.

Quote
I'm not aware of any other coatings or materials being used.  We talked about using Titanium Nitride, but I don't know of anybody actually using it.

I believe Houser does titanium nitride plating. He describes it is slightly more sticky in feel than uncoated polished stainless steel which I suppose would put it very close to plain old silver plate.

My feeling is that while there are differences in sound and response between mouthpieces made of different materials (and perhaps to a much lesser extent, plated with different materials) the differences in mouthpiece shapes and dimensions are MUCH more important than what it's made of. Unless you've got an absolutely identical mouthpiece in brass and stainless, it's not possible to say that stainless steel material by itself "blows holes in walls" or anything like that!
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« Reply #5 on: Oct 01, 2010, 03:37PM »

difference between gold and silver,... about 30 bucks...

Gold is slipperier
Lexan is grippy but always warm
Platinum... really platinum?


BTW, the Olds ivory was whale ivory, not elephant.  Not easy to get, but not impossible, especially if you know some Inuit people.
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 03, 2010, 11:57AM »

My understanding is that the stainless steel alloy used for mouthpieces is actually slightly less dense than brass, but harder.

My feeling is that while there are differences in sound and response between mouthpieces made of different materials (and perhaps to a much lesser extent, plated with different materials) the differences in mouthpiece shapes and dimensions are MUCH more important than what it's made of. Unless you've got an absolutely identical mouthpiece in brass and stainless, it's not possible to say that stainless steel material by itself "blows holes in walls" or anything like that!
I checked, and yeah SS is actually a bit less dense.

As for the response, it just has seemed easier to get out of control volume-wise on my Euros than it does on a stock Bach 5G or 5GMT. I thought it might be the slightly larger throat, but I have a Yamaha 2G with a larger throat, and on the low end it can't compete with with the SS in terms of ease in producing some really huge sounds.

I would think is due to the increased hardness and elasticity. How exactly this works, I have no idea. A physics major or maybe engineer might better able to explain it.
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Yamaha YBL-612RII - Faxx 1 1/2G, Laskey 85MD
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