Brass or Plastic?
Brass mouthpieces are the best option for most players in most playing situations when trying the Wedge for the first time.
In deciding between a brass and plastic mouthpiece, consider the following information about plastic mouthpieces.
Wedge plastic mouthpieces are machined from black Delrin just like our
brass and stainless steel models. They have all the advantages of a
metal Wedge mouthpiece, but they do require some adjustment. Plastic
mouthpieces are great for playing in cold weather. They are an
economical way to try a Wedge mouthpiece, but one must understand their
feels softer on the chops because it has more give than metal. This is a
great advantage for players with braces. However, plastic is not as
slippery as metal, giving more grip. This takes some getting used to.
Because it is not as smooth as metal some players may feel some very
slight chop irritation for the first day or two while they adjust.
Players who can adapt to this added grip on the mouthpiece may enjoy
improved endurance as the rim holds the embouchure in place.
Plastic provides different feedback than brass. Feedback
is more immediate and intimate, making it easier to colour the sound
with the right backbore.
Plastic mouthpieces are more comfortable to play in cold
weather because they feel warm on the chops. This is not because they
warm up faster, but rather because they transfer heat less quickly. The
transfer of heat from your warm lips into a colder mouthpiece is what
gives the perception of a mouthpiece being cold. A plastic mouthpiece
the same temperature as a metal one feels warmer because it transfers
heat more slowly. This can also be an advantage when picking up a cold
horn when doing horn switches during a performance or when teaching or
giving a clinic. Black plastic can get very hot in the sun, so they
should be shaded when possible.
Plastic mouthpieces are more responsive than brass. In
this regard they are similar to stainless steel, but sound darker than
stainless. They are very easy to play quietly with delicate attacks or
soft articulation. Although plastic mouthpieces speak quickly they do
not have as much point or bead on the front of the note as metal, so
this is a bit of a trade off.
Sound and Projection
made completely of plastic not only sound darker than otherwise
identical metal mouthpieces, they also also lack some density or core in
the sound. They can be very loud, but the sound has a different
quality. Lead mouthpieces made of plastic lack the brilliance and
projection needed to cut through a large band. This can lead to fatigue
if the player over blows in order to get the feedback they are used to
with a metal mouthpiece.
Combining Plastic and Metal
Combining a plastic mouthpiece with a brass tone modifier
(a brass collar that fits over the base of the cup near the shank)
makes the sound brighter and adds more core to the sound with more
defined slotting. The mouthpiece sounds slightly darker than brass.
The Bottom Line
People ask if a plastic mouthpiece is a good way to test a
Wedge. It is an indeed an economical option. However, plastic plays
quite differently than brass, which can make it difficult to asses the
characteristics of the Wedge rim. This must be kept in mind when
assessing the way the mouthpiece plays for you, and is one reason not to
test the Wedge for the first time on plastic.