We get lots of questions about mouthpieces. When it comes to the mellophone -- either traditional or bellfront -- the right mouthpiece can be crucial as to the sound the instrument produces. There are a number of philosophies regarding mouthpiece selection and we don't necessarily agree with them. But, we have tried them and proven that our choices do produce a superior tone. Read on.
It's important to know that physically and acoustically, Mellophones use the wrong sized mouthpiece. If you look at the mouthpieces historically used on the traditional Mellophone, and consider the size, bore and flare of the instrument, the Mellophone SHOULD use a mouthpiece the size of, oh, a Tenor Horn mouthpiece. We fully understand that this may not work efficiently in marching bands and drum corps.
A first general rule is that the mouthpiece the horn comes with is bad. 100% of the time it's way too shallow. Traditional mellophones come with something similar to a cornet mouthpiece and bellfront horns come with something similar to a trumpet mouthpiece. The resulting tone is piercing, nasal and very bright.
Therefore, we recommend the following:
You won't be disappointed with the sound. Trust us. I (Al) personally use a Bach 3 on my traditional horn and a Wick 2 on my bellfront.
We do know that more often than not, this is not an option. In those cases, there are a few recommendations. Note that none of them are the standard V6.
One good option is the Curry 1HTF Trumpet mouthpiece. According to Mouthpiece Express:
Curry TF mouthpieces are trumpet mouthpieces incorporating the depth of sound you get on a flugel piece without the excess cup volume that makes those style mouthpieces difficult to play. It is in tune to high C and above, yet you can play softly and firmly in the low register. Perfect for soft orchestral passages, intimate jazz settings, or for just "working out." The cup is roughly 1/3 concave (trumpet-like) and 2/3 convex (flugel-like) with a special backbore and a .153" (3.89mm) bore.
IMPORTANT! To compensate for tuning, Curry TF mouthpieces are .400" shorter than the standard Curry length of 3.5". Therefore, Curry Megasleeves will not fit Curry TF mouthpieces.
Also an excellent option, and one gaining popularity fast, is the Hammond. Karl Hammond Design has produced a mouthpiece that is used by many top corps. From their website:
6MP - This mellophone mouthpiece was the basis of the 6MPH. The specifications are the same as the 6MPH but it is a standard weight mouthpiece. This model is currently being used by the Phantom Regiment, Spirit from JSU, Troopers and Minnesota Brass, Inc.
6MPh - This mellophone mouthpiece is exclusive to the Bluecoats and is based on our 6 diameter rim with a 20 throat and V-cup but does have a slight contour in the bottom of the cup for control. These pieces are a heavyweight version of the 6MP.
5MPV - This mellophone mouthpiece uses the number 5 rim with a deeper V shape cup than the other models. This particular mouthpiece has a 19 throat and our number 4 backbore. It is used by the Santa Clara Vanguard.
And according to the Middle Horn Leader:With the renaissance in mid-voice mouthpiece technology and the increasing supply of mid-voice specific mouthpieces that have become readily available in the last three years such as the IYM and the Curry TF Series, the Hammond has efficiently and nearly instantly set the standard in modern mid-voice mouthpiece design. It is no accident these mouthpieces are being utilized by so many top drum and bugle corps brass lines.
Another great alternative is the Larry Kerchner Mellophone Mouthpiece from IYM Corp. Yes, that's the mouthpiece lots of the folks from the Cavaliers use. It's a good transition mouthpiece for French Horn players and, despite it's funky looks, plays quite well.
Finally, many French Horn players will use adapters and play with their French Horn mouthpiece. Though we cannot condone this practice, we do understand it. I myself (Al, not Greg) was always worried about the damage a different type of mouthpiece would do while I was a serious French Horn player, so I reverted to using adapters during marching season. If you have to go this way, though, use as small of a mouthpiece as you can get.
But, if you make the commitment to being a full-time Tenor Hornist or Mellophonist and leave the French Horn behind (I know, I know ... it's a serious commitment!), you would do best to go with our two recommendations above.
There aren't a lot of choices when it comes to traditional mellophone mouthpieces. Here is a listing of traditional mellophone mouthpieces readily available.
As per Mouthpiece Express: While alto (tenor) horn and mellophone mouthpieces have identical rim and cup shape, the mellophone mouthpieces have slightly smaller shanks. These are old style models. Most marching mellophones produced today use trumpet-style mouthpieces.
Model No. Depth of Cup Approx. Cup Dia. Rim Shape Description 3 Medium 19.75mm Medium wide Fairly large, with full tone for the players with a good embouchure. 5 Medium 19.20mm Medium wide An excellent design for the well developed player. Produces great volume and responds easily. 6 Medium 19.00mm Medium wide The same qualities as No. 5 but slightly smaller in size. 7 Medium 18.50mm Medium wide A medium-small mouthpiece most suitable for players with a sensitive embouchure. 12 Medium 18.30mm Medium wide A small mouthpiece for players with weak embouchures and for those who have difficulty with the high register.
Good Links for Mellophone Mouthpieces
Kelly Mouthpieces (Bringing Color to Music)
Bach Brass Mouthpieces