Enthalpy

Brass Instruments Materials

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Hello everyone !

Could liquid crystal polymer make mouthpieces for brass wind instruments?

Mouthpieces are almost always made of metal presently. Wood is too sensitive to saliva, usual polymers sound badly supposedly because they aren't stiff enough. But metal is cold when playing outside or in a church.

With high mechanical damping and 10GPa Young's modulus, more if loaded with graphite choppers for instance, LCP should perform better than usual polymers. If the sound is decent but differs from metal, it may fit some scores.

At least Vectra A950 is authorized for food contact by the FDA. LCP can be processed by injection to make cheaper mouthpieces.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy

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18 hours ago, Enthalpy said:

usual polymers sound badly supposedly because they aren't stiff enough.

The stiffness of the rim relates more to the seal around the embouchure and the player's comfort, doesn't it? Using polymers instead of steel or brass seems less expensive, and might allow you to play with different sizes of cup to get a pleasing sound. You can also change the rim's flatness/roundness more easily, I would think. The throats and backbores are fairly standard, but if polymers make it easier to change the rims and cups I'd say it's worth looking into. 

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Plastic mouthpieces are very common, but not preferred for normal playing. I have only ever used brass mouthpieces, but my guess is that the plastic would change the tonal qualities of the instrument, which would be why they aren’t preferred. It wouldn’t be to do with stiffness so much as how much the plastic diffuses the sound. You can get metal sleeves to go around the mouthpiece, called brass tone modifiers, and this is meant to improve the sound quality quite a bit, though I have not tried them. Personally, I don’t see that plastic would be too much different to metal once you get going. They warm up fairly quickly. 

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Thanks for your interest!

I have no personal opinion. I only play the contrabass tuba among the brass, and very badly.

I'll search for the video where Allison Balsom tries a trumpet of injected thermoplastic. She reverts very quickly to a metal mouthpiece, and then she finds something not too unpleasant to tell about the instrument - but you just hear the plastic. It's one trial that needs no lengthy wondering and interpretation.

The effect is very similar to what I observed with a clarinet of thin injected thermoplastic. The difference is huge, and not in the right direction.

Maybe the explanations I proposed
Oval resonances
Bending resonances
bring some enlightenment, as the figures could fit. Or maybe not. But It's a reasonable assumption that the polymer's lower E-modulus is the reason, so I suggest to try a stiffer polymer, optionally loaded with graphite choppers.

 

==========

Here's the video with the p-trumpet:
NLAHSgZaMU0 music 0:51
it sounds absolutely dull, so the plastic mouthpiece (at 3:10) doesn't make much hearing difference to me. And easy blowing, yes - just like the thin injected thermoplastic clarinet I tried. Both aspects reveal huge losses at the walls, which should logically result from the lack of stiffness.

==========

A more direct opinion by an other trumpet player, supposedly not paid by the manufacturer, there
s7Uv5Ld0sJU
absolutely dull sound (he doesn't tell it like that). He finds a difference between a plastic and metal mouthpiece.

Both instruments intonate terribly, especially on low notes. I suppose it's a problem of shape more than material.

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1 hour ago, Enthalpy said:

Thanks for your interest!

I have no personal opinion. I only play the contrabass tuba among the brass, and very badly.

I'll search for the video where Allison Balsom tries a trumpet of injected thermoplastic. She reverts very quickly to a metal mouthpiece, and then she finds something not too unpleasant to tell about the instrument - but you just hear the plastic. It's one trial that needs no lengthy wondering and interpretation.

The effect is very similar to what I observed with a clarinet of thin injected thermoplastic. The difference is huge, and not in the right direction.

Maybe the explanations I proposed
Oval resonances
Bending resonances
bring some enlightenment, as the figures could fit. Or maybe not. But It's a reasonable assumption that the polymer's lower E-modulus is the reason, so I suggest to try a stiffer polymer, optionally loaded with graphite choppers.

 

==========

Here's the video with the p-trumpet:
NLAHSgZaMU0 music 0:51
it sounds absolutely dull, so the plastic mouthpiece (at 3:10) doesn't make much hearing difference to me. And easy blowing, yes - just like the thin injected thermoplastic clarinet I tried. Both aspects reveal huge losses at the walls, which should logically result from the lack of stiffness.

==========

A more direct opinion by an other trumpet player, supposedly not paid by the manufacturer, there
s7Uv5Ld0sJU
absolutely dull sound (he doesn't tell it like that). He finds a difference between a plastic and metal mouthpiece.

Both instruments intonate terribly, especially on low notes. I suppose it's a problem of shape more than material.

You can definitely hear the difference if you listen to them side by side. Plastic doesn’t give the same smooth, clear tone IMO. It’s not entirely surprising. Some people also say that you can tell a tonal difference between different finishes on trumpets as well, though I don’t know how much of that is actually true.

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I heard it about saxophones too. Silver shall give a more brilliant tone than varnish. But how much do the eyes mislead the ears? And while a saxophone body can vibrate, how to explain the alleged effect at a bassoon bocal?

For flutes, I had the golden opportunity to compare materials at the head
111316-woodwind-materials
I could convince myself there was a repeatable difference, but more in the response than in the sound, and it would be imperceptible through computer loudspeakers. The flute body should matter more than the head. But if we hear the plastic at a trumpet record, in real life it must be striking, just like it was at the clarinet.

I just love the way professional musicians tell "Absolutely amaaazing" about the piece of junk in their hands to earn their two bucks.

Oboes exist of PMMA and, even over PC loudspeakers, they sound just like plastic.
111316-woodwind-materials
NrJy8tNlBuQ 1:55, same musician and reed, different materials
8AJnQk3ECYE 0:38
So would polyketone or LCP sound better?

Acoustics had difficulties to explain the effect up to now, which let some people deny it. That would be a mistake to my opinion, as the acoustics of musical instruments is difficult, and we know so little about sound perception. I hope to have found explanation candidates
111316-woodwind-materials
111316-woodwind-materials
and plan to search credible explanations for brass too.

 

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And a (not favourable) opinion about a plastic trombone, with sound
SITNi-5uVR0
it sounds terrible even with the metal mouthpiece. The musician gives more reasons against the instrument.

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