Monday, March 17, 2014

Review of the different Denis Wick no 2 cornet mouthpieces

I played a Denis Wick 2 cornet mouthpiece from the late 80’s till 2003. Since then I have played on similarly large mouthpieces from other suppliers, but I thought I would put down some notes on the differences between the different versions of the 2 that Denis Wick have issued over the years. These are my own thoughts and are not necessarily accurate. However, they may be of use to you if you are thinking about trying one.

The Wick 2 is a formidable cornet mouthpiece of huge cup volume and throat size. It requires a robust embouchure to be able to play on it for the length of a brass band rehearsal, but it has some advantages. Mainly the fantastic tone that it produces, but also it allowing great flexibility when yu are perhaps not as warmed up as you would like to be. The Wick catalogue says that it sounds like a small bore trombone. I don’t think that’s really true, but it can sometimes make the cornet sound like a flugel horn especially when you have a tired lip. When I was using a Wick 2 I was playing for over 20 hours a week and it worked.

There have been four main types issued: the original 2 which was made on a lathe and has machining marks in it, the current style 2 (called the "Classic") which is produced on a CNC machine, the Heritage 2 and the RW2. There is also a flugel horn equivalent.


2 (old style)

The official specifications are:

  • diameter 17mm
  • rim 4.92
  • bore 4.572 (approx #14)

My one is silver plated and was made some time in the 1980’s. It has obvious machining marks inside the cup.

Scans on the Kanstul Mouthpiece Comparator show that the rim is very similar to a Bach 1.5C.
It is very rounded with a moderate bite and a fairly defined transition from the cup to the backbore.

The shank is in the smaller, older size. This is equivalent to the Bach cornet mouthpiece fitting.

Although the Maestro has no actual gap between the end of the mouthpiece and the beginning of the leadpipe) (as found in a trumpet)  the convergence of the receiver and leadpipe tapers can lead to a similar issue. On my Yamaha Maestro cornet this mouthpiece is showing all the signs of too small a gap i.e. bottom G’s are playing in tune without using triggers and the instrument gets substantially flatter as you go up the register. It also sounds fluffy. Adding a shim of paper to the shank resolves all of these these problems. When measured the shank is inserting around  2mm deeper than a Bach, Sparx or Yamaha mouthpiece.


2 Current (“classic” style)

The official specifications are identical to the old style, but the shank is larger. Back in the 80’s there was an option for this called the 2L for use in some cornets. This seems to have become the Wick standard and was adopted into later runs of the Besson Sovereign cornet. I don’t know why this happened, but there are two possibilities.  It could be that “gap” issues were becoming noticeable or that the original ones were designed as a compromise so they could still fit very old cornets with the even smaller receiver size. However, see the update at the end of this article.

Although it is supposed to be the same as the original version, the rim is is slightly thinner and flatter than the old style 2 - almost totally flat with a bevelled edge and a smoother transition from the cup to the back bore making articulation easier but attack more difficult.


2 Heritage

The Heritage version is identical to the current style apart from the outer shape which allows for easier articulation. I tried one and found it to play colder than the Classic version resulting in more condensation and the rim getting wet. This may be a problem for people who play with a dry embouchure.


RW2

The W does not stand for wide as with other Wick mouthpieces. RW stands for “Roger Webster”, the famous cornet player.

The official specifications are sometimes misprinted as the same as the classic version but are actually:
  • dia 17mm
  • rim 4.88mm
  • bore 4.6mm (approx #13)

According to an old Denis Wick brochure:

“Roger Webster designed series brings the skill of Denis
Wick’s top engineers into play.
Slight smoothing of the inner rim and subtle changes in
the backbore give these custom mouthpieces the sound
that every cornet player is looking for.”

The rim is nothing like the current style Wick 2 mouthpiece. It is rounder and looks wider than the current 2. It feels very like the old style 2 but with even less bite on the inner edge. It is extremely comfortable to play on. Although the throat is wider it seems to have a more defined transition from cup to throat so there is some brightness on attacks. It is more similar to the original 2 in that respect than to the current 2.

Unfortunately the RW2 has been discontinued. Roger Webster now produces his own Alliance mouthpieces and I am not sure how they compare to the Wick. I did play briefly on an Alliance 2A and found it to feel wider on my lips than a Wick 2, even though it was supposed to be smaller. This is often the case as where things are measured from and where the high point on the rim is located can make comparison difficult. The Alliance 2 rim also felt narrower and sharper. He does make a version with a wider rim, but I have not tried this.

2F

I am mentioning this because I once met a cornet player who was mistakenly using a 2F on his cornet. This is the flugel version, but in the smaller fitting used for old Imperial or Sovereign flugel horns (the more common larger fitting flugel horns like the Yamaha require a Wick 2FL). This smaller size means that it fits a cornet. Does it work? Well up to a point. It inserts by enough and you can play on it, but the cup is about 5mm deeper and it has a totally smooth transition to the backbore like a french horn mouthpiece. This means that producing any sort of attack is a struggle. My advice is keep it and use it with your flugel.

Conclusion

The Wick 2 cornet mouthpiece is difficult to play on and is not going to suit many players, but if you have a strong embouchure it rewards you with a great sound across the whole register of the instrument. Because of the stamina required it is probably best suited to tutti cornet players or trumpet players who play the odd cornet solo. For principal cornets who are brave enough to try it the RW2 version is probably the best option. If you can’t find one then an old style 2 might be the next best option if you can get the gap to work, unless you like the current 2 rim shape  and can work harder on attacks.

Either way, the secret to making this huge mouthpiece work is to keep back on the pressure and control your lip aperture. If your lips spread at all you will lose definition and start to sound like a flugel.

If you are a back row cornet player then playing on a mouthpiece of this size will give you great tone in the lower register. It takes a few weeks to get used to and it will affect your upper register unless you are doing a lot of practicing, but it may be worth it for the improved tone (no more thin, reedy sounds from the back row).

Other Wick Cornet mouthpieces

If you are considering the smaller sizes of Wick cornet mouthpiece than my own experience has been that the 3 was harder to play than the 2 as it has a wider rim which I felt clamped my lip down and stopped it vibrating as easily. The 4 had a lot of advantages but I felt the bite on the inner edge was too sharp. The good thing is that most band rooms have these mouthpieces in a cupboard so you can probably try a 3 and 4 without spending any money.


Update 12th October 2014

I had the opportunity to try a brand new Wick 2 last week, straight out of the factory. It had a rounder rim than recent ones, very like the original style. It also fitted further into the receiver, although not as far as the original ones. The transition from the cup to backbore was also more defined and rather like the RW2, although the throat diameter and backbore were the same as a standard one. The sound and attack were definitely more defined and not dissimilar to the RW2 although the rim was a bit narrower.



No comments:

Post a Comment