Denis Wick Products

Comparing Steven Mead Mouthpieces

Written on 12/06/2019
Mary Galime

Steven Mead is the world's foremost Euphonium artist, and has also created a line of mouthpieces with Denis Wick that have become some of the most used euphonium mouthpieces around the world. As you look through the Euphonium options, though, you might feel a little lost as to what makes each of them different. Here is a quick comparison of each option of mouthpiece Steven has created, and what makes them different. For specific dimensions of each mouthpiece, visit our Euphonium product page.



The Original Steven Mead

Unlike other manufacturers that use trombone mouthpieces repurposed for baritone and euphonium, Steven Mead mouthpieces are designed to work specifically with the conical bore of the instruments. They have more open backbores and a funnel shaped cup that creates a warmth and richness in sound that no other manufacturer can achieve.

SM2, SM2M
Large cup diameter and barrel backbore gives a big, open sound. Available in both standard and medium shank.

SM3, SM3M
Ideal soloist mouthpiece. Excellent projection and a warm, clean tone. Available in both standard and medium shank.

SM3.5, SM3.5M
Slightly larger cup and throat than the SM3 for an open sound. Available in both standard and medium shank.

SM4, SM4M
Open sound with excellent clarity in the upper register. Available in both standard and medium shank.

SM5
Perfect blend of resistance and air flow.

SM6
Excellent high register with clear, resonant sound.


Steven Mead Ultra

The Steven Mead Ultra series is the newest evolution in baritone and euphonium mouthpieces. Steven Mead Ultra models feature a different, heavier outer shape, a slightly more rounded cup and a slightly sharper inner rim edge. The sound is powerful, with a beautiful, singing high register.  Available in Silver and Gold. Medium Shank.

Visit the Euphonium Product page to view all the sizes


Steven Mead Ultra X

The Steven Mead Ultra X series is for players looking for a sound that has more brilliance than the standard Ultra Series or classic Steven Mead Series. The cup has been rounded to a more defined bowl shape which adds more brilliance to the tone and provides better upper register response. The rim has been altered to have a slightly sharper inner edge which increases articulation response and accuracy.

Available in Silver and Gold. Medium Shank.

Steven Mead on the SM3X:

I recommend this mouthpiece for anyone who currently plays the current Ultra SM3U and looking for more support and power especially in the upper register. In addition anyone who currently plays a mouthpiece with the 4 rim should find the step up to the SM3X beneficial and very easy to manage.
Since we launched the Ultra series of mouthpieces for euphonium and baritone, I’m really thrilled to see that these mouthpieces have gone on to become much loved and established amongst leading players as well as amateur musicians. The combination of positive response, rich tone, extended range and the comfortable rim has made it one of the most popular mouthpieces around.

Does that mean that I as a professional soloist sit back and stop looking to improve? Well anyone that knows me knows that this is impossible! What more could I want from a mouthpiece?

The demands of new music that I’m working on continue to grow, and the challenge of touring and playing virtually non-stop can also take its toll on the lips. I thought long and hard about these challenges and also listened to some comments from people who currently enjoying the current Ultra range, who would tell me that they love the sound, tone and the response but sometimes they get a little bit tired, perhaps earlier than they would wish!

When I combined these two thoughts I began to imagine small but significant modifications to the existing range and so we set about experimenting not with the outer shape and comfortable rim edge, but with the interior. Was there a way to harness even more response, without sacrificing what we already love about the existing mouthpiece? Due to the skill and expertise of the people at the Denis Wick factory we were able to transfer these ideas into a precise design, thereby transforming the current design into something that I now regard as even more special.

We redesigned the internal shape and depth of the existing models, in a combination of rim size and cup depth that has not been experimented with before in the world of euphonium and baritone mouthpieces. Almost always a large rim has meant a deep or very deep cup depth, and a small rim has implied the need for a very shallow depth. It was time to break one or two conventions!

I have been using the SM3X and can honestly say I have  never felt more comfortable with my performance. I have done some very physically demanding concerts and recitals, often up to 2 hours in length, including some new works that test the high register rather mercilessly! The new Ultra X has passed the test with flying colours and I’ve found that I can play day after day with no ill effects after a very heavy day’s playing the day before.

It may be that the Ultra X for euphonium (Model size 3 and 4) and baritone (Model size 4) will not be for everyone, but I have a feeling, a very strong feeling, that it will give performers of all ages and experiences added confidence and improve performance.

• You will undoubtedly feel an improvement in stamina.
• You will find much greater clarity and stability in the high range. This means that not only are the high notes a lot more achievable, and for a longer time, but will also be much more controllable dynamically and tonally.
• It also helps to stabilise the embouchure, requiring less movement from the lips, especially with flexibility, slurring and playing right across the range.
• Low tones are also clearer and less ‘spread’.
• Articulation seems to be generally more reliable, especially at soft dynamics.
• It also enables you to play slightly longer phrases.
• For some, you may even feel that you don’t need to practice quite so much to keep up your stamina.

As a teacher I feel slightly uncomfortable about saying this because of the age-old “practice, practice, practice” methodology! But now you can work on other things apart from stamina building!

But please don’t just take my word for it, test it for yourself!

Steven Mead on the SM4X:

I recommend this mouthpiece for anyone who currently plays the current Ultra SM4U and looking for more support and power especially in the upper register. In addition, anyone who currently plays a mouthpiece with the 5 rim should find the step up to the 4X beneficial and very easy to manage.

Since we launched the Ultra series of mouthpieces for euphonium and baritone, I’m really thrilled to see that these mouthpieces have gone on to become much loved and established amongst leading players as well as amateur musicians. The combination of positive response, rich tone, extended range and the comfortable rim has made it one of the most popular mouthpieces around.

Does that mean that I as a professional soloist sit back and stop looking to improve? Well anyone that knows me knows that this is impossible! What more could I want from a mouthpiece?

The demands of new music that I’m working on continue to grow, and the challenge of touring and playing virtually non-stop can also take its toll on the lips. I thought long and hard about these challenges and also listened to some comments from people who currently enjoying the current Ultra range, who would tell me that they love the sound, tone and the response but sometimes they get a little bit tired, perhaps earlier than they would wish!

When I combined these two thoughts I began to imagine small but significant modifications to the existing range and so we set about experimenting not with the outer shape and comfortable rim edge, but with the interior. Was there a way to harness even more response, without sacrificing what we already love about the existing mouthpiece? Due to the skill and expertise of the people at the Denis Wick factory we were able to transfer these ideas into a precise design, thereby transforming the current design into something that I now regard as even more special.

We redesigned the internal shape and depth of the existing models, in a combination of rim size and cup depth that has not been experimented with before in the world of euphonium and baritone mouthpieces. Almost always a large rim has meant a deep or very deep cup depth, and a small rim has implied the need for a very shallow depth. It was time to break one or two conventions!

I have been using the new Ultra X (in the 3 size) and can honestly say I have never felt more comfortable with my performance. I have done some very physically demanding concerts and recitals, often up to 2 hours in length, including some new works that test the high register rather mercilessly! The new Ultra X has passed the test with flying colours and I’ve found that I can play day after day with no ill effects after a very heavy day’s playing the day before.

It may be that the Ultra X for euphonium (Model size 3 and 4) and baritone (Model size 4) will not be for everyone, but I have a feeling, a very strong feeling, that it will give performers of all ages and experiences added confidence and improve performance.

• You will undoubtedly feel an improvement in stamina.
• You will find much greater clarity and stability in the high range. This means that not only are the high notes a lot more achievable, and for a longer time, but will also be much more controllable dynamically and tonally.
• It also helps to stabilise the embouchure, requiring less movement from the lips, especially with flexibility, slurring and playing right across the range.
• Low tones are also clearer and less ‘spread’.
• Articulation seems to be generally more reliable, especially at soft dynamics.
• It also enables you to play slightly longer phrases.
• For some, you may even feel that you don’t need to practice quite so much to keep up your stamina.

As a teacher I feel slightly uncomfortable about saying this because of the age-old ‘practice, practice, practice’ methodology! But now you can work on other things apart from stamina building!

But please don’t just take my word for it, test it for yourself!

The SM 5X

A large shank euphonium mouthpiece with a slightly shallower cup than the regular SM5U. It will facilitate greater ease throughout the whole range especially with this rim, in the upper register. It will also help achieve greater stamina and control.

“The DW SM Ultra X mouthpiece has proved itself to be extremely popular since its release and has become a gold standard mouthpiece in the world of euphonium playing. They are designed and played by Steven Mead and manufactured by Denis Wick Products Ltd. They have a significant modification from the current Ultra range in that they have a differently contoured internal cup shape and cup depth. We are now very happy to introduce the newest member of the Ultra X family, the 5X. Over the last few years we have received numerous requests from musicians who prefer the number five rim and now we’re happy to introduce this high-performance mouthpiece. As with the Ultra 3X and 4X, this has great power, flexibility, and a fantastic mix of tonal centre and traditional colour. It will facilitate greater ease throughout the whole range, and especially, with this rim, in the upper register. It will also help achieve greater stamina and control.” -Professor Steven Mead

 

 


Steven Mead Ultra XR

The newest member to the Steven Mead Ultra family, the XR provides a slightly more rounded rim an d shallower cup to provide additional support and brilliance to the sound. Find out details on each mouthjpiece below.

SM3XR

A large shank euphonium mouthpiece with a new rounder rim, giving increased comfort to the player, with a newly-designed inner shape and slightly reduced cup depth. Same cup diameter as the SM3U.

“Such was the success of the ultra 4XR it was inevitable that due to public demand we would produce a mouthpiece with the same design and specifics, with the number three rim. This is a powerful mouthpiece that has outstanding flexibility and big range of tone. The new comfort rim will be of great interest to many musicians. If you are used to this rim diameter, then the DW SM Ultra 3XR will meet your needs, without a doubt. With you in control it can create huge tone and presence in any band situation.”

Professor Steven Mead

SM4XR

A large shank euphonium mouthpiece with a new rounder rim, giving increased comfort to the player, with a newly-designed inner shape and slightly reduced cup depth.The new Denis Wick Ultra 4XR euphonium mouthpiece designed by Steven Mead, is a brilliant new addition to the highly popular Denis Wick Ultra range of mouthpieces. Here is what Steven says;-“The Ultra 4XR has a new rounder rim, giving increased comfort to the player, with a newly-designed inner shape and slightly reduced cup depth. The result is a new feel, almost a ‘sports’ model if you like, with enormous possibilities in the higher register, with an ease of playing and crystal clear high tones. The middle range is further energised. Perhaps it doesn’t have the same weight of sound in the lower register of the regular SM4X but the notes speak so clearly, putting added energy into each phrase. Could this be the mouthpiece to give you massive confidence in the higher range, and add valuable time to your stamina? “ -Professor Steven Mead

SM5XR

A large shank euphonium mouthpiece with a new rounder rim, giving increased comfort to the player, with a newly-designed inner shape and slightly reduced cup depth. Same cup diameter as the SM5U.

“The XR range was introduced to great critical acclaim with its extra-comfortable curved rim edge and massive projection in the high range. The 5XR is the latest addition and we feel sure that it will meet the needs of many euphonium players around the world, especially those used to be slightly smaller rim diameter. Comfort and stability are the watchwords here, giving the musician hours of pleasure without fatiguing the lips.” -Professor Steven Mead


Get more great equipment and performance advice by checking out our weekly installment of the Buzz Blog and This Is You Podcast