|Brilhart's Mouthpiece Models
|More and more contemporary
saxophone players are (re-)discovering the Brilhart mouthpieces, and
with good reason. The more Brilhart mouthpieces I play, the more my
admiration grows for his ability to construct superior playing
mouthpieces for both clarinet and saxophone. And also for the
consistent high quality of these.
To assist those who are not familiar with the different models he made from 1938 until he sold the company to Selmer in 1966, I present an overview of these models below.
|Important information: Tip opening numbers.
A star after the tip opening number means a short facing. No star means a medium facing. For the Personalines an S denotes a short and an L a longer facing.
|Besides the regular models,
Brilhart manufactured these other models:
LevelAir (metal and, after Selmer took over the company, black plastic)
Velvet Brass (metal only)
|Brilhart used these materials
for his mouthpieces:
Hard Rubber: "Regular" and Personaline, plus a few very early Streamline tenor pieces.
Ebolin (Black with white bite plate) was made in these models: "Regular", Streamline, Personaline and Special
Tonalin (White with black bite plate) was made in these models: "Regular", Streamline, Personaline and Special
Tonalite (Transparent with black bite plate) was made in these models: "Regular", Streamline, and Special
Metal for the Level Air model and the very rare "Velvet Brass"
|The Hard Rubber pieces are considered
among the best hard rubber vintage mouthpieces ever made, on level with
Otto Link Slant Signature for tenor and Meyer NY USA for alto. This
goes both for the normal and the Personaline models.
The plastic pieces are gaining a renewed popularity right now.
The sound of the plastic pieces in my experience:
Ebolin forceful with a a dark core and a nice edge, can be like a good Link HR
Tonalin is softer and singing, but gets a nice edge when blown harder
Tonalite is very quiet, sweet and soft. Well suited for practicing without disturbing the neighbours. And for romantic background music.
*) was introduced very early, probably from the start in 1939. As the
name implies, it has a more slender body, and probably thinner walls.
For some reason, it was discontinued during WW II. (As Brilhart during
the war produced plastic parts for bomber sights and for the atomic
bomb project, it is tempting to assume that the production line used
for the Streamlines were allocated to these war efforts). In my
opinion, it is
the best model of all Brilharts. It has an uncanny ability to play
anything from whispering subtones to screaming altissimos - Well maybe
not exactly true, but
it is close. Only a few very early Streamlines were made in Hard Rubber.
Personaline was introduced in 23. February 1951 according to the Trade Mark Registration. It was advertised as the only moutpiece line personally supervised by Arnol Brilhart.
It had a special facing curve, a different shank and on the plastic pieces, the bite plate was round and with a wood grain. I have never seen a Tonalite Personaline.
The black plastic Personalines with the brown round biteplate were called Personaline (B) , the white ones Personaline (W) and the hard rubber model Personaline (R). The latter do not have a bite plate. NB: Tip opening numbers are 2 higher than other Brilhart mouthpieces, i.e. an S5 will measure as a 3, an L7 like a 5 and so on.
Special was the student line. It had no bite plate and no tip opening was stamped on it. It came only in one tip opening = 2
Brilhart mouthpieces are, in my opinion, overlooked and undervalued, and are therefore one of the best buys for the time being, and this goes both for alto and tenor. (I have no experience with his baritone pieces, and unfortunately, he never made a soprano piece)
Who have used Brilhart mouthpieces ?
Tonalin and Ebolin : Many great players used Brilhart Tonalin or Ebolin, Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, Gene Ammons, Louis Jordan, Stan Getz, to name a few, and not the least, Lester Young. Maceo Parker still uses an Ebolin. In general, the older pieces are regarded as better, but I have several newer pieces which both play and sound magnificent.
Hard Rubber: Zoot Sims played one on tenor. And Brew Moore played a HR Personaline L5 with a .080" tip opening. (I have measured it myself. It have loaned it from the Copenhagen repair shop which handled the sale of Moore's sax after his death). Eric Dolphy played a HR Personaline on alto.
Read more about mouthpiece genius Arnold Brilhart at Theo Wanne's site.
*) Streamline: Leading mouthpiece trader on ebay, listentomusic, has made the following interesting comment to the Streamline model: "It has a big physical presence to the sound. It does not blow like the typical modern "free blowing" piece. There is definitely a threshold you have to push beyond to get this going but once you do its all there. So it will work for physical type boppers who bear down into what they are doing……….. What it reminds me of most in that sense are the pre STM metal links especially the 4 Star and Master Models. Like those you have to work with this piece to bring it alive. "