Review: The Surprising Kelly MC Lexan Mouthpiece
To tease the conclusion first, I was very pleasantly surprised by the plastic (Lexan) Kelly MC horn mouthpiece.
Why a plastic mouthpiece?
This past fall I was riding in the car with my new tuba colleague Deanna Swoboda and noted that she had a Kelly tuba mouthpiece in her car. She kept it there for buzzing on. That gave me an idea, at the least their horn mouthpiece might be a good one to have around for buzzing.
So I began looking and noted they did show up on eBay at a very modest price. Finally I took the plunge and bought an example in clear Lexan. They come in a variety of colors, but clear appealed to me for the see-through aspect, to be able to see the cup and backbore shape.
The marketing for these is geared toward use in marching band or by young students. The mouthpiece itself has a very smooth finish. It is generally similar in dimensions to a classic Schilke FARKAS MODEL mouthpiece (the basis for the Holton MC), but actually a bit longer, in the way that a Lawson mouthpiece is similar but longer overall than a standard mouthpiece. The mouthpiece on the left is my FARKAS MODEL and on the right a Lawson. The bore of the Kelly is #14, appropriate for a MC cup. (#14? If you are unsure what that means, read this article, recently updated).
So how does it play? I was very pleasantly surprised, it actually plays rather well, better than probably most of the mouthpieces in the under $40 price range. The sound is a little brighter than my normal mouthpiece (Osmun, described here) but only by a degree, and really it is a pleasant sound that you can get used to, not harsh.
It buzzes very freely when held in the hand. Which is hard to explain but I think has something to do with the design and the light weight of the mouthpiece. Oh, and it is a lot of fun to use. This is also hard to explain but it is like a new toy and one that actually works on the horn rather well. I don’t think you will be tempted to switch to one full time, but it would make a perfect stocking stuffer for yourself or the horn player in your life.
Where can a hornist make use of a plastic mouthpiece?
Besides marching band and young students I can think of at least two more applications for the more serious player.
One is as the car/travel mouthpiece for buzzing. It is again very light and unbreakable, and it won’t be uncomfortably hot or cold to use right away when you get in the car, like a metal mouthpiece often is.
The other use that comes to mind is as a cheap way to see if you have a metal allergy. Some students do have issues with silver and gold allergies. Temporarily try one of these and see if the problems go away.
As it is clear you may be thinking you could use it to see your lips buzzing. Unfortunately, the view is not that clear to the embouchure on a horn mouthpiece (the “window” is too small), and beyond that it fogs up almost immediately when you start playing. I believe it would have much use in the lower brass for viewing the embouchure, but not on horn.
It is light as a feather, comfortable to play at any temperature, sounds good, plays surprisingly well, and is pretty much unbreakable (unless you run over it with a car).
For me personally, the ideal car mouthpiece has a rim identical to my normal rim, so this probably is not ideal. But it is close and it being plastic is a plus, so I will be giving it a trial. And it is a lot of fun, well worth the modest price.