I'm desperate and at a lost with reactions to metal mouthpieces.



  • Hello, everyone,

    This is going to be long and I do apologize.  I'll add a tldr

    I'm in desperate need for some help.  I'm currently 26 attending CSU Stan for music education.  I play trumpet as my primary instrument.  Due to personal reasons I ended up going 5 years without playing my horn.  When I transferred to my university back in 2018 I had to use bad technique after the 5 years of not playing to be able to play as close as I can to a college level (no auditions).  A year later I was able to do so, and I outgrew my bad habits.  At that time my trumpet instructor let me borrow a more professional mouthpiece as the one I had sucks.  A day later I noticed tingling on my tongue and lips.  I had bad anxiety at the time so I assumed it was that.  Fast forward a couple of days and the tingling got a lot worse and I was getting bumps on my tongue.  That's when I realized I was having an allergic reaction to the mouthpiece. With it being old, neither I nor my instructor knew the composition of the mouthpiece.  When I went back to my regular mouthpiece I was starting to have the same reaction (even after washing it).  Lucky I have a plastic mouthpiece back from my early high school days.  Unfortunately it's a Kelly screamer.  Now, I am a full time college student that was struggling to meet basic needs at the time, and I couldn't afford a new mouthpiece.  I also was too busy with school to see an allergist.  I managed to get the university to buy me a solid gold mouthpiece the next semester as I was recommended to do so.  Within an hour of playing on it I started having a reaction.  I was in denial of the reaction and kept playing on it, and the reaction got worse (wasn't anxiety).  My playing has gotten severely worse, and I noticed I was getting fatigued really easily.  I went from 4+ hours of practice a day to no more than an hour before my throat and jaw got very sore.  Turns out I was overworking my muscles and brought back all my bad habits to make my plastic mouthpiece sound like my old one.  I found myself playing the instrument less and less because it started effecting my mental health and it was becoming a psychical challenge to do so.  Over this summer I managed to see an allergist and they did a patch test.  Turns out I AM NOT allergic to gold, cobalt, or nickle.  I am now stuck in a spot where I was having physical reactions to my metal mouthpieces, but nothing obvious that caused the reactions.  I have no reaction on my plastic mouthpiece and I have played the same trumpet throughout.  My question is, does anyone have any experience or recommendations on what to do? My biggest issue currently is I can't afford to trial and error a sturdier plastic, stainless steel, and/or titanium mouthpieces as $100+ to find out if this mouthpiece will work is out of my price range.  Any and all help will be appreciated as I, my instructors, university, and the allergist I saw are at a lost moving forward. I was set to graduate this year, but I had to add a semester due to the setbacks this has caused.  I really love playing trumpet, but I just want to give up. I've even been told by instructors to consider finding a new instrument because of this since there's no solution in the near future. =(

    TL:DR

    Had an allergic reaction to a borrowed mouthpiece.  The reaction carried over to my old mouthpiece even when cleaned. I'm a poor college student, so I can't afford a new mouthpiece.  I have a spare plastic one that is enforcing bad habits and now makes it extremely difficult and somewhat painful to play trumpet.  I managed to get my university to buy a solid gold mouthpiece for me, and I had a reaction to it.  I was finally able to see an allergist this summer, and I had no allergic reaction to gold, nickle, or cobalt from the patch test.   No idea what's causing my reaction, and I am curious if anyone else has had similar experiences or advice on what to do next.  Being a college student I cant afford to pay $100+ to try better plastic, stainless steel, or titanium mouthpieces as I won't be able to return them if I ended having a reaction or they don't work for me.  Any and all advice will be appreciated.  Thank you



  • Delrin (plastic) works well for some people with metal allergies, but they're not cheap. Maybe the college knows of a source where you can borrow one to try.

    https://store.wedgemouthpiece.com/665mv-trumpet-top-plastic/


  • Global Moderator

    Hi replacedflea. Please contact Jason Bergman. He is the Professor of Trumpet at BYU in Utah and a friend of mine. He recently assessed and helped one of his own students through a nearly identical issue. You could potentially have an in-person meeting as CSU is about an 8 hour drive (depending on Wyoming weather).

    It seems you may be allergic to brass. Beyond that, I'm afraid I cannot help much. But yes, please contact Dr. Bergman.

    https://music.byu.edu/team/jason-bergman/

    https://music.byu.edu/students/trumpet-professor-helps-student-identify-metal-allergy/



  • I'd source whichever Kelly mouthpiece that is the most like what you were accustomed to play and use that until you solve this mystery. Perhaps a trip to an immunologist might help. Or, since you mentioned bad anxiety, consulting a mental health professional could be part of the solution.

    Just out of curiosity, where does one find a solid gold mouthpiece?


  • Global Moderator

    @J-Jericho said in I'm desperate and at a lost with reactions to metal mouthpieces.:

    I'd source whichever Kelly mouthpiece that is the most like what you were accustomed to play and use that until you solve this mystery. Perhaps a trip to an immunologist might help. Or, since you mentioned bad anxiety, consulting a mental health professional could be part of the solution.

    Just out of curiosity, where does one find a solid gold mouthpiece?

    I think he meant gold-plated. Gold is too soft to be easily formed using traditional brass instrument-making methods.


  • Global Moderator

    No need to go to Kelly's. Some of their mouthpieces aren't really what you would look for these days, being copies of copies of superannuated junk. But there is a solution:
    http://www.mundstuecke.ch/en/
    The Brand brand (could not resist that pun, sorry) has established itself as an extremely good and at the same time inexpensive mouthpiece maker. Their mouthpieces have endeared themselves to European players who frequently have to do winter gigs in freezing temperatures - these mouthpieces don't get cold or freeze to the lips.
    Actually, I've got one sitting on my desk right beside me, as my "buzz while I'm writing e-mails mouthpiece". And I've played it through several Christmas seasons so far. I'm really happy with it. It usually travels with me, and whenever things get scary, I switch over to it. It does not have quite the punch of a Bach Megatone (which is what I normally play); but it's extremely handy in extremes, like playing an outdoor big band gig in Italy, having half and hour's break and finding that in the sun, the mouthpiece got too hot to handle. Had to take the Bach Megatone off with gloves!! and substitute the Brand for it.
    I've heard that, if suitably contacted, they will offer special terms as regards paying in instalments and the like.



  • Very sorry to hear this. You talk about bad practice habits, playing in pain, and having no allergies. Have you considered this is not a mouthpiece problem? Have you considered getting a basic Bach 3c, 5c, or 7c, or the Yamaha equivalent, and starting a healthy practice and playing routine?

    Mike



  • @tmd said in I'm desperate and at a lost with reactions to metal mouthpieces.:

    Very sorry to hear this. You talk about bad practice habits, playing in pain, and having no allergies. Have you considered this is not a mouthpiece problem? Have you considered getting a basic Bach 3c, 5c, or 7c, or the Yamaha equivalent, and starting a healthy practice and playing routine?

    Mike

    I agree, a sudden reaction where you weren't bothered by metal previously seems odd. Have you had the horn cleaned? May be time for a good chem clean at the tech. Also consider something environmental that the mouthpiece comes in contact with. How clean is the case?



  • This is very odd. I have never heard of anyone having a reaction to a fully gold plated piece - is something else perhaps contaminating it?

    As for plastic, I have seen quite a few examples and the cheap ones tend to be just that. However, I was quite surprised (especially given that the plastic trumpet it came with was absolute garbage), but I found the piece that came with an Allora Aere to be surprisingly decent. The whole horn is about $120 new (not worth it) and used/broken they sell for $25-$50 as spare parts on EBay.


  • Qualified Repair Techs

    I’m a big fan of the Austin Custom brass acrylic tops. Paired with a heavy brass backbore, they play much closer to a metal mouthpiece than anything I’ve tried. I used them for marching/outdoor playing when I was in the Navy and just loved them. Trent has metal allergies and developed these for his needs. He makes any of the tops in acrylic or delrin, and is doing an acrylic rim now as well.
    https://www.austincustombrass.biz/mpcs/



  • @replacedflea said in I'm desperate and at a lost with reactions to metal mouthpieces.:

    Over this summer I managed to see an allergist and they did a patch test.  Turns out I AM NOT allergic to gold, cobalt, or nickle.

    Just to clarify, he initially thought this was an allergy. He went to an allergist and found that was NOT allergic to these metals.

    Mike



  • @tmd He didn't say he's not allergic to silver or brass. (Sorry for the double negative.)



  • @Newell-Post said in I'm desperate and at a lost with reactions to metal mouthpieces.:

    @tmd He didn't say he's not allergic to silver or brass. (Sorry for the double negative.)

    Very true. But it would be unusual if the allergist didn't test him for these two additional metals. I very easily could be misunderstanding something here, and I hope the OP finds a good solution for all of this. But assuming he is not allergic to anything, we are left with a person with not-the-best practice/playing habits, and who is looking for a mouthpiece as a solution.

    Mike



  • Not sure how the allergy testing is done before I can concluded that there may have been a false negative to allergy testing for metal. For metal testing, the patch test is the gold standard (could NOT resist that pun for the life of me). So my question to the OP, did the allergist rule out nickle, silver or brass testing by patch testing. If not, we still cannot rule out allergies (due to high level of false negative) testing by other methods.



  • @Newell-Post said in I'm desperate and at a lost with reactions to metal mouthpieces.:

    @tmd He didn't say he's not allergic to silver or brass. (Sorry for the double negative.)

    This was my immediate reaction (pun intended).

    The vast majority of instrument mouthpieces have silver plating. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe gold plated mouthpieces are silver plated first...???

    My first suspect would be silver, closely followed by brass.


  • Global Moderator

    I'm almost positive it's a brass allergy. But again -- contact Dr. Bergman. I'm not qualified to diagnose any issues.



  • @replacedflea
    Throughly sterilize your mouthpieces. I use a 90% isopropyl solution. Dip the mouthpiece brush in solution. Run brush through mouthpiece. Pour alcohol in rim, run hot water through the mouthpiece. Wipe down the mouthpiece. Do that to all your mouthpieces.
    Then bring your trumpet and mouthpieces, to your local tech and have them professionally cleaned. Talk to the tech which is a better option, the chemical or ultrasonic. Good idea to have it cleaned at least twice a year.
    Have you changed valve oil recently? Do you use synthetic or petroleum valve or slide grease?



  • OK, so thinking about this a little more....

    • Mouthpieces are made out of silver-plated brass, gold-plate over silver-plated brass, stainless steel, and plastic (acrylic or Delrin). A small number of craftsmen even make them out of wood.

    • If you had a reaction to the "more professional mouthpiece" loaned by your instructor, it might be a reaction to silver or brass (if some silver plating is worn off), or maybe even nickel in stainless steel, if the MP is SS (doubtful).

    • If you had a reaction of the (presumably new) gold plated MP obtained by the school it might conceivably be a reaction to gold, but that would be quite rare. Most metal contact allergies tend to develop slowly over time with prolonged and repeated contact.

    • If you tested negative for gold allergy, but had an immediate reaction using a new, clean gold-plated mouthpiece, it could be something other than the mouthpiece.

    • As suggested above by several people, thoroughly clean, disinfect, and flush everything including all horns and all mouthpieces. Then try using BERP BioOil lubricant, if you are not already using it.

    • Then try the gold-plated MP again.

    • If that still doesn't work, try one of the ACB acrylic-topped or Delrin-topped mouthpieces mentioned above by flugelgirl.


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