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Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Jso22 » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:08 pm

Hi all, I come to you with a subject that usually gets a million confusing responses, but since I'm currently on the hunt for a new mouthpiece that my teacher can't recommend enough, I may as well try to ask here. What is characteristic of vintage helleberg mouthpieces that is not of the modern Conn Hellebergs/others?

My teacher is very adamant about not getting the Conn models, and says it is hard to find any new models that are accurate to the much older ones. One specific exception for him is the Josef Klier Floyd Cooley Helleberg that he uses as his main, and probably his only mouthpiece. Otherwise, anything not from the early 20th century or just after he seems to dislike. I've been antique shop hopping to potentially come across an antique horn that has a mouthpiece of the same age to buy seperately from the horn, but to no avail so far.

I trust his judgement because he's been playing at a high professional level for a very very long time and when he had me try his Klier Helleberg I noticed immediate improvement to my playing after getting used to it. However, because he's a man of few words, I figured I could come her to search for details.

Of course, I'm not saying there is a miracle mouthpiece or anything like that, but that one seemed to work very well and according to my teacher, most other vintage hellebergs will too unlike newer ones. Any input on the matter is very much appreciated because I cannot find much about it on the internet.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Buddy » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:36 pm

The owner of a local recording studio inherited an old BBb Conn tuba with the studio. I did a quick search of the serial number-- when I found it-- and dated the horn to 1905. The original mouthpiece wa still in the horn, a 1905 "HELLEBERG."

They exist, but the 1905 one is completely black and it appears that all of the plating has evaporated or disappeared, leaving a pitted HELLEBERG from 1905.

Even if you find one, it'll be likely unplayable in condition.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Mark Finley » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:47 pm

I have one, age unknown, and yes it's in horrible condition

Looks turn of the century
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Ken Herrick » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:01 pm

I had one. It was on a little, old, gold plated Conn CC which had belonged to Helleberg which Harvey Phillips had when I was in Boston. Harvey didn't want it so let me keep it. Probably as "genuine, vintage Helleberg" as one could get. Harvey thought it would have been one of Hellebrg's personal mps. Unfortunately it was stolen a few years ago. I used it regularly for some years. It was, in my opinion a good one in perfect condition. There was a lot of variation in the old ones.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Donn » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:04 am

This thread should be interesting, if you're looking at Conn's Helleberg mouthpieces over the ages: The Conn Helleberg

My personal opinion (as a casual player who doesn't have any credentials behind my opinion) is that a vintage Helleberg is a waste of money (unless you buy it cheap and sell it for lots more, which I think is their main purpose in the scheme of things.) As said above, there's going to be a lot of variation, and it defies reason to hope that the one you want will be waiting for you on a shelf somewhere a century later.

I believe one of the big differences in tuba mouthpieces over time is that they have gotten bigger, in terms of cup diameter anyway, so like I have Conn "Giant" mouthpiece that's smaller than a modern 7B (though possibly a larger throat, and likewise the 7B's throat is larger than the larger Helleberg's.)
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Ken Herrick » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:50 am

The one I had had the same cup opening as a 7B but a slightly flatter rim and sharper bite.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby bort » Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:46 am

The old mouthpieces had a smaller bore, pre-Jacobs and pre-CSO drilling out.

I used to have an early Conn Geib. Wonderful sweet sound, but for me, not up to the task for modern playing styles and instruments. Modern Geib variants worked far better.

Are the vintage Hellebergs the same way? No clue...
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby pauvog1 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:00 am

I don't really care for the modern Conn models (but lots of folks do). I really prefer the Arnold Jacobs remake to Conn versions. Cup and rim are different from the Conn models, and it does have a larger throat.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby peter birch » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:10 am

sounds like an overly dogmatic teacher to me
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby bort » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:24 am

Jso22 wrote:I trust his judgement because he's been playing at a high professional level for a very very long time and when he had me try his Klier Helleberg I noticed immediate improvement to my playing after getting used to it. However, because he's a man of few words, I figured I could come her to search for details.


It sounds to me like he has found his perfect match, and is unwilling to waver from it. I'm not sure it sounds like good advice to require that of other people. Mouthpieces are pretty personal... yes, there are some types that seen to work better/worse for most people. But it's really about finding what makes it easiest to get the sound you are looking for. Sound is the most important thing!

If he's a man of few words, that's fine, but only if that works for you. I find it to be exhausting, to ask for more information constantly about things. But that's just me, and people would probably talk to me and think "is this man ever going to shut up?" :)

And I mean no disrespect, but a lot of times, older people like older things, out of familiarity as much as anything else. If he has used an old Helleberg for 40 years (or whatever), then of course e everything else sucks. I wouldn't be surprised if his tuba was older too, and perhaps not a younger player's dream horn, either.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby BWBTuba » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:04 am

Interesting that when such a request for advice is posted on TubeNet, the most common response is "talk to your teacher and get them to recommend something." Yet here, when "Jso22" has sought and heeded that advice, the TNFJ seems to feel the need to challenge, and perhaps denigrate, that teacher's advice. Perhaps, what "Jso22" really needs is just help finding what his teacher has advised him to locate and purchase. This is why I generally read the posts, but rarely seek advice here myself.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby hrender » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:07 pm

Some useful info here: http://forums.chisham.com/viewtopic.php?t=62335

Shorter: If your teacher wants you to get a Cooley Helleberg you'll either have to find a used one or ask Josef Klier to make you a new one. If you're after something relatively close, you might look at the Warburton TG models. Kelly sells a couple clones of Arnold Jacobs' Hellebergs, and Mike Finn also made a copy of an early Conn Helleberg, but I don't know if he's still making those.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Tom » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:31 pm

Maybe this is helpful, maybe it is of no real value, but here goes...

There are many variations of so-called "vintage" Helleberg mouthpieces, even assuming we're just talking about Conn Hellebergs going all the back to c. 1920 +/- a few years. I've owned quite a few of these to see what they were all about. Some were wider cups than others, some were slightly deeper or shallower than others, some has wider rims than others, some had sharper rims than others, some had larger backbores than others....yet they were all "vintage" Conn Helleberg mouthpieces with identical exteriors. I do not know for sure if the variations can be 100% attributed to tool wear (that story gets retold regularly here) or if the changes were deliberate or even if (maybe?) nobody paid careful attention to the tolerances at all during manufacturing (kinda hard to believe, but possible...). I am talking about subtle differences, but differences nonetheless.

It is an accurate statement to say that the "new" Conn Hellebergs are not like the old ones, but that doesn't mean there is something wrong with the new ones, at least in my opinion. They just aren't the same shape and size as any vintage ones I've had in my hands. You could certainly do worse than buying a current production Conn Helleberg somewhere online or even from your local music store.

I've also played Cooley Hellebergs for many years and really quite like them. They have about as much in common with vintage Conn Helleberg mouthpieces as any other Helleberg out there - meaning they share the general concept, but they aren't the "same" and certainly are not copies of any any vintage Hellebergs I've owned.

I do not currently have any vintage Hellebergs on hand. There was always someone that came along that wanted them more than I did and was willing to pay up for them, so off they went to new homes. My only other thought is that maybe something from the Paul Sidey line of stainless Hellebergs would strike your fancy.

Also - if you have questions about how to best follow a directive from your teacher, you should ask them to elaborate on their comments, man of few words or not.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby pauvog1 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:48 pm

https://www.dillonmusic.com/arnold-jaco ... thpie.html

This might be an option (it's what I referenced earlier).

I bought one from Buddy Roger's Music about a year or so ago. Chris was very easy to work with! He's on the forum too I believe.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby happyroman » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:48 pm

hrender wrote:Some useful info here: http://forums.chisham.com/viewtopic.php?t=62335

Shorter: If your teacher wants you to get a Cooley Helleberg you'll either have to find a used one or ask Josef Klier to make you a new one. If you're after something relatively close, you might look at the Warburton TG models. Kelly sells a couple clones of Arnold Jacobs' Hellebergs, and Mike Finn also made a copy of an early Conn Helleberg, but I don't know if he's still making those.


The Warburton mouthpieces (at least the TG-1 and TG-4) are copies of vintage Helleburgs that Arnold Jacobs used. The TG-4 was copied from one of Mr. Jacobs stage mouthpieces that Dave Fedderly reportedly loaned them. The TG-1 is the Warburton version of the larger Helleburg that was copied to create the Canadian Brass Arnold Jacobs mouthpiece. It was a Conn Helleberg that Mr. Jacobs took to Schilke and had him widen and deepen the cup. The idea was to have Schilke create a mouthpiece for use on the big contrabass tuba parts like the Wagner Ring Operas. If memory serves, Russ Ward told me that Warburton was the original manufacturer of the CBAJ mouthpiece, until their warehouse fire and they had to stop making them. Once the Canadian Brass changed manufacturers, Warburton could not call the TG-1 an Arnold Jacobs mouthpiece. All four models marked TG are Helleburgs that are dubbed TG for The Grail.

Mike Finn is still making his version of the vintage Helleberg mouthpiece (Mike Finn H). I recently purchased one from him in satin silver with a gold plated cup and rim. My understanding is that his Helleberg is a copy of the original, but with Mike's standard mouthpiece blank which is more of a heavy wall style. It also has a much more comfortable rim than a standard Helleberg mouthpiece. I have all of these mouthpieces but the Mike Finn is my go to. I really love the more comfortable rim and get a much more resonant sound than with my other mouthpieces, including my Floyd Cooley Hellebergs.
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby Jso22 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:33 pm

Thank you for the recommendations and advice from all those who have contributed or will contribute as this post remains. From what I gather it is a subject filled with grey area and the only way to really figure it out for yourself is to try a bunch of these mouthpieces and really figure out which works the best. Unfortunately that tends to be expensive.

As for the one of you who claimed my teacher is "overly-dogmatic", maybe I worded what I was trying to say in a way that conveyed that but he's really a "whatever works, works" kind of guy. He just strongly recommends these older hellebergs.

Thanks again,

-Jordan
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Re: Vintage Helleberg mouthpieces

Postby alazzeri » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:21 pm

I used to own a vintage Helleberg, which was copied for a more modern Helleberg. I eventually sold it because I preferred the copy and the original was just too expensive to have sitting around. There are plenty of quality copies out there, including the Cooley and Warburton Grail series, which are roughly half the price of a vintage Helleberg in good shape. I would encourage you to try those, as well as some of the Geib copies (Kanstul, Stofer). If you find that you like one of those and have the money and sleuthing skills to locate vintage one, go for it. At the very least, the copies can be a good/more affordable and accessible starting point. Good luck!
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