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Berg Larsen Saxophone Mouthpieces
How to read the tip opening and baffle height:
An example Berg Larsen mouthpiece shank might read 95/1M.
The first number is the tip opening in thousandths of an inch. A 95 would mean 95 thousandths of an inch or .095". Bergs run about 5 thousandths of an inch small, meaning a 95 would actually measure .090".
The second number given (the 1 in 95/1) indicates the baffle height or its brightness. A 3 is the darkest and a 0 is the brightest.
The following letter (the M after 95/1) indicates the facing length. An M is a medium length facing, while a SMS is a short facing. A SMS facing is about the same length as an Otto Link mouthpiece's facing. The M is longer than the equivalent Otto Link facing length.
Very Vintage Duck Bill
Made in the 1940s, these were the first mouthpieces made by Berg Larsen. The metal mouthpieces have a long, gradual sloping bite area. The rubber versions are more abrupt. Both the metal and hard rubber models have a very long table that extends quite a bit beyond the reed. They also have a bullet cut chamber and are the rarest of all the Bergs. The rubber versions tend to be quite thick (wide) in the body. The Very Vintage Duck Bill Berg Larsen's were made in soprano, alto, tenor and baritone.
A very rare version of this mouthpiece, the Charlie Ventura model, is what Charlie Ventura actually played on for a time. It is a 100/2M model.
At the end of the run of the long table mouthpieces, Berg Larsen had a 'P' or 'Personal' model that had a 'P' on the back/top of the shank. The first of these still had the slanted signature on the shank. But, the later ones had the straight signature on the shank like the 'Duck Bill' models. Just a few were made without the 'P'. These models had longer shanks than the previous Very Vintage models but shorter shanks than the later 'Duck Bill' model.
All of these mouthpieces came with brass caps and ligatures. The ligature screws all had a very distinctive square head on them.
Duck Bill Bergs have a very mild upward slope right behind the bite-plate. These are also often called 'Bullet Chamber' mouthpieces because of the V shaped drop off at the back of the baffle that looks like the tip of a bullet. The first of these (made in the early 1950's) still had the 'P' marking on the back like the later 'Very Vintage' models. They had a fatter and heavier body than the later ones. The 'P' model was the best made and sounding of this model.
A very rare gold plated solid brass early version of the Duck Bill was made for a short while. This is not to be confused with the later bronze straight bill Berg Larsen put out in the 1980s and 1990s. The gold plate on this mouthpiece was direct plated to the brass, without the usual intermediary plating material like nickel or silver used by Otto Link, etc.
The Duck Bill period of mouthpieces came with several different ligature and cap combinations, including a screw down ligature.
During the period of the 'Duck Bill' vintage Berg Larsen mouthpieces the factory moved, and all the tooling used to make them changed as well. The clearest way to delineate between these two major phases in Berg Larsen history is to look at the machine marks left on the table by the machines used to make the facings. The older mouthpieces had a denim look to the table which was created by a stone grinding wheel. The later mouthpieces had arced machine marks going from side to side created by a milling machine.
The vintage Berg Larsen mouthpieces came in three shank lengths. The bottom picture is the oldest, the 'Very Vintage' model. The middle mouthpiece is the transitional 'P' model. The top mouthpiece is a vintage Berg Larsen 'Duck Bill'. All three are the vintage models with the denim look machine marks on the table.
Bergs with a very pronounced upward scoop right behind the bite-plate are called 'Scoop Bill' Bergs. These all have a straight drop off at the back of the baffle. These did not change in design very much from the early 1950s through the 1980s. The only real change was the machinery used to make the facings during the above mentioned manufacturing plant change.
Straight Bill Bergs have a long straight bite-plate section but still have the V shaped drop off at the back of the baffle. These have a narrower body than the Duck Bill. They were produced from the 70s through the 80s. All of these have the arced machine marks on the table.