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MouthpieceSchool101

by
AdrianD.Griffin

Asitappearedinitsuneditedversion.
TheInstrumentalistMagazine,February,2008

Themouthpiecemaybethemostcrucialequipmentchoiceastudentcanmakeotherthanhis/her
trumpetplaying.Itisalsotheeasiestthingtochangeinonesplayingtoachieveadarkeror
brightercolor,oradapttodifferentsituationssuchasleadplayingororchestralplaying.
Onceaplayersaircausesthetensedlipstovibrate,thevibrationsthenenterthemouthpiece.It
isthissoundwhichentersandisfurtheramplifiedbythetrumpetitself.Whatthismeansisthat
themouthpieceistheprimaryresonatingfactorintrumpetplaying.Thetrumpetisjustan
amplificationofthemouthpieceitself.
Whileamouthpiececancomplementwhataplayeristryingtodo,itsnotgoingtoallowthemto
dosomethingtheycant.Ifastudenthastechnicalissues,anewmouthpieceisntgoingtofix
them.Ideally,theperfectmouthpieceshouldeasetheirhighrange,blowfreeandeasyinthe
middleandlowrange,playintune,havegoodenduranceandbephysicallycomfortable.
Astudentwithawelldevelopedembouchurewillbeabletoplayonalargermouthpiece,giving
themalarger,warmersound.Itistypicalforstudentstogetanewmouthpiecesometimeafter
theirsecondyearofplaying,andagainastheyadvanceintopreprofessionalplaying.
Trumpetplayersoftendontjustdonthaveonemouthpiece;wehavetwo,three,evenfour.
Someplayershavemanagedtocollecthundredsovertheircareer.Weareeachinsearchofthe
holygrailofmouthpiecesonewhichoffersbothphysicalcomfort,easeofplaying,andthe
soundwewanttomake.
Althoughanewmouthpieceisasmallinvestmentintermsofprice,itishighintermsof
adjustingtotheembouchurechangeoverthenextmonth.Itisimportantthatthestudenttake
thetimetomakeagooddecision,sotheydontwasteamonthofstudyadjustingtoa
mouthpiecethatultimatelydoesnotworkout.
Selectingamouthpiece
Beforetheytrytheirnewmouthpiece,thestudentshoulddoacompletewarmupontheir
standardequipment.Thiswillgettheminshapeandgivethemabasisforcomparison.The
roomwheretheytrythemouthpiecesshouldhavegoodacoustics(havethemclaptheirhands
onceandlistentothereverberation),oraroomwheretheyarealreadyfamiliarwiththeirsound.
Thestudentshouldbelookingforamouthpiecethatiscomfortable,butwithoutcompromising
onsound.Ifpossible,theteacheroranothertrumpetplayershouldbewiththestudentasthey
tryoutmouthpieces,sincethesoundwillbesomewhatdifferentinfrontofthebell.Also,
someoneintheroomshouldmixupthestudentsmouthpiecechoicessotheydontknowwhich
onetheyareplaying.Thiseliminatesanypreconceptionsthestudentmayhave,andallowsthem

toobjectivelyreportonthecomfortandsoundofeachmouthpiece.Makesuretheyrest
frequentlysotheirchopsareasfreshaspossible,toavoidbiasingtheresult.

Theadjustmentperiod
Afterpickingtheirnewmouthpiece;thestudentshouldbepatient.Theywillprobablynoticea
temporarydropintheirenduranceandrange.Reassurethemthatthisiscompletelynormal,
sincetheyareusingtheirembouchuremusclesslightlydifferentlywiththenewmouthpiece.The
initialexcitement(Wherehasthismouthpiecebeenmywholelife?)isoftenfollowedby
frustrationasthenewmusclesbecomefatiguedoverthefirstweekortwo.Theywillgettheir
chopsbackoncethemuscleshaverebuilttheirendurance.
Aftergettingthenewmouthpiece,havethestudenttakeadayortwoofffromplaying,togive
theirmusclestimetofullyrest.Afterthisrestperiod,havethemeaseintothenewmouthpiece
withaslow,easywarmup(longtones)thatrequiresverylittlepressureandmovement.
Followingthewarmup,havethestudenteaseintotheirpracticeroutine,payingspecialattention
totheirembouchure.Theirdailypracticeshouldbenomorethan4560minutesforthefirsttwo
weeksofthemouthpiecechange.Youwantthemtoexercisethenewembouchuremuscles
withoutdepletingthem.Iftheykeeprunningthemusclestoexhaustioneachday,themuscles
willbetootiredtoactuallybuildendurance.
Aftertwoweeks,theembouchuremusclesshouldbeacclimatedtothenewmouthpiece,andthe
musclesshouldhavebuiltupenoughstrengthandenduranceforthestudentsregularpractice
routine.
Havethestudentputawaytheiroldequipmentsotheywontreachforitinatimeofneed!If
theirnewmouthpieceisnotperformingastheywouldlikeittoafteronemonth,theycanreturn
tothepreviousmouthpieceorbegintheirsearchagainwithabetterideaofwhattheyarelooking
for.
Mouthpiecesforbeginners
The7Cor5Cmouthpieceisthemostcommonforbeginners.Studentswithlargerlipswillbe
morecomfortableonamouthpiecewithawiderinnerrim(theopencenterofthemouthpiece),
suchastheBach5B.Thislargerinnerrimwillallowthestudentslipsroomtovibrate;a
narrowerinnerrimwillpinchintothefleshypartoftheirlips,causingissuesintone,flexibility,
andendurance.
Whilestudentswithslightlythinnerlipscanplayastandard7Cmouthpiece,playerswith
extremelythinlipsshouldchooseamouthpiecewithanarrowerinnerrim,suchasBach10C.
Astandardmouthpiecewouldrequireadditionalmouthpiecepressureforthesestudents,andas
abeginnertheirembouchurestrengthisinsufficient.
Somestudentsmayhaveateardroplip,inwhichthefrontpartofthelipcomesdownfurtherthan
therestofthetoplip.Sincethislipformationcanleadtoanunreliableresponse,flutteringinthe

sound,adownwardairstream,andaperturecontrolissues,theteardroplipisgenerallynotwell
suitedtothetrumpet.
Ifastudentwithateardropliphastheirheartsetonplayingtrumpetandunderstandsthe
difficultiesassociatedwiththeirlipshape,privatelessonscanhelpthemdevelopstrategiesto
minimizeitsimpactontheirplaying.TheSchilke13C4canbeagoodmouthpiecechoicefor
studentswithateardroplip.ItiscomparabletoaBach3C,butithasmorerimsurfaceareaand
isslightlymoreflat,helpingtostabilizetheteardropportionofthelip.Itsmorefunnelshaped
cupalsoallowsthelipsroomtovibrate.
Thepartsofanymouthpiecearetherim,cup,throat,shank,andbackbore.Eachofthese
componentshasadifferenteffectonthecomfortandsoundofthemouthpiece.
MouthpieceRim
Therimofanybrassmouthpieceismeasureintermsofitsdiameter,width,contourandedge
(bite).Therimchoicehasthemostinfluenceontheplayerscomfortandendurance.Asharper
inneredgewillproduceacleanerattack,whilearoundedinnerrimwillcreateasmoother,more
roundedattack.
Iftheedgeistoosharpitcanreduceendurancebypushingintothefleshofthelips.However,a
sharperedgewillalsohelpwithcontrolbyallowingonlytheproperamountoffleshtovibrate.
Ingeneral,themoreoftheoutsiderimaplayerhasincontactwiththeflesh,thelessfreethelips
aretoresonate.Iftherimistoonarrow,itcanpushintothefleshofthelipsandcausealackof
enduranceaswellaspossiblebruising.Amediumwiderimisgenerallybest,andisfoundon
themoststandardmouthpieces.
MouthpieceCup
Thecupofthemouthpieceismuchlikeabowl,andinfluencesthesoundandresponsiveness.A
deepercupwillproduceadeepersound,easierplayinginthelowregister,andaslower
responsetimebecauseoftheadditionalvolumeofair.Ashallowerthecupwillproducea
brightersound,easierplayinginthehighrange,andarapidresponsetime.Shallowcupsare
bestusedforhighplayingorsmalltrumpet(piccolo/Eb/D)performing.
Theshapeofthecupalsoplaysaroleinsound.Thebowlshapeofastandardmouthpiece
producesabrightertimbrethantheconeshapefoundontheflugelhornmouthpiece.
Professionalsmayspecialorderaconicalcupforastandardmouthpieceshanktoachieveadark,
warm,mellowsoundonthetrumpet.
MouthpieceThroat
Thethroatcanbestbedescribedastheholeinthecenterofthecup.Thebiggerthethroat,the
moreaircanpassthrough.Thecoreofthesoundwillbewarmer,richer,andhaveaclear,pure
focus.

Thestockthroatsizeisa27,referringtothesizeofthedrillbitusedtocreateit.Highschool
studentswouldtypicallyplaya27or26(slightlylarger)throatsize.Professionalsmore
commonlyusea24or23,whichallowsthemtomovemoreairthroughthemouthpiece.
Usingalargerthroatrequiresawellestablishedembouchureandgoodendurance.Otherwise,a
throatthatistoolargecanresultinplayingflat.

MouthpieceShank
Theshankisthepartofthemouthpiecethatisinsertedintothemouthpiecereceiverofthe
trumpetleadpipe.Thestudentshouldcleanthemouthpiecewithabrushaftereachuse,tokeep
depositsfrombuildingupinsidetheshank.
Themouthpiecemustcreateatightsealinthemouthpiecereceiverforproperperformance.
Mouthpiecereceiversvaryonlyslightlyinsizeifatallfromcompanytocompany,soplugand
playworksmostofthetime,butnotalways.Ifastudentinsertstheirmouthpieceintothe
trumpetandhearsametallichittingsound,itprobablymeanstheirmouthpieceshankistoo
slender,andhasextendedpastthemouthpiecereceivertohittheleadpipeitself.
Ifthemouthpiecedoesnotsealwell,theresultingairleakwillmakethetrumpetnearly
unplayable,andifitisplayableitwillbequiteflat.
MouthpieceBackbore
Thebackboreistheinteriorcircumferenceoftheshank,andisamajorfactorintheoveralltone
colorwhenthemouthpiecemeetsthetrumpet.Abiggerbackborewillproduceadarkersound;a
narrowerbackborewillproduceabrightersound.
Ifthebackboreistoolarge,theplayerwillsufferfromdeflatedenduranceandflatintonation.If
thebackboreistoonarrow,therewillbeperceptiblylessroomfortheplayertoaltertheairflow
inordertomakeminoradjustmentsinthepitchandsound.
Mouthpiecesfordifferenttrumpets
Althoughtrumpetscomeinvariouspitches(beyondthemostfamiliarBbandC),alltrumpets
useastandardtrumpetmouthpiece.Cornets,however,useamouthpiecewithashankthatis
narroweraswellasshorter.Thetraditionalcornetmouthpieceisfunnelshaped,likeaflugelhorn
mouthpiece(producingawarmersound);themoderncornetmouthpieceiscupshaped,likethe
trumpetmouthpiece.
Althoughsimilartoacornetmouthpiece,thecupofaflugelhornmouthpieceismuchmore
funnelcupped,andtheshankistaperedforthelargerflugelhornreceiver.
Mostpiccolotrumpetperformersuseamouthpiecewithashallowcupandanarrowerrim(both
innerandouter).Thereceiverofthepiccolotrumpetmaybedesignedforeitheratrumpetor
cornetshank.Thecornetfittingrespondssomewhatfasterbecauseofitsnarrowerbackboreand
shortershank,soispreferredbymostprofessionals.

Fromgoldtoplastic
Mouthpiecesstartfromrawbrass,andarethenplatedtotherequestofthemanufactureror
customer.Becauseoftheriskofbrasspoisoning,itisillegalforamanufacturertosella
mouthpiecetoacustomerwithouttheplating.
Silverplatingisstandardforanymouthpiece,andtendstogripthelipsbetterthangold.Aplayer
wholikesafirmsetfortheirmouthpiecewillbemostcomfortablewithsilverplating.Gold
platingwarmsupfasterthansilver,andisalsoalittleheavierthansilver,addingsomeweightto
themouthpiece.Goldplatingallowsthelipstomovealittlemorefreely,whichwetsetplayers
maytendtoprefer.
Plasticmouthpiecesaremostoftenusedoustideforcoldtemperatureperforming,orforcasual
buzzinginthecar.Theyareinexpensiveandquitedurable,butlackthesoundqualityofthe
standardmetalmouthpiece.
Plasticorluciterimsareusefulforplayerswhohaveanallergytosilverorgoldplating,aswellas
forplayingoutsideincoldtemperatures.Theserimsarecustomorderedbecausetheyaremade
perorderandrequestfromthemanufacturerasapartofscrewrimmouthpieces.Generally,
screwrimmouthpiecescostslightlymorethanastandardmouthpieceandtypicallytakesa
monthortwotoreceive,soaplasticmouthpieceisamoreeconomicalchoicefortheoccasional
outdoorperformancesituation.
Specialtymouthpieces
Screwrimmouthpiecesweredevelopedforplayerstousethesamerimbutchangetodifferent
backboresandthroatsusedfordifferenttrumpetsorplayingsituations.Alargecupand
backboremaybemoreappropriateforsymphonicplaying;thesameplayercanusethesamerim
withmoreshallowcupandtighterbackboreforjazzorleadwork.Playersshouldputadropof
valveoilonthethreadseveryotherweekorsotokeeptherimfromlockingtothecup.
Amegatonemouthpieceismuchlikeastandardmouthpiecehowever,butwithasubstantial
amountofweightaddedtothebodyofthemouthpiece.Theaddedmassallowsthelouder
volumetobeproducedwithlessdistortion,whileaddingwarmthanddarknesstothesoundin
allregisters.Amegatonemouthpieceisstandardizedwithalargerthroat.
Thefluffymouthpieceisahybridmouthpiece,combiningthecupofaflugelhornmouthpiecewith
therimandshankofatrumpetmouthpiece.Theendresultisawarm,velvetysoundwhichis
perfectforquietpassagesorlyricalsolos.
Bentmouthpiecesareusefulforplayerswhohaveaverysevereoverorunderbitethatisnot
correctablebysimplypushingorpullingthebottomjawforwardorbackwards.Theseplayers
playwithanacutelydownwardorupwardslanttotheirtrumpet.Themanufacturercanbend
themouthpieceby812degreestocorrectthetrumpetspositionwithoutadverselyaffectingthe
pitch.
TheasymmetricalmouthpiecewasdevelopedbyJohnLynch,andusesaspecialcupdesigntoallow
foreasierhighrangeplayingwithlessmouthpiecepressure.Itshouldnotbeusedforeveryday
playing.Formoreinformationonthismouthpiecevisitwww.asymmetricmouthpiece.com.

MouthpieceRepairTools
Althoughmajortrumpetrepairsshouldbereferredtotheshop,abanddirectorcanmakelife
easierforthemselvesandtheirstudentsbyhavingafewsimpletoolsonhand.
Fortheoccasionalsituationwhenastudentgetstheirmouthpiecestuckinthereceiver,a
mouthpiecepullerisessentialandmakesquickworkofthesituation.Donoteveruseawrench;
boththemouthpieceandtheleadpipeitselfcanbedamaged,escalatingafreerepairintoan
expensivesolderingjob.
Amouthpiecetrueingtoolisamusttohavearoundincaseofadroppedmouthpiece.Iftheshank
isbent,thetrueingtoolcanbeinsertedintotheshankandtwisted,returningthedentedshankto
itscylindricalshape.


Howtoreadmouthpiecenumbering
TheBachnumberingsystemisconsideredthestandardformouthpiececomparisons,andisused
asareferencetocompareotherbrands.IntheBachsystem,thenumberreferstotherim
circumference;thebiggerthenumberthesmallertherim.Bachmouthpiecesrangeinsizefrom1
to20.
TheletterintheBachsystemreferstothecupsize.Thehighertheletter,thesmallerthecup;so
Aisthelargestcupsize.TheCcup(ormediumcup)isthemostcommoninsymphonyand
bandplaying.D,EandFcupsarereferredtoasshallowcups,andaretypicallyusedfor
leadplayinginjazzband.

MouthpieceComparisonChart
Bach

Monette

Schilke

DenisWick

Yamaha

Numbering

Numbering

Numbering

Numbering

Numbering

1C

B15

20,M1

TR17C4

1C

B2

M1.5,15

TR17B4

1C

B3

16C4,M2

2W

TR16C4

2C

14

TR15C4

3C

B6

M3,13C4

TR14B4

5B

14D

TR14D4

5C

13B

4C

TR14C4

6C

12

4C

TR13B4

7C

B7F

11

4B

TR11C4

101/2C

B8

9C4

TR8C4

TrumpetMouthpieceManufacturers

Bach

www.bachbrass.com

DenisWick

www.deniswick.com

Yamaha

www.yamaha.com

Monette

www.monette.net

Warburton

www.warburtonusa.com

Curry

www.currympc.com

GregBlack

www.gregblackmouthpieces.com

Schilke

www.schilkemusic.com

Marcinkiewicz

www.marcinkiewicz.com

Stork

www.storkcustom.com

JetTone

www.jettone.com

Kelly

www.kellymouthpieces.com

Reeves

www.bobreeves.com