Out of all of the various parts of a trumpet, the mouthpiece is perhaps the most important. A good mouthpiece can support and help a trumpeter, while a poor one can cause devestating results. A mouthpiece is by no means a fix-all remedy, but practice on a quality mouthpiece is a good way to becoming a better trumpeter. Mouthpieces do not give instant range, nor can they produce rich, full sounds without the skill behind them. It is usually considered best not to switch mouthpieces for different literature--don't play on a large mouthpiece in the concert hall and then switch to a shallow mouthpiece on the football field. It tends to do more damage physically and mentally than it's worth.
Mouthpieces are often identified using a combination of numbers and letters. The number identifies the cup diameter, while the letter is the cup depth. The numbering a lettering systems very greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, so check their catalogs.
Every mouthpiece has five basic parts:
Each of these parts contribute in their own way to producing sound, and will be discussed separately. It should be noted that all of these observations are very general, and that mouthpiece selection is highly individual.
The rim is the portion of the mouthpiece
that acutally touches the lips. Many factors shape it, such as
cup diameter, width, and edge. Cup diameter is the distance
between the two inside edges. Large diameters allow more air
to pass into the mouthpiece and are well suited with players
with large or strong embouchere. Most trumpeter's use a
mouthpiece on the larger end of the scale. Although some
smaller diameters are easier to play on, as a general rule of
thumb they can not produce as full a sound, and if they are
too small, then they can restrict airflow. Width is important
to consider as well. Wider rims are more comfortable, but can sometimes deaden the sound and are more difficult to slur on. Edge is considered when discussing attack -- some feel that a noticable edge on the rim helps, while others disagree. This is a personal call.
For Junior High and High School players,
cup size is the most talked about part of a mouthpiece. There
is a good reason to discuss cups, because the cup depth and
shape have the greatest affect on tone quality. This is not
usually the topic of discussion in school however because many
young players think that shallower cups may give instant
range. This is not the case, and dependence on shallow cups
destroys the development of young emboucheres. Shallow cups do
lighten the sound and produce more overtones with a well
formed embouchere, and may be used by advanced trumpeters in
jazz, recording, or on piccolo trumpet to increase endurance
and make the job easier. Shallow mouthpieces can wreak havoc
on young emoucheres which often results in poor tone quality
and skills that can not transfer into a legit (concert)
setting. Deeper cups cause a darker sound, and if to deep
may become very difficult to play on. It is best, at least for
the first five years or more, to play on a medium depth cup,
such as a Bach "C" depth before experimenting. Deeper cup depths aid in setting the embouchere in the right place and aid in developing beautiful sounds.
The throat is determined by the number of the drill bit used to drill it out. 27 is the size that is most common on Bach mouthpieces. After proper development, it is advisable to experiment with different diameteres and have your mouthpiece drilled to the size that you like it.
The backbore is is the least understood part of the mouthpiece
because it is the most hidden. As another general rule of
thumb, more gradual tapers produce a fuller sound, while
radical tapers have more of an edge. The trumpeter's discretion should be used here.
It is highly important that the shank have a good tight fit
with the receiver to ensure good tone production.(this is why
some very top line trumpets such as Monettes make the leadpipe
and mouthpiece as a solid piece). It is important that there
are no gaps anywhere that could disturb the pattern of the
sound wave as it being produced and reflected.
Tips to Remember
- Just Avoid Shallow Mouthpieces
- No one is the perfect mouthpiece maker, and there is no perfect mouthpiece.
- When trying mouthpieces out, remember that manufacturers use different standards, and compare them.
- There is no substitute for practice. Just find a mouthpiece that you like, and stick with it for a few months before you decide to scrap it.
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