By Don Hausen
One of the first and most affordable things the advancing trumpet student can do to improve their tone is to move to a new mouthpiece that is better suited to their personal needs. Common thinking would suggests that the more advanced the player, the larger the mouthpiece they should be playing – right? Generally, this is true, but the actual answer is a bit more complicated. Every player has his/her own personal needs. Different facial structures, lip strength, and dental needs will affect how a mouthpiece responds to a specific player.
Another big factor in choosing a trumpet mouthpiece is that each player may have a different idea for what they want their mouthpiece to do for them. Are they looking for a bigger, warmer, richer tone? Are they looking to improve their high range? What about endurance? Attack? It sounds confusing, but quite often, simply asking "What are you trying to change?" or "What don't you like about your current mouthpiece?" can narrow the choices down dramatically.
Ultimately, there are five things that affect the performance of a mouthpiece:
1. Rim shape
The wider the rim, the greater the endurance. The narrower the rim, more flexibility.
Flat rims provide more comfort but give less response. Round rims provide response at the expense of comfort. It’s up to the player to decide which rim they prefer.
2. Cup depth
Shallow cups support your high range and add brilliance, while deeper cups provide full tone, especially in the lower register.
3. Cup diameter (or rim diameter)
The larger the rim, the more vibrations of the lip. This provides fullness of tone, added volume, and less risk of cracked notes.
The smaller the rim, the less lip vibration. This makes it easier to support your high range, but reduces fullness of tone and volume. It can also slow the development of embouchoure strength.
Backbore is the toughest part of the mouthpiece to qualify. It's not just its size, but also shape, that affects the overall tone of a mouthpiece. By changing size and shape, the backbore can contribute to the darkness or brilliance of the mouthpiece.
The throat is the narrowest point in the backbore. Many players think that a tight throat will offer high range support. This is actually not true. The restriction of airflow is one of the surest ways to limit your range. Too large of a throat can make it very difficult to play softly.
Remember, we can order any of the hundereds of mouthpieces available from not only Bach, Schilke and Yamaha, but also Parduba, Rudy Muck, Denis Wick and many more. But if your advancing student is ready to explore the world of mouthpieces, the best bet is to bring student and trumpet to the store to try the range of mouthpieces already in stock.
Don Hausen is a trumpet player and Band Department Retail Sales and Special Events Associate at White House of Music, Waukesha. Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.