1. The main factor in selecting a mouthpiece is how it feels.
This myth has a LOT going for it, but it has some fatal flaws. The biggest is that many factors can go wrong when you’re feeling really good about your mouthpiece–factors like articulation, focus and actual sound.
Sound is utlra-important to me. The best mouthpiece trial is conducted with your trusted colleagues in the place that you play the most (the concert hall, for example). Have your friend sit at a good middle distance from you. Then try all the mouthpieces you have (or that both you and your friend have together) in a blind test, playing various excerpts or licks that show off the high register, articulation, low register, and lyrical playing. This is not a one-and-done proposition. This should be repeated every year, at a minimum, because your physiology, fitness level, and musical values tend to change slightly over time.
Next best would be a recorded trial, if you cannot enlist the help of a friend.
2. You should play on the biggest mouthpiece that will get the job done.
I think this myth comes primarily from Vincent Bach’s statement, “If the player tries different models of mouthpieces and obtains equally good results with both large and medium sizes, he should always give preference to the larger.” Bach’s ideas on mouthpieces have a lot of validity, but if you look at the size mouthpieces trumpeters were playing when he began his business (and for the first few decades of his business), they were, on average, smaller in diameter than our current favorite sizes. Adolf Herseth began his career playing a 7B. Harry Glanz (from the NBC orchestra) played a 6C. Starting in the 1950s, orchestral players began to explore bigger equipment. The “biggering” of trumpet mouthpieces has culminated in some rather large mouthpieces made by David Monette, for example. According to Jens Lindemann, we should be looking mainly for “efficiency.” When we play in the sweet spot, we play more efficiently. The sweet spot is bigger on a larger mouthpiece, but it is harder to maintain that sweet spot (see below about baroque trumpet mouthpieces). A moderately sized mouthpiece will have a smaller sweet spot, but, once you have mastered playing centered on it, then you should be able to go for a long time on that mouthpiece. Because I played in an orchestra early on, I developed on a 1C. This works for me, but I am hesitant to recommend this to others, because it might prove too ungainly. As far as the back-end of mouthpieces go, I have had no luck with large throats and large back bores on medium-large B-flat trumpets. On a piccolo trumpet, however, I actually think that a very large back bore (a 117 in a Bach mouthpiece) works very well. My opinion is that the quick outward taper associated with the 117 matches the overall relative small length and conical “profile” of the piccolo trumpet.
2. You should play on the smallest mouthpiece that will get the job done.
This myth comes from young players trying to emulate their favorite lead players. If you can’t play loudly with good, clean articulation, then you are probably are playing too small of a mouthpiece. If you are looking to play on a mouthpiece smaller than a 7C on a daily basis, then you should have a really good reason (i.e., you’re a lead player). In general, look for mid-range size diameters (3 to 7 in Bach sizes) . Often, if you pair a mouthpiece that is too small with an instrument that doesn’t want that kind of mouthpiece, then you will wind up with an exaggerated “scale”: the bottom notes will be a little low and the top notes will be too sharp. Even very large mouthpieces can be played VERY high. Just not all night long.
These are great mouthpieces, because Vincent Bach was such a good trumpet player AND engineer. However, nowadays you will find amazing mouthpieces from new makers. To name a few (without any endorsement, per se): Parke, GR, Hammond, Greg Black, Warburton, Bob Reeves, Sparx (for cornet), Curry, Lasky, Stork, Monette, Wick (great especially for cornet and flugel) and Yamaha to name a few. Many makers can be very helpful in finding a great mouthpiece for you. Ask your teacher and friends for advice. Search for little personal “reviews” on the Trumpet Herald, Trumpet Master, etc. Do some research on some mouthpiece comparison charts, like The Ultimate Trumpet Mouthpiece Comparison Chart.
4. Don’t buy a mouthpiece that your favorite trumpet player plays–buy one that works for you.
This obviously has great validity, but if you’re just starting out, you should FIRST try the mouthpieces that your heroes play (as long as they are not extreme). They usually had to go through a long period of trial and error that you may be able to circumvent if you start by trying theirs. Keep in mind a couple of factors when purchasing artist models: 1) did your favorite player start out on a different size and then move into their current size only later in life (because of a change in the demands of her job over time demand different equipment, because of old age or because of some trauma to the mouth)? 2) do you really know for sure that your favorite artist ACTUALLY plays this mouthpiece on a regular basis? 3) do you REALLY know what sorts of playing your favorite artist does daily (if he plays 8 hours a day mostly at high C and above, then that may not be the mouthpiece for a 3 hour-a-day player).
To help find your favorite trumpet player’s mouthpiece, do some google-research. Often you can find the information you’re looking for.
Sorry, but you cannot do this and expect to get a historic sound. You have to play the same kinds of equipment that the players of yore did to approach their sound. For instance, the baroque trumpet mouthpiece should have a completely different rim (flat) and cup (very “C” shaped–like a sphere cut in two). In addition, the baroque trumpet mouthpiece was much larger than the typical modern trumpet in all dimensions (the diagram to the left suggests that the two mouthpieces are the same size, top to bottom, but the baroque mouthpiece typically is longer). This type of mouthpiece works well, especially when coupled with a no-vent-holes, natural trumpet approach. The larger size also matches the overall largeness of the 17th- and 18th-century trumpet. In addition, the large size mouthpiece has a very large “sweet spot,” which enables “lipping” to a large degree–if the embouchure is developed enough for this type of activity. With a small instrument like the cornett, mouthpiece is critical. I only get mine made by my most trusted mouthpiece maker (Graham Nicholson, a British baroque trumpet player who lives in the Hague).
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