My personal thoughts on Bach trumpet mouthpieces

Yesterday, I introduced Bach mouthpieces, because they have been such industry standards, and in this post I will talk about my personal opinions of Bach mouthpieces.

I use a stock Bach 1C for my B-flat, C and E-flat trumpets. I will use a Bach 10 1/2 C with a 117 backbore for piccolo (a Benge with a trumpet-sized receiver). My opinions about a few other Bach mouthpieces:

1 1/2C: a wide rim can be helpful for endurance

1 1/4C: smoother inner rim for comfort

1C flugel: A great flugel mouthpiece for me.

1C cornet: not a great cornet mouthpiece for me–too bright and trumpet-like. For cornet, I will go with a different brand (Sparx 2B, but Wick is fantastic, too)

3C: I think the 3C can be a great all-around mouthpiece, nicely suited to some light commercial playing

5C: The 5C can be a great choice for many players, especially intermediate students; also for advanced students who need more endurance and support for high notes or prefer a more focused sound on a regular basis

7C: The go-to choice for a beginner trumpeter. Almost no one who has advanced in playing plays this mouthpiece. I once played a U.S. Navy Band tour on a 7C mouthpiece because of endurance concerns. I had zero endurance problems with the 7C. However, the brightness of the mouthpieces did not always blend with the rest of the section.

7E: I don’t play this mouthpiece on the piccolo, because I think the tone quality is too bright (I believe the stock backbore for this mouthpiece is the 117, which is good).

10 1/2 C (regular backbore): I like the rim and cup combination for piccolo, but I don’t like this mouthpiece as much, because the backbore doesn’t provide the right support for piccolo trumpet. The 117 is more open and provides a more successful piccolo trumpet balance.

Another curious observation: there aren’t many trumpeters who play Bach mouthpieces in “even” sizes (2, 4, 6, 8). I’m not sure why!

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Let’s talk tone: the mouthpiece according to Bach

In the last two blog posts, I talked about the trumpet itself as a factor in tone production. Today, I want to address the equipment that probably has the most effect on tone. The mouthpiece. It doesn’t seem right, does it? If you sink $4,000 into a trumpet and only $100 in a mouthpiece, the trumpet seems like it should be the biggest factor. That is not the case. There are many aspects of the mouthpiece and all of them have large implications in regard to the tone. In today’s post, I want to focus on Bach mouthpieces, since Vincent Bach put a lot of effort into mouthpiece design and most good mouthpieces made by other makers benefit from his work.

Let’s start with the wonderful and educational mouthpiece manual on the Bach website. Here’s the PDF: Bach mouthpiece manual. There is a wealth of information here, so please take as much time as you’d like. On the first page, Bach says, “Do not select a certain mouthpiece because another player uses it. Because no two players have the same lip or tooth formation, what is perfect for one may be entirely unsuitable for the other. Bach produces many different models so that each player can find the best mouthpiece for their individual embouchure.”

I agree AND disagree with this (for the same reasons I wrote about in yesterday’s post about trumpets). You have to know what basic parameters of music you want to play–solo, lead trumpet, orchestra section, orchestra principal, studio, jazz solo–so that you narrow your search. You’re just not going to get a job in an orchestra if you audition on a 12E-W mouthpiece, no matter how well this mouthpiece suits you. And, to be fair, Bach alludes to this in the previous paragraph by writing that

Professional musicians and advanced students prefer the musical results of
large mouthpieces, such as the Bach 1B, 1C, 1 1/4C, 1 1⁄2B, 1 1⁄2C, 2 1⁄2C, 3C, which provide a maximum volume of tone with the least amount of effort. By opening up the lips so that they do not touch, the larger mouthpiece produces a clearer, purer tone. The large cup diameter also allows a greater portion of the lip to vibrate, producing a larger volume of tone, and keeps a player from forcing high tones by encouraging the correct functioning of the lip muscles. However, a student may find a medium-sized mouthpiece suitable.

So, when thinking about your mouthpiece, try to think about what your abilities and musical needs will be. Blend your ideal sound with your needs.

A note about beginners: if I’m starting out a young trumpeter, I am definitely going to recommend a mouthpiece the size of a 7C. This will work with beginning embouchures. As the student grows and gets better, then I would try a larger mouthpiece, like a 5C, then a 3C. I would generally not introduce a smaller mouthpiece (for commercial/jazz work) until the student has shown mastery of intermediate music materials and has a great, solid high C.

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