September 22, 2020

Understanding the Trumpet Mouthpiece




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A huge factor in determining the success of your trumpet player's performing potential is subject to their choice in mouthpieces. Elements such as the rim, cup, throat, shank, and backbore influence what the mouthpiece is capable of doing. The mouthpiece construction of metal and plastic contributes to the overall quality of the trumpet sound. If you consider the possible combinations of how these elements may be combined, you have thousands of options. This choice in mouthpieces is essential in the advancement in trumpet player growth and should be decided based upon the demands of the player.

The Rim

The rim is the portion of the mouthpiece that a trumpet player's lips touch. The design should give the player maximum comfort while playing their instrument. An essential element about rims is that the more rounded they are, the more flexibility they generally provide. The downside to this is that a rounded rim typically reduces a player's endurance.

A flat rim gives the player a more definitive termination point for articulation. In other words, the vibration of the lips creates a prompt attack. Also, a flat rim may provide a more brilliant tone. The downside to this style of rim includes the fact that the embouchure will grip the mouthpiece more and limit flexibility.

The Cup

The lips and airstream come into contact with the cup. There are two primary considerations when regarding mouthpiece cups. These include the cup's diameter and depth. If a trumpet player chooses to use a cup that has a large diameter and depth, the capacity to create a full, resonant tone is possible. I suggest using a large mouthpiece cup as long as it doesn't impede your poise or control.

Larger cup diameters allow for a greater area for lip surface vibrations, which amplifies the volume of the tone. Whereas, a deeper cup enables the trumpet player to play with a more resonant timbre.
Playing on a larger cup also requires more embouchure muscle control. The con is that the player may feel a lack of security in the upper ranges. Once you have made adjustments, there is a sense of freedom for quality tone production.

Unlike other instrument mouthpiece changes, trumpet players do not need to work toward playing a larger mouthpiece size gradually. Changes and choices should be suited to the specific mouthpiece.

The Throat and Throat Shoulder

Next, in the linear progression of the trumpet mouthpiece, is the throat, or otherwise known as the orifice. The throat is the most narrow portion of the device. It is the passage between the throat shoulder and backbore.

Throats that are too narrow will restrict tone in the upper ranges. Small throats tend to flatten high notes and sharpen low notes. As a result, the physical shape and interaction of the airstream going through the mouthpiece influences this response.

In contrast, large throats create full, resonant tones. Unfortunately, large throats come with some problems of their own. These problems include difficulty maintaining control of very soft dynamics. Also, greater physical demands are placed on the player's embouchure.

The length of the throat also has issues. A long throat increases the resistance of the mouthpiece. Similar to having a small throat, a long throat has a compression effect in which high notes tend to be flat, and low notes tend to be sharp.

The location where the bottom of the cup enters the throat is called the throat shoulder. The throat shoulder influences the tone quality and resistance of the mouthpiece. Rounded shoulders tend to create a more resonant tone in contrast to one with a sharper throat shoulder.

The Backbore

The backbore of a mouthpiece will have a significant impact on tone quality and intonation. A backbore is the inner metal wall of the lengthy portion of the mouthpiece. Several issues occur as a result of an undesirable backbore. First, small backbores create a stuffy and bright tone quality. Also, notes in the upper register tend to be flat.

In contrast, backbores tend to be open and typically have weak resistance. Additionally, this leads to notes that lack a tonal center. As a result, the player's embouchure will tire quickly.

The Shank

Trumpets use what is called a Morse Taper no. 1. The shank is the slight taper used at the end of the mouthpiece so that it will fit in the receiver of the trumpet. The measurement is .050 of an inch per inch of length.

If this measurement is not correct, whether the mouthpiece is too long or the receiver is too short, the mouthpiece will not fit securely. Additionally, any foreign debris or dirt that gets in the mouthpiece may also hinder the security and performance clarity of the player.

Plating

Typically, trumpet mouthpieces have a metal plating. The most common plating is silver. When this plating gets worn, it can be replated with a variety of metals by a skilled repairman or manufacturer. Some players may be exposed to worn plating, which can result in fever blisters or cold sores. Others may be allergic to different types of plating metals and will need an alternate material to come into contact. Many players enjoy using gold plated mouthpieces. It tends to provide the player with a softer and warmer feel.

Plastic Mouthpieces

An alternative to metal mouthpieces includes the use of a plastic or lucite mouthpiece. These plastic devices are best when you are playing in cold outdoor venues. Typically, plastic mouthpieces are not the highest quality mouthpieces. However, they do help you avoid playing on cold metal mouthpieces that may remove the skin from the lip and cause other musical problems.

Beginner Mouthpieces

It is easy for beginner trumpet players to get confused due to a large number of mouthpiece options. My recommendation is for beginning trumpet players to start on a Bach 7c or a Schilke 11. Each of these posses mouthpieces is uniformly built and possesses an excellent balance of proportional qualities.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the trumpet mouthpiece is a pivotally important piece of equipment for the musician. It influences the performance of a player through its wide array of potential designs. The construction material, whether it is metallic or plastic, may have a physical effect on players. Understanding elements of the design, such as rims, backbores, throats, and shanks, are essential to customizing the ideal trumpet sound you want.



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