Choosing A Trumpet Mouthpiece
In the past it was thought that this could be answered simply in the FAQ section of the website but over time it has become apparent that it’s just too big a topic to be addressed with one paragraph.
Learning about the TCE is not simply learning about the function of the embouchure or adding some new tools to a pre-existing arsenal of techniques. Rather it should be considered part, maybe even the beginning, of a life-long journey of understanding these instruments we play and aspire to play better.
The subject of mouthpiece choice for trumpet can seem endless at times. It’s human nature to take all of the information available and try to categorise all of the mouthpieces there are so that we can get a clear picture of the choices before us. It’s fairly easy to generalise the effects of playing a mouthpiece with a wide or narrow internal diameter; round or flat rim; shallow or deep, bowl or v-shaped, traditional or double cup; straight-tapered or barrel-shaped backbore; open or tight, long or short throat; low or high alpha angle; but at the end of the day this choice is very personal. Strangely many players are really emotionally invested in their choice of mouthpiece or even their lack of choice if it was recommended by a teacher or a particular tradition of playing!
The stance that is taken on the subject of mouthpiece choice in reference to the TCE is simple. You can learn to play anything on the trumpet on any mouthpiece, but whether or not you should is another matter. You should change your embouchure before you change your equipment, but if you’re choosing to use a mouthpiece that is making an aspect of playing too difficult then there’s no benefit to sticking with it. The reason that there are mouthpieces recommended specifically for playing in the upper register or for playing with a good orchestral sound is because they have been designed to make these jobs easier.
The TCE is a highly efficient system for playing a brass instrument and so it’s natural for a player to gravitate towards equipment that makes efficient playing more effective. The most important thing to consider is whether or not you can make a characteristic trumpet sound for the style of music that you are aiming to perform. Having knowledge and experience of how mouthpieces change your sound and ease of playing is a valuable tool for making your life as a musician easier.
Jerome Callet encourages players to use small mouthpieces with shallow cups. This is because the efficient equipment will train you to play better. If you suffer with bottoming out on a shallow mouthpiece then this caused by a solvable deficiency in your technique, not a problem with a mouthpiece. Insisting on using bigger equipment for this reason is choosing to ignore a problem with your playing.
Another pro-small argument can be found when talking about the idea of open verses closed embouchure types. Ever since the Trumpet Yoga book in the 1970s the embouchure type that has evolved into what we call TCE is one that uses a very small aperture, controlled by the release of compressed air. For this reason it is much easier to use a smaller mouthpiece because externally the vibrating surface is small. Quality trumpet sound is made by the compressed air inside the mouth.
As suggested above, adding to your knowledge cannot be a bad thing. If would like to read more about some of the research that the author has done on this topic then take a look at the links below. The article about Vincent Bach mouthpieces gives a good general description of the topic, whilst the other gives more information about making good choices. It’s likely that in future there will be more articles added to this list so do keep an eye on both websites for changes.
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