The mouthpiece is arguably the most important part of any brass instrument, including trumpets. Without a mouthpiece, there’s no sound. And with a high-quality mouthpiece, the sound is crisp and clear. Although most trumpet players choose their mouthpiece purely out of personal preference, it’s important to understand how a mouthpiece is crafted to maximize sound. Every player has a different lip shape and bite construction, which is why trumpet mouthpieces come in a variety of shapes and sizes. With such a wide array of cup sizes, rim sizes, and shapes available on the market, it’s important to learn as much as possible about trumpet mouthpieces before making a purchase.
Although pure brass mouthpieces are available, most brass trumpet mouthpieces are plated in another metal due to the fact that many people have a mild allergy to raw brass. Silver plated mouthpieces are a common choice because they’re fairly cost-effective and naturally kill some germs. If you do choose a silver plated mouthpiece keep in mind that silver tarnishes easily, but can be restored back to its original shine with silver polish. If you’re allergic to silver, gold plating is recommended. Although gold doesn’t tarnish and requires very little maintenance, it’s an expensive option. Finally, plastic mouthpieces are popular among outdoor performers, especially those in a semi-professional marching band. They’re lightweight, durable, and can withstand cold temperatures.
Parts of the Mouthpiece
The ease of play, comfort level, and ideal sound will come a lot easier once you understand the different parts of a mouthpiece and how they can affect your overall tone. The most essential components of a trumpet mouthpiece are the rim and cup. Although the backbore and throat will certainly affect your sound, feel, and performance, they’re less of a concern, especially since the manufacturer often matches them to the rim and cup. The size of the backbore and throat can be changed in size by an expert repair technician, but once it’s changed there’s no turning back. Most trumpet players are content with a medium cup and rim. Read on for more information about the rim, cup, throat, and backbore.
The rim is the round edge of a mouthpiece that you set your lips on. A rim with a flat contour allows even lip pressure across its surface, providing a good air seal. Although rims with a flat contour are comfortable, they don’t allow much flexibility. Rounded rims, on the other hand, provide a lot more flexibility, allowing the lips to move back and forth in the cup allowing the player to produce a greater variety of tones. However, rounded rims also require stronger lips and extra lip pressure.For this reason, most trumpet players prefer a medium-wide rim with a semi-rounded contour. This type of contour provides sufficient surface for comfortable lip pressure while giving the lips the freedom to move.
The area inside the rim that the trumpet player blows into is referred to as the cup and, generally, the larger and deeper the cup is the darker the tone and greater the volume the trumpet can produce. Larger cups require a lot of control, while smaller and shallower cups require a lot less effort. If you go too shallow, however, you can kill the volume and flexibility. When choosing a cup, keep two things in mind: the pitch of the instrument and the player’s physical capabilities (i.e., embouchure, lung power, and the anatomy of their teeth and lips.) The diameter of the cup is also an important consideration. For most players, it’s a good idea to choose the largest diameter you can play comfortably without tiring too quickly. The benefits of a large diameter include a more uniform response across all registers, easier lip control, and greater flexibility.
When examining a trumpet mouthpiece, the throat is the opening leading out of the cup. There aren’t many variations in throat size or length, so choosing the appropriate throat size shouldn’t be too difficult. The job of the throat is to allow the player to push air from the cup and concentrate it into a stream with the right amount of back pressure, controlling the tone. Similar to the cup, a bigger throat will allow you to blow harder and produce more volume, but requires more air pressure from your lungs. A throat that’s too small, on the other hand, can choke your tone and produce more back pressure than is comfortable. While most manufacturers design the throat to complement the cup and backbore design, there are slight variations available due to the many physical and skill-level differences among trumpet players.
Finally, the backbore is the chamber that transfers your breath to the horn. Depending on its shape and size, the backbore can produce a brighter or darker tone, raise or lower volume and projection, and raise or lower pitch. A backbore that’s well designed maintains good intonation throughout the instrument’s range. The type of backbore that most trumpet players prefer is one that’s neither very large nor small, with a smooth, somewhat curved taper from the throat to a well-rounded, even backbore. While important to the sound, feel, and performance of the trumpet, most players find that a mouthpiece with a medium cup and rim straight from the manufacturer of their trumpet will suit them well.
Buy Trumpet Mouthpieces at Music & Arts
At Music & Arts, we’re dedicated to bringing you one of the largest offerings of professional band and orchestral instruments, products, and accessories in the world. As a one-stop shop for students, parents, and educators, you’ll find trumpet mouthpieces from some of the top manufacturers, including Yamaha and Schilke. Remember, when selecting a trumpet mouthpiece you should take the musician’s skill level and desired sound into consideration. If your child is a student, a great place to start is by speaking with their music teacher or band instructor.
For more information about trumpets, check out Choosing a Case for Your Trumpet.