Picking Out The Right Mouthpiece
A mouthpiece is a very personal choice. Although brass players will hear lots of advice and debate about which model or design is best, the mouthpiece you choose should depend on your experience, the music you play, the instrument you use, and the sound you desire.
Your choice is also dependent on your physiology: the shape and condition of your lips, teeth, jaw, and throat, as well as your breath control. Sometimes, when one factor—such as experience or lip condition—changes, your mouthpiece must also change. This all holds true for many other instruments, like picking out the perfect Reed.
With so many factors at play, it’s not surprising that there are a dizzying array of mouthpieces on the market from companies such as Schilke, Yamaha, and Vincent Bach. They tinker with the various parts of a mouthpiece—the rim, cup, throat, and backbore to meet the various demands of brass players. The weight and even the finish of a mouthpiece can also affect its performance.
Brass players are encouraged to try different mouthpieces before settling on one, or more, to suit various musical needs, or to address intonation issues such as lip flexibility, endurance, tone color, volume, and range. Making Music has broken down the brass mouthpiece into its component parts to explain some of the variables that you will encounter and what issues they address.
• Wider rim contours are often considered most
comfortable, but they allow for less lip flexibility.
• Wider rims can help increase blood flow to the lips, which is helpful if a player tends to tire quickly.
• Rounded rims generally allow for greater lip flexibility.
• A sharper inner rim edge can give a quicker, more focused attack, although it can cause problems if a player’s lips tend to cut easily.
• A rim with a flat contour allows for even lip pressure and a good air seal. These are often the choice of beginners looking for a comfortable option as their playing progresses.
• Larger cup diameters produce a fuller tone, but they need more breath control and support, and can cause a player to tire more quickly.
• Deeper cups encourage a richer, darker sound, and are often favored by players with larger lips. Deeper cups also find use in sections that play with a darker sound. Shallower cups typically create a brighter sound. Extremes of both should be avoided, as pitch control can be adversely affected.
• A larger throat will allow more air to pass into the instrument, producing larger volume. They are often favored by experienced players with a well-developed embouchure.
• Be careful of playing with a throat that is too small for your needs as it can choke your tone and cause back pressure.
• Larger backbores tend to give greater volume, control, and a more expansive tone, but they can be less comfortable.
• Medium backbores with a smooth taper tend to be most popular, giving a good all-round performance, pitch control, and tone.
• Heavier mouthpieces can result in fewer overtones, producing a louder volume and darker tone