It has been said that finding the right trumpet mouthpiece is harder than finding the perfect instrument. Trumpet mouthpieces have a great impact on the tone and playability of the instrument. The player’s mouth shape and size and preferred style of music can factor into choosing the ideal mouthpiece. Trial and error is most likely necessary to finding the perfect mouthpiece.
Trumpet mouthpieces have different shapes and sizes in several parts of the mouthpiece. The combination of these parts affects the tone of the instrument itself. The parts of a trumpet mouthpiece are the rim, cup, throat, shank and backbore. Trumpet mouthpieces are usually plated with gold or silver.
The rim of a mouthpiece can be wide or narrow, and the contour of the rim can be sharp or rounded. The throat of a mouthpiece can be larger to allow more air flow or smaller to increase resistance. The cups may have a large or small diameter and can be shallow or deep. Backbores can be tapered to affect the tone and pitch production. Shanks can be long or short.
Bach mouthpieces are perhaps the most common, and they use numbers and letters to describe the size of the mouthpiece. The smaller the number, the larger the mouthpiece (1 is the largest, 20 is the smallest). The letter refers to the cup size, A being the deepest and F being the shallowest.
Schilke mouthpieces are also common, and their sizing is opposite of Bach’s. Schilke mouthpieces get larger as the number gets larger. The capital letter stands for rim shape, A being the flattest. The next number represents the cup depth (1 being the shallowest) and the next letter shows the backbore size (a being the smallest).
Different sizes and shapes of mouthpieces can help a trumpet player achieve certain tones. For instance, a sharp, narrow rim will give the trumpet a brilliant and sharp tone. Large throats allow for more air flow than smaller ones, and large throats sharpen the high register while smaller throats flatten the higher register. A deep cup gives the trumpet darker tone than a shallow cup.
As described earlier, trumpet mouthpieces can greatly vary the tone given to a trumpet. Trumpet players must experiment with different types of mouthpieces to find the one or ones that give them a desired sound.
It can be difficult for a first-time buyer or for a player looking for a new style of mouthpiece. Since mouthpieces come in such a large variety, it is important for the player to try many styles. The player may also want to have a variety of mouthpieces for different types of playing. For instance, a mouthpiece used for jazz music may be inappropriate for classical music.
Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.