The infamous stuck mouthpiece. This will happen to every brass player at some point in their playing.
At some point, you’ll want to take your mouthpiece out, to practice buzzing, clean the instrument or for someother purpose.
If [try to] remove a mouthpiece the wrong way, you’ll leave behind some gauge marks on the mouthpiece, plier marks on the trumpet, scratches, a bent or twisted leadpipe (sometimes to the point where a brace is broken) among many other telltale signs.
This is kind of unnecessary wear is especially guaranteed if you try to use a pair of pliers to take the stuck mouthpiece out.
Throw the pliers away, get rid of the vice grip, here’s how to remove a stuck trumpet, or brass, mouthpiece the right way.
Why do trumpet mouthpieces get stuck?
Brass mouthpieces generally get stuck for two reasons.
The first reason, you’ve left the mouthpiece on there and the natural juices in your body have worked to create a little bit of corrosion and the mouthpiece just won’t come out.
Notice I’ve said corrode, not rust.
Brass does not rust, only iron-bearing materials rust. Brass will however, corrode. It undergoes “dezincfication” when zinc dissloves out of the brass leaving behind a spongy copper residue.
The second reason, the trumpet has been dropped or endured some type of impact damage.
A lot of trumpet players like to put the mouthpiece and give it a little tap with the palm of their hand - perhaps because they like the way that sounds. Over time, even that tends to be a bad idea.
Here are the best ways to get a mouthpiece unstuck from your trumpet
To remove the stuck trumpet mouthpiece, we’ll start with the least invasive methods and go from there to the more difficult ones.
Method #1 — Using the soft tap method (without a mouthpiece puller)
This is really as simple and soft as it sounds.
It has to be gentle, it has to be something that’s not going to leave marks on the instrument and something that doesn’t have enough force to break any braces.
Something akin to a delrin hammer is perfect for this purpose. Metal is a bad idea.
Start with a little light tapping around the rim of the mouthpiece, and then tap the area where the mouthpiece goes into the mouthpiece receiver.
Attempt a gentle twist after this and see if it comes out.
Typically it won’t, but if it does, that’s about as non-intrusive as it gets with stuck mouthpiece removal.
Do not use any instrument to try to twist it.
If you cannot get it unstuck with just a moderate amount of tapping, proceed to the second method below. This is not one of those things that it helps to apply more force.
As a general rule when you are using any kind of a hammer on a brass instrument, it is the number of blows that is effective, not the force.
You are much better to tap really lightly and patiently as you have a chat than to smash away aggressively. That’s how the big damage occurs.
If you cannot remove a stuck trumpet mouthpiece using this method, and you do not have a mouthpiece puller for the next method, pack you instrument and take in to a music repair store.
Method #2 — Using a mouthpiece puller
There are a couple of products that you might want to invest in if you are in charge of a band or work with brass instruments a lot.
A mouthpiece puller is one of those.
A mouthpiece puller is available from a number of different suppliers, it’s very reasonable priced and it makes sense brass instruments investment. And it’s fairly easy to use.
There are two types of mouthpiece pullers — a small inexpensive easy-to-find one, and a bigger more expensive one that covers a much wider range of mouthpiece sizes.
The smaller one is going to be good for your small tenor trombones, trumpets, and french horns. It’s not going to work well for your bass trombones, tubas, euphoniums and mouthpieces like that.
All mouthpiece pullers work on the principle of having something that pulls the cap of the mouthpiece outward while resting on the trumpet itself.
Slide your mouthpiece puller over and insert it.
The first part hold onto the cap of the mouthpiece, and the second part rests firmly on the mouthpiece receiver, which tightens it down.
When we tighten the mouthpiece receiver gentle from both sides, the mouthpiece comes unstuck.
On a really badly stuck one, you’ll hear this distinctive creak or squeak. That’s the point where the corrision or impact damage finally let’s go.
It’s a very satisfying creak!
Sometimes you put too much force that it even shoots the mouthpiece out a little bit and it dents the bottom which is another problem.So be careful not to do that.
Instead of adding force, use method #1 while it’s under tension. Give it a couple of gentle taps and then it’ll come out.
How to remove a stuck trumpet mouthpiece without a mouthpiece puller
How to prevent trumpet mouthpiece from getting stuck
Remember how we said there are two reasons why a trumpet mouthpiece gets stuck?
To prevent your trumpet mouthpiece from getting stuck in the first place you need to do two things — keep it clean to avoid corrosion, and handle and store your trumpet properly to avoid impact damage.
How to properly clean your trumpet mouthpiece (avoiding corrosion)
Cleaning your brass mouthpiece is the easiest maintenance to perform to avoid it getting stuck from corrosion and grime, while also keeping the bacteria and germs that can make you ill away.
This is the best way of keeping it from getting stuck in the first place.
What you’ll need
You will need at a minimum:
- A mouthpiece brush (or Q-tip)
- Some dish soap
- Finger nail buffer
- Cloth or paper towel
Step #1 — Soak the mouthpiece
To start add a few drops of dish soap into an empty glass or cup, add cold water, and drop the mouthpiece into the solution. Make sure the mouthpiece is fully submerged in the solution.
The dirtier the mouthpiece the longer it will take to clean. Let it soak for a few hours if it is very dirty.
Step #2 — Scrub mouthpiece with brush
Once the mouthpiece is soaked, you can take a mouthpiece cleaning brush to get inside the mouthpiece and thoroughly clean and remove any build up grime inside.
Typically a soak and a mouthpiece brush should be enough to adequately clean the inside.
Step #3 — Buff the corroded area
For the outside, take a finger nail buffer. It should feel very smooth, you don’t want one that feels like sand paper.
Buff the mouthpiece in the area where it was stuck due to corrosion. Work yourself through the different grits if your buffer has several of those, until is it nice and shiny.
Step #3 — Rinse off any remaining soap
Rinse off any remaining soap from the mouthpiece
Use a cloth or paper towel to dry off the mouthpiece the best you can and the allow the mouthpiece to air dry completely.
Even though whatever corrosion you have should now be gone, you might still have a bit of dirt and corrosion on the rest of your trumpet. Here’s how to clean your trumpet so that everything is nice and clean before moving on.
How to handle your trumpet mouthpiece
When you put your mouthpiece in put it in with just a little gentle twist and that should do it. When you want to take it out a little gentle twist out should do it.
That should prevent most of the sticking that you’ll get on your mouthpiece.
Other than that you want to take proper care of your trumpet as you would any other musical instrument to avoid any impact damage.