Today we are going to talk about the most important piece of equipment in terms of tone production on the trumpet — the mouthpiece.
As you begin to advance in your trumpet playing, I encourage you to move away from the mouthpiece that came with your trumpet.
Many times that mouthpiece is something similar to a Bach 7C. It is designed for younger players with smaller mouths and smaller lips.
As you get older and mature in your playing, It’s important to explore the different types if mouthpieces that are available and find one that suits you the best.
This is a very personal endeavour, so the mouthpiece that works for Wynton Marsalis is probably not what you’re looking for.
You need one that’s right for you. So let’s get started.
How to choose the right trumpet mouthpiece for you
We will start with a detailed overview of all components of the mouthpiece. Let’s look at how all their different aspects and how they affect your sound.
Just a little disclaimer, there is no rhyme or reason as to how you should select a mouthpiece that suits you. This is just a general guide, what works for most people.
The rim contour
The first part of the mouthpiece is the rim or rim contour.
This is the portion that comes in contact with your lips.
How to choose a rim contour
While the rim may not change the sound a great deal, it has the largest impact on your comfort when playing. It is extremely important for you to find a mouthpiece that is comfortable on your lips.
Some lip contours are very flat — which certain people like that feeling better than others. Some are rounded. Some have a highest point of that rounded rim near the bite, some near the outside of the rim.
It ultimately depends with what feels most comfortable for you.
When the rim is very wide, it is particularly helpful for people who have thicker lips, and vice versal.
This can also affect the flexibility on the trumpet depending on that rim contour and width. Again, you’ll need to do a lot of trial and error to find which one works best for you.
The most important part of the mouthpiece that affects tone quality is the cup. We have two basic shapes of cups:
#1 — The V-shaped cup
In general, the V-shaped cup provides a warmer tone, a rounder articulation, and slightly better flexibility.
#2 — The U-shaped (or Bore-shaped) cup
In general, the bore-shaped cup provides a brighter sound, with a more pronounced articulation, and slightly stiffer flexibility.
Depending on your style of playing, you may find that one of these cups suits you better than the other. All these depends on your preference.
Regardless of which of the two styles of cups you choose, one principle is generally true:
How to choose a mouthpiece cup
The shallower the cup, brighter the sound. The deeper the cup, the warmer the sound.
Now, maybe you’ve heard of cheater or lead mouthpieces. Contrary to popular belief, these mouthpieces do not give you higher notes on the trumpet, automatically.
There is not substitute for embouchure development to get those notes with security. Check out this step-by-step guide on embouchure development for technique and tips.
But those lead mouthpieces can be very helpful when we are playing at a jazz band or playing pop music with a band or with an orchestra.
The brighter mouthpiece will give us a brighter tone to cut through the ensemble without having to work so hard. Just make sure you use the appropriate cup for the appropriate style that you are wanting to convey.
If you are doing solo work in a more intimate setting, or playing in small coffee bar with a jazz combo, you may want to use a deeper cup that will provide a warmer, more intimate sound.
But I encourage you to experiment with all shapes of cupsto find which one’s work best for you in what situation.
The cup diameter
Another factor to consider with the cup is the diameter.
In general, a large cup diameter will produce a bigger and fuller sound. A small cup diamater will produce a more compact sound.
It just depends on the style of music that you’re playing.
Beware of a couple of things as you are sampling these cup diameters:
- If the diameter is too large, then you range and endurance will be sacrificed.
- If the diameter is too small, then it’s less forgiving when your lips swell inside the mouthpiece. Your response and articulation will be sacrificed.
So it takes a fair bit of trial and error.
There is an immediate satisfaction that comes with finding a mouthpiece that sounds good. Make sure you are trying mouthpieces out over a couple of weeksin different situations before you make your final assessment.
The portion of mouthpiece between the rim and the cup is called the bite.
The bite of the mouthpiece will also affect how comfortable that mouthpiece feels on your lips.
How to choose the mouthpiece bite
Some players have noticed that with a sharp bite, the articulation becomes clearer and more precise. However, this can reduce the ease of flexibility.
If the bite is too sharp, your lips will become tender while or after playing even if you are not using too much mouthpiece pressure.
If your articulation is already very clear, but your flexibility needs some help, you many want to go for a more rounded bite.
Again, that’s personal preference. There’s always a little bit of give and take.
Most people will got for something will a balance between those two.
The smallest opening of the mouthpiece where the air and sound will pass through is called the bore.
The bore and the backbore of the mouthpiece have the greatest overall effect on the volume of sound.
The mouthpiece bore is the narrowest point of tubing on the entire trumpet. Therefore it’s going to be the point of greatest resistance.
Most mouthpieces will come with a size 27 bore.
All this means is a drill bit size that has the number 27. So, if you want to test the size of your mouthpiece bore, you can pick up a drill bit kit at your local hardware store and measure it out.
If you want to change the size of your mouthpiece bore, I recommend going to the music store and have a professional take care of it. DO NOT attempt to do that at home on your own.
How to choose a bore
In general, the larger the size of the mouthpiece bore, the bigger and fuller the sound will be. The narrower the bore, the more compact the sound will be.
It just depends on your style and preference.
Keep in mind that as that bore gets larger, there will be less resistance, which you may prefer. But if it gets too large, then you have to use more air and more embouchure muscle to control the tone and intonation.
So, there is a definite balance to find there.
Most classical trumpet player, and even jazz players that are not playing lead prefer a size 23 or 24. But it really is personal preference.
If you open up that bore too large, you can never close it back down. You’ll have to buy a new mouthpiece.
Proceed with caution.
The portion of the mouthpiece between the bore and the cup is called the throat.
The throat shape or countour is determined mostly by the shape of the cup.
If the cup is v-shaped, the throat will be more rounded and smooth. If the cup is u-shaped, or bore-shaped, the throat will most often be sharp.
If you have a sharp throat, typically, that will mean that your flexibility is a little bit stiffer and might slot a little bit better and the articulation will be more pronounced. Very similar to a sharp bite.
If you have a rounded throat, then the flexibility may be a little bit easier, may not slot as well, and the articulation will be more rounded.
But you want to test that out for your own playing.
As the bore begins to get larger after the throat, it opens up into the backbore.
The backbore is slightly more tricky to describe and understand than the bore. It begins at the end of the bore and then gradually gets larger towards the end of the mouthpiece.
The backbore is measured in terms of the rate of it’s taper.
How to choose a backbore
If it has a very fast taper, meaning it gets larger sooner, the tone will likely be bigger and fuller, but the upper notes have a tendency to be a little bit sharper, and the lower notes have a tendency to be a little bit flatter.
If that taper is more closed and tighter, then the tone has a tendency to be more compact, and the upper notes can be a little bit flat and the lower notes can be a little bit sharp.
But all of these depends entirely on the way you play your instrument.
Everyone can be affected a little bit differently but the the backbore with affect the tone and intonation slightly.
The backbore is the last part of the mouthpiece that I consider in determining what type of mouthpiece will work best for me in any given situation.
The outside of the backbore is called the shank. This is what comes in contact with the mouthpiece receiver.
Trumpet mouthpiece size comparison chart
Do not take diameter measurements more seriously than you should. Most the time, the difference can be as little 0.02 of an inch (.5mm).
Not much really.
Measurements are done for the purpose of comparisons and due how different measurements affect tone as explained the sections above.
17.78 - 16.51 mm
Cup Depth Millimeters(Inches)
Bach as Measured
20 22(18.03) 24(18.29)
18 19(17.65) Symphony M1,M1d,F1,D1
16,17 Symphony M1,M1d,F1,D1
14,15(7.1) Symphony M3,M3d,F3,D3
Best Brass Japan
1 1/4 Series
1 1/2 Series
Calichhio Artist Series
Coassin,Davis I,Davis II,Grant I,Grant II,D Thomas
Mosello I,Mosello II,Williams
Bergeron I,Englebright Gardner(.658),Kadleck Scodwell,(.658),F Szabo
Delibero(.658),Gisbertz Harner,Johnson Michels,Nicholson,O’Donnell
Giddings & Webster (GW)
JC Custom (new)
All Styles Their Mouthpieces
Old Jet Tones
A1-A3 (.692),B1-B5 (.687)
John Wallace,Jean Michelou,Bob Findley
Mark Gould,Manny Klien,Chuck Findley,Clark Terry(.685)
Jeff Tyzik,Vizzutti E12,Zony,J.W. Marcinkiewicz,Herb Albert,Rick Baptist,Miles Davis,Peter Masseurs,Maynard Ferguson MF II, III,Wick Maurice Murphy
Bob Senescu,Almeida Najoom,Rod Franks,Bobby Shew Jazz,Zaja,Rich Szabo
Graham Young,Bobby Shew (Marc),Leon Merian Gold
Butcher Macaluso,Allen Vizzutti
Bobby Shew Lead,Mike Vax,Roger Ingram,John Rinaldo,Leon Merian (Jet Tone)
Vac 1.5 SM2
System Blue Extreme
Blue1 (deep),Blue2 (medium)
Zaja Mpcs (Greg Black)
16.43 - 15.75 mm
Size in Millimeters(Inches)
Bach as Measured
Best Brass Japan
Calichhio Artist Series
Carder Thornburg Trigg
1-24 to 1-28