Small Mouthpiece vs. Large Mouthpiece

This debate has been present since the beginning of time. Which is the better mouthpiece? Small mouthpieces have definite advantages such as easier upper range and more endurance. Large mouthpieces have the advantages of easier flexibility and a darker and a more pleasant tone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to get every advantage and not fight the disadvantages?

Advantages of a small mouthpiece-

As I stated before, the small mouthpiece can make the upper range a little easier but to do so you will have to give up other advantages the large mouth piece has to offer. If you are playing only high range work, the smaller mouthpiece would be my choice but most of us are not able to play only in this limited field. When we speak of a small mouthpiece, we are referring to two areas; the width of the cup and the depth of the cup. The distance between the inside edge (or bite) of the cup will determine how much meat will vibrate when you start a note. If the distance is great, you will be expected to utilize this area through the strength of your embouchure. The smaller the area between the bite (inner edge) of the cup, the less work your embouchure will have to deliver. If you pluck a guitar string and play its full length, you will get a lower pitch than if you depress the string to a fret along its finger board. A longer string and in our case, lip will vibrate at a slower speed and thus produce a lower note than if the string (lip) were shortened. Less lip in the mouthpiece cup will produce faster vibrations and consequently a higher pitch than a wider cupped mouthpiece.

The depth of each mouthpiece cup will also affect the sound and range of your playing. If the cup is shallow, you will experience more resistance to the air stream. A deeper cup will generally give you a darker sound than a shallow cup. High range specialists most often prefer a shallower cup for playing in the upper register for continued periods of time. You may wonder why we all don’t play on small mouthpieces all the time. Remember that for every advantage there will be disadvantages.

Advantages of a large mouthpiece-

When performing on larger mouthpieces, you should experience more ease in starting notes at soft dynamic levels than when playing on small mouthpieces. You should experience more flexibility and a darker tone color on the larger mouthpieces. An additional advantage the large mouthpiece has over the smaller is that with more meat in the mouthpiece, you will be able to develop more strength in your embouchure. The reason for this is that with more meat involved, you will be working with more material to strengthen. I have noticed many times when I am using a smaller mouthpiece for work, I will come to a plateau where no matter how much I practice, I do not seem to gain additional strength or endurance. After switching to a larger mouthpiece, I continue to build strength and endurance.

If you are not able to practice regularly, the smaller mouthpiece will help with you endurance. This may sound contradictory but with regular practice, the larger cup will allow you to continue to build, the smaller mouthpiece will not.

Please note that all of my comparisons have been directed only towards the cup diameter and depth. Other mouthpiece shapes and dimensions will also affect your range, endurance, flexibility and tone . At a later date I will address these differences but for now we will discuss only the width and depth of the cup.

Which mouthpiece would be best in my case?

People have shared with me their ideas as to what mouthpiece should be used and some beliefs have made since and some are downright stupid. Here is one of the dumbest ideas-

  • I start all of my beginning cornet students on Bach 1½ C mouthpieces 9VERY LARGE) so that they will have a big sound.

A Bach 1 ½ C mouthpiece is much too big for a beginner and Could be too big for most professional players. It is true that they would produce a big, dark sound but few would be able to fill that large a mouthpiece. because of their undeveloped air supply, they would soon tire their immature embouchure. Mr. John Haynie had what I considered a more practical approach to mouthpiece selection for younger students. His belief was that young people require small shoes at early ages and eventually grow into larger ones. So will they eventually grow into larger mouthpieces as they mature. If I remember correctly Mr. Haynie started young players on Bach 10½ C mouthpieces and as they grew, he suggested that they progress to larger mouthpieces. That sounds good to me also.

I am convinced that each person will be able to decide on a comfortable mouthpiece which would suite his/her individual needs. Too many times (and this is particularly true of trumpet players) players continue to search for the perfect mouthpiece which will do everything. As far as I know, the perfect mouthpiece has not yet been invented.

Playing requirements and tastes change and so do our requirements for our mouthpieces. If I were playing the same music day after day, I could easily settle on one mouthpiece but fortunately, we are expected to do everything and thus the mouthpiece switch continues. As an example of this I will share a situation which happened last month. I had been practicing for several months and because of the great condition my chops were in, I decided to up the size of my mouthpiece a little. For two weeks I practiced regularly on the bigger mouthpiece and all was doing well until I got a call to start with a new show which required more endurance and range than I was used to. Out came the old (smaller) mouthpiece and I played three weeks on that one. The season closed in Brason and I was back to the larger mouthpiece for the first of the year I begin playing with a fine brass quintet which requires better tone and more ease in all dynamic ranges. Life is full of changes and you have to be ready for them.

In closing, I would like to pass on some very fine advice given to us by the trumpet manufacture Vincent Bach from his pamphlet, Mouthpiece Manual. “Use the biggest mouthpiece you can handle”

Times, They Are A Changing

njobsThe year was 1969, in Lewisville, Texas and I was in the middle of a lesson with one of my many brass students. I was notified that I needed to answer a phone call which was very unusual due to the fact that my wife was at work and few knew I was at the high school that day.

The voice on the other end of the phone identified himself as Dr. Myron Russell, Department Head of Music at the University of Northern Iowa. Quickly I realized that I was being offered a position as trumpet instructor at his university; and that was how I got my position which lasted for thirty years until I retired in the year 2000.

Filling a position at a college or university has changed drastically since that time and the chances of being hired over the phone are non-existent today. The normal sequence of hiring a new faculty member begins with the formation of a search committee followed by a nationwide notice of the opening. Next, resumes are sent to the search committee and the number of applicants may be as high as 200 to 500, depending on the responsibilities of the job.

After many weeks or months, the search committee will narrow down the number of applicants to a workable size with the next step being calls and conversations with people close to the applicant, with hopes of eliminating as many as possible.

Once the number of persons being considered for the job has been lowered to the top three or four candidates, affirmative action is contacted in order to clear the persons as far as affirmative action is concerned. Invitations are sent to each of the candidates to visit the campus for a closer and more thorough inspection.

Once on campus each candidate is expected to teach a lesson, work with an ensemble, visit with the search committee as well as “hang” with the students. An audition recital is also expected in order to evaluate the candidate’s performing skills. Usually this process will take the whole day and will be the same for each of the final candidates.

Once all of the finalists have performed, taught, visited and otherwise been picked apart by the subcommittee, the final selection for the position will usually take a week or two to sift through all of the candidate’s strong points, weaknesses and the committees general feelings toward each person.

The selection of a new faculty member has indeed changed drastically from when I began teaching and what is considered typical these days. To be honest, I’m certain that with the tremendous competition for each new opening today, I would not have a chance in today’s market.

Some of the most gifted, talented and wonderful people are constantly applying for trumpet jobs all over the country at this time. Each candidate sends in his/her resumes with hopes of securing a job, only to be turned down time after time. The number of positions has diminished and at the same time the competition among these highly skilled individuals is staggering. As an example, 44 applicants submitted their resume for the recent trumpet position at the University of North Texas.

We have finally come to the point of over saturation in applicants for trumpet positions. It is time now to reconsider the chances of getting a trumpet teaching job in our country. As sad as this may seem, the truth sometimes hurts and hopefully many will take my advice as to the possibilities of trumpet teaching as a career.

Last Post From The Dark Side

downloadI have had a couple inquiries about my PBone and how it has worked out for me and because of these unrelated to trumpet questions, I was hesitant to address any more trombone questions. But, because of the hundreds (actually only a couple) of requests, I have decided to offer some final information on the PBone.

Question #1- “Do you like the horn”.
Answer- Yes

Question #2- “How does the slide work”?
Answer- Push it out and pull it in.

Question #3- “What do you like best about the horn”?
Answer- It’s cheap ($159.00) and weighs only 1.8 lbs.

Question #4- “What do you think of the case it comes in”?
Answer- Dump it!

I ran into a great deal on line last month which you may be interested in.

BrassWinds had a great deal which took the original price of a Giardinelli bag down to $49.

Giardinelli Cordura Trombone Bag

Transport your trombone in a Giardinelli bag that offers superior protection thanks to its rugged nylon exterior and extra-thick padding.
•MSRP: $140.00
•Your Savings:- $80.01
•Shipping (48 Contiguous U.S. States) FREE
•Your Price:$59.99

The special price of $49 is no longer available but for the extra $10, it is still worth it.

The added security of a better case was necessary to protect my “one of a kind” air brush job which you see at the bottom of this post.

Now, this will be the last posting which deals with my darker side (trombone playing).


A Few Generalizations about Jazzers and Legit Trumpet Players


For those who find my observations to be biased and unfounded, I apologize. To those who agree with me I question your judgement for to generalize on any topic is to accept all criticisms thrust upon you. The following observations stem from many years of experience and in no way represents any scientific or tested study on this subject.

Observation #1
Most jazzers don’t read well.
Most legit players don’t swing.

Observation #2
Most jazzers are more creative.
Most legit players can only play what they see on the page.

Observation #3
Most jazzers hang out with fellow jazzers..
Most legit players hang out with fellow legit players.

Observation #4
Most jazzers are laid back.
Most legit players are extremely punctual.

Observation #5
Most jazzers tell off colored jokes.
Most legit players enjoy sharing environmental humor.

Observation #6
Most jazzers drink beer
Most legit players take Valium or Beta Blockers.

Observation #7
Most jazzers drive a used car.
Most legit players lust for or own a BMW.

Observation #8
Most jazzers get out of bed around 1:00 in the afternoon and go to bed around 3:00 in the morning.
Most legit players get up at 6:00am and are in bed by 10:30pm.

Observation #9
Most jazzers have moved twice in the past two years
Most legit players seldom move, or swing.

Observation #10
Most jazzers pay in cash
Most legit players own three Platinum credit cards.

Observation #11
Most jazzers rent down town.
Most legit players own a home in the suburbs.

Observation #12
Most jazzers are single.
Most legit players are on their second divorce.

Observation #13
Most jazzers eat anything with 50% grease content.
Most legit players are vegetarians at least twice a year.

Observation #14
Most jazzers own two instruments (trumpet, flugel horn)
Most legit players own several instruments (Trumpet in Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, H, I , J, K, L, M, N, O, (P is seldom used other than on John Cage compositions).

Observation #15
Most jazzers only practice the Dorian Scale.
Most legit players practice only material from orchestral excerpt books.

Observation #16
Most jazzers have a wrist watch with Mickey’s image on it.
Most legit players wear a Rolex knockoff.

Observation #17
Most jazzers are overweight.
Most legit players are anorexic.

Observation #18
Most jazzers smoke (something).
Most legit players do not smoke.

Observation #19
Most jazzers drink beer (any kind, if it’s free).
Most legit players drink wine (only the best).

Observation #20
Most jazzers own one black suit.
Most legit players own three tuxedos, (black, white and blue for those special occasions).

Observation #21
Most jazzers are Republicans.
Most legit players are Democrats.

I would expect these observations to be 80% to 90% accurate.

Or….. maybe 10% to 20% ……

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