Bent Mouthpieces- Good or Bad? Part 2

I felt it was only fair to share others musicians views on this subject and to do so I visited the Internet to collect these thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of bending a mouthpiece.

Some responses agree with me and some do not. It is not my job to argue with anyone on their experience in this area or in any area but just as Fox News advertises, this is a fair and balanced report.

Please consider the source for not everything on the internet can be accurate, including my views.

Related comments from the Internet on bent mouthpieces

1. “In the Encyclopedia, Reinhardt recommends having your mouthpiece bent if your bandleader requires a horn angle that doesn’t work with your anatomy, so he was probably not against it”.

2. “Miles, in his later years, played on a “reverse” bent mouthpiece, making his horn more blowing into the floor! He was a Type IV with a horizontal horn angle in his earlier periods of play”.

3. “I’ve been playing with a bent mouthpiece for several years now. I was getting tired of hearing conductors and bandleaders telling me to get my horn up, but they had a point. When I see someone playing with his bell pointing way down, it just looks like they’re doing something wrong. Anyway, I was using mostly upper lip pressure before getting the bent mouthpiece, and it took several weeks to adjust.

I think the bent mouthpiece switched me to bottom lip pressure without me realizing it, but in the long run it’s a major improvement. I was having placement issues and my bottom lip tended to slip out. After getting the new m.p., there were a few gigs where I really felt like my chops were falling apart, but eventually I adjusted and things are better than ever. That was several years ago, and this weekend I’m playing chamber orchestra, pop covers, and big band and so far so good”.

4. “Yes, we can bend most mouthpieces. The most commonly requested angles are 8,10, and 12 degrees.

5. Tampa musician (name omitted) plays on a 10 degree bend. Jon had his mouthpiece bent in order to raise his bell out of the stand, but found that it also reduced pressure on his top lip”. PLEASE NOTE THAT HIS STATEMENT CONTRADICTS WHAT I HAVE FOUND). YOU BE THE JUDGE.

6. “I recently bent one of my moutpieces (about a year ago) and really really like my new posture. So much so that it is extremely uncomfortable to play on a “regular” mouthpiece. Do you where I can get my mpc’s bent professionally? It would be great if there was a place with fairly quick turn around too. Kanstul I’ve heard is really slow these days”.

7. “I know Warburton will bend their own mouthpieces for you, not sure if they’ll bend any other brands”.

8. “When I was in high school I wanted my horn bell to be straight not pointing down like the clarinet players. I had the legendary late “Pepi” do the bend for me. It changes everything, because the mouthpiece pressure moves more towards the lower jaw…..which is probably better. I got the idea to do this from a book by Fay Hanson “Brass Mechanisms”.

9. “For years I thought I was the only one who ever did that, until I saw Chuck Findley on a cover of Windplayer Magazine, and his mouthpiece was bent. Does anyone know if he still plays on a bent mouthpiece”?

10. “The GREAT Polish jazz player, Tomasz Stanko plays a Bach that it bent. Has for a while… probably a very long while… I think”.

11. “I have bent one of my own… a Heim. Did it carefully using wood blocks in a vice and gentle pressure. Worked fine and I like the way it plays. I did not bend it much, just enough to make the position of my head and arms more comfortable”.

12. “I’m gonna do this to a Bach piece I have lying around this weekend.
Should I heat the piece up so it bends easier?
I am worried I will pinch the mouthpiece when I bend it and the hole won’t be round anymore’.

13. “First, try it on a mp you don’t love. Second, be patient and gentle. I did not and would not use heat. That’s me. I clamped the mp in a vice with brass jaws and between two pieces of soft wood. I clamped that entire shank so that the bend would be above the shank and below the cup. I then took anoter piece of soft wood and put it against the side of the cup and tapped until I got some movement. Then I continued with that amount of impact until the angle was where I wanted it. If you take your time, the angle should not be so acute that it causes distortion. The other option is to contact a repair tech like Charlie Melk and see if he will bend the mps you want altered”.

14. “I was at Borders and saw a DVD of a European Miles Concert. He was playing an engraved, Martin LeBlanc horn and he was using a bent mouthpiece. The odd thing is that the photo showed the mouthpiece inserted so the bend was aimed downward… opposite of what I and others normally do. I guess that’s no surprise in Miles’ case”.

15. “The throat will always change if you do not put something much harder than brass in there. I would put a steel rod in there first and then bend it as described above. Drilling the throat out after it has been bent will not be optimal. Heating the mouthpiece will change the “temper” of the metal and probably the amount of “brilliance””.

16. “How would you get the steel rod out after bending the mouthpiece? I think that might to more harm than good!

17. “Dave Monette bent two for me when I visited the shop about three years ago. It didn’t change the way they played, but I couldn’t adjust to bend. I was pretty screwed up after playing those for one summer and it took awhile to straighten myself out, no pun intended. I was glad to return to regular mouthpieces”.

18. “I played with an older guy in the Air Force when I was stationed in Panama. He played on a bent mouthpiece and could scream all day. Extremely solid lead player. He is probably the exception to the rule”.

19. “If I played only one mouthpiece on only one trumpet, I might give it a try. But I can’t imagine getting a dozen or so mouthpieces to bend to exactly the same angle, and what would be the perfect angle for me, in the first place? Wow, just think about all the added variables!

20. “Ghitalla used to bend mouthpieces for students, with a vice grip and a rubber hammer. There might have been a torch involved too, I never watched. It hat to be hard to get them all to bend to an exact angle that way”.

21. “I’m not a high-powered high note player like most you trumpet players, so my
experience might not mean mush.BUT! I’ve been playing my Schilke cornet and
Selmer trumpet for years with MP’s I bent myself.a solid vice, a lead
hammer, take careful aim, and STRIKE! Leaves a small dent where the vice
grabbed it, that’s all! I’ve bent MP’s for many students in the past.
So far, I’ve never broken a MP for any my early years I always
played with my horn pointing it doesn’t, and I can’t play on a
straight cornet or trumpet MP at all.feels very weird.I’ve always thought
that might be why Dizzy bent his trumpet bell up”.

22. “Dalton Smith, Lead Player from Hanna Barbara Cartoons, Stan Kenton
Orchestra, Chips TV series, etc…..
He played on a bent mouthpiece. I believe the angel of the bend was 11
degrees and like Church Findley who he worked with often he sounded great
all the time”.

23. “That might be the case for some but is not always the case. For example, are
you aware that Chuck Findley plays a bent piece? I don’t think he needs to
change ANYTHING”!

24. “I think I’d rather have a disfigured mouthpiece (as long as it played
well) than wind up with a disfigured jaw”.

25. “There are people for whom the overbite is so large it is impossible to
get the teeth lined up for a more traditional mouthpiece contact. Very
expensive and painful reconstructive surgery would be required to have
“correct” jaw position. Or a bent mouthpiece — much cheaper, much
easier and if a person isn’t bothered by their overbite in any other
aspect of their life there’s no need for reconstructive surgery. I’ve bent mouthpieces for people with severe overbites where there was
no way they could get the bell up. I don’t see this as any different than someone using a shallower mouthpiece or a heavyweight mouthpiece or whatever to help with range
issues or tone issues, or buying a particular make/model trumpet because
it helps to get the sound the person wants”.

26. “One of my early teachers used them because he had pronounced overbite. Said it helped him get the bell up and out of the stand, especially the low cardboard dance band stands where you have to look down to see the music”.

27. “I don’t like bending mouthpieces for the simple reason that they force the player to assume a static position for playing. I prefer to allow the player to adjust the angle of the horn, as needed, to allow for response of mouthpiece to lips. If you are using the movement of the lower lip to provide a seal to the lips(and lips to mouthpiece), you are not dependent upon the bent mouthpiece to set the chops upon the lower teeth and receding jaw, since the motion of the lower lip is independent of the movement or stationary lower jaw”.

If you are now more confused about the benefits and detriments of mouthpiece bending, don’t worry. The time you spent reading this post could have been spent more productively by practicing your horn. At least you were able to hear, “The rest of the story”.

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

2 thoughts on “Bent Mouthpieces- Good or Bad? Part 2

  1. Kenton Smith

    I can tell you that my dad, Dalton Smith, did play a bent mouthpiece sometimes, not all the time. Knowing my dad, who loved to fiddle with things it was not a certain degree. I imagine he put it in a vice in our garage and bent it till it felt right. He was always making stuff to try to play better.

    • Bruce Chidester

      You are very fortunate to have had such a tremendous trumpet player as a dad.

      I never met him but was told a lot about him when I was taking lessons from Don Jacoby in Dallas. Many times he spoke of what a great person and player your father was. I also remember that your dad did some sweetening on “Jake Brings The House Down” album. Your father’s name also came up in our monthly musician get together over lunch visit last month. Everyone agreed that Dalton Smith was one of the truly greats in the trumpet world.

      It is not surprising that you were names “Kenton” Smith.

      Please know that your father was a player we all looked up to and I wish you and yours the very best.

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