Big Mouthpiece or Small Mouthpiece? That Is The Question.

This has been a constant decision for all trumpet players. The large mouthpiece gives you a big, dark, rich sound but on the other hand, the small mouthpiece makes the upper register easier to play. I will try to illustrate the advantages as well as the disadvantages when trying to select your perfect mouthpiece.

Big is big and small is small.

The larger the mouthpiece the more air you will be able to push through your horn and the smaller the mouthpiece the less air you are able to utilize. Now at this point, I have lost half of my readers who are trumpet players for they are starting to write nasty letters to me saying, “You’re not mentioning small cups verses large cups nor are you mentioning small throats and large throats, or even deep cups as opposed to shallow cups”, and they are correct in their observations. If I were speaking to experienced players, they would have most, if not all the information I have learned through the years but for this post, I am speaking to an entry level player as well as the inquiring band director and for that reason, I am approaching the subject in this manner.

What advantages do large mouthpieces have over small mouthpieces?

The larger the mouthpiece-

• More meat you have to work with.
• The more meat in the mouthpiece results in a richer, darker tone quality.
• The more lip you are utilizing, the more muscles need to be strengthened.
• The more lip muscles in the cup, the better your flexibility.
• Larger mouthpieces generally make soft entrances easier.
• Large crescendi are usually easier but pitch tends to go flat at high volume levels.

What advantages do small mouthpieces have over large mouthpieces?

The smaller the mouthpiece-

• More air resistance which gives you something to blow against.
• Brighter sound due to less meat in the cup.
• Higher range is generally easier because of the smaller vibrating area.
• Brighter tone projects farther so you don’t have to work as hard to be heard.
• Generally with smaller mouthpieces less time is given to practice when developing the lip muscles.
• Tonguing is more obvious and more pointed.

As you can see from the lists above, each extreme in mouthpiece size has some benefits and to fully understand the selection process, you need to also be aware of the disadvantages of each. In my next post, I will cover these disadvantages and make some suggestions as to how you need to go about making your selection for “the perfect mouthpiece”.

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.