The Definitive Guide to Trumpet Mouthpieces

Trumpet Mouthpieces – Getting Started

Trumpet Mouthpiece
Photo Credit: Eggybird on Flickr

Most instrument manufacturers also make mouthpieces which are produced under their own name and are included with the purchase of their instrument. Beginning trumpet and cornet players will not need to go through the endless quest to find the perfect mouthpiece as the more experienced players often do for the younger player needs to be more concerned with basic practice habits and steady improvement on his/her instrument and less concerned with what Mr. Trumpet player uses to play his style of music.

To be perfectly honest, if I’m asked what is the best trumpet mouthpiece, I would have to say that “there is no perfect mouthpiece for every player”.

If that were true, every trumpet player in the world would be playing on the same mouthpiece. If one mouthpiece gets you more high notes it will also be the mouthpiece that gives you more problems in the lower register as well as possibly limiting your flexibility in all ranges.

Function of all brass instrument mouthpieces

Whether you are playing a trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, tuba or any other brass instrument, the function of the instruments mouthpiece is exactly the same. The mouthpiece is there to help vibrate your upper and lower lip when air passes between them. It does this by anchoring the outer limits of your lips as well as spreading the contact area on the lip over a wider area.

As with every variable on a mouthpiece, one advantage will usually cause an equal disadvantage. That is the reason again that “the beginning student should continue with the mouthpiece which came with the instrument” until the time in his/her development a change needs to be implemented.

Parts of a trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn mouthpiece

All brass mouthpieces have the same general sections and function in the same manner. A trumpet mouthpiece and a cornet mouthpiece, though not interchangeable, have the same basic structure and functions.

Diagram of sections of mouthpieces-

When comparing and choosing mouthpieces, consider these effects:

Mouthpiece Rim

  • Wide: Increases endurance.
  • Narrow: Improves flexibility.
  • Round: Improves comfort.
  • Sharp: Increases precision of attack.

Mouthpiece Cup

  • Large: Increases volume, control.
  • Small: Relieves fatigue, weakness.
  • Deep: Darkens tone, especially in low register.
  • Shallow: Brightens tone, improves response, especially in high register.

Mouthpiece Throat

  • Large: Increases blowing freedom, volume, tone; sharpens high register (largest sizes also sharpen low register).
  • Small: Increases resistance, endurance, brilliance; flattens high register.

Mouthpiece Backbore

Combinations of size and shape make the tone darker or brighter, raise or lower the pitch in one or more registers, increase or decrease volume. The backbore’s effects depend in part also on the throat and cup.

Difference between Cornet, Trumpet and Flugelhorn Mouthpieces

Trumpet mouthpieces and cornet mouthpieces as I stated before are not interchangeable for two reasons.

#1. They don’t fit, and

#2. They are designed for different playing styles and sounds.

Trumpets most often have a strong, powerful tone quality which contrasts to the sound of a cornet. One should not think that one is any better than the other, they are just different. The trumpet is brighter in timbre (tone) and the cornet is more delicate and sweeter in tone quality.

When you think back to the turn of the century (that would be 1800-1900) with park concerts for well dressed men wearing top hats and women carrying parasols, the sound of the sweat cornets drifting on the air was very typical of the cornet and brass band music of that time.

Now jump ahead to the big band, swing days in the 1940’s and the sound of Harry James rocketing through the big ballroom will give you an indication as to what the trumpets function had become.  Many trumpet players complain of the inability to play a cornet with the same power and sound as they play their trumpet. And this is why we play cornets.

The strong, sometimes edgy trumpet sound can be complimented by the softer, gentler sound of the cornet. For that reason, trumpet and cornet mouthpieces are designed to do what they were intended. Don’t expect a trumpet sound with a cornet and don’t expect to play a cornet the same way you play a trumpet. The flugelhorn mouthpiece is also unique to itself.

Top 10 most popular mouthpiece manufacturers

  • Bach mouthpieces
  • Conn mouthpieces
  • Bob Reeves mouthpieces
  • Blessing mouthpieces
  • Parduba mouthpieces
  • Monette trumpet mouthpieces
  • Warburton mouthpieces
  • Yamaha mouthpieces
  • Purviance mouthpieces
  • Giardinelli mouthpieces

Recommended Trumpet Mouthpieces

For the younger student- use the mouthpiece that came with the horn as long as it was the original mouthpiece. By far the most widely recommended trumpet mouthpiece which almost all of us started on is the Bach 7C. Each time I’m asked which mouthpiece I recommend for a beginning player that is the one I recommend.

When buying a used instrument many times the original mouthpiece has been replaced by the previous owner so try to match the instruments name with the mouthpiece which in most cases will also be in the case.

For the more advanced player- you will have your own requirements and playing style so use your own judgment in this area. It’s like asking advice on which pair of shoes to buy- “It totally depends on what you want them for and how they feel”.

Where to buy Trumpet Mouthpieces

Buying a used Trumpet Mouthpiece

For a young player- Don’t do it. The cost of a new mouthpiece is not that expensive but if you must, check for these problems.

  1. Check the rim (the flat area which comes in contact with the lip). If there are any dents or scratches on the rim, DO NOT CONSIDER BUYING THIS MOUTHPIECE. This is where the comfort factor comes into play. Trumpet players do not and should not play on a rim which is scratched or dented.
  2. If the plating (silver or gold) has been worn down to the point that the brass is showing, DO NOT CONSIDER BUYING THIS MOUTHPIECE. Bare brass which comes in contact with the lip will in many times cause reactions or at least infection.
  3. If the shank (the part which is inserted into the instrument has been filed or sanded down, DO NOT CONSIDER BUYING THIS MOUTHPIECE. Many players will file down the shank to make adjustments to improve their sound. Also many times they file too much down and the mouthpiece will not fit properly in the instrument.
  4. Even with the most careful cleaning, you will always wonder just who played on this the last time and what his or her medical history was. DO NOT CONSIDER BUYING THIS MOUTHPIECE if you don’t know the person. Better yet- DO NOT CONSIDER BUYING THIS MOUTHPIECE.

Is it time to replace my current trumpet mouthpiece?

I can answer that very easily if you can answer these questions-

  1. Who serious will you student be when practicing the instrument?
  2. How long will they continue on the instrument?
  3. How proficient will they become on the instrument?

The chances are very good that if the student continues to improve and becomes a better than average player, he or she will look into a mouthpiece change and at that time a professional should be contacted for recommendations.

Published by

Bruce Chidester

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.

18 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Trumpet Mouthpieces”

  1. I am a trumpet player from lebanon i want to know if there are a mouthpiece for high notes. plz informations

    1. Usually smaller mouthpieces will help in the upper register and will also limit your notes in the lower register.

      I like the following mouthpieces if you would like to try to work in both areas.

      Bobby Shew Jazz by Yamaha
      5*K4 or 4*K4 by Purviance
      14a4a by Schilke

    1. Thank you for your comments and I have no problem sharing trumpet information with others. As you say on your site (which I found very well done) we are all out here in the trenches together.

  2. Hi, I’m a pretty good cornet player on a Denis wick 4B and have recently started doing small ensemble playing on a trumpet, I’m using a Bach 11/2C and I struggle to swap between my cornet and trumpet (pitching notes mostly). I have a shank to use my cornet mouthpiece – is this a bad idea?! I don’t need to do anything special on my trumpet I just want to swap between more easily as I need to use both. Any ideas? Thanks

    1. “I have a shank to use my cornet mouthpiece – is this a bad idea”?

      Yes!

      Why not stay on your cornet in your ensemble?

      There isn’t that much difference between the two anyway and you might as well make it easier on yourself.

      You will have to ignore the looks from the “politically correct” who insist that you HAVE to play a trumpet. I am choosing to play more cornet than trumpet every year.

      Be a leader and if anyone wants to discuss my recommendation, give them my address. I would love to compare credentials with them.

  3. I am a trumpet player and I have been playing the instrument for almost 5 years.
    I’m looking to get a deep dark tone, but i also want something that will help me in the higher register.
    Any recommendations?

    1. Higher range- smaller mouthpiece.

      Darker sound- add a Curry Sound Sleeve.. http://www.currympc.com/index.php?id=16

      And practice….

      Your question is asked often by many trumpet players and to improve your high range, it takes practice and to build a darker tone requires conscious effort not only in your equipment but also in your practice habits. A darker tone requires a more flexible lip which requires lip flexibility exercises. Increasing your upper range requires practice to firm your lips so it is a constant balance between the strong lip and the flexible lip.

      The best advice I can give is check out my articles which include the following words or terms-

      1. range
      2. tone
      3. flexibility
      4. Long-tones.

  4. I am a trumpet player in the eighth grade and am currently playing on the mouthpiece that came with my instrument: a Bach 7c, I want to maintain a darker sound but be able to hit higher notes without my lips getting tired so quickly, is there a mouthpiece you would recommend or some practice exercises to help with that?

    1. A 7C Bach mouthpiece is the most often preferred mouthpiece for a player at you current level.

      The best way to improve your high register is to practice exercises which will gradually build your range and endurance.

      If you are truly practicing every day for at least 1/2 hour day on the proper material, with time, you will build you higher range as well as increase your endurance.

      If, after a reasonable amount of time your range has not improved, there are things you can do to increase your higher range. I have several posts dealing with increasing your high notes so be sure to check them out first.

      If, after reading the material, practicing every day, and you still have a problem……….

      try a Bach 5C which is a little smaller so you may be able to get a little higher without getting too much edge to your sound.

      If you want to darking your sound a little, be sure to try the Curry Sound Sleeve

      Unfortunately the best way to improve any part of your trumpet playing is to practice the correct material consistently and be patient. Some days your horn is your friend and some days it can be an enemy.

      Thanks for sending your question and if you still have problems, come back again and we can give you more specific information.

      The best to you and yours,
      B.Chidester

  5. I am an adult beginner and I just bought an older bundy trumpet and it came with a 3c mouth piece, should I purchase a 7c or would the 3c be fine for a beginner? Great and very informative blog.

    1. Good questions and first I would like to congratulate you on a wise decision to play trumpet; no matter what the age.

      The 7c Bach mouthpiece is the one most players recommend as a starting mouthpiece but as an adult we face different lip conditions than those of a fourth grader.

      If I were just starting on trumpet at my age (73) I would do better on a 3C than I would on a 7C. The 3C being larger will make it easier for you to get your first middle and low notes and the tone quality will be warmer and richer. Your will gain more flexibility on the 3C. So….you might ask- “what will I lose on the 3C that I would gain on the 7C”? The answer to that might be a little on the high range. This is most often the case but not always the case.

      If you are in an area where you have access to good trumpet players, I would also suggest that you contact one for advice or take a couple lessons to get started in the right direction. It will be important to get the best placement of the mouthpiece when you begin. Check out my posts on “mouthpiece placement” for sure. Getting started correctly will save much time and frustrations.

      Better yet….sign up for my online lessons at trumpetlessonsonline.com

      The best to you and yours and don’t forget, you do have to practice to get better.

  6. Great article and advice.

    I am a former Marine Corps musician (1980-84, MOS 5541, the designation for a trumpeter who is in the Fleet Marine Force), and I had stepped away from playing for a number of years due to circumstances I had no control over. But I’m finally able at age 54 to pick it back up. I used to play on a Bach 1C, but it is just too big. I’ve been trying to figure out what to go back to, and I’m thinking a 5C would probably be a good choice, at least for now.

    I hope I’m right. And I will bookmark your blog. Lots of good stuff here.

    1. Thank you for your service to our country and also your kind words.

      I have a few years on you and because of that fact, I can speak from experience that as we get older, we should expect some changes in out life style. This is also true with our equipment. When I was practicing every day in college, I could handle a big mouthpiece (Schilke 18) but now I’m playing on a Yamaha Bobby Shew, Jazz mouthpiece. Mt playing is more in shows at this time and in two weeks I’ll be performing Revel’s Borlero which will require a Schilke 15. As we get older, we usually gravitate to a smaller mouthpiece and you choice of a 5C seems to be ideal, depending on what kind of music you will be playing.

      Years ago, it was thought that the bigger the mouthpiece the better the sound and in some cases this was true but through the years I think that concept has changed. When I started college, the most respected sound was the Chicago Symphony sound. It tended to be on the dark side and through the years things started to move from “the dark side” (no pun intended) to the fuller and richer side (more overtones).

      If you are interested in a mouthpiece change, try to visit a music store which has a wide assortment of mouthpieces for you can’t decide unless you try them. When was the last time you saw a woman buy a dress off the rack without trying it on?

      Something else you may want to consider is a mouthpiece made by someone other than Bach. Many improvements have been made in the last decade and you may find a different maker would suite you better. I personally don’t like Bach mouthpieces because the rim is so rounded and puts more pressure on a smaller area of my lip. The Schilke line for me seems to be more comfortable, but that is just my opinion. If you can find a store with a wide assortment, plan on spending an afternoon checking them out.

      The trend still continues of using Mega mouthpieces so read up on those and if you can find one to try, be sure to do so.

      Thanks for stopping by and visiting.
      The very best to you and yours from all of America!

  7. Hi my question is on U cups vs V cups,what are the diference on these 2 mouthpieces cups,lets say they are medium or deep U cups or V cups,,wich cup will help mantain a full warmer darker sound and still help not to miss the high notes?U or V?

    1. Very good question.

      The term used for what you call U cup is actually called a C cup although your letter seems to make more sense.

      C cups generally give you more resistance because of the shape of the bottom of the cup. These shapes generally help with the upper range and tend to give the player a brighter tone quality.

      The V shaped mouthpiece is similar to that of a French Horn mouthpiece and gives the player a very mellow and dark sound with far less back pressure.

      The early cornets made more use of this shaped cup than did the trumpets. Vincent Bach is usually credited with changing the V to a traditional C cup and with that change, both the cornet and trumpet became a more aggressive, edgier sounding instruments.

      Flugel horns usually have a more V shaped cup to give that horn a much darker tone.

      We all search for the mouthpiece which will do everything for us but as you gain in one area (darker tone) you have to give up something in the higher range.

      I would suggest that if you are trying to darken your tone and still keep your high notes, be sure to read my post http://www.thetrumpetblog.com/curry-sound-sleeve-mouthpiece-tone-intensifier-review/

      This might be what you are looking for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *