Equipment

This is the only chapter that has been rewritten during the Year 2002 Update. Since I got aquainted with Gary Radtke, I have learned several things.

Resistance

Most important is matching the equipment resistance to the player. Obtaining the correct resistance can make tremendous improvement for the individual. Different bore sizes and leadpipes gives different resistance, so do higher pitched instruments. But the easiest way of correcting resistance is in the mouthpiece.

The amount of equipment resistance have much influence on aperture size. If the equipment is  tight, the aperture must be opened up or the player must use an embouchure with little resistance. Open equipment will allow the player to play with a more closed aperture or use a more resistant embouchure.

If the trumpet player feels the resistance increase in the higher register, this might not be an equipment problem. It can also have something to do with the setup, like how far the jaw is pushed out, if the lower lip is allowed to recede, the angle of the trumpet or the mouthpiece placement. This should be investigated before one puts a lot of money into a new and expensive instrument.

The mouthpiece

First of all : Your range can not be boosted by any mouthpiece. This is a very common misunderstanding. However, the appropriate mouthpiece and trumpet can make the job much easier.

Gary Radtke has a great site that describes the detailes of the mouhtpiece.

For more on mouthpiece selection, I think the mouthpiece booklet from the Storks is a must for any trumpet player. The book The No Nonsense Trumpet from A-Z is also excellent in this respect.

Nothing beats getting personal advice from a great mouthpiece maker.

The Rim

The rim might be considered the most important part of the mouthpiece. This is the part of the instrument that is in touch with the players lips. How the rim is shaped has tremendous impact on all aspects on playing, being resistance, attack, endurance, comfort, flexibility and range.

Diameter

Maybe the most important parameter for a mouthpiece is the rim diameter. This is related to the players lip size. A 3C might be a big mouthpiece for a player with thin lips, but for myself having huge lips, it is rather small.

The way of playing is to a great deal influenced by the rim size (related to the players lip size.) I will try to explain what happens when playing a big rim diameter and a small rim diameter.

I think that no method of playing is more correct than another. But it can be nice to know that one can change the way of playing more easily if the mouthpiece facilitates the new way of playing.
I have played both big and small rim diameters, and would not recommend one over the other. Choose the rim that suits your goals the best! 

Big rim diameter

When a player chooses to play a big rim diameter mouthpiece compared to his lip size, the lips will tend to be blown apart. In order to compensate for this, lips must be compressed in some way.

Very big diameter mouthpieces is only possible to play efficiently with a moving corner technique. The corners are brought inwards and supported by the cheek muscles. If this is done correctly, range will not be limited by the aperture thinning out.

Big diameters takes more muscle work than smaller diamters. The lips will vibrate freely inside the rim, giving a full sound.

Small rim diameter

When a player chooses a small rim diameter mouthpiece compared to his lip size, the rim will tend to make the lips immobile. Therefore, it is essential that little arm pressure is used so that the aperture can be controlled. Syllables alone can be used throughout the whole register, but the vibrations will shut off in the highest registers if the aperture is not opened and the arm pressure diminished. Pinching will not work playing a small mouthpiece except in the most extreme registers.
Playing with a small rim diameter, the compression of air becomes most important. The only way of getting the high notes, is by increasing air pressure and resistance. Arm pressure will tend to cut off the sound.

This way of playing is very often used by lead and jazz players, playing smaller equipment. The sound tends to be more compact than larger diameter mouthpieces.

The magical rim diameter

What we might name as the "magical rim size", is that rim which gives a good tone quality and demands little aperture adjustment through the registers. This will be the middle road rim. Playing bigger pieces might be for the classical player, while the high note specialist might want to use smaller equipment.

Starting with you current rim.

This process might be repeated until a satisfactory rim is found.
Scales with minimum embouchure adjustment

Alpha angle

I learned from Gary Radtke that the rim to cup interface, the alpha angle and the length down to the cup, is an important resistance source felt by the embouchure. A low alpha angle would mean that the slope from the bite into the cup is like a hanging cliff. A high alpha angle would mean the slope is like a gentle hill.

I did lots of experiments at home with different screw rim and underpart combination. What puzzled me the most, was that there did not seem to be much system when it came to the summed resistance. Rims seemed more important than underparts. The reason for this is that different rim and cup combination causes alpha and length to vary greatly.

Low alpha rims have little resistance, and are not very pitch sensitive to arm pressure.

High alpha rims have more resistance, and are pitch sensitive regarding arm pressure.

Players with thick lips or a protruding embouchure usually need rims with a low alpha. If the slope is not steep enough, the lips will touch the sides of the cup, cutting off sound.

Bite

The inner edge of the mouthpiece seem to be very important for comfort and attacks. A sharper edge increases security and aids attacks but might cut the lips. A rounder edge increases comfort. The combination of alpha and bite is highly individual, being very important for ease of lip vibration.

An important feature of the bite is that it stabilizes the embouchure, aiding in security and endurance by keeping the lips in place. Players with soft and thick lips will benefit from a defined bite more than thin lipped players.

A softer bite will make the mouhtpiece feel larger.

A bonus of a defined bite, is that it aids the player to feel the embouchure placement, especially in avoiding getting into the red.

Crown Radius

A flatter rim means less control because there will be more friction. If the player plays with dry lips or does not move the aperture very much, this might be a good alternative. A flat rim might increase the +player's comfort, especially for thin lipped players.

A round rim impoves control because of less friction with the lips. If it is too rounded, it might feel like being a bit sharp, being uncomfortable for the player. For players with thick lips, a rim that is a little rounded might give the optimum comfort.

Width

A narrow rim is similar to a round rim, in that friction is less. Players that moves the corners inward while ascending, might feel more comfortable using a narrow rim because less friction is required when playing this way.

Rim width is important regarding flexibility. The surface acts as a resistance to lip movement. Thick lips will feel this more than thinner lips. Therefore, thin lipped players often prefer wider rims than those having thicker lips.

A wider rim means more contact with the face, which will reduce pressure on the lips. This increases endurance. If more endurance is required, but flexibility must be maintainted, the outside radius might be enlarged to increase contact area.

Outer radius

When going to narrower rims, often preferred by players with fleshy lips, comfort can be increased by making the outer edge rounder. The roundness gives extra area to the lips for pressure distribution.

Cup depth

The depth of the cup has much influence on the sound. But another important function, is to add support for the lips. A deeper cup gives less feedback, lips might feel like falling in. A shallower cup gives more feedback, supporting the lips.

What is interesting, is that the same size rim feels like it is different sized according to cup depth. A shallow cup feels narrower, while a deep cup feels wider.

Players that pucker might need deeper mouthpieces.

Equipment and embouchures

Maggio

The Maggio (rolled out) embouchure seem to work the best with small instruments and shallow mouthpieces. Feedback from the equipment is required, helping to close the aperture.

Farkas

The Farkas embouchure is the most common there is. Standard  trumpets and C-cups seem to work well. Shallow cups will help the high range, feedback closing the aperture.

Rolled in embouchures

Playing the Stevens, Screamin' or Superchops embouchure, the embouchure creates most of the resistance required. These embouchures work well on very open trumpets and mouthpieces. A problem with playing a rolled in embouchure, is finding suitable trumpets and mouthpieces. Extra large bore trumpets seem to work well.

Players that does not pucker (move the corners inward for the high notes), might feel comfortable on shallow mouthpieces. Because of the rolling in, the lips does not stick very far into the mouhtpiece. Very many fine players play without moving the corners. Comercial style mouthpieces on big trumpets might work.

Those who roll in and pucker at the same time, often do better on deeper and more open mouthpieces. The pucker, even if the lips are rolled in, makes the lips go a little deeper into the mouthpiece. Also, a narrower rim is required to allow more freedom for moving the corners inward. Mouthpieces with deeper cups and lower alpha rims might work well.

Mouthpiece switching

I think using different mouthpieces for different kinds of music is very sensible. Why should one makes things harder for oneself?

I used to believe that switching mouthpieces was impossible. I might use different mouthpieces, but when warming up on one mouthpiece, this had to be used for the rest of the session.
There was one event that changed all this. I started to use the Bobby Shew warmup employing lip fluttering ("horse lips") and lip buzzing. I believe this makes a larger portion of the lips vibrate, making the tissue softer. Always using the same rim and doing no lip buzzing, this tissue will be much stiffer then the tissue inside the mouthpiece. This makes switching mouthpieces more difficult, especially switching to a bigger rim diameter.
The result of my new warmup was that switching mouthpieces became a possibility. I even have switched mouthpieces (different rim sizes) during concert.

Switching mouthpieces demands a mental adjustment, because every mouthpiece must be played a bit differently. A bigger mouthpiece demands more lip tension than a small lead mouthpiece.

There is one great advantage of playing a big mouthpiece part of the time. It certainly gives the embouchure more of a workout. Playing only a lead mouthpiece, many players feel their embouchure muscles disappearing. Especially for us with little time to practice, it becomes more important that the embouchure gets a sensible workload.

Nick Drozdoff has more on using the right mouthpiece for the right job.


Copyright (c) Rune Aleksandersen 1997 - 2002