Finding the right mouthpiece for you is not easy; there are many to choose from. While generalizations can be made—symphonic players tend to prefer large mouthpieces, lead players tend to prefer smaller ones— each player has a unique physical makeup and a specific set of playing requirements. Also, a mouthpiece that has positive effects on one aspect of your playing may have detrimental effects on another. It is a study in compromise.
Shopping Around. Start with the rim; find a diameter and contour that feels comfortable. Work with mouthpieces from one company at a time; a 3C from one manufacturer does not necessarily feel the same as another. Work through cup and backbore options systematically, and don’t play too many different pieces at one time. Try them in pairs, utilizing a process of elimination.
While it is tempting to play high notes on a new mouthpiece, don’t overdo it. Concentrate on tone—look for a mouthpiece that produces a better sound without detrimental effects on your range. If you find one that produces better tone and better high range, jump for joy.
Seeing It Through. Some players switch mouthpieces depending on the situation; others believe that one mouthpiece should be used for everything. If you do switch mouthpieces, it is essential that you are able to cover all musical bases on each one; there are too many situations that cross musical boundaries. Having the identical rim on all mouthpieces is highly desirable.
Prepare for a “honeymoon.” A mouthpiece that seems great initially may not feel as great a few weeks later as your body adjusts. You may be tempted to fall back to your old mouthpiece, or worse yet, switch again to a different mouthpiece. The worst mistake you can make is to get hooked on the constant search for the “perfect” mouthpiece. Eventually everything will feel wrong! Once you make the decision, see it through.
The right mouthpiece can make significant improvements in your playing, but don’t expect miracles. Your body is still the most important piece of equipment. Time in the practice room is almost always better spent than time in the store.
About the Author
Chase Sanborn is a trumpet player and a member of the jazz faculty at the University of Toronto. He is the author of “Brass Tactics,” “Jazz Tactics,” “Tuning Tactics” and “Music Business Tactics.” Chase plays Yamaha trumpets and CS Signature Model mouthpieces from GR Technologies. For more information about Chase, visit www.chasesanborn.com.