Mouthpieces for both brass and woodwind instruments are obviously a key component to sound production. There are some basic characteristics associated with all mouthpieces. What you see below is a basic outline of some of those characteristics.
There are hundreds of different mouthpieces out there for each instrument. Choosing the “perfect” mouthpiece is a personal preference than can takes years or experience and experimentation.
CUP DIAMETER (Internal Rim) – A smaller cup diameter makes it easier to play high notes, endurance is increased but volume is limited. A larger cup diameter provides more volume and easy low tones.
RIM CONTOUR – This portion of the mouthpeice comes in contact with the lips. Most players prefer a flat contour with the peak closer to the inner edge.
RIM THICKNESS – A thin rim provides greater lip contact area for easier high notes but tonal felxibility is reduced. A thin rim provides more control but fatigue sets in faster. A medium rim is the most popular choice.
RIM BITE – The sharpness of the inner rim edge (the rim bite) has an influence on attack, clarity and pitch control. Soft bites are comfortable to play but clean attacks are more difficult. Sharp bites are not as comfortable but make it easier to produce accurate pitch.
CUP – Shallow cups produce a brighter tone and are more controllable in the higher register but the volume is not as loud. Deep cups provide a dark tone easy low notes but more volume. The more “U” shaped the cup is the brighter the sound is and easier to play in the higher register. A “V” shaped cup makes the sound darker and the lower register easier to play.
THROAT – The throat is the narrowest portion of the mouthpiece bore. A narrow, long throat allows for higher resistance which creates fast response, brilliant tone and enhance playability in the high register. A wide, short throat is more playable in the low register and capable of producing greater volume.
BACKBORE – The backbore is the inner section of the mouthpiece following the throat. A narrow backbore provides more resistance, brighter tone and easier playing in the higher register. A larger backbore provides less resistance, darker tone and easier palying in the lower range.
SHANK – The shank is the outside dimensions of the mouthpiece receiver. The shank determies if the mouthpiece will fit into your instrument. Smaller bore instruments require a small shank mouthpiece. Larger bore instruments require a large shank mouthpiece.
MOUTHPIECE NUMBERING SYSTEMS – Almost every manufacturer has their own system of classifying brass mouthpiece specifications. It’s best to do some research before you enter the world of Bach 7C’s, Yamaha TR14A4a’s or Schilke 11’s.
BORE – A small bore mouthpiece will create a compact, focused, individualized tone. A large bore mouthpiece will create a brader, less cutting tone which blends better in large ensembles.
FACING – Short facings produce a clear, brilliant sound wheras longer facings produce a more robust sound with strong lows. Long facings also tend to improve flexibility and control.
TIP OPENING – Wider tip opens are more free blowing and can be played loudly, are brighter in sound but take more control to play. Narrow tip openings need less control to play and tend to have a darker and richer sound.
CHAMBER & BAFFLE – The size and dimension of the chamber and baffle determine the tone and color of the instrument. A mouthpiece with higher baffle and shallow chamber creates a bright edgy sound. A mouthpiece with a low baffle and large chamber creates a darker edgy tone.