Mouthpiece Myths (and why they aren’t true)

  • The mouthpiece that you play doesn’t matter at all.
    • Not true! Changing any part of the mouthpiece (no matter how small of an adjustment) will change the physics involved. However, you may not be able to notice a change depending on how drastic the change was and how sensitive you are as a player.
  • “X” brand of mouthpiece is always better than “Y” brand of mouthpiece.
    • Absolutely not. Assuming that the mouthpieces are consistently manufactured the design characteristics that one maker chooses over another will be better for some players and worse for others. There is no universal “best manufacturer.” You may find that you really like some component that “X” makes but prefer another component from “Y”
  • A new mouthpiece will solve playing issues.
    • Not necessarily. Mouthpieces will change the way that your technique interacts with your instrument and may make certain skills more comfortable to perform. However, changing mouthpieces will not change any underlying technique issues. HOWEVER, if your old mouthpiece was the thing that was causing previous issues then a new mouthpiece (that gets out of your way) can absolutely help.
  • I should play this same mouthpiece as my teacher or a famous player.
    • Maybe, but probably not. Mouthpieces are a bit like shoes everyone has their own preferences on size and style. While “signature” mouthpieces are a great starting point you will need to do some experimentation to find what works best for you. That being said, you may find that a signature series mouthpiece does work best for you.
  • If I want to play “x” style of music I must use “y” mouthpiece.
    • While there are “standard” mouthpieces for different types of playing (for example in orchestral playing a Bach 1-1/2C 24/24 style mouthpiece is very common) those mouthpieces are not guaranteed to work for you. They are certainly worth trying (especially as a starting point for experimentation) but they are not guaranteed to match your embouchure, technique, or instrument. That being said, you may find that a “standard” mouthpiece does work best for you.
  • If I get a “lead mouthpiece” I’ll be able to play higher
    • Nope! Lead mouthpieces may make that range feel different (usually easier and more secure) but they do not change any fundamental technique issues and can actually cause new ones. Unless your “big mouthpiece” was limiting your range a lead mouthpiece will not allow you to play any higher.
  • If I want my mouthpiece to feel different in “x” way I should make “y” change
    • While there are expected effects when you alter a mouthpiece it is not an exact science. Any change may have unexpected effects because the mouthpiece works as a system. Altering any element will change how that system interacts which may have unintended effects. Due to this, I recommend never altering a mouthpiece that you like and instead buying an identical mouthpiece and altering the new one instead. This way you can always go back
  • You should play everything on one mouthpiece.
    • While you can do this, specialized tools help make certain jobs easier. The same way that you wouldn’t want to hike in flip flops you probably don’t want to use the same mouthpiece for every playing scenario. The right tool for the job makes the job easier.
  • I should play the same mouthpiece on every horn.
    • While this does work for a minority of players, it seems to be uncommon. We can think about our playing with the following equation: Result = Player + Mouthpiece + Horn if you make a change to the horn and want to keep your technique consistent you will likely need to change the mouthpiece.
  • You should play the same rim on every mouthpiece.
    • You can but it may not work for you. A good rule of thumb is to play on as few rim sizes as possible. For some people, this means that they use the same rim on every mouthpiece they play. Others will have a select group of rim sizes that they play. Very often players (including myself) use 2 rim sizes. A “big” rim for most playing and a “small” rim for lead / piccolo playing. It’s important to try things and find what works for you.
  • You must use a smaller rim on your lead / piccolo mouthpiece.
    • While big rim + small rim is a common setup, players who naturally prefer smaller mouthpiece sizes (say Bach 3c/5c rim and smaller) often find that keeping the same rim size works better for them. On the other extreme, I know some great players who use a 1C equivalent rim for everything! Yes, even piccolo trumpet. Experiment and find what works best for you!
  • Once I find the right mouthpiece I will never need to change my mouthpiece again.
    • This is likely incorrect. As your technique and playing responsibilities change overtime you may find that your mouthpiece is not as comfortable as it once was. Remember that the “equation” for brass playing is: Result = Player + Mouthpiece + Horn. If the player changes the other variables may need to change as well.

Any other mouthpiece myths you would like me to address? Let me know in the comments and I will add them to the list!

-Troy

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