Mouthpiece . . .



Here’s some thoughts on mpc characteristics. It would be wise in making ANY choice to remember that your choice needs to be a moderate/comfortable one for yourself alone.

Inner Rim Diameter

A large diameter generally enables the lips to vibrate more freely. It will also aid in the production of a bigger tone but if too large, the tone will be too open (unfocussed). In some players a smaller diameter can sometimes lead the use of a spread embouchure to gain volume of sound which then in turn leads to excess mpc. pressure in an effort to close the lip aperture once more. Excess mpc. pressure leads to inefficient endurance.


Cup Depth

Basically, the deeper the cup or overall total cup volume will darken the tone. A more shallow cup will give a brighter tone. For playing in the upper register a mpc. that is more shallow than average will give the tone and support required to perform in this register.

Shallow cups (at the extreme end) will make the tone thin / edgy

Cup Volume

The mouthpiece(s) of your choice need to suit the style / sound of the genre you are playing in. Using multiple mpcs. for multiple styles must result in extra practice on each particular mpc relevant to that particlar style. This will help to cope with the types of articulation/dynamics that you will meet within those particular styles. The larger the cup volume the fuller and louder the tone; the smaller the cup volume the softer and thinner the tone. If you choose a cup volume at either end of the extremes, control will be compromised. If you find switching mpc’s difficult you are probably too mpc dependant.

Inner Rim Bite or Alpha Angle

The sharper the bite, the more grip is perceived. With a flatter or rounder rim, less grip is felt but more comfort acquired. Personal mpc. pressure plays a big part in choosing a mpc which will aid performance.


The backbore volume and shape can affect pitch greatly. The backbore has several tapers, an initial and an average taper. If the initial taper is greater than the average you have a backbore with more volume, less resistance, and different harmonics. The diameter of the backbore also influences timbre and resistance. The length of the bore affects the blow resistance too.

A narrow backbore results in increased resistance, brighter tone, and easier playing in the high register. A larger backbore decreases resistance and gives a darker tone and easier playing in the lower range.

“U” / “V” Shaped Cups

Most U shaped cups have a fairly sharp shoulder which results in an easy to play resistance and a well defined bright sound. V shaped cups have a smoother, rounder shoulder which produces low resistance and softer, darker tone.

Throat Diameter

The throat is the narrowest part of the mpc. bore. The diameter and length of this set the restrictions for playing resistance (back pressure). A narrow, long throat gives a high level of resistance which then in turn equates to fast response/brilliant tone and an aid to playing in the high register. A wide, short throat is more playable in the lower register and results in greater volume of tone but requires a great deal of air support from the player.

Model Numbering System

Most companies have their own way of numbering their Mpc’s with the differences in Rim / Cup / Throat Specifications. The Schilke 12A4a can be deciphered as this…

The “12” part of this mpc. is the inner cup diameter.

The “A” is the cup volume plus shape.

The “4” is the rim contour.

The “a” is the back bore.

Mouthpiece Weight

Light weight mpcs. produce fast, flexible response while heavier mpcs. produce a more focussed tonal core. Much the same can be said for horns too!


Mouthpiece Finish

Gold plating IMHO helps with lip flexibility and is more suited to the player who uses a wet embouchure but is not so suitable for the dry lipped player who requires more grip. Silver plating is generally preferred by dry lipped individuals. Gold plated mpc’s also tend to keep a constant temperature better. Solid silver adds to the weight and therefore adheres to the above.


Rim Thickness

A thick rim provides greater lip contact resulting in extended endurance but lip movement is limited therefore in extreme cases you lose some flexibility. A thin rim gives flexibility and control but provides less support for the lip thereby causing fatigue earlier than a mpc. rim of more average dimensions.


On people using one mpc for all playing, I have only one comment.


The ‘performnce criteria parameters’ of that particular individual are probably not that disparate to warrant a change of mpc style in the first place.






Mouthpiece ….. which one(s)


If you’re a very mpc dependant player and you do change mpc’s from small to big or vice -verca then you are going to HAVE to change your old practice routine to cope with the negatives of the new mpc.


Let me state up front….


…some of my thoughts on the mouthpiece thing, I would like to say that as I’ve progressed in the different facets of playing, I’ve been led to smaller inner cup diameters, not necessarily depths. I have wondered at this development and would’nt find it acceptable to do so in a trade off for a good tone. I would like to point out I play all styles of music not just jazz / high notes.

I would’nt sacrifice the tone I have as a mental concept or in reality. I don’t just listen to myself however, I too, like many of us have tried and trusted friends who constantly help me,

Kurt Schulenburg amongst others being totally unselfish in advice and time both in ‘live’ playing situations and virtual. My friends and I at home are always on the watch out, or I should say ‘listen out’ for potential problems in one another. My greatest critic/helper/advisor is a SAX player – there I’ve said it! [Thanks Keith!]


The ‘performance criteria parameters’ of particular individuals using only one mpc are probably not that disparate to warrant a change of mpc style in the first place.


I have also mentioned my concerns in going smaller to a number of ”top pros” who were very helpful with advice, and basically it is a skill to be learnt as any other trumpet skill to go smaller without problems. For those who are thinking ‘SkyRocket,’ I am ashamed to admit I STILL have’nt had the time to try the mpc out fully, due to work commitments. I would say that inefficiencies of tone production or tone maintenance show up more readily on smaller equipment. Conversely any range problems due to poor techinique you have will more readily show up on larger mouthpieces. Playing smaller equipment efficiently requires a great degree of control.


I don’t believe that a mpc change will cure ANY problem without introducing ANOTHER one in it’s place. It is up to EVERYONE to understand what different mpc characteristics will do to THEM at any GIVEN stage of their development. The mpc you choose will affect you greater than the horn you play, meaning that a more extreme mpc choice will have a more immediate and deliterious effect than the same experiment with extreme horn design.


Trouble is, mpc characteristics are a personal trade off for everyone. AND the trade off’s are different from player to player. Meaning, that just when you get a mpc you like one particular aspect of, some other unwanted characteristic rears it’s ugly head. Your findings may be the exact opposite of someone elses experience. Analyse the characteristics as you have , decide which mpc and its accompanying bad habit[s] is the most easily resolved by extra practice in the mpc’s deficient area. It is worth taking into account the personal comfort element.


Here is a situation that a particular player had problems with in choosing his correct mpc.


It would be all too easy as many people do to recommend these answers…..


Schilke 14A4a / Bobby Shew 1.5 :

“good range and sound but too stuffy/not enough volume” ANSWER = open up the throat JW Marcinkiwicz artist model : “great range & volume, get a fuzzy sound in middle register” ANSWER = change the backbore taper Giardinelli 7S : “great sound & volume, not enough range” ANSWER = get a slightly shallower cup.


In answering in such a manner you would probably find your original characteristic analysis turned on it’s head, pointing out the exact opposite chracteristics you originally started with….

….fun ain’t it?


I must stress that these particular mpc’s above were a particular gentlemans nemesis.Many many others think these are great! [including me]


Here are some more possibles on the “transient plus”

of a new mpc for some players….



* * * When trying a new smaller/shallower model than their normal mpc ….


  1. their range goes up due to the extra support for the corners from a smaller inner cup diameter/shallower cup.This disappears after a while because the muscles get weaker using a smaller mpc [as your main practice mpc] as they don’t get such a good workout.


2.       Smaller mpc’s usually have a tighter backbore [than your old larger model] which also helps aid the upper register. Of course their tone usually becomes more shrill but for the struggling range player this is an acceptable characteristic for that momentary gain in range. Usually the tone is made slightly fuller again by using a more spread lip set which again over a period of time loses them that magical moment of gained range from when they first try it!


  1. People use less pressure and more air, so as to minimise the effect of trying a new mpc on their “beloved lip” and…. consequentially, play better because of that caution. As soon as they are used to the new mpc— whamo!—-back to normal bad habits, and the momentary plus is gone. [until the next time, and the next time..and…]


* * * When trying a new bigger/deeper model than their normal mpc ….


  1. It feels more comfortable than their old smaller mpc they have more “meat in the mpc” just by virtue of the fact that the mpc covers more lip flesh area. They then relax….they play better because of it….until the old tensions creep back in when the range goes down.


  1. The tone is fuller because of a larger backbore amongst other things, but the range gone down some, and coping with the now larger inner cup diameter is harder work for the whole embouchure, which in turn sees their endurance shot!


  1. People use more pressure to help the lips to seal and close up the aperture some, which works momentarily but mashes the lips on playing higher parts.


Mouthpiece Dependancy….


[ the act of using the mpc rim as a crutch so as to produce the lip vibrations more easily as opposed to being able to buzz freely the same way on and off the horn, ]


…is partially why some people find the ‘momentary plus’ of a new mpc rim exciting, only to find that later on, that momentary ‘plus point’ has retreated into the mists of time as their playing settles down again into a normal playing pattern.


If your TOO mpc dependant this will have a significant effect on your perception of ANY mpc at ANY given point in your development.


So what’s the answer?…you have to realise that either….


a)      YOU are either making the sound on the trumpet by buzzing efficiently ….or…


b)      YOU are using the mpc too much to aid you in buzzing and therefore, you will succumb to the parameters that the characteristics of the mpc you are trying will have on your personal physiology / trumpet sound.


In other words, if you’re a very mpc dependant player and you do change mpc’s from small to big or vice -verca [or even using different cup depths for style] then you are going to HAVE to change your old practice routine to cope with the negatives of the new mpc. Also the more ‘mouthpiece dependant’ you are in producing your sound the more difficult it is to use more than one mpc

for different styles.



How do you know whether you are mpc dependant or not?



Can you “free lip buzz” well without the mpc?

When you find a mpc you feel you can work and improve with, the next question of course is,


How well is it suited to the horn[s] you are using?


Find a comfortable one you like pretty much ALL the characteristics of, to an average degree, and concentrate in the practice room to improve those characteristics which are at fault. Also your choice of mpc / horn should take into account whether you are playing on a microphone or not.


Imagine for a moment a player who adopts different playing techniques over a period of years in an effort to improve. If you’re a type ‘A’ player in 2002 and a type ‘B’ player in 2004, then the sets of ‘rules’ you have learnt for your chop set up in 2002 [in terms of understanding the mpc and it’s affects] MAY NOT be applicable to you in 2004!





[ my email lessons require a video/audio tape and ‘tons’ of typing/telephone conversations btw. ]


It is up to the individual to correctly analyse these effects at ANY given point and in making the choice of mpc “weigh up” the lesser of the evils to be targeted for extra practice, because, they ‘will’ be there.




You should have the same range on all the mouthpieces you try or use. The reason for using different mpc’s is a tonal / timbral change to suit a change of style. Yes it’s possible to change your tone / timbre by adjusting your blow but that is inefficient way to play a style over a long period of time. Using the wrong style mpc, cuts down on your endurance as [if your a good musician] you will be trying to force the mpc to play opposite to the designers original intention.


It would be inefficient to use a deep cup for playing lead as you would’nt want a mellow sound to play lead with. You need the sound to be more cutting, hence a shallower cup. It would be inefficient to use a shallow cup for playing legit with as you would’nt want a cutting / edgy sound in the orchestra. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that with your deepest mpc you should be able to play your full range with the SAME SOUND as your lead piece – sizzle and everything!


But you should be able to play the same notes and cover the same range without any drop off, or any pinching of tone, at least for a short period.


How shallow / deep? – it’s up to you, what sound do you want for which style?


My other favorite when this subject crops up is the guy who says: “yeh well ‘so and so’ uses a bach 1 1/4 C to play everything with including lead trumpet !” My answer is usually…

“CLARK GABLE!” …..[frankly my dear I don’t give a damn!]..I can also guarantee he’s working a whole lot harder than most OR he’s got BIG LIPS. Also I don’t wanna sound like ‘so and so’ no matter how famous he is, I want to develop my own sound / style. If you did get the same mpc and copy a famous guy and ended up sounding just like him, it’ll do you no good as he was there first and he’s got all the gigs!!!


Highly unlikely anyhow with physiology differences!


Using an excessively BIG mouthpiece to get a BIG tone in an orchestra at the expense of endurance or range……




Using an excessively small mpc to play high parts in big band at the expense of tone is ALL a question of personal acceptability.


What is acceptable for one player’s view of tone/personal sound concept or range, might be unacceptable for another.


Try NOT to impose your personal values on any given aspect upon someone else who is also learning. For we are ALL still learning.


Sometimes it is WORTH going to mpc extremes to convince oneself of a theory, but beware the dangers in doing so, you may lose your point / term of reference to enable you to make the journey back to your starting point.


Find the right equipment balance for YOU! – and let everyone else find their OWN!


When you think you have a good understanding of mpc’s and their characteristics and effects on YOU…start all over again and add in the variable of how different mpc designs/sizes correspond directly and indirectly with different horns in terms of bore size, bell shape, bell materials, horn weights, conical and cylindrical bores, leadpipe design, mpc gap adjustments, valve alignments etc.


Teachers who don’t take into consideration the style to which the pupil [if indeed he/she is at a stage of development where this has started to become a factor] maybe are’nt being as helpful as they could be. It is paramount to the development of the pupil to NOT imbue one’s own set of rules in any doctrinal way so as to leave them with YOUR emotional mpc baggage from any particular year. Set them up to ENABLE their OWN correct analysis of the mpc situation when they need to do so.








How to choose which mpc….. If you like the bach mouthpiece you are currently playing on then fine. I only hope you don’t damage or lose it as you will not be able to get a replacement even if you order the same size again. The Bach stories abound, about the catalogue, the measurements, the cutting tools and the fact that old bach mpc’s and the new bach’s with the small / large lettering are nothing like close. If you are starting out and you find a Bach mpc you like and intend to stay on it forever get a copy made by Mark Curry or someone. Then if you lose/damage your beloved mpc your covered by the copy. However I strongly suggest you leave Bach mpc’s well alone even if you are an Orchestral player [try Yamaha / Schilke.] You may want to consider as a starting point Schilke, or at least a manufacturer with a consistent and accurate catalogue and reproduction technique.

Marcinkiewicz are really good also, [in fact a preference for me] more on them later. Let me use Schilke as a starting point for the moment. The reason is, they have a really extensive catalogue and all the different combinations are available for you to create the mpc you deserve. They do not cost megabucks and also if you lose / damage one, the next model you get, will be exactly like your previous one. I have had tremendous service from , however probably there is someone out there who does not like this outlet for various reasons. Shop around, watch out for the expensive shipping/handling charges etc, especially if you are outside the USA. I’m sure you’ll find your favourite supplier somehow. Here is why I think using a manufacturer like Marcinkiewicz / Schilke is a good starting point. If you buy a model to try for a while, then decide that a certain characteristic of it is’nt quite suitable for you, then your not far away from making a small adjustment at relatively low cost. Here is an example…
¨      Schilke 12A4a for Big Band Lead playing.

¨      Schilke 12B4 for general Jazz/Commercial…

¨      Schilke 12C4 (custom model) for Orchestral/Legit.

This sort of set up [same rim / inner diameter] will help you cover all styles and are an average size to start with. To start you may just want to work with one mpc for everything, that’s fine!

The whole point is.. “it’s a personal choice” – “not right or wrong.” Do whatever it takes, to allow you to concentrate on making music rather than fussing with equipment. The above set up can be modified [if you find that it is a mistake in fitting your personal physiology] to allow little changes to get you to a satisfactory end result.
I have found a great deal of playable difference between the differing designs of ‘brands’ even though I kept the inner rim diameter / cup depth the same. Certain brands have certain characteristics that may just gain you a little improvement on the last mpc you had. For example, better slotting / intonation / response etc.. Most companies have their own way of numbering their Mpc’s with the differences in Rim / Cup / Throat specifications as mentioned in the previous chapter.


I personally play Marcinkiewicz mpc’s.

I gravitated to these from my Schilke set up and much prefer them. Especially the “Pro line concert hall” series for legit/small combo ‘cool school’ playing.
WHATEVER and WHOEVER, YOUR start point is with, make sure that you keep the rim and inner cup size the same when making adjustments either within a brand name or if you intend to jump makes /models. Be also aware that the ‘rim feel’ can be deceptive to the overall impression of how large or small the cup volume may be. Hence keeping the same rim is important when trying different elements.


I don’t want to give the impression that it is a constant and ever changing system – it should’nt be. But small changes are okay as your never far away from going back a step if you find that you did’nt enjoy the last change. has a really good online mpc comparator which allows you to line up visually two mpc profiles one on top of the other. It’s fun and surprising too!


For the Trumpet / Trombone doubler from Parduba.. Ask for 3 STAR Trombone Mouthpiece. Please specify the 3 STAR not the #3. It is the size of a nickel with a thick rim and still has the Double – Cup. It is very easy to change from instrument to

another. There are other tips on this subject which I’m sure you’ll find for yourself by “herding together with those beasts” that perform this particular task. See also the chapter on mpc’s small and big and how they affect different people.


In conclusion….


Your tonal characteristics carry most of the indicators of any

playing problems you may have.



A really good teacher can tell a lot from just listening to you without even looking at your set up. This is done by knowing about the relationship between air usage/articulation/register and the resultant timbral qualites hidden within your sound. Changing mpc’s will not cure any playing problems you have, but it may fool you into thinking it has – only for you to discover you have only actually exchanged problems, for a little while.


“The mpc has never played a note without your help, although a good and scientifically designed mpc is very important. A mpc can never substitute for ability. Once you find a comfortable mpc that you like, never change. The secret of playing in the upper register is you and you only!”

Cat Anderson


“Practice on the mouthpiece every day before your regular session. Walk around and play anything musical (no drills) from excerpts to pop tunes. The mouthpiece, [because of the lack of divisions] makes it possible to go over all ranges, and it forces you to use your ear. Also in emergency situations, it can be used as a substitute for regular practice on the horn. Play a complete session on the mouthpiece once in a while. This keeps you from getting hangups on the horn, and improves everything from sound to articualtion. Whenever you are having problems on any piece of music, play it on the mouthpiece. Play no drills on the mouthpiece, only music.”Bud Herseth



W i s e   w o r d s   g u y s,

W i s e   w o r d s f r o m   t h e   w i s e !

Mouthpieces small and big…


Bottoming out…


Basically the resistance in a smaller / shallower mpc is greater than a bigger / deeper mpc, thereby allowing a level of soundwave feedback to the lip, closing the aperture a little, and enabling the higher harmonics to speak. With a mpc that is deeper, the cup is further away from the lip and therefore there is less feedback. Total cup volume is more important for accurate comparison.


Small mpc players generally use large bore horns to compensate for the initial blow resistance.

Large mpc players use medium bore horns to compensate for the lack of initial blow resistance.


Jazz based players tend to use larger [or lighter] bore horns eg. Schilke, Kanstul, WT, Conn etc.

They need the extra responsiveness which a large/light horn gives to balance against the small [shallow] mpc.


Orchestral players tend to use medium [ or heavier] horns eg. Bach, Monette etc..

They prefer the extra resistance/weight [stuffiness] created by the horn to balance against the lack of resistance from the larger mpc.


Continually arguing about whether a Bach is better than a Schilke [please insert your favourites here] is pointless and irrelevant, as often style/mpc/delivery of air/breakfast items have’nt been considered or taken into the equation so as to make an ‘accurate’ comparison!


As that great icon of the trumpet world “7 of 9” once stated: “Resistance is futile!”


I’m afraid I beg to differ – “Resisting resistance is futile!” would be more accurate.

“Resistance” – we all use/need it, it’s just where you decide to introduce it into your game.

At the lips / mpc / leadpipe / Tpt. bore etc..


People often complain of bottoming out on a shallow mpc, this is where a lip curl plays it’s part, and, for the high range player who has a suitable lip curl [in conjunction with other aspects] bottoming out happens a lot less and hopefully not at all when the corner muscles become strong enough that they allow the soft lip centre to do it’s [their] job of riding the airstream unhindered by mpc pressure. When experimenting with mpc’s, make little changes after long periods of time for maximum results!!


You may notice as your range increases through efficient practice [increased lip vibrations] that you feel the need for smaller and smaller mpc diameters, this comes to a point then goes back up usually. Using smaller diameters also helps in using less corner tension than a bigger mpc, as the smaller diameter provides more support for the corners. People do worry about losing sound quality and of course it is encumbent upon the player NOT to sacrifice tone, however as you become more and more profficient at producing a very focussed airstream plus a really focussed buzz for the upper register the lip vibrating in the mouthpiece needs different mpc requirements.


Some people when making the transition from a big mpc to a smaller one find the notes cutting off as they go higher. The mistake they make is that normally on their big mpc they are used to going higher by making the aperture smaller by degrees as they ascend, of course on a smaller mpc they do the same thing and end up closing to aperture too soon, cutting off the air and shutting down the aperture totally.


In reality the most efficient way to change your pitch is by increased air speed. To play an octave higher our lip vibrations have to double in speed to the starting point of vibration. For our lips to vibrate at double the speed we have to move the air twice as fast. Not the amount or mass though. This is where the blowing the candle trick comes in…or out as may be applicable : ) — Hold a candle out in front of you and blow it out, [Jacoby] now move it farther and farther away.

You will need to blow faster air to blow the candle out each time. Not more, but faster.

The airstream becomes more focussed like a laser beam and this should be done by

rolling the tongue slightly forward and raising it, making the oral cavity slightly smaller.


This is how you need to project the air for your higher notes. They are not higher up but farther away from the end of the bell of the horn. When on the horn the slight raising of the tongue should be only used as your concealed secret weapon as you reach the top most part of your range. You need to use the syllable AAAAA [as opposed to the usual EEEEE] for as long [high] in your register as possible. The tongue should only be only a little boost for the air. Remember the air and your projection of it using the abs is still ALL important. Increase that abdominal strength to enable you to blow out candles miles away or alternatively play a DOUBLE HIGH C.


REMEMBER – If you are using a shallow mpc for lead trumpet playing make sure that you can also control it in the lower registers too…not all lead parts just scream out high notes so finding one which will ONLY allow you to play DHC is pointless. You should be able to play ALL of your range, both high and low on ALL of your mpc’s. THIS DOES’NT MEAN YOU SHOULD SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME ON ALL YOUR MPC’S! Although it is possible to blow a mpc against the style to which it was designed for but what’s the point in that? It’s like driving an ecomomy car at full whack up the freeway at 95mph!!! –it’ll do it for a while but it was’nt designed for it. It’s also like playing screaming solos on Flugel – stupid!













On style/sound there is NO point playing High G’s with a big dark tone. A bright but full tone is required for lead playing. Conversley, I can’t think of too many conductors who would thankyou

for using a shallow mpc in an orchestra which is about to play a beautiful sonata. If your going to make a change either way, proceed with small incremental changes and try to avoid making big changes to equipment which can lead directly to bad habits forming! The correct mpc will help you to gain the right sound for the style in which you are playing, however try to avoid [using as your norm] extreme mpc’s. This will help you avoid extreme lip problems! And just in case anyone still wonders about this “old chestnut” – mpc placement, put it where it’s most comfortable and sounds good, but always be aware that the more you stray away from 50/50 center the more POSSIBLE problems you MAY encounter.


Did he say to place the mpc 50/50 center? —NO! .. put it where it’s most comfortable and sounds good, but always be aware…

…your physiology may preclude the use of extreme sizes of mpc’s as also may the quality [vibratory] of the lip tissue that ‘your’ God gave ‘you’!     : )