If your goal right now is to simply get a mouthpiece recommendation – i.e., where to start – click here
To start your journey towards finding the best mouthpiece for your horn
If you are trying my mouthpieces, ideally you have access to a set of models that are appropriate for the size horn you are fitting. I’ll continue to add to the number of models available since my goal is to offer the perfect model for every horn. (It’s a large task but you deserve it.)
If you have models from my Custom Series, you should proceed to How to select a mouthpiece for your leadpipe, so that you can find which one meshes perfectly with your particular leadpipe. That is the advanced method for fitting a mouthpiece to your horn.
Otherwise, you are in the right place for now! This page will help you decide which mouthpiece model is best for your horn. This method isn’t exclusively for my mouthpieces, this will work for any mouthpiece. This is the basic method for fitting a mouthpiece to your horn, side stepping the whole leadpipe issue and just going with a good mouthpiece for your instrument.
Each mouthpiece in the box will make the instrument play, respond, sound and feel differently. The following exercises are designed to focus your awareness upon the interaction and relationship of a mouthpiece with a trombone and these instructions will steer you toward the optimal match for your instrument.
Each model has it’s unique characteristics, of course, but a big percentage of the difference from model to model is mouthpiece Power.
Click the link to review mouthpiece Power.
Here we go!
Play this slur pattern:
Notice how it feels to slur – both in first position and when you move back and forth between 1st, 3rd and 4th positions. Keep in mind that when you slur between Bb/C/D, you are switching between the same harmonics (partials) as when you are slurring between Bb/D/F – so ideally, it should feel the same to play both slur patterns.
(In the advanced method of fitting a mouthpiece, we would play these exercises using a mouthpiece from Group A, B, C and finally from Group D. One of these four Groups will be easiest and most comfortable to play than the rest. This is because of the venturi effect discussed in How does a mouthpiece work. We are side stepping this process on this page…)
Now play this tonguing pattern: (click here to open it in another tab – it will be larger)
Here are some more things to keep in mind:
Here are some things to pay attention to as you compare the mouthpieces. You will notice that the note is slower to speak with the lower power mouthpieces and quicker to speak with the higher power mouthpieces. This is true for both tonguing and slurring. Also, as the power level grows, the general sound you produce becomes more focused, directional and colorful. In reverse, as you play mouthpieces of progressively less power, the tone gets more open and transparent. There is something appealing about each of these timbres, BUT…be wary of both mouthpieces that overdrive or underdrive the horn – they will be harder to play and you will miss more notes as a result!
While slurring – if the mouthpiece is delivering the perfect power to your instrument, then slurring up and down are equally easy. What a great feeling! Otherwise, if you have to blow extra in order to move upwards through the partials, then the mouthpiece is under powered. If you don’t have to work much to move upwards – but the notes ‘ping’ a bit much – then the mouthpiece is over powered. Also, an over powered mouthpiece really locks you into the partials and won’t budge very easily while an under powered mouthpiece makes the partials squirrely and unstable.
Slurring downwards will also be affected in a similar way by varying power levels with a mouthpiece but you should keep this in mind – as one buzzes higher from any given pitch, the embouchure muscles must add some tension to the aperture in order to raise the pitch – and as one buzzes lower, you need to relax the aperture. So it’s a matter of how much you need to tension or relax your aperture when you change the power of the mouthpiece.
While tonguing – if the mouthpiece is delivering the perfect power for the horn, then the resulting articulation will be very similar to what you are putting into the mouthpiece. A mouthpiece that over powers (over drives) the instrument makes articulations pop, bark, jump, bang, crack, chip, etc. Doesn’t sound good, does it? A mouthpiece that doesn’t provide enough power to the instrument will make you have to tongue extra hard, over work the air, fall off the partial during long notes, press like crazy and end up with a very red ring around your mouth – making you look rather silly.
The ideal match is achieved when you can blow comfortably at all times…while slurring, while tonguing, loud/soft and on sustained notes. This condition is obviously the easiest manner of playing, plus – since it is the best acoustic match of trombone and mouthpiece – it reveals the true characteristics of your instrument.
Articulation, slurring, tonguing, high and low range are all made easier by having the correct match between your trombone and the mouthpiece. It’s a Win/Win situation!
Just to make sure you are on the right track, go back and try some of the other model mouthpieces. Finding the appropriate power level is a bit subjective but is also relatively straight forward once you are familiar with the process.
Go back and play the mouthpiece that you used to play…there will be something familiar and satisfying about your old mouthpiece – that’s why you’ve been playing it until now! Try to assess what benefits and liabilities each mouthpiece offers to your playing ease and comfort. If you have a setup that you love, congratulations! Otherwise, keep looking.
If you find a correct mouthpiece/trombone match, but aren’t quite satisfied with the general sound that the instrument produces, then several reasons may be the cause…
- the horn isn’t set up ideally, you may be want to try some different components…tuning crooks, slides, leadpipes, valves
- you may be playing in the manner that you are used to with your old mouthpieces and not acclimating to the way the equipment needs to be played now
- you may benetit from some extra help – from me or someone familiar with my mouthpieces and this process. I do have some more tricks…