Weekly Trumpet Tips 12/04/12

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

Please always feel free to respond / comment on any of the tips listed in these weekly posts. Your input may help clarify details for someone else!

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Tip #1 – Are We There Yet?

Maybe many of you can think back as I can, to a time of summer “family” car trip vacations where the biggest question from the backseat was “Are We There Yet?”

In my practicing routine, that very question has popped into my mind and kind of made me chuckle… “when am I finally going to be able to do X?”  “Am I there yet?”  Just like the car trip, so many things along the way get over-looked and missed because we were focussed on getting to that final destination.  Disney World, Devils Tower, Wyoming, Mt. Rushmore, etc.

Keep in mind that while we do practice to reach a goal, there should always be a new / more difficult goal set beyond the one after something else has been reached.  This is what drives the consistency in practicing – and THAT is what causes improvement.

Recently turning 44, I went through a melancholy week where that “getting older” notion kicks in… then started the questions above as well as impatience in some of my practicing.  Then I was reminded that in looking back, I have made great strides in my playing.  Not in days, weeks or even months per-se, but in the years… because I’ve been consistent and loyal.

So no matter where you’re at, or what age you are… stay consistent and focussed!  It’s really the only way to reaching any goal!

Tip #2 – Horns & Mouthpieces

Two of the most common questions I receive from students, etc. is “what mouthpiece do you recommend?”  AND “What horn is that?”  For years now, I’ve been rubbing the mainstream teachers and band directors the wrong way because I don’t believe that there are only 3 or 4 mouthpiece sizes… one does NOT fit all!  And I’m NOT a fan of Bach Strad’s.  It’s a personal choice – I just don’t hear the trumpet or “me” in a Strad.

If you’re shopping for horns or mouthpieces, or even thinking about walking that road.  Here are some things that I’ve learned to look for.

Equipment “can” make your job a bit easier – or more difficult if it doesn’t fit.  BUT (with that being said), it WILL NOT fix everything… practicing (see above) will only do that!


The first thing I look for is how it “feels” in my hands.  Does my left hand feel squished?  Are the rings placed in the right area for my hands?

The Second thing is how does it sound?  Is it thin sounding?  Is it too muffled?  Etc.  I want the right “sound” characteristics in the lower and middle register.

The LAST thing is how does it respond for me in the upper range?  If it feels congested and tight (which most horns do) I walk away.  I prefer a larger horn so that I can muscle it around… again – this is what I’ve grown accustomed to and that I personally like.


Let me preface by saying that I am done with mouthpiece shopping because the guys at Austin Winds and I have hit on the exact characteristics and dimensions that I like and have been with for some time now (over 2 years).

The BIGGEST mistake I made during my many years of endless searching was looking for something that seemed to work “in the moment.”  Range being the biggest “test” for me.

When I started to finally get clear, I realized that for me I was playing mouthpiece diameters that were WAY too large… why?  Because that’s what I had been told by the so called “authorities” that I should be playing… and who better to tell me than those that know best, right?  Turns out – they were wrong!  Bach 3, and 5 were just WAY TOO LARGE!  After finally “getting” what Maynard, Bobby Shew, etc. were saying, I decided to venture downward in diameters.  I was warned that I would lose my flexibility, lower register, tone, control, etc.  Basically – the world was flat and I was going to fall off the edge if I ventured in that direction.

Turns out – the world is round, and I GAINED in all areas… but not JUST because of the mouthpiece.  What the swap in size did was make things more comfortable.  THAT created a hunger again to start working on things, and through consistent smart practice (and no more mouthpiece switching) I was able to gain more range, endurance, and reliability.

There are 3 things you should really think about in a mouthpiece.

1) Diameter – there are more sizes than just the 1C, 3C, 5C, and 7C.  And 7 is not just for beginners.  Who knows – YOU may have to go larger, but you’ll never know without trying!

2) Bowl shape or cup shape… I learned that with my lip, I have to have a straight drop into the cup and then a bowl in at the bottom – vs. a “V” shape.  And I can’t play excessively shallow cups.  I’m around a D / E depth (in Bach standards).

3) Back bore / Throat!  Something too open will cause an airy tone and premature fatigue.  If the back bore or throat are too tight, then it can start to affect tone color.  Causing a brighter sound.

The last 2 characteristics affect tone quality the most.  And while there are more things that affect mouthpieces, sound, etc. these are the top 3 that I looked at.

Hope this helps you to make a wise choice, and offers at least a little bit of food for thought instead of spending hundreds of dollars on future brass paper weights!

“You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday.”

Charles Kettering
1876-1958, Inventor and Engineer

Have a GREAT week!