Dimensional Characteristics of the Trumpet Mouthpieces

Posted by Getzen on November 23rd, 2007

By Dr. Maury Deutsch
(reprinted and edited from the September 1979 Getzen Gazette)

Trumpet Mouthpiece Diagram

There is nothing more crucial for a successful trumpet or cornet career than a proper fitting mouthpiece. This clearly points out the importance of a qualified instructor for the beginning student. A pitfall that faces many young trumpeters is an orgy of mouthpiece changes. This is frequently the result of an unwarranted belief that qualities such as range, tone, endurance, flexibility, etc… can be magically improved by a mouthpiece change. This articles aims to clarify the functions and interactions of the dimensional mouthpiece characteristics and is not intended to encourage a self-induced mouthpiece change. Basic criteria for judging the efficiency of a mouthpiece are: 1) The tone possible in the lower register, 2) The ease of playing in the legitimate upper register, and 3) The lip flexibility obtainable in the middle register.

Cup Diameter (1): The component most frequently mentioned when seeking a new mouthpiece is cup diameter. A large cup diameter favors both amplitude (tonal volume) and lower register play. The resulting tone has a mellow quality because the energy principally resides in the fundamental and lower to middle partials. With a medium cup diameter, the air pressure forces more of the energy into the upper partials with a corresponding increase of brilliance. A small cup diameter favors the highest partials. The tone then acquires an almost metallic quality.

Cup Depth (2): Playing in the lower and middle registers is easier with a deep cup. The deep cupped mouthpiece, with its more mellow tone and greater volume, is frequently recommended for playing hymns. A shallow cup provides a greater rebound of vibratory energy. This energy return interacts with the lip vibrations resulting in an increase of vibratory intensity. High notes of metallic quality are consistent with a very shallow cup. A popular innovation used by many jazz artists is the double cup mouthpiece, i.e. a shallow cup progressing into a deeper cup. The shallow portion subtly aids the upper register and the deeper segment helps volume. A negative consequence of this is the loss of acoustical energy due to the greater number of reflective surfaces. Higher pitched trumpets (relative to the standard Bb trumpet) naturally require a narrower diameter and a shallower cup for maximum playing efficiency. On the contrary, lower pitched trumpets require both a wider diameter and a deeper cup.

Outer Rim (3): The outer rim cushions the instrument’s impact on the lips and teeth. A narrow rim will subtly increase lip flexibility (less of the lip is demobilized). However, there is the danger of lip irritation from impact over a relatively narrow area. A wider outer rim (cushion rim) acts to aid the play of the upper register by increasing the overall lip tension. However, the vice like effect of the broad rim is a detriment to flexibility.

Inner Rim Edge (4): The principal function of the inner rim edge is to provide termination points for vibrating lips. This is analogous to the opposite terminal points of a vibrating string. A moderately sharp inner rim makes for greater playing precision and accuracy of attacks. Too sharp an edge can cause lip discomfort and also interferes with lip flexibility. Too rounded of an inner edge has a negative influence on clean attacks and accurate intonation. However, greater flexibility is possible.

Throat (5): Although a large throat favors a greater volume of tone, there is difficulty in playing pianissimo, especially in the upper register. The greater air pressure required to play the upper register frequently causes these tones to be slightly sharp. A narrow throat opening makes the high notes easier, but can weaken the lower register. The backwash of vibrations interacting with lip tension results in a nasal quality at lower dynamics and a metallic quality at louder dynamics. Some trumpet players extend the throat opening (without increasing the diameter) in order to obtain still greater resistance. The upper register is made easier, but there are negative consequences. The overcompensation required of the embouchure makes low notes slightly sharp and high notes slightly flat.

Backbore (6): The back bore is encased within the shank. Too small a backbore does not permit sufficient energy to reside in the fundamentals. The result is a nasal quality as energy falls in the middle partials. In addition, the upper register has a tendency to be flat. Too large a backbore makes playing precision more difficult. Also, the upper register has a tendency to be sharp.

Remember that the ideal mouthpiece for you cannot be determined without playing it. The choice must be based on your lip, mouth, teeth, and facial characteristics. A cardinal rule is to avoid extremes in each of the constituent parts of a mouthpiece. One must choose a mouthpiece that not only meets the specific needs of the player at the time, but one that also provides the versatility to meet future needs. It is important for us all to realize that choosing a mouthpiece is more of an art than a science.

As an aside, not all mouthpieces are made of metal. Louis Armstrong carved a mouthpiece out of wood when he was a youth. Plastic mouthpieces have some advantages. The softer plastic material has a subtle positive effect on flexibility. However, intonation and clarity of attack is slightly inferior due to the lack of the firmer support from a metal mouthpiece. The greatest advantage of a plastic mouthpiece is the added comfort they provide when performing outdoors during cold weather.

An Exciting New Partnership

Posted by Getzen on November 23rd, 2007

An exciting new era has begun with the creation of a new partnership between the Getzen Company, Inc. and Willson Band Instruments of Switzerland. Following a very productive visit from Willi Kurath in September, Getzen is pleased to announce that it will be the new United States distributor of Willson band instruments. Particularly, Willson’s stellar line of tubas, euphoniums, French horns, and other background brass.

“This is an exciting time for both companies,” commented Tom Getzen. “The partnership of two storied, family owned businesses should be a refreshing change of pace in an industry filled with corporate giants and takeovers these days.”

Beginning October 1, 2007 Willson instruments will be available for sale by Getzen District Managers. Anyone interested are encouraged to contact the Getzen Company at 1-800-366-5584 or via email at information@getzen.com. The full line of Willson instruments can also be seen by visiting www.swissprofi.ch/willson

An Exciting New Partnership
Tom Getzen, right welcomes Willson President Willi Kurath to the Getzen Company in Elkhorn

Getzen and Blackburn: A Perfect Combination

Posted by Getzen on November 23rd, 2007

After working with well known trumpet maker Cliff Blackburn, Getzen is eager to announce an exciting addition to the 940 Eterna piccolo trumpet.  Beginning in late 2007, all 940 Eterna short model piccolos will come standard with a set of Blackburn leadpipes.  This is a response to the overwhelming number of comments we have received from players expressing their belief that using Blackburn leadpipes with the 940 elevates the overall quality and playability of the 940 piccolo.

News from the Road

Posted by Getzen on November 23rd, 2007

Tom Getzen (center) met with Mike Vax (right) following Mike’s performance with the University of Wisconsin Marching Band during their annual Spring Concert. Tom’s grandson Dylan Linhart, trombonist, attended the concert as well and was excited to get to meet Mike after the show.

Tom, Mike and Dylan

Blast from the Past

Posted by Getzen on November 23rd, 2007

Jim Cullum Sr. (clarinet) and Jim Cullum Jr. (cornet) cut a little loose harmony!
Getzen Gazette, December, 1964

Jim Cullum Sr. and Jim Cullum Jr.

Daily Warm Up for Elementary Brass Players

Posted by Getzen on November 22nd, 2007

By Bobby Herriot
(edited and reprinted from September 1972 Getzen Gazette)

1. With the Lips Only

Try to make a buzzing sound by forcing the air through the lips. To do this, put your mouth in the same position needed when you put the trumpet up to your lips. Grip the muscles in the corner of the mouth FIRMLY, but not tight. Now put your tongue behind the TOP teeth and release the air and sound between the lips. Don’t worry about producing any particular note. Just be happy if a sound comes out. Do this approximately 6 times to get the lips loose and vibrating properly.

2. With the Mouthpiece

Take the mouthpiece in your left hand and place it on your lips in the NORMAL playing position. Take a deep breath and play the following exercises. If you need help finding the notes, you may use your trumpet to play the first note to get it into your ear. A piano would be better though. Just be sure to play through all three exercises with just your mouthpiece.

Exercise A
Please note that frequent rests are needed during the initial stages of playing. It is extremely important that these rests are observed during the warm up period and during all practice sessions.
Exercises B and C

3. With the Trumpet

Hold the trumpet in your left hand and place your right hand in playing position. With your three playing fingers perfectly on TOP of the finger buttons and your pinky OUT of the pinky ring repeat exercises A, B, and C.

This warm up should be done every day before attempting to play any other exercises or tunes. If it becomes a habit, which it should, then the rest of your playing will be made much easier resulting in better control over the trumpet.

Basic Concepts In Brass Playing

Posted by Brett Getzen on November 20th, 2007

By Dr. Leonard A. Candelaria
(Professor of Trumpet & Artist in Residence, University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Many players seem unaware of the fundamental concept that must remain foremost in the minds of all wind musicians. The concept is that, no matter the style, tempo, volume, or range of music being played, the sounds we produce on our instruments must always possess a vibrant and rich quality of tone that is the product of blowing air in a smooth, flexible, and continuous manner. The following ideas may be of benefit to most brass players.

Air Control

  1. Always inhale air deeply, calmly and silently.
  2. Be sure to inhale in time with the tempo of the music.
  3. Think to yourself as you do the following; 1, 2, 3…Breathe…Play
  4. Make playing feel as though you were sighing through the horn.
  5. Always blow firmly or gently as needed with positive energy!

Practicing Tips

  1. Always begin each practice session by playing soft, slow, and sustained middle-register tones. Never begin by playing loud and high. Without being comfortable in your ability to play your very best tone on each and every note in the mid-range, you should refrain from playing high, fast, or loud.
  2. It is better to practice for several short sessions (20 -30 minutes at a time) rather than practicing only once daily for an excessively long period. Rest frequently during each session.
  3. While you play each exercise or study, keep one goal in mind the whole time. Do not be satisfied with your playing of the exercise until you achieve your goal on a consistent basis, then pick another goal. Primary goals should always be the relaxed and efficient use of the breath, the production of a rich and resonant tone quality, clear and consistent articulation, and precise fingering.
  4. Other basic musical goals are accuracy of pitch and intonation, precise rhythm, following dynamic indications, consistent phrasing, and control of width and speed of vibrato.
  5. Always strive to make everything you play sound like beautiful music. This even applies to scales, scale drills, arpeggios, lip slurs, and articulation studies.
  6. Repetition is the key to fine playing and effective practice. In order to do the correct things in the correct manner every time we perform, we must do them correctly many times in our practice before they become correct and automatic habits.
  7. Remember, both good and bad playing are a matter of habit!
  8. We play like we practice and we practice like we play. So practice often and practice well!

The Tongue

  1. The air always starts the tone, the tongue just cleans up the front of the note by knocking the “fluff” off the sound.
  2. Use the pointed tip of the tongue to articulate in most cases.
  3. Flick the tongue positively and quickly as you blow and think of saying “Too”. Think of saying “Too” and “Hoo” as though they were two parts of one word: “Too-Hoo” then becomes “T-hoooooo.”
  4. Now say “T-hoo” several times in succession with no spaces between the individual articulations. This is the basic manner most repeated articulations should be played.
  5. Use “Too” for rhythmic styles of articulation and “Doo” for most melodic styles.

Fingering

  1. The fingers of the right hand should be slightly curved with the fleshy pads of the fingertips directly over or touching their respective valve buttons. The thumb should rest under the lead pipe with the tip of the thumb touching the space between the first and second valve casings. Overall finger dexterity will be enhanced if the little finger is free to move without using the finger hook.
  2. The fingers manipulate the valves so that the valves move as quickly as possible from up to down, or down to up. The action of the fingers should be smooth, firm, and positive.
  3. Coordination between the air, the tongue, the fingers, the lips, and the tempo/rhythm is the primary concern.
  4. Practice all difficult technical passages slowly and carefully many, many, many times before attempting to play at a faster tempo. Use a metronome to ensure accurate rhythm.
  5. In fast passages, think of “banging” the valves down with good rhythm to clean up the execution.

The Embouchure

  1. The lips must always be together and touching before the tone starts.
  2. Firm the corners of the mouth by making “dimples” or by “krinkling” the corners of the mouth.
  3. Buzzing the lips alone without the mouthpiece is commonly termed “free buzzing.” One or two minutes of “free buzzing” is an excellent way to begin each practice session. With the center of the lips firm (not tight or rigid) and lightly touching, blow firmly and steadily as you silently say the word “POO”. With a little practice, the lips should vibrate or “buzz” freely. You should be able to sustain the vibration for a few seconds. The vibration that results could sound like “P-uzz”. Whether the resultant pitch is high or low is less important than producing and sustaining a free and vibrant “buzz”. Later, superimpose the consonant sound of the letter “T” over the “P”, changing “POO” to “TOO”. Now use “TOO” to start tones.
  4. To buzz on the mouthpiece follow the same approach as outlined above, but do these things on the mouthpiece alone. You may have to blow more firmly with the mouthpiece than you did with the lips alone. Keep the corners of your mouth firm and the center of your lips (inside the cup of the mouthpiece where the sound is made) should be relaxed but touching.
  5. Learn to sustain high and low sounds on the mouthpiece as well as slurring from low to high and back down. Sustain the mouthpiece tone by sustaining the movement of the wind (the blowing of air). Also practice articulating connected repeated tones without creating space between the notes.
  6. The sound quality of the mouthpiece tone is important. It must be free blowing and vibrant with lots of ‘buzz” in the sound. Use lots of air and play at mezzo forte or forte.
  7. Practicing problematic passages on the mouthpiece, regardless of their technical nature or musical style, is often the fastest way to improve the playing of the same passage on the horn.
  8. An effective approach is to play a passage, buzz it, and play it again.

Something Great Gets Even Better

Posted by Getzen on May 8th, 2007

Griego CS5
Click image for larger view

Since their introduction, Getzen Custom Series trombones have led the industry in performance, quality, and unmatched value. With such overwhelming acceptance and outstanding designs, it is tough to find ways to improve each model. One can only take perfection so far. Rather than scratching their heads in a vain search for improvements, Getzen decided to elevate the overall package. To achieve this goal, Getzen has partnered with Christan Griego, Director of Research & Development for Edwards Instrument Company. Both are eager to announce the exciting addition of custom Griego Mouthpieces to the full line up of Getzen Custom Series trombones.

Griego Mouthpieces is a family owned company founded in 2001 by Christan Griego. A lifetime of playing trombone and a decade with Edwards has allowed Christan to study under and work with some of the world’s finest players. In that time, he realized that many players were facing the same problems he was. Problems that weren’t being solved by practice alone. After some research, Christan found that the true cause for many trombone players’ headaches were shortcomings in the design and manufacturing techniques of many mouthpiece makers. His experience allowed Christan to gain a unique insight into the wants and needs of players from all corners of the world. He took that knowledge and translated it into a superior mouthpiece design that is conceived and manufactured by/for trombone players. Seeing this success led Getzen to enlist Christan to utilize his skill and experience in designing a mouthpiece tailor made for the Getzen Custom Series trombones. After months of research and testing, that mouthpiece is here.

Beginning in 2007, all newly ordered Custom Series 3508 Jazz, 3047 Tenor, and 3062 Bass trombones will come standard with a Griego mouthpiece. Years of experience with the Custom Series line have enabled Christan to create a mouthpiece specifically designed for each of the three trombone models. Each of the mouthpieces are precisely machined and expertly finished creating the perfect compliment to the unparalleled Custom Series trombone line.

Best of all, the mouthpieces are included with the new trombones at no cost. Mouthpieces can also be added to existing orders for a nominal charge. Additionally, each can be purchased separately from local Getzen dealers. Not only will it improve the performance of the trombones, but also add an outstanding value to the overall package. While others in the industry are offering only “throw away” mouthpieces, Getzen is including a premium mouthpiece with a $130 retail value. Increased performance and overall value; the great does indeed get better!

For more information on Getzen trombones visit www.Getzen.com/trombone. To learn more about Griego Mouthpieces visit www.griegomouthpieces.com.

Featured Custom Series Dealer

Posted by Getzen on May 8th, 2007

R.E.W. Music
R.E.W. Music

R.E.W. Music is family owned and has been serving the greater Kansas City area for more than 20 years. Servicing all musicians from student to professional with the same level of service is their number one priority.

R.E.W. carries the full line of Custom Series instruments including an inventory of 3001 Artist Model trumpets. For store locations and contact information visit www.rewbandorch.com.

From the Mailbag

Posted by Getzen on May 8th, 2007

Hello Getzen,

I go to Wauwatosa East High School and our band has just returned from a trip to England. Our Jazz Ensemble and two concert bands performed at the Gala concerts for the London New Year’s Day Parade. We also marched in the parade and the Jazz Ensemble performed during an awards reception.

Two members of the band and myself play on Getzen 3051 Custom trumpets. The included picture is of the three of us in uniform on the Thames River in front of the MI6 building. As a proud Getzen customer (I also own a Custom cornet) I just wanted to let you know that your horns are leading the pack in our band. My Custom 3051 works excellently, regardless of if I am playing principle trumpet of our top concert band, lead trumpet in our jazz ensemble, or screaming over the top when marching on the street.

Thanks for such a rock solid horn. Keep up the phenomenal work!!

Dave Baker,
Wauwatosa, WI

Zach Ovanin, Dave Baker, and Jared Schulz
Zach Ovanin (left), Dave Baker (center), and Jared Schulz (right) proudly pose in their Wauwatosa East High School Marching Band uniforms in London, England. All three play 3051 Custom Series Bb trumpets in silver plate.