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View Full Version : Is it a good idea to try to play on a smaller mouthpiece?



DrDave
08-07-2011, 09:56 PM
Do good things come in small packages? People often ask me if a smaller or shallower mouthpiece can improve range and endurance. I have made a number of posts recently on my own blog and some other forums, and I thought this question it might be of interest to the folks here as well. There are 3 or four sections to this, so I will add them in installments hoping to not bore people with a long post and promote some discussion.

Some people insist that size does matter, and that a smaller mouthpiece is better for a number of reasons, including a better upper register. Then there are those who insist that this is not the case, usually accompanied by an admonition to practice more. As with many situations where opinions are polarized I think the truth lies somewhere in between. In my experience the answer is a clear and definitive “it depends”.

I think the polarized views result from individuals relying on the opinions of others whom they respect, or on their own valid experiences in trying a smaller mouthpiece. However, neither of these are the best basis for forming an opinion on such a complex question. I also have my own take on the issue, but it is not based on my own experience in down sizing, although I have recently done so (but more on that later). My opinion is based on personal observations and detailed interactions with thousands of players whom I have fitted for a Wedge mouthpiece over the last few years. Hundreds of these were done in person at shows such as the ITG, TMEA, Midwest Clinic, Chicago Brass Festival, and numerous master classes and clinics. Many more were done by working with players over weeks and months by phone and email while dialing in a new mouthpiece.

Although there are exceptions, the vast majority of players who tried a mouthpiece slightly smaller than their usual reported an increase in the ease of the upper register. There is a rule of diminishing returns whereby a mouthpiece can be too small, but in practical terms, many players can gain some advantage in range and endurance by downsizing. We will talk about how to know when a mouthpiece is too small later. We will also explore what trade offs are involved.

In most cases in which the player stayed with the new smaller mouthpiece the improved upper register, which usually correlates to better endurance, persisted despite the so called “honeymoon period”. In many cases the players continued to use a larger mouthpiece for other types of playing and did not report any change in range or endurance on their original gear, so the change must be a result of the smaller equipment.

I know there will be protests that this is not true, and that a player’s range is determined by good practice habits, technique, natural ability, and a variety of other factors other than the mouthpiece. I have no doubt that these factors all play an important role. However, I cannot deny what I see and hear and what players ranging from amateurs to some of the best players in the world consistently tell me. Size matters.

Bluesy
12-14-2014, 08:48 PM
I think smaller mouthpieces are fine. They have an easier blow, higher registers are easier, there is less cracking, and the tone is more controllable.
I play the equivalent of a 10 and a half. For some reason, a lot of players think they are cheating or not being "fair" if they make things easy for themselves, and choose instead to suffer with a mouthpiece that is too large. Many top professionals play on the equivalent of a Bach 10 and a half. Yet the self-immolation persists among inexperienced players.
If they only knew how much easier and more successful their playing would be with a small-diameter mouthpiece!

B/