They say to start a blog, you don’t need to be good at writing - well I seem to be on the right track from the start! Add to that my lack of knowledge of computers, and we are off to a flyer. Nonetheless, here we go!
Welcome to my first blog entry here at the NZ Brass Foundation. As a trustee of the foundation, I am really excited to be posting these articles and covering many topics relating to music and specifically brass playing.
I’ll be posting a new blog every two weeks on a range of different topics, and would really like to hear from you about any issues you are having and would like help with. It could be any problem – air, buzzing, practicing, nerves, study etc. Just let me know and I will do my best to answer or get someone who can. I will also be calling in a few favours from time to time to get some different perspectives from other brass players, so if there’s anyone you would particularly like to hear from, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to track them down!
To get things going, I thought I might broach a subject today that is pretty close to many players around the country - mouthpieces. Travelling the country, I am amazed how many brass players play with the mouthpiece the instrument came with – that’s like ordering a suit online without giving your measurements, and then just wearing it even though it probably doesn’t fit!
There are many parts of the puzzle to being a strong brass player, and one of the most important is getting a mouthpiece that is absolutely perfect for you, otherwise it’s like running in shoes that don’t fit - it will give you problems. But how do we know what is ‘best’ for us?
Well, first up it’s about knowing what is out there. Do some research on the internet, you might find a player who uses a certain type of mouthpiece that they think is great and that’s a good start. I can also recommend heading to our ‘Ask a Pro’ page and asking some of these great musicians what they suggest - http://www.nzbrassfoundation.org.nz/ask-a-pro/
It’s really important to get a mouthpiece that is the right sized cup and rim - often this can mean playing around with different depths and sizes. Go too small, and you might have a great upper register, but your sound will suffer, as will your lower register. Go too big and you will be struggling to get through band practice! The key thing to remember is that a mouthpiece can really help you get the sound and range you want, but you need to try lots of different brands to find one that sits right with you.
Also, know how the mouthpiece is made up - here is a diagram of a standard trumpet mouthpiece:
A quick squizz on the Dillons Music site brings up a list of trumpet mouthpieces, this is just one list of the mouthpieces they are selling:
Bach/Bob Reeves/Curry/Denis Wick/Flex/GR/Griego/Hammond/Joseph Klier/K&G/King/Laskey/Marcinkiewicz/Monette/Najoom/Parduba/Patrick/pTrumpet/Purviance/Roger Ingram/Shilke/Shires/Stork/System Blue/Warburton/Wedge/Yamaha....
Wow! And that’s just a start.
You are probably not going to get the perfect one straight away, it’s a lifelong quest to find that mouthpiece holy grail. What is the right rim/cup combination? What lacquer? 1 piece or 2 piece? What brand? But don’t give up before you have started! Get out there and do some research, ask around, and borrow off people until you find something you like.
Each brand of mouthpiece has a different feel about it, and may or may not suit you. Some have a sharp rim, some flat, different shaped cups etc. The key is finding the one that suits your embouchure, and feels natural. Talk to your teacher or brass playing friends about what they use, and why they love it. The most important thing to do is research!
Mouthpieces are like a good pair of shoes - get the right one and it will last you for years and feel fantastic, the wrong one will give you back pain and cause you problems.
Please comment on any questions you have or topics you would like covered on this blog. Look forward to hearing from you.