Werner Chr. Schmidt
Mouthpieces & Brass instrument making

Worth knowing

sketch of a mouthpiece A mouthpiece consists of the following parts. A good mouthpiece must have all these elements in the correct proportions.

Playing a brass instrument brings nature and technology into direct contact. As a result, there is an enormous variety in mouthpiece dimensions. Each is determined by specific factors, such as the shape of the lips and the jaw, airflow characteristics and the breathing techniques of the individual player.

 

The rim

Rim shapes:

  • flat rim = rim with slightly chamfered edges
  • arched rim = rim with the edges rounded off
  • round rim = rim with round face

The proper edge contour of a mouthpiece is determined by the lips and the position of the jaw. As a rule, a musician with strong lips can handle a narrow rim with the edges only slightly chamfered. A wider rim with rounded edges is more appropriate for a musician with narrow lips.

A wide, massive rim results in good endurance, but little sensitivity and tends to make the sound hollow. A narrower rim produces greater sensitivity and more precision, but reduces endurance - particularly for players who practise high-pressure blowing.

Good rounding on the inside edge of the rim makes it easier to produce soft slurs but leads to imprecise staccatos and attacks. A sharp inside edge will generally ease clear attacks but will make for abrupt slurs that are difficult to soften.

 

mouthpiece baroque tromboneThe bore

A large-bore mouthpiece makes it possible to produce more volume and it raises the high and low registers. If the bore is too large, however, the notes begin to flutter and become thin.

A smaller bore usually produces a purer and more concentrated, but weaker tone; it increases the resistance and shortens the entire register. The result is that high notes get too low and low notes get too high (especially C sharp and D). A mouthpiece with a cylindrical bore about 5 to 10 mm (2"-3.9") long is more likely to maintain the pitch and steadiness of the notes than one with only a taper.

 

The shank backbore

If the backbore is too small, then the high register is generally too low.

If the backbore is too large, then the mouthpiece does not have sufficient resistance (produce sufficient back-pressure) and this has a negative influence on endurance.

A more steeply tapered backbore makes it easier to produce high notes (typical of jazz trumpets), but smothers tone and volume. The WCS Schmidt Special Backbore, which widens toward the outside, increases volume and range.

Caution: Going too far results in coarse, fluttering notes whose pitch tends to become inaccurate.

 

The cup

Whether for beginners, soloists or advanced students, whether in a large orchestra or a big band, I recommend the largest cup diameter possible, and a large cup depth. You will not squeeze out any high notes with a large mouthpiece and it will allow a proper embouchure to be formed. As a rule, those who begin with a large mouthpiece make pleasant tones and have a good high register.

Mouthpieces for tubaA big mouthpiece is more comfortable to play and makes good timbre possible. A mouthpiece with a deep, large?diameter cup has decisive advantages. The player is in a position to produce natural, compact and uniform high, medium and low registers. In addition, flexibility and lip control will consistently improve.

The cup forms of a trumpet mouthpiece, for example, are as follows:

  • Bulgy cup = apple shaped
  • Slim cup = pear shaped
  • Shallow cup = about 11 - 12 mm deep
  • Medium-depth cup = about 13 - 14 mm deep
  • Deep cup = about 15 - 16 mm deep Tiefe
  • Narrow cup = about 15 - 16 mm wide
  • Medium-width cup = 16 - 17 mm wide
  • Wide cup = over 17,5 mm and wider

 

The cup depth

Mouthpieces with a large cup diameter or a deep cup lower the fundamental tuning of an instrument, just as a mouthpiece with a flat cup raises it. A mouthpiece with a large cup diameter increases the volume, while a deeper cup gives the tone a dark quality. A flat cup results in a harder, brighter tone, but a deep cup makes it easier to produce high notes.

The proper depth for a mouthpiece depends on the tuning, length and the widthto?length ratio of the instrument. A flatter mouthpiece is used for a piccolo trumpet than for a C trumpet. Instruments in A and B flat require a deeper cup, and for the lower-still E-flat trumpet and horn, an even deeper cup is recommended.

Do not use a trumpet mouthpiece with a flugelhorn, as it changes the fundamental pitch of the instrument, making it too low. That instrument is best served by a mouthpiece with a deep cup, a large bore and a large backbore.

 

The shank

The shank of a mouthpiece must be so shaped that it makes an airtight seal with the mouthpipe of the instrument. The mouthpiece must also be a specified distance from the instrument and should penetrate just the right amount into the mouthpipe. Even if the instrument has too low a basic pitch, it is not a good idea to modify the mouthpiece and shove it further into the instrument. The correct location to correct the tuning is at the slide or at the end of the mouthpipe.

 

The plating

Normally, Original Schmidt Mouthpieces are silver plated. For musicians who are allergic to silver, the mouthpieces can be gold plated. If that is not sufficient, then a threaded mouthpiece with a thread?on top made of Plexiglas or other plastic can be made.

 

Threaded mouthpieces and custom fabrication

A musician who must switch to another instrument with a different shank size, or who must change shanks quickly, is best served by a threaded mouthpiece. Of all the mouthpieces which I manufacture, more than half have a removable, threaded top. With these mouthpieces, the musician can combine any rim with different mouthpieces. Certain combinations can be musically very advantageous.

As a matter of principle, all mouthpieces which I offer in my catalogue can be made with detachable, threaded tops. In addition, you can order custom mouthpieces, which I will fabricate according to your specifications, and they too can be made with threaded tops. Such custom orders are usually designed to correct special problems:

  • Problems involving breathing, endurance, flexibility, etc. Custom mouthpieces can allow you to improve the quality of your playing.
  • You wish to change the lower portion of the mouthpiece to move to another instrument or to obtain a different tone quality.
  • Physical problems caused by differences in the teeth, lower jaw, positioning or embouchure can be taken into account.

Almost all the special problems which I have heard about fall into these classes. Usually custom mouthpieces involve unusual combinations of rim and cup, keeping within reasonable ranges, but with non-standard cup, bore, backbore or shank. Such a mouthpiece is not inexpensive, but it represents money well spent.

 

Mouthpieces for trumpets