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Mouthpiece Madness

This article was sent in from our Austin Winds Artist Ormide Armstrong. Like many of us, Mr. Armstrong has gone through the trials of "the search for the Holy Mouthpiece" and come out alive and well! I believe much of the frustration for most individuals stems from the fact that there is no universal sizing system for mouthpieces and therefore, an initial lack of understanding of sizing and what does what.

Our sizing is simple and I wish all manufacturers would use some variation of it - we use the actual dimensions for our numbering system (imagine that!). The number represents the diameter in inches and the letter represents the depth (S-Shallow, M-Medium, D-Deep). So a 660MD cup is a .660 inch diameter with a Medium Deep cup. Stay tuned for more in depth discussions on mouthpiece mechanics. -Doug Mains

Growing up through grade school, I started off with the traditional mouthpiece set up. Bach 7c as a beginner in the 6th-8th grade. In the 9th grade, as my playing improved, my high school band director moved me to a Bach 5c. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the change, as I knew nothing about mouthpieces at that age, just pretty much just doing what I was told by the person who was most influential in my musical growth. In college, I was introduced to the 5c Megatone. I was told that the extra metal on the mouthpiece would help with a darker tone. Being a classical player at the time, playing on a Bach strad, that seemed to work for me.

But then, mouthpiece madness began! Many of my trumpet friends had bus loads of mouthpieces and swore by them. I was then introduced to my first two piece mouthpiece system of a popular maker. All these shiny new toys to play with to make me a “better player.” Essentially, having bought my own set of "Brand A" mouthpieces, I realized having all those choices was just a short cut to what I wanted to accomplish as a trumpet player. A hodgepodge of mouthpieces wasn't going to give me the tone, articulation, consistency, and range throughout the horn. By this time I played lead trumpet in the ETSU Jazz band, and my sound was all over the place! Of course hearing from my friends, “the more shallow the mouthpiece, the higher you can play!” was music to my ears. As I tried the different shallow depths, I remember missing A LOT, and not being able to play well below 3rd space C. Pitch was bad, notes were shaky. So nothing was really good, except I could, “play high notes with ease.” At that time I was focusing on lead trumpet, and I felt I needed more consistency. I pawned off my collection to another trumpet player and tried a Schilke 12a4a or something. I just remember the rim being super flat and it having a super shallow cup. Another fail. I transferred to the University of Houston to play lead in the Jazz Orchestra. Little did i know I was in for a big shock. My private lesson teacher decided to change my embouchure and put me back on a bach 5c. Needless to say, my jazz professor was HIGHLY upset! So there I was, a beginner playing lead trumpet, and leading and 8 piece R&B group, Bad Shoes. I had no choice but to practice my tail off so I could maintain my position in the Jazz Orchestra and keep playing professionally well. The transition was rough at first and very discouraging, but I kept at it. As the new embouchure started working out, I moved to a Megatone 1c. And yes, I still played lead trumpet. At the time, I was still playing classical music and I needed a mouthpiece I felt I could be proficient in both since the other brand fiasco did not work for me.

My consistency began as a professional when I went back to the Bach Megatone 3c. I wasn’t playing lead anymore, but that worked best for my jazz and classical playing. When I started playing on an Austin Winds Trumpet, I stayed with the 3c, until I wanted more options. I wasn’t playing and practicing as much as I was in college, so I had to find a way to be consistent and get the sound and articulation I wanted. So I tried my luck at the mouthpiece roulette again, but this time with the Austin Winds brands. This time I didn’t feel overwhelmed and found the most suitable mouthpiece for me.

Now that I play with the Boss Street Brass Band, I play on an Austin Winds 640S-27 cup and a 6-27 backbore along with my AW Concert 460LT Bb horn. Fits me just fine! Perfect for my lead playing, perfect when I play in a classical setting and perfect in the sense of how I want my lips to feel, and air flow to stream. I am glad to say that the madness is over for me!

Ormide Armstrong - Austin, TX Band Leader - Boss Street Band

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