Trumpet-mouthpiece combination and intonation

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by redintheface, Nov 6, 2018 at 11:44 AM.

  1. redintheface

    redintheface Piano User

    Nov 8, 2010
    Bath, UK
    Hi guys,

    I have been wondering about this a bit. The trumpet/mouthpiece combination is just an analogue amplifier for our body producing a vibration. I understand that the player does the work of creating a vibration (for the moment let's leave out whether that vibration comes independently of the mouthpiece, or in conjunction with it, cf. Vizutti), and the trumpet/mouthpiece "shapes" that vibration into a note that fills the auditorium.

    It is known that the shape of the mouthpiece, and the shape of the trumpet modify to some extent, the note being produced, hence all the talk about what gear to have for which purpose.

    So my question arises more to do with intonation:

    I noticed a few years ago that if you put a trombone mouthpiece in a trumpet, while you might be able to play low C in tune, everything else goes out of tune. It won't do this when put into a trombone - all the partials are correct. This is obviously an extreme example, but illustrates my point: the size and shape of the mouthpiece seems to affect the tuning of the instrument.

    Is it the case that for certain makes/models/styles of trumpet build, a different size/shape mouthpiece may be preferable in order to keep the tuning as naturally optimum as can be?

    Does anyone have any experience with this? (Specific examples?)
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Actually, there is no amplifier. The buzz starts a resonance in the instrument that controls the lip sympathetically. Part of the mouthpieces function is also to adjust the amount of that resonance to the lip. The second function of the cup depth is to control the distribution of overtones. Intonation is affected by the mouthpiece construction as is the efficiency of the resonant system.

    I do not believe that we can make any generalizations about the geometry of the mouthpiece and trumpet as the biggest variable is the player. Most players use excessive tension to muscle the resonant system. If we compensate for the body, all bets are off about the rest.

    Looking back however, I found Schilke mouthpieces to generally be easier to play than Bach for instance and later on, Monette to be easier than Schilke. I now use Monette mouthpieces for everything except my piccolo and baroque/natural trumpets. The flugel and cornet mouthpieces are deep vee and all the rest are deep cup, large diameter. Low F, Bb, C, D, Eb, G trumpets all get the 1-1 size and for commercial playing B6 size. I do not need different geometries to suit the instruments. Simply relaxing is enough.
    trickg and redintheface like this.
  3. Brekelefuw

    Brekelefuw Fortissimo User

    Mar 21, 2006
    I put together a new prototype for a design I'm working on, and when I played it with my normal mouthpiece, a Wedge b6ls it played in tune, but when I tested it with a 1.5c megatone, the pitch dropped a full 1/4 tone.
    I've never had that happen in a trumpet before. I don't really know for sure why it happened, although I have some guesses.
    redintheface likes this.
  4. scottfsmith

    scottfsmith Piano User

    Jul 2, 2014
    I have a circa 1900 Courtois trumpet which is horribly flat below the staff with a normal mouthpiece. The only way to get it to play in tune is with an old mouthpiece with a very narrow backbore. This trumpet is from the early days of the "modern style" trumpet and appears to be some sort of experimental design -- I have several other early Courtois horns and they play reasonably in-tune with any mouthpiece.

    These days trumpets are for the most part extremely similar, so mouthpiece-horn is more swappable. That was not always the case, in the 19th century you generally would buy the horn-mouthpiece as a combo and horns of that era can sound really bad with the wrong mouthpiece.
    redintheface likes this.
  5. Dennis78

    Dennis78 Fortissimo User

    Feb 1, 2015
    I have a 40’s Blessing Artist cornet that played like crap till I got a period correct Blessing mouthpiece.
    The horn sounds beautiful and slots great now.
    Problem is I have other horns I like better
    redintheface likes this.
  6. Bflatman

    Bflatman Forte User

    Nov 27, 2008
    Manchester, England
    I am no acoustic engineer but I feel I can make a best guess.

    I have noticed that the more mass in a mouthpiece the more lower tones the mouthpiece emphasises than a lighter weight similar size mouthpiece does, I feel that the greater weight brings the natural resonant frequency of the mouthpiece down.

    Additionally around 1850 Hermann von Hermhotz did some work on resonation and resonators. He established that a volume of air in a chamber naturally resonates at a resonant frequency. This is the principle that drives a seashell to mislead us into thinking we hear the sound of the ocean when held to our ears.

    The two resonances then - the physical resonant frequency of the mouthpiece, and the resonant frequency of the air contained in it, serve to modify and either augment or diminish the vibration of the lip reed as we buzz.

    I feel that this probably goes some way to explain what you observe brekelefuw although it is a only a best guess.

    In other words two mouthpieces that appear to be similar may sound completely different when inserted into an instrument and the resonance may very well affect the tones generated by virtue of feeding this resonance directly back to the lips and thereby controlling and modifying the lip reed vibration as rowuk has suggested.

    I could be up the creek with this guess but it seems a logical explanation.

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