What influences the timbre of the trumpet the most?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Kujo20, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Of all the horns I have ever played and have now, the one single thing that influences and changes the sound immediately and most dramatically for me is the mouthpiece. The other aspects of the horn I mostly perceive in terms of response and playing "feel" more than the actual tone.

    That is not to say that there might not be some subtle differences, but the mouthpiece is the variable that most noticeably and immediately changes the tone on the same horn, or when playing different horns.

    My experience...
  2. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    This was the original question. I suppose you could loosely call the mouthpiece a "part" of a trumpet, but I believe the point of the post was strictly a trumpet hardware design question. Stating a favorite forum reply, "it's the player", isn't the answer to the question asked. And, if one decides to deny the influence of bell and mouthpipe shape on timbre, then it follows that the mouthpiece characteristics don't matter either.

    How about some common sense here? I'm sure there are many accomplished players who can overcome the tonal tendencies of any given trumpet (or mouthpiece), but that shouldn't be the point of this discussion. Granted, a good tone comes from practice, and a horn alone won't do it for you. Sure, a lousy player will sound lousy on the best trumpet, and a great player can sound great on a crummy one. Good players can play a naturally bright horn with a richer tone if they try, but if it's played "straight", without trying to color the tone, the characteristics of that horn will come through. If the question concerned what characteristics in an engine favored torque over horsepower, and the converse, would we be considering how proficient the driver of said vehicle is? Of course not - the hp and torque are designed into the hardware...whether the driver can utilize them well is irrelevant.

    There are some trumpets that tend to sound bright, some that tend to sound dark (for lack of a better word), and many in between. Same with mouthpieces. It's all relative to the player, but the tendencies of the design are there for everyone. Picking the right combination of trumpet and mouthpiece to obtain the sound concept you want (given your natural tone tendency) is a big step in eliminating one concern of playing the instrument.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  3. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    Well said!:play::thumbsup:

    I especially like the line .... "It's all relative to the player, but the tendencies of the design are there for everyone." That's a perfect way to put it IMO.

  4. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    The discussion has been more concentrated to the fixed physics of the horn. Does anyone know of demonstrations or from personal experience the ability of just opening up the embrasure and this effect on the darkness of the sound? I was challenged by my quintet leader on a particular tune to make my Olds Recording sound darker. I told him I would just change to the flugelhorn, but he would not let me make the change. So I thought if I would “artificially” open up the bore of the horn (not physically possible of course) by relaxing and opening the central portion of my embrasure. I was totally amazed to notice how much darker the sound became. My band mates were even more amazed with the sound to the point of telling me to get rid of the flugelhorn. I told them I would do this when the pianist playing the baby grand could make his instrument sound like a Hammond B-3. Needless to say, I still am playing the flugelhorn.
    I have been using this technique more often with nice accents to my lines. Has anyone else experienced this or can relate any discussion describing changing the embrasure on tone?
  5. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Yes, it certainly can be done.

    It tends to make me play flat and get tired, but yes, you can get a flugel sound if you
    try hard enough (practice).
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    IF the player has decent breath support and well practiced chops, the REAL sound of the horn appears. This is because the trumpet is a resonant object when played and when solid embouchures and breath support really get the instrument to uniquely "ring", the differences become obvious.

    This is just the opposite of the usual opinion that the finest players can play garden hoses. With their chops, that will sound like, well, a garden hose!

    Players with weak chops and support, just sound weak regardless of the hardware. So my point is that the hardware DOES make a difference - when you have paid your dues.
  7. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    There is some physics involved in matching the right mouth piece to the right horn. An experience convinced me of this. I was taking lessons when I lived in NYC with Claudio Roditi, and during one of our sessions, he was showing me a trumpet he just bought for $75 at a street fair. He asked me to play it. I did, and replied, Claudio, it sounds like a $75 trumpet. He then exchanged mouth pieces and gave it back to me (same performer). The horn displayed a most rich sounding and full tone. The lesson ended by taking a cab to Jerome Callet’s studio, were he hand lathed a mouth piece for my Olds Recording. I never had to use a sound system again in the small clubs that I played while in NYC. So I am convinced that merging the right mouth piece to the horn is essential to the sound.
  8. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    I agree. I've had the same experiences with horns that play badly with one mouthpiece and great with another.
  9. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    For those wondering about the affect of bracing -I had the opportunity to play on a Courtois a year or so ago. ( For us old guys), it was one strange and modern looking horn. It had several braces that were adjustable -you could slide them to whatever position you wanted. Placement definately made a difference in the sound. For anyone ever wondering about such effect, a good way to see it is with this horn. By the way, it is my understanding that the horn was built to essentially stop vibration of the metal so the sound would project. Took me a while to get used to it. Hated it at first -then got more used to it (sound someing out bell, not back at me).

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