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Special Considerations for Trumpeters (Mutes, Mouthpieces, Multiple Tonguing)

1. Mutes

I recommend the Yamaha Copper Bottom straight mute as a good all-purpose mute-not too bright or “metal” sounding and not too subdued and covered. For cup mutes, I recommend Humes and Berg or Denis Wick. Humes and Berg cup mutes are perhaps more appropriate for jazz, Denis Wick for classical. Mutes will typically make someone play sharp. Students should determine if this is true for them, with each mute, and, time permitting, adjust the tuning slide during rests accordingly. If time does not permit, one must use the slides or lip the notes in tune. Mutes tend to have a greater affect on the intonation of notes already naturally out-of-tune on the trumpet.

2. Mouthpieces

When first starting on trumpet, students should start with a Bach 7C and should stay on this mouthpiece until they are able to play above the staff with a good sound and with ease. A student who cannot produce a good sound and strains to play should not switch mouthpieces from a 7C. Once a student is ready to move from a 7C, move him/her to a 3C. If the student has progressed particularly slowly towards being ready to move from a 7C, move him/her to a 5C first. The 5C and 3C are bigger than the 7C. Therefore, a bigger and fuller sound will be possible. At first, the student’s range and endurance may suffer. But he/she will regain these skills, given time. He/she will have to use more air on the larger mouthpieces.

If a student produces an excellent sound and can play up to a high C with ease on 3C, he/she may be ready for something different. However, a professional trumpet player and teacher should be the one to make this decision at this point.

Mouthpieces should not be played with. This is dangerous and can cause playing problems. Unfortunately, there is the idea out there, mostly among high school students, that a different mouthpiece can make you play higher, or better, or can solve your playing problems. Mouthpieces do not solve playing problems! For some advanced players, a different mouthpiece may help slightly with a particular issue. It is true that a mouthpiece can help one play higher, but only advanced trumpet players should pursue this, and only if they are focusing on jazz/commercial playing. For those focusing on classical playing, sound should be the priority in combination with ease in the upper register. Students need to develop the strength to play in the upper register, not switch mouthpieces to do so. Using mouthpieces to play high will undoubtedly result in a poor sound and poor playing technique.

Mouthpiece Rule #1: Students should not be switching mouthpieces without guidance and support from the band director or private instructor.

Mouthpiece Rule #2: Students should certainly not be switching mouthpieces often; they should be playing on onemouthpiece. For the advanced player, spending some time exploring some different options can be helpful, but this should be done in a controlled manner. The student should sit down with 3-4 different mouthpieces, recommended by a professional, and try each one to see what is easier and what is harder, what produces a better sound or a worse sound (they should have another pair of trusted ears give feedback). This should take maybe an hour; a second similar session with the same mouthpieces would be fine if more information or time is needed. After this, the student should either return to the previous mouthpiece, or select a new one and play on that only. Students should not be going back and forth between mouthpieces!

Only a very advanced high school player can have one mouthpiece for “legit” playing and one for commercial/lead playing, but only under the guidance of an experienced professional.

3. Multiple tonguing

Multiple tonguing is executed by using a “ka” articulation along with a traditional “ta” articulation. Double tonguing is ta-ka-ta-ka, triple tonguing is ta-ta-ka or ta-ka-ta (either is fine; the student should do whatever is more comfortable for him/her, but should select one quickly and only use this method). Or, the syllables “da” and “ga” can be used. It is important that students who are multiple tonguing practice keeping the notes long and sustained, use lots of air to do the work, and keep the tongue relaxed and close to the teeth, moving minimally and using minimal surface area.

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