From the Mailbag: Big Horn, Big Mouthpiece?

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A question came in about mouthpieces, as in should you use a big mouthpiece on a big horn and a small mouthpiece on a small horn?

If you go way back to Farkas and Chambers in the 50s this was a pretty true statement for players in the United States. Their individual setups were quite different, Farkas on a Geyer with a FARKAS MODEL mouthpiece and Chambers on a Conn 8D with a big Giardinelli mouthpiece such as the C-1. Students and pros in their individual spheres of influence followed these same general setups, but I don’t think the generalization is holding up today. And even back then it probably did not hold up perfectly. For example, is a C-10 a big mouthpiece? In terms of internal dimensions it is closer to the Farkas mouthpiece than a C-1 really.

The market as I perceive it of late has somewhat redefined what large and small mouthpieces are. A mouthpiece that might traditionally be considered “small” in terms of cup depth and bore but made with a wide inner diameter feels large to the player. This is the direction that many players seem to be going, along with using in general a cup shape and depth that promotes easy, efficient playing.

Shallower cups tend to feel more efficient and have more “ring” to the sound. A final point to note in relation to that is that for listeners such as conductors especially I am fairly sure that all things equal they will tend to have their ear drawn to players who have a slightly brighter, more ringing sound. A traditional, very deep large bore mouthpiece on a very large horn in the hands of the wrong player can sound tubby and unfocused instead of big and dark. It is a big topic to consider carefully for sure.

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In the end if you are in doubt choose the mouthpiece that plays better and has a bit more color in the tone, it will be the best overall choice.

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