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Take The Lead: Finding the right lead trumpet mouthpiece

By Mary Galime

While there is no ‘Excalibur mouthpiece’ for all lead trumpet players, for the individual who finds the mouthpiece that perfectly matches their horn and supports their unique needs, it might as well be the Excalibur knighting the new King Arthur of high notes. Finding the right mouthpiece is an easier task than you might think. What keeps many from finding the ultimate piece is an incomplete list of standards.

Ideally, your lead mouthpiece should support you in the higher registers of your playing so you don’t fatigue quickly or injure yourself. The components we scrutinize in a mouthpiece are generally searched for in the rim (comfort), cup depth/contour (response), throat (resistance), and backbore (projection). When we find the right components, we test for how high we can play, and call it a day.

But, how do you sound? You can discover how well you’ve kept this standard by taking this quick test: How many descriptive words can you use to describe your sound on your lead piece? I recently asked someone what the flavor of a popular energy drink was, and after thinking about it for a moment they said, “red”. It’s an adjective, but not one that would drive me to desire trying that drink. Similarly, the best way many players can describe their sound on their lead mouthpiece is “high”. Your sound should be a masterpiece in every register, and your “Excalibur” will sound more than “high”.

Time and time again I have worked with lead players who pull out their custom tailored mouthpieces and play ungodly high notes, saying “I can play really high on this one”. They compare with a Denis Wick and suddenly their vocabulary changes from “high” to “fat, rich, open, huge, round, sparkly." They are getting the same range, but the beautiful sound has become the dominant discussion again, as it always should. So how would you describe your Lead sound? Are you really wielding your Excalibur?

The Denis Wick lead mouthpieces offer a cushioned rim and shallow cup to aid in the higher register, with a V-type backbore which aids in projection. Like all the Denis Wick mouthpieces, each size option is individually created so that each component uniquely complements its correlating components, offering tuning and resonance that is unparalleled. Among the most popular lead options are the Classic 4E, 4X, 5E, 5X, and HeavyTop 4X. While these are the most popular for lead playing there are many additional options that Denis Wick has created to make you performance ready in every situation.

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