PORTFOLIO

Throughout the lock-down, I have been trying to learn new skills. Alongside volunteering at a charity shop once a week, cycling for JustEat, and trying to learn various languages (virtue-signal alarm ringing loud and clear) one particular area that took my interest into the early hours of most week nights was MAKING MOUTHPIECES (trumpet player locked inside for months?? Never...)

 

Initially this started as a curiosity project when I saw the measurements made by Eric Halfpenny about Early British Trumpet Mouthpieces (available on JSTOR). Inputting those measurements on FreeCad19 and then revolving the sketch into a model, I got a few of them printed by www.shapeways.com and www.sculpteo.com in order to try them out for size and see what effect they had on my trumpet playing.

I soon took to adapting the measurements to suit me better. One custom design I have come up with has a similar rim diameter to mouthpieces I already use, and incorporates features that are regularly found on the historical mouthpieces. These include a flat rim, a parabolic cup shape, sharp edged throat, choke backbore, and a historical shank so that it fits well into the trumpet itself.

 

I am really keen to see how it works in an instrument I have on order from Graham Nicholson.

Using particular features of the historical mouthpieces has helped me find a much more flexible and varied way of playing the music. The articulations, and more importantly the differences in tone that become available across the whole register really opened my eyes as to how I could interpret this music more convincingly. The inegale aspect of historically informed trumpet playing has made more sense to me using these sorts of mouthpieces. I have also started to explore a wider variety of tone qualities within the pieces I play, which seems to align with one important aspect of baroque style - highlighting tension between two opposing concepts within the same piece.

 

This is particularly evident in repertoire like BWV 51, where the principale style of the lower arpeggios is much more easily distinguished from the higher clarino scalic melodies. The mouthpieces that use these historical features tend to make it easier to get a rugged and huffy sound at the bottom of the register, and a bright clear sound at the top that works well when playing alongside singers.

 

On something similar to my modern trumpet mouthpiece, the tone was pretty similar throughout the register, and a variety of articulations didn't come across clearly at the other end of the trumpet. Before, I was always trying to make all the notes sound as even as possible with a similar sound. Now, I am aiming for more variety in tone and articulation without it sounding exaggerated or affected.

I always keep an open mind. At the end of the day, we should all use equipment that allows us to give the most convincing musical account of the piece we are playing. With this in mind, the section sound is hugely important. There is merit in playing on similar equipment as your colleagues, but even if we are using different equipment (look at Mnozil Brass!) we have to trust one another that we are all aiming for the same musical goal.

 

There is a danger of over-thinking here, so I have to remind myself "just do what works for you" #Onon as Michael Vaughan says.