From Academic Kids

For the hardcore punk band, see Mouthpiece (band).

On wind instruments the mouthpiece is that part of the instrument which is placed in, or next to, the player's mouth. In conjunction with the player's lips and, on many woodwind instruments, a reed, it produces the basic musical tones that characterize each particular instrument, from the single reed of the clarinet or saxophone to the flared turned brass tube of the horns, such as the trumpet, trombone, tuba, and the bugle. The double reed of the oboe or bassoon may also be thought of as a mouthpiece, although it is rarely referred to as such, because only the reed is placed in the mouth, while on the clarinet, a portion of the instrument itself is as well.

Mouthpieces are human-machine interfaces designed to transmit the maximum musical information from the mouth, lips, tongue and lungs of the performer into the air column of the instrument. On the performer's side, mouthpiece must be matched to embouchure, the exact way of setting the mouth parts to transmit the maximum of musical information to the mouthpiece.

Thus, the mouthpiece, attached to its instrument, is a means of extending the expressive power of the upper body. The typical mouthpiece is capable of playing only a few notes on its own, often with poor tone. By varying the air column in a myriad of ingenious ways, these few notes are transformed into many notes of many tones on the various instruments.

Brass instruments

Trumpet mouthpiece from the side
Trumpet mouthpiece from the side

In western instruments of the European classical tradition, there are several different kinds of mouthpiece. One of the most common is the one seen on brass instruments, which is a type also used on several non-western instruments. This consists of a simple circular opening which leads to the main body of the instrument. The player causes his lips to vibrate while they are placed next to this opening. This causes the column of air contained within the instrument to vibrate.

Missing image
Cut-away view of trumpet mouthpiece:
1. Inner rim diameter
2. Rim width
3. Rim contour
4. Rim Edge
5. Cup
6. Throat
7. Backbore
8. Shank

The mouthpiece of many brass instruments, including the trumpet and trombone, is cup shaped, although the French horn's mouthpiece is simpler, being only slightly flared. The degree of flaring, and the exact shape of the "cup" (5) if present can greatly affect the timbre of the instrument. The width of the opening (1) in the mouthpiece also has an effect. A mouthpiece with a narrow bore (7) is generally preferred by horn players who concentrate on the upper range of their instrument, and a wider bore by those who emphasize the lower range of their instrument in their playing.

Reed instruments

Missing image
clarinet mouthpiece

The mouthpiece on a single-reed instrument, such as the clarinet or saxophone, is quite different. These mouthpieces are basically wedge-shaped, with the reed being placed against the flat surface (or the table) closest to the player's bottom lip. Here, the player's breath causes the reed to vibrate, which in turn sets the column of air contained within the instrument in vibration. Near the top of the mouthpiece there is a small opening into the inside of the instrument. As with the brass instruments, the shape of the bore immediately beyond the opening can greatly affect the sound of the instrument. On some woodwind instruments, the bore here is a simple extension of the main body of the instrument, although it is possible to widen it by various means. Mouthpieces with large, rounded chambers will produce a quite different sound than one with a small or square chamber.

Most mouthpieces are made out of metal, hard rubber, or plastic. Rubber, although one of the most common materials for mouthpieces, often lacks in durability, warps over time, and has a tendency to break when bumped. With mouthpieces of any material, the tip may eventually wear down from reed vibration.

See also

de:Instrumentenmundstck sr:усник (лимени дувачки инструменти)


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