Bach B-flat trumpets – 43 bell, which I prefer, and 37 bell
Bach C trumpet, 229 bell, standard leadpipe
Bach D trumpet, 239 long-bell
Yamaha D/E-flat trumpet
Schilke P5-4 piccolo trumpet
Olds Opera cornet
Current Setup: B-flat, C trumpet – 2MC top, 8* backbore
Old Setup: B-flat, C trumpet – 2D top, Series 80 12* backbore
jazz – 2 M 24 throat top, 7* 24 throat backbore
cornet – 2D top, Series 80 12* backbore
D, E-flat trumpet – 2MC 24 throat top, 10* backbore
piccolo – 2SV top, 10* backbore
flugel – 2 FLX
New Setup Rationale:
While I was department chair (for 9 years), I didn’t practice very much. My typical goal was 15 minutes a day, plus cramming as needed to get ready for a demanding concert. Meanwhile, I was getting older. Not a good combination! After I stepped down as chair, I started practicing more, but I was too out of shape to handle the 2D, so I started back with my jazz setup. After a couple months, I switched over to the 2MC, intending to switch back to the 2D. I haven’t made it so far — I don’t have enough strength to play loud enough to make the 2D work other than in my own practice. I loved the 2D sound, so I haven’t given up, but I don’t see the likelihood of me using this any time soon.
Old Setup Rationale:
I like big equipment for the bigger horns, so that’s why I use the 12. The * means it doesn’t slot quite as tightly, which I think makes it easier to play in tune. The Series 80 is the extra metal on the shank that makes it more like a Bach Megatone mouthpiece. I like the 10 for the D/E-flat — it seems to fit the horn better. The 12 is just too big, and it makes the horn sound tubby. The 7 backbore is definitely tighter than the 12, and I think it makes it a little easier to get more air compression for high notes.
My Mouthpiece Journey
I started playing trumpet, actually cornet, in 1960. My parents bought me an Olds Ambassador cornet, serial #316176 (amazing I remember that, 55 years later) and it had a Olds 3 mouthpiece.
I’m not sure when I made the switch to Bach, but I was still playing cornet. I think it was a Bach 7C, but some of the other kids were playing Bach 6 when I went to high school, so I switched. During my senior year, I began playing trumpet and bought a Bach 6 trumpet mouthpiece. I played it most of the way through college at Iowa State University. During my first senior year, Joe Christiansen suggested I try a Bach 1 1/2 C, so I switched. I was in such good shape that it didn’t cause me any problems to make such a big jump. Later, he suggested a Schilke 16, so I switched again. (The best range I ever had was on that mouthpiece. Part of the reason may be that I was consistently working on range at the time.)
I’m not sure when I switched to a Schilke 18 — maybe my fifth year at Iowa State (1974-1975) or perhaps while I was working on my masters at the University of Michigan (1975-1976). It actually was a bit too large, but I was stubborn and wouldn’t admit it. I was still playing it when I began work on my doctorate at Northwestern (1981). My teacher that summer was Luther Didrickson, first call trumpet in the Chicago Symphony. I was having trouble staying relaxed while moving air, so he said, “You should try a Bach mouthpiece…they flow better.” (He was the master of suggestion — Luther would make a comment and drop it, knowing that a seed had been planted.)
Several weeks went by…I kept thinking he would bring it up again, but he didn’t. Meanwhile, the hook was set; I finally asked him, “When am I going to get to try a Bach mouthpiece???” So, he let me try one of his old mouthpieces, which was comparable to that used by Bud Herseth, principal trumpet in the Chicago Symphony (Bach 1B with a 1C rim and a 21 throat). It flowed better! So I switched.
FYI, Mr. Didrickson knew more about equipment than anyone I’ve known. One of my great regrets is that I didn’t pick his brain to learn a fraction of what he knew.
I was very happy on this mouthpiece, but I got a crazy idea from a student that I should practice on a Bach straight 1 and this would make the 1B feel like a “cheater” mouthpiece. I loved the sound of the straight 1 — it was even bigger and darker than the 1B, especially after I put a Sound Sleeve on it.
So I switched to the straight 1 in 1995 and never went back. It was a bit of a difficult transition, but I was convinced I could handle this mouthpiece. Looking back, it was too big for me. Dumb, just plain dumb, especially with a recital coming up at the Moscow International Trumpet Festival in a couple months. Somehow, I managed to get in shape in time, but it was close!
Around this time, another of my students, Tim Schodowski, started playing Warburton; I was a diehard Bach fan and would NOT switch. And, I gave him a bad time about it. While I was in Moscow, I met Steve Hawk, who is a great trumpet player — he plays classical music extremely well and is a tremendous lead trumpet player. He talked about how easy it was to switch back and forth between classical and jazz with Warburton mouthpieces. And, Terry Warburton was on the trip, so I had a chance to visit with him quite a bit.
I was intrigued by Warburton mouthpieces, but I would not switch. Back in Arkansas, I played lead trumpet with the dance band in Pine Bluff and almost died. Using my “orchestral” equipment, I had to play twice as loud as everyone else to balance; I HAD to find something else. I kept thinking about Warburton mouthpieces, but I didn’t do anything about it.
In late spring of 2003, I received a postcard in the mail from Warburton. (E-mail was still pretty much in its infancy.) It said, “Take the Warburton challenge. Tell what you play and we’ll send you the Warburton equivalent. No charge.” Talk about an offer you can’t refuse! So, I replied and a couple weeks later the 2D top, Series 80 12* backbore arrived.
I started practicing on it and I didn’t like it! I didn’t like the way it felt, although it had a good sound. I was about to dismiss it, and then I thought, “They went to a lot of trouble to send this to me, so the least I can do is finish my practice session with it. Tomorrow I’ll send it back.”
So, I played until I was tired and looked at my watch. I was shocked — I had played 30 minutes longer than usual! Thirty minutes of extra practice just by changing mouthpieces was NOT something to ignore, so I practiced with it again the next day. Within a couple days, I was hooked. I switched to Warburton and have never looked back. (I think the Warburton was a little bit narrower than the straight 1 and that’s why I didn’t initially like it.)
I talked to Warburton about mouthpieces for my other trumpets, and they sent me the rest of the mouthpieces listed above.
So, that’s my journey — I’m not certain about staying with the 8* backbore, but I’m really happy with the 2MC top: it projects well but it’s not overly bright and it has a big sound. We’ll see what happens!
And TIm Schodowski had the last laugh!