How does a mouthpiece work?

Hartman Mouthpieces are  designed with the understanding that each mouthpiece is an acoustic instrument – independent of the trombone – but obviously related to the trombone. “I believe that the primary function of a brass instrument mouthpiece is to serve as an acoustically matched bridge between the player’s aperture and the instrument – with the ultimate goal of imbuing this amplified sound with the characteristics of each specific instrument.”

Hartman Mouthpieces finally make this possible.

As a trombonist, myself – I was frustrated by my inability to find a mouthpiece that worked for me and my trombone. I finally decided to try to find a solution by making my own mouthpieces and after 20 years of trial and error, I’m finally satisfied with my results!                       In the process, I’ve developed my unique philosophy of what the function of the mouthpiece should be, and therefore, how to design and use a mouthpiece with your instrument.

Each Hartman mouthpiece is balanced to respond exactly at the same time as your aperture (the aperture is the part of the embouchure that vibrates), plus every mouthpiece is adjusted so that it’s resistance allows you to play as easily as possible. When properly matched to your instrument, my mouthpieces allow your trombone’s true characteristics to  emerge, enabling you to play with minimal effort and maximum affect.

Until now, people have used a mouthpiece in a somewhat different manner. People traditionally have chosen a mouthpiece with the hope of making something easier to achieve, such as low or high range, articulation, tone… but, since traditional mouthpieces aren’t designed to be acoustically balanced or properly matched to an instrument, these mouthpieces generally bring many negative affects along with the desired affects, undermining and masking the true characteristics of an instrument.

I will be offering a variety of balanced models that a player can use with their instrument. These options will allow the player to choose from mouthpiece models that offer a lighter sound, a darker/heavier sound, some biased towards the high range and some boosting the low range. With each model, I will match the mouthpiece to the impedance of the instrument in order to preserve and enhance the characteristics of each horn. I describe how below…

tenor trombone – large shank

tenor trombone – small shank

bass trombone

Each trombone has an acoustic and mechanical impedance which means that each horn requires a specific amount of energy to drive it optimally. As a result, it became apparent to me that I needed to design mouthpiece models that can be varied – and controlled – and repeatable – in terms of the power output that they produce! This was a difficult problem to solve, but I eventually did, and make each model of mouthpiece in an array of strength levels – from 1 to 9. Most trombones operate best with a  power level either 4, 5 or 6.

Another acoustic obstacle that I had to accommodate was that caused by the trombone leadpipe. The leadpipe has a venturi              (a narrow point in the pipe), that affects the flow of air through the trombone causing most mouthpieces to feel uncomfortable to play. A mouthpiece needs to be matched to each individual horn in order to alleviate this issue. Hartman mouthpieces have addressed this acoustic phenomenon by identifying the mouthpieces that will work with your trombone with a series designation – A, B, C or D.                 As a result of the venturi effect, your trombone will fit into just one of the four alphabetical series – A, B, C or D.

So… your trombone will most likely play best with one of these series designations:

SERIES A:     A4,  A5 or A6

SERIES B:     B4,  B5 or B6

SERIES C:     C4,  C5 or C6

SERIES D:     D4,  D5 or D6

This may seem confusing or over complicated – but once you try matching the mouthpieces with the trombone, it becomes clear how this works. I really do wish that it could be simpler – but I don’t make the laws of physics that dictate this…I just figured out how to use acoustics to our advantage. Considering that mouthpiece technology hasn’t changed much in the last 600 years, it is about time we move ahead, don’t you think?

tenor trombone – large shank

tenor trombone – small shank

bass trombone


Here is the process that I use to select a mouthpiece: