How to select a mouthpiece

Please read How does a mouthpiece work before starting to select one for your horn. Once you understand my philosophy of mouthpiece function, you will be ready to match one to your instrument.

Step #1:                                                                                                                               Start with a Hartman mouthpiece from any SERIES (A, B, C or D) with a standard power level ( 4, 5 or 6) – I would suggest starting with A5.

Play this slur pattern:                                                                                                (click here to open it in another tab – it will be larger)

Mouthpiece Selection Slur big

Notice how it feels to slur – both in first position and when you move back and forth between 1st and 3rd positions. Remember that when you are playing the Bb to C, you are moving between the same harmonics (partials) as when you are slurring between Bb and D  –     so ideally, it should feel the same to do both slurs.                                   Now do this exercise using B5, then C5 and finally D5. One of these four mouthpieces will be easier and more comfortable to play than the rest. The others will feel ‘sticky’ and less predictable between the partials. This is because of the venturi effect discussed in How does a mouthpiece work.

Step #2:                                                                                                                               Now that you’ve identified which SERIES matches your trombone, try a mouthpiece in the same SERIES with a power level either more or less than the one you just played, i.e., if you think that C5 is the best so far, then try C4 and C6.

After you done this a bit, you’ll find that it is very clear which is the correct SERIES. Finding the appropriate power level also is relatively straight forward once you are familiar with the process.

Here are some things to pay attention to as you compare the mouthpieces. As the power level grows, 3, 4, 5, 6…the general sound you produce becomes more focused and colorful. In reverse, as you play mouthpieces of progressively less power, 6, 5, 4, 3…the tone gets more diffuse and wider. There is something appealing about all of these timbres! BUT…you will also notice that the less powerful mouthpieces require the player to play with more muscle tension and air pressure in order to move through the partials – and the more powerful mouthpieces require that the player use less tension and air pressure in order to maneuver.  The ideal match is achieved when you can blow comfortably and evenly at all times…while slurring, while tonguing, loud/soft and on sustained notes. This condition is obviously the easiest manner of playing, plus it reveals the true characteristics of your instrument. 

You will notice that articulation, slurring, tonguing, high and low range are all made easier by having the correct match between your trombone and the mouthpiece.  It’s a Win/Win situation!  If you find the correct mouthpiece/trombone match but aren’t quite satisfied with the general sound that the instrument produces – then you would want to try the same process with a different mouthpiece model – each Hartman mouthpiece model is designed to match the instrument in the same way but be generally lighter or heavier, smaller or bigger.

Here is another exercise to use to assess the mouthpiece/trombone relationship as you try different mouthpieces:                                              (click here to open it in another tab – it will be larger)


Mouthpiece Selection Slur 2 big

These exercises and your awareness of the way it feels to play each mouthpiece will steer you toward the optimal match for your instrument. Be wary of both mouthpieces that overdrive and underdrive the horn – they will be harder to play and you will miss more notes as a result!

Step #3: Go back and play the mouthpiece that you used to play…     I’ll bet that it is a lot more difficult to play than your new Hartman mouthpiece! (and if you prefer the sound of your old mouthpiece, try one of our other models…)