I recently posted about Booker Little and trumpet player/blogger Ian Carey commented: "interesting that he got that fat "1C" sound out of a tiny Al Cass 1-28!"
That's one facet of the mouthpiece mythology that I didn't get into in this original post: People believe they should strive to get to a bigger mouthpiece (1c-3c) so they can get to a "bigger sound." The truth is, it absolutely depends on the player. Enough great players with "fat" sounds have put the lie to it to make any young (or older) trumpet player think twice:
Clifford Brown's sound has always been renowned for its juiciness. What mouthpiece did he use? Bach 17C1 and 17C2, equivalent now to Bach 10 3/4 CW. Small. Ditto Conte Condoli. Ditto Fats Navarro. You think of Red Allen's sound as small? Don't think so. He used a very small cup Zottola. Dizzy Gillespie: Al Cass 2-24 & 2-25-equivalent to a Bach 11.75. The list is long.
You can play almost any trumpet, unless it's a real piece of junk, but having the wrong mouthpiece can absolutely stunt your musical growth. When you pick up this beast of an axe, you need positive reinforcement to stick with it. The wrong mouthpiece can make it so much more difficult to play that it can erode morale and no doubt has led many to ditch the horn. On the other hand, finding the right size mouthpiece can be incredibly motivating and speed you on your way to great range and flexibility.
It makes no sense to think that someone would intuitively know about this.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different mouthpieces out there. This just shows that the most infinitesimal difference in outside and inside diameter, cup size, shape, throat size, etc can make a big difference. In fact, there are so many variations that to be firmly convinced you have the mouthpiece that works best for you, you'd have to spend big bucks. About the least you can spend per unit is $50 and the price goes up from there into the $$thousands.
Even then, you're not done, because optimally, you'd have different mouthpieces to help you perform different kinds of music. You might want a more brilliant sound, a more diffused sound, darker, lighter, fatter, brighter, etc.
[Ed note: This concert was last year] I was fortunate enough to hear Lou Soloff play this week. He's a guy who carries about a half dozen mouthpieces in his pocket and as the music changes, gives serious consideration to which one he'll use. Combine that with a battery of mutes and you have a musician with the potential to produce a vast range of colors, which he did.
This is knowledge that is widespread in the "grown-up" world of trumpet playing, but there's no reason young players should not be hipped to it. I think we've lost some good ones because they weren't. I only hope they didn't feel as though they had to pick up a saxophone...