Frequently Asked Questions
How did a medical doctor and amateur trumpet player invent a brass mouthpiece that provides better range and endurance without compromising sound?
And why should you care? Good question…
I invented the Wedge mouthpiece in a desperate attempt to avoid public humiliation as an advanced amateur, playing principal trumpet in an orchestra performing West Side Story. I knew that no amount of practicing over the next few months was going to provide the range and endurance I would need at the end of a 2 hour pops concert. So, armed with my medical knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, articles about how dental structure influences range on a brass instrument, and unencumbered by much knowledge about how a brass mouthpiece SHOULD be made, I went to my workshop with a bunch of mouthpieces, some files and a Dremel tool, and ruined dozens of them while trying to make them better…
Want to read the whole story? Click here to read How the Wedge was invented.
Improving the embouchure
Many players have reported that after as little as one practice session on the Wedge they play better and sound better on their usual mouthpiece. This is true of players who eventually convert to the Wedge, and even in cases where they choose to stay with their regular mouthpiece for most of their playing. It seems that the Wedge design promotes a more forward, corner-controlled set up that translates into better performance on both mouthpieces. In this way the Wedge can be used as a teaching tool to improve the player’s embouchure.
Is there a honeymoon period?
The honeymoon period refers to a well recognised phenomenon experienced by many players when changing mouthpieces, especially to one that provides an initial improvement in performance. After a number of days or weeks the initial benefits diminish and the player returns to his or her original baseline range and endurance. It has been suggested that this might result from the chops getting accustomed to the “crutch” provided by the changed characteristic that provided the initial improvement (often a smaller or shallower cup), and becoming weak or “lazy”.
The Wedge does not seem to have much of a honeymoon period. This is because of the unique way in which the Wedge improves performance. The Wedge works by freeing your chops to respond without being restricted by the unnecessary contact between the mouthpiece and lips at the corners. This is a fundamental difference between the Wedge and some other “range enhancing” mouthpieces. Because of this the improvement seen with the Wedge is sustained and actually increases over a matter of weeks.
How long does it takes to acclimatize?
Many players describe an immediate improvement in performance. Improved sound, flexibility and endurance are generally recognised immediately, along with a modest improvement in range, which progresses over time. Players have reported progressive improvements over a period of a few weeks, or even several months.
How long does it take for the Wedge rim to stop feeling “different”?
The Wedge rim usually stops feeling unusual within a few days. For some players it takes a little longer, and some players find that a conventional rim is uncomfortable and the Wedge feels “normal” before the end of their first practice session.
What is endurance like with the Wedge?
Many players report that they have greatly improved endurance on the Wedge. People have also reported one other interesting observation. After playing beyond the point at which they would ordinarily fatigue on a conventional mouthpiece all players will eventually tire. If at this point they switch to a conventional mouthpiece they will regain a few more minutes of playing strength. This should not be confused with the Wedge being more demanding to play than a conventional mouthpiece. This second wind occurs after the player would have ordinarily stopped playing due to fatigue on a conventional mouthpiece. However, the conventional mouthpiece provides enough splinting of the embouchure because of the increased mouthpiece contact to provide a brief second wind.
Is it possible to play a Wedge rim on one mouthpiece and a regular rim on others?
Some players do mix the Wedge rim with others and go back and forth without difficulty. This works well as long as you spend a reasonable amount of time on both rims. However, most players who convert to the Wedge rim eventually change all their mouthpiece because although they can still play on a conventional rim they do not like to because the Wedge rim works so much better for them.
Plastic or Brass?
We offer a variety of materials in order to meet certain player requirements, and also to make it easier for players to try a Wedge mouthpiece. Materials include black Delrin plastic, Acrylic, and brass with silver or gold plating. We also offer stainless steel trumpet mouthpieces, but only by special order.
The “entry-level” Wedge is mouthpiece made of either Delrin or Acrylic. Delrin and Acrylic both have the advantage of always feeling warm to the touch. Delrin is softer than acrylic and feels as though it has a little give. For that reason it is great for players with braces. However, the surface of Delrin is quite sticky and some players find it slightly abrasive when they 1st start playing it. Acrylic has more grip than silver plated brass but less than Delrin. The stickiness of Delrin can reduce flexibility somewhat.
Delrin has a very dark sound which lacks brilliance and core. The sound is less resonant than brass. Notes do not slot as securely as with a brass mouthpiece. Acrylic has playing characteristics intermediate between Delrin and brass. Plastic mouthpieces speak very quickly. It is easy to start a note very quietly with either Delrin or acrylic. However, the point of the note with Delrin’s indistinct and lacks pop. Acrylic is also very responsive and has more point on the front of the note, sounding almost like brass.
Adding a brass tone modifier to a one piece plastic mouthpiece, or in the case of a trumpet, cornet, or flugelhorn mouthpiece, using a plastic top with a metal backbore, greatly improves the playing characteristics of plastic. In fact, and acrylic mouthpiece with a brass tone modifier or backbore is very difficult to distinguish from brass in terms of sound.
The next step up and the Wedge line is a silver plated brass mouthpiece. In most cases a silver plated brass mouthpiece is the best way to compare the playing characteristics of a Wedge mouthpiece to a regular mouthpiece since the only variable is the rim and cup design, rather than the material. Adding gold plating to a mouthpiece does not affect the way it sounds. Nor does it affect its thermal characteristics. Adding gold does make the rim more slippery and smoother feel them.
French horn rims are available in Delrin, Acrylic, or brass. Trombone screw rims are available in Delrin or brass. Plastic rims added to a brass cup have a somewhat darker sound than an all brass mouthpiece.
Stainless steel trumpet mouthpieces have great projection and a bright sound. However stainless steel is quite unforgiving if you do not hit the centre of the note. It is prone to splitting notes. The sound is somewhat difficult to manipulate to a warmer sound when desired.
Plastic and stainless steel are both options for players with allergies. Many players with allergies to silver or nickel can play the surgical stainless steel that we use for Wedge tops without encountering allergic problems.
What is the bottom line? For most players a silver plated brass mouthpiece will give the best performance. Some players actually prefer to play on the plastic mouthpiece either because of allergies or because they prefer the characteristics of the plastic rim. For players on a budget a plastic mouthpiece or plastic mouthpiece with a brass tone modifier is a great way to try a Wedge mouthpiece that for 90% of players will give superior performance to a metal mouthpiece with a conventional rim.