Choosing mouthpieces the right way

Ryan Adamsons

This past week we had a fun studio visit with Dallas Brass trombonist and Denis Wick Artist Ryan Christianson!  Ryan needed to get replacements for a couple of his mouthpieces that he dropped on a parade gig, and also wanted to experiment with mouthpiece boosters.


First things first, we inspected the issue with his current mouthpieces and sure enough there was enough scuffing from being dropped and bouncing around in his cases that there was exposed brass and noticeable burrs on the rim causing lip irritation.  Sometimes the burrs can be removed, but knowing how much Ryan is playing every day and because there was exposed brass we decided the best bet was to replace both his Classic 7CS and 4.5AL. A significant portion of the wear and tear on his old pieces also looked like it was caused by being stored loose in his cases, so we also checked out his options for some mouthpiece pouches to provide more protection.  While there was appeal to using a double or triple pouch to keep all his mouthpieces together, he usually keeps each piece in the case with the horn he uses it on so we went with two individual pouches rather than having to remember to grab the bigger pouch each time.

Ryan was also interested in trying out mouthpiece boosters to see how the added mass would affect his sound and the way the pieces played.  Since the 4.5AL also has a HeavyTop model with built in added mass, we grabbed that for comparison as well. The HeavyTop versus the booster on the 4.5AL played and sounded slightly different, but broadly similar enough that we switched the booster to the 7CS for trial purposes.  


For both pieces and on both horns (large bore and small bore) Ryan found that the added mass provided a noticeable difference in tone, playability, and a deeper “core” to the sound sound. This is something I’ve noticed on trumpet as well.  More specifically, the overall sound had a “darker” quality with more low harmonics present and a lot of depth to the sound even at extreme volumes and ranges. I’m very familiar with his sound from playing in a big band with him, and while we both liked the character of the sound we also both felt it did take away some of his usual sparkle.  Since his steady gigs right now aside from the Dallas Brass are principal trombone for the Milwaukee Ballet and jazz lead trombone, we decided that while it was an option worth knowing about, it didn’t fit the tone concept for what his playing currently called for.

The Take Away

Whether you're a Denis Wick Artist like Ryan Christianson, or still student learning  your craft, your search for the right mouthpiece is the same. You approach your mouthpieces as a set of tools. You will narrow your search down to the best performing tools for you, and then decide what purpose the tool is fulfilling. For Ryan, though he liked the HeavyTop, it was not going to be the tool that supplied what he needed for the bulk of his playing right now. So, before you schedule your appointment at the Chicago Denis Wick Advisory Studio, be ready to ask yourself these quesitons:

What do I want to sound like?
What problem do I want to solve?

Then, make an appointment to come in and enjoy the full line of Denis Wick products at your finger tips to try out, and find out what new tools are going to wind up in your case. To find out more about the Chicago Advisory Studio, click here.