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On brass instruments the mouthpiece is the part of the instrument which is placed upon the player's lips. The purpose of the mouthpiece is a resonator, which passes vibration from the lips to the column of air contained within the instrument, giving rise to the standing wave pattern of vibration in the air column. Mouthpieces consist of a simple circular opening which leads, via a semi-spherical or conical cavity, to the main body of the instrument.
Mouthpieces vary instrument to instrument to suit the tone of the instrument. Lower instruments also have larger mouthpieces, to maximise resonance. Also, mouthpieces are selected to suit the embouchure of the player, to produce certain timbre, or to optimise the instrument for certain playing styles. For example, trumpet and trombone mouthpieces are semi-spherical whereas horn mouthpieces are conic.
The mouthpiece has a large effect on the sound of the instrument. The major effects are due to the shape of the cup, shape of the throat, and the inner rim diameter. In addition players often choose a mouthpiece which compliments their favored playing styles; a mouthpiece with a narrow bore is generally preferred by brass players who concentrate on the upper range of their instrument, and a wider bore by those who emphasize the lower range of their instrument in their playing.
- brass instrument