If you are reading this you are probably interested in being a better brass player, and wondering if a new mouthpiece might help achieve that goal. You already know that there are many excellent mouthpieces manufacturers claiming that their designs provide better range, endurance, flexibility, comfort, and sound. However, no manufacturer actually provides a convincing, scientific explanation of exactly how their mouthpieces do that. Except for us. We tell you exactly how the Wedge mouthpiece can improve your playing. We give you a reason to put your money where your mouth is.
The Wedge Mouthpiece
What Can the Wedge Mouthpiece Do For You?
Players switching to a Wedge mouthpiece can expect:
How Does the Wedge Do All That?
Read the description of the Wedge shape, then the explanation of exactly how it works.
When looking into the mouthpiece up you can see that the rim has a slight oval shape, with the oval oriented up and down, not side to side as you might expect. The inner diameter (ID) is therefore larger from top to bottom than side to side. On trumpet, cornet, flugel, and horn mouthpieces the oval shape extends all the way to the bottom of the cup. The mouthpiece has one or two indented orientation dots to make it easy to position correctly.
Scroll through the series of images to see the shape of the Wedge rim from different angles. The basic shape is present in all Wedge mouthpieces, but the curves are more obvious using the acrylic trumpet top for illustration. The image in which you can read the Wedge logo is the side view of the mouthpiece. The left or right side of the mouthpiece viewed from this angle would be placed at the top or bottom when the mouthpiece is in the playing position.
Viewed from the side in the playing position you can see that the rim is not flat. It curves away from the player at the sides of the rim, where the corners of the embouchure form. That curve is called the lateral dip.
The curve follows the natural shape of the teeth, which in most people forms and arch from top to bottom. This curve transfers pressure away from the sides of the rim at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock and onto the top and bottom rim at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. The rim is extra wide at the top and bottom, and narrower at the sides, so it easily absorbs the pressure on the top and bottom rim. This makes the rim very comfortable, especially for players with braces.
This image shows the mouthpiece viewed in the position it would be in just before being brought up to play. We are looking at it from bottom rim to top rim. You can see how the rim at the sides slopes away from the player from inside to outside. The high point of the rim is moved to the extreme inside of the contour. The outside of the rim is not in contact with the lips. The side rim therefore feels more narrow than the top and bottom rim.
How Does the Wedge Improve Your Playing?
The oval shape of the Wedge rim, with the oval oriented up and down, gives the efficiency of a relatively smaller mouthpiece, providing an increase in range and endurance. The bigger dimension up and down maintains cup volume despite the smaller ID side to side, so a big, resonant sound is preserved despite the smaller ID.
There are two things that drive the trumpeter’s ability to control pitch: the tension or force in the lips and the mass of the vibrating portion of the lips. Ultimately, it is the vibrating mass that really controls things. The player controls the aperture size (hence the vibrating mass). This requires fine control of the embouchure.
The Wedge rim contour provides more freedom of motion of the corners (allowing better control of the center of the embouchure and airstream), while maintaining a comfortable, secure grip on the rim. Freedom at the corners means it takes less work to adjust the embouchure, because you not working against the constraints of the mouthpiece.
Both lower register and upper register performance is enhanced, producing a bigger sound throughout the entire range of the horn. The ability to improve the ease and sound of the upper and lower at the same time is a unique property of the Wedge rim that is not provided by any other design.
Any time our muscles do not have to work as hard they are going to last longer. The more efficient shape of the rim produces a significant and often dramatic improvement in endurance.
A More Even Response and Fuller Sound in All Registers
The usual way to improve the ease of the upper register is to use a shallower cup. This of course produces a brighter sound and sacrifices the fullness of the low register. The unique oval shape of the Wedge design gives the efficiency of a relatively smaller mouthpiece and the resonance of a relatively larger mouthpiece. The Wedge sloping side rims “get out of the way” of your embouchure at the sides, reducing your work and providing better freedom and control. The vertical oval rim shape means that the distance between the edge of the lips in the centre of the embouchure and the mouthpiece rim at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock is increased compared to a conventional rim with the same side to side ID. As a result the lip tissue has more freedom to vibrate, increasing responsiveness and adding depth to the sound in all registers.
“Hello Dr Dave, I wanna express how much I love your Wedge PT 50 (euro) it is lighter than my mike Finn 3, but I find it gives me a darker sound. I’m feeling like I’m playing with less pressure now and can pay longer. I recently used it in a recording session and have been getting lots of compliments. Also my marine corps recruiter believes that I sound better on it. All in all, a great mouthpiece. Thanks again! DM”
Mouthpieces with a narrow rim improve flexibility because the rim doesn’t pin down the embouchure. The down side of these so called cookie cutter rims is that they can be uncomfortable. With the Wedge design the wider top and bottom rims support the mouthpiece while the narrow side rims with less surface contact and less pressure increase flexibility, so you get the advantage of a narrow rim without the usual discomfort. The result is less difficulty moving from note to note or across large intervals.
Reducing rim pressure at the sides improves circulation and reduces swelling of the embouchure. The lips get fresh blood from the arteries that run from the corners of the lips to the middle. Venous blood and lymph, which are responsible for swelling of the lips, are drained away in the opposite direction. The pressure of a conventional rim where it crosses the blood and lymphatic vessels at the side of the rim blocks their flow, as if stepping on a garden hose. The blockage of flow in and out causes fatigue and swelling. The Wedge rim reduces mouthpiece pressure at the sides of the embouchure, which improves circulation in and and out of the lip tissue contained by the rim. It takes the foot off the garden hose and greatly reduces swelling .
Less Stiffness After Prolonged Playing
Our muscles get stiff when we overuse them as a result a combination of micro-trauma to muscle fibres, changes in cellular and extracellular enzymes and minerals, and edema (extra fluid), leading to swelling. Increased lactic acid may also play some role, although this is now somewhat uncertain. Chop stiffness is also partly due to residual swelling of lip structures other than muscle, including subcutaneous tissue and skin.
The increase efficiency of the Wedge rim means that less work is required by the muscles of the embouchure. Most players use less pressure with the Wedge rim, resulting in less micro-trauma to tissues in contact with the rim. The Wedge improves circulation in and out of the central embouchure, improving oxygenation to central lip tissues and reducing swelling. Together all of these effects reduce lip stiffness after playing. An added benefit is that recovery after playing time is reduced.
The unique rim and cup shape improve responsiveness in all registers by providing more cup volume for a smaller, more efficient side to side ID. The Wedge mouthpiece therefore has the resonance and responsiveness of a larger mouthpiece with a conventional rim, improving the clarity of articulation.
The most common location for rim discomfort and orbicularis oris injuries is at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the upper lip where the mouthpiece rim crosses the upper teeth. The shape of the Wedge rim follows the natural contour of the teeth and reduces pressure at those points, greatly improving comfort.
“Love my Ridenour model. Dave Harrison does a great job meeting your needs and gives excellent customer service. These are by far the most comfortable pieces I’ve ever played and have greatly improved my clarity of articulation. I also own a corner mouthpiece that I love and look forward to purchasing a flugel and picc piece in the future. Thanks for everything you do Dave!!! Mike Cegelski”
You play the Wedge just like any other mouthpiece without making any intentional adjustments. Decreased pressure at the sides of the mouthpiece encourages the player to activate the corners of the embouchure, producing a subtle, automatic change to a more efficient, finely tuned aperture. The rim shape also discourages young players from using too much pressure, and from using a “smiling” embouchure, since neither of these undesirable playing habits work with the Wedge.
Reduces Symptoms of Focal Dystonia
The exact cause of focal dystonia is not fully understood by the medical profession. We do know that there seems to be some sort of corruption or interference with the nerve impulses sent to the muscles controlling the embouchure and the feedback to the brain. There are many proposed methods of treating this disorder, which requires somehow repairing this pathway. Experience has shown that players with focal dystonia who switch to a Wedge mouthpiece often report a significant improvement in symptoms, perhaps because the unique shape of the rim activates a slightly different and undamaged neural pathway.
Easier to Take Breaths
The improved mobility at the corners and solid contact with the top and bottom lip make it easier to open the corners and to return them to the optimal playing position when taking a quick breath.
Ability to Down-size if Desired
While smaller mouthpieces do enhance upper register response a bit, they can also be constrictive and make it more difficult for the player to adjust the aperture size as needed. This often means reduced flexibility, and produces difficulty in accessing the lower register. With the Wedge rim the player has more flexibility as result of the rim contour and the oval shape, so that a smaller diameter can be used without the usual decrease in flexibility. Despite the relatively narrower width, the longer vertical axis provides a big sound and feel of a larger mouthpiece.
Questions You May Have
Is it a gimmick?
The Wedge not a gimmick, as defined as a cheap trick designed to attract attention and without genuine value. It is simply a new tool that players can choose as an alternative to a conventional rim. Thousands of players have discovered that it is indeed a “better mousetrap” with genuine, significant, and sustained benefits for their playing year after year.
Haven't there been oval mouthpieces before?
The oval mouthpieces produced 100 years ago were quite different than the Wedge design. They were designed to orient the oval shape horizontally so as to maximise the contact between the embouchure and the mouthpiece and distribute pressure as evenly as possible. The design of the Wedge mouthpiece is exactly the opposite. The long axis of the oval is vertical and the shape is designed to distribute pressure unevenly around the circumference of the rim, reducing surface area contact at the sides where the old models sought to increase it.
Can a mouthpiece really make that much difference? Why not just practice more?
Some people object to the idea that an advance in technology could actually enhance human performance, despite dozens of illustrations that it does. Take for example advances in tennis rackets, golf clubs, speed skates, downhill skis, and even brass instruments. Down hill skiers are not admonished to use wooden skis and lace-up leather boots and just spend more time practising their turns. Why do so many brass players respond to the idea of using a more advanced mouthpiece with a cartoon of Batman slapping Robin with the admonition “Long Tones”? It is slightly amusing, but actually quite wrong. You might question whether or not a given mouthpiece design actually is better, and in fact you should question it, but that is a different matter. Where is the wisdom in suggesting that you should use less efficient equipment if a better alternative can make your playing of long tones more productive?
The Wedge mouthpiece is not an alternative to practising. It is simply a unique mouthpiece design that many players find more comfortable and more efficient than a conventional rim. The Wedge is simply a potential new tool to be considered.
Who is using the Wedge?
Thousands of players have converted to the Wedge since it appeared on the market late in 2007. The Wedge mouthpiece is used by members of Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, National Ballet Orchestra of Canada, Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Kansas City Symphony, La Scala Orchestra, Boston Phil, Buzz Brass, Gomalan Brass, Presidio Brass, Philadelphia Brass, BBC Orchestra in Wales, numerous military bands in Canada, the US, and the UK, and by thousands commercial, jazz, and freelance artists all over the world. We are very pleased to have Chuck Findley as our most recent endorsing artist with his own line of signature Wedge mouthpieces.
The majority of our customers are professional musicians, but the design is equally beneficial for players at all levels, including beginners. The way in which the Wedge rim encourages the formation of a proper embouchure and discourages the use of excessive pressure, and the advantages it offers to players with braces, have made it very popular with educators of young players.
Brandon Ridenour – Trumpet Soloist and Clinician
Endurance has been the biggest advantage in switching to the Wedge. Now, when I get to the end of a solo or quintet concert, I feel like I could play another one! The shape of the rim distributes the pressure in a way that allows any efficient player to play for hours on end. Wedge mouthpieces provide excellent focus for both sound and pitch.
Will the Wedge work for me?
About 90% of people play better when using a properly fitted Wedge compared to their performance on a comparable conventional mouthpiece. However, the Wedge is not for everyone. A few people are better off playing on a conventional rim. Our return rate on mouthpieces sold over the internet is about 15%. Some of these people play better on a regular rim, and some just did not figure out the right size.
How long does it take to adjust?
Adjusting to a Wedge is very easy for most players. Acclimatisation time varies, but most players find they play better on the Wedge right away fully adjust to the new rim shape within a few days. Many of our customers have successfully used the Wedge in performance within hours of first trying it, although we do suggest a slightly longer adjustment period.
We recommend that if you are not playing better on the Wedge than on your regular mouthpiece within 2 or 3 days that you contact us to discuss your situation. You might need a different size. We do not recommend struggling for weeks or months while adjusting to any mouthpiece unless you have made a major change in size for a very specific and well thought out reason. The 90 day trial period is longer than necessary and is intended to reassure customers that that they will have enough time to give the mouthpiece a full evaluation.
“I tried one 2 years ago on a gig, and I haven’t looked back to conventional ever since. I love my wedge mouthpieces.
Is there a honeymoon period?
The honeymoon period refers to what sometimes happens 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”.
Most players do not experience a honeymoon period when switching to the Wedge. 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. As a result the improvement seen with the Wedge is sustained and actually increases over a matter of weeks, and in some cases months.
Will trying the Wedge damage or change my embouchure?
Trying the Wedge will not damage your embouchure. If you try the Wedge and find after a few days that you are not playing better than before you should go back to your old mouthpiece. Doing so will not impair your ability to play the original equipment.
Switching to the Wedge mouthpiece does sometimes produce an improvement in the embouchure over time. We know this because many players tell us that as they adapt to the Wedge their playing improves over weeks or months. If they then try their old mouthpiece they find that they play it better than before, although the Wedge still out-performs their original gear. This suggests that a subtle, beneficial change has occurred in the embouchure over several weeks.
If you play the Wedge for a few months or years and then decide to return to a conventional rim you should have no difficulty switching back. There are no deleterious effects from playing a Wedge rim, only beneficial ones. It discourages the use of too much pressure and encourages the use of a more forward focused embouchure.
Can I play the Wedge in combination with other mouthpieces?
Most players are able to alternate between a Wedge rim and conventional rim. Alternating 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 they do not like be handicapped by a conventional rim. We do offer discounts to players who need to purchase a number of Wedge mouthpieces for various instruments.
I am concerned about trying a mouthpiece by mail order. What if it isn’t a good fit?
We are very understanding of players who want to send their mouthpiece back for a return or exchange. That is why we offer a 90 day return policy. Our priority is in helping players, not selling mouthpieces. If your mouthpiece seems to be the wrong size we will work with you to find the right size. If in the end our mouthpiece does not allow you to play better, we want it back.
How long will it take to receive my Wedge?
Due to our ever growing popularity and demand for Wedge mouthpieces we just manage to keep up with orders. As a result, your mouthpiece will probably ship one to two weeks after you place your order.
Free airmail takes 1-2 weeks from when we ship to reach most destinations. If you would like faster shipping please select Express Post or FedEx shipping. Express Post usually reduces transit time 3 to 4 days.
Please note that customers are required to pay any applicable VAT or other import taxes on orders shipped to EU countries. We do not refund VAT.
Why does the Wedge cost more?
The slightly higher cost of the Wedge mouthpiece is the number one concern of players thinking about trying one, so it is an issue that we feel requires an explanation.
There are good reasons why the Wedge costs more than some other mouthpieces, although not as much as others.
We set our prices as low as we can in order to provide the best possible value and to remain viable as a business. We honestly believe that for most players the the significant improvement in comfort and performance provided by the Wedge mouthpiece is more than worth the price. To get a similar increase in performance by upgrading your instrument you would have to pay many times the cost of a Wedge mouthpiece, if it were possible at all.
We do recognise that spending extra on a new mouthpiece design is a big investment and a leap of faith. That is why we want you to send the mouthpiece back for a full refund if it is not worth every penny of your investment. You will only need a few days to figure out if the Wedge is for you, but we give you almost three months. How many other mouthpiece manufacturers stand behind their product with that kind of service and guarantee?
How do I get a Wedge?
The best way to try a Wedge is usually to take advantage of our FREE SHIPPING and order through our secure online store. Click the photos below to find out about options for your particular instrument.
We make a wide selection of mouthpiece sizes for all playing situations, so we can almost always find a mouthpiece that suits you. However, if it turns out the Wedge is not for you we provide the best guarantee in the mouthpiece industry.
Ready to find the perfect mouthpiece? Head over to our online store.
Want help choosing the best size for you? Complete our online fitting survey.