The Advocate

Newsletter for The Music Education Community of Western PA

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Selecting a Trombone Mouthpiece

by Kevin M. McManus

When I happen upon articles pertaining to mouthpiece selection, I'm reminded of the proverb: two people, three opinions. This writing relays my thoughts and general guidelines, not rules, to consider when selecting a mouthpiece.

Firstly, creating a fully formed musical message in one's head is much more important to performance success than equipment selection. Secondly, manipulating one's airstream has a much more profound effect on sound production than the tools used. Both of the aforementioned concepts are achieved through active listening, singing, mouthpiece buzzing, and diligent practice. Thirdly, each player's physicality is unique; the mouthpiece must feel comfortable on their embouchure. I hold the belief that the correct course of action is matching the mouthpiece to the individual player and instrument. Lastly, it is advantageous to pick smaller, rather than larger, equipment that will still achieve your desired result.

There are different types of trombones: small-bore tenor trombones (.481 - .509), medium-bore tenor trombones (.525), large-bore tenor trombones (.547), and bass trombones (.562). Small and medium-bore trombones accept small-shank mouthpieces. Large-bore tenors and bass trombones accept large-shank mouthpieces (sometimes labeled "bass trombone" shank).

There are five different parts to brass mouthpieces: rim, cup, throat, backbore, and shank. Generally speaking, as the instrument gets larger, so does the mouthpiece. I strive for a balance between the mouthpiece size and the instrument. Common sense informs us that we wouldn't purchase a size 12 shoe for a size 4 foot. In the same vein, we would not pair an extremely large mouthpiece with a relatively small instrument or vice versa. Including the parts of the mouthpiece, everything should be in proportion.

In very general terms, a Bach 12C - or the equivalent in another brand - is provided with a beginner's trombone. These mouthpieces work well for a few years, but once the player starts increasing the volume of their airstream - circa 6th/8th grade - they should switch to a larger mouthpiece: Bach 7C or 6 ½ AL. In Bach parlance, as the number gets smaller, the mouthpiece gets larger (i.e., a Bach 12C is a smaller mouthpiece than a Bach 1G.) In the Schilke numbering system, the opposite is true (i.e., a Schilke 51 is a smaller mouthpiece than a Schilke 60). Additionally, tenor trombonists usually switch to large-bore instruments and larger mouthpieces circa 9th grade (Bach 42/Conn 88H - Bach 5G/Schilke 51). 9th grade is about the time that I introduce tenor trombonists to the bass trombone. I look for students with a large, or potentially large, vital capacity and a solid middle/low register.

Here are some basic ideas about mouthpieces and horns:


Small-bore tenor trombone - Bach 12C

Middle School/Junior High Students

Small-bore tenor trombone - Bach 7C or 6 ½ AL

Large-bore tenor trombone - Bach 6 ½ AL, 5GS, 5G

Bass Trombone - Bach 2G, Schilke 57

High School Students

Small-bore tenor trombone - Bach 7C or 6 ½ AL

Large-bore tenor trombone - Bach 5G, 5GS, 4G, Schilke 51 or 52

Bass Trombone - Bach 1 ½ G or 1 ¼ G, Schilke 58 or 59

The above suggestion depends solely on the development and physicality of the individual player. Preferably, a large-bore tenor trombone with f-attachment and a larger mouthpiece is appropriate for symphonic playing. A common misconception is that any trombone with an f-attachment is a bass trombone; this is a fallacy. Tenor and bass trombones are determined by dimensions (i.e., bore size). A small-bore tenor trombone with a smaller mouthpiece is preferable for jazz and commercial ensembles. There are many approaches to marching band, but a large-bore instrument and larger mouthpiece seem to carry a better sound quality at a distance.

In closing, the most dramatic effects on one's playing will occur from the audiation of music in your mind and the control and manipulation of your airstream. I can't stress enough the importance of active listening, singing, buzzing, and practice. The mouthpiece should match the player and the horn. Everyone's oral structure is different, and the mouthpiece must feel comfortable on the player's face. Also, the player must have enough vital capacity to resonate the equipment. Lastly, pick a horn and a mouthpiece, and stick with them for an extended period. There's no substitute for smart, diligent hard work.

Kevin M. McManus is a musician and educator in the Pittsburgh area and can be found at

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After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Johnstonbaugh's Music Centers is pleased to bring back its annual Trombone Day!

The date is Saturday, November 19th, at Johnstonbaugh's Allison Park store

4842 William Flinn Highway Allison Park, PA 15101, starting at 10:00 am.

The event will include exhibits, with representatives, from some of the best trombone and trombone accessory makers in the country, a master class from Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Jeff Dee, and a performance from the Duquesne University Trombone Studio, conducted by their professor, Jim Nova, utility trombonist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Below is the schedule for the day:

10:00 AM - 5:00 PM:

Store open for vendor exhibits, with manufacturer representatives, including but not limited to:

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM:

Masterclass with Jeff Dee,

Bass Trombone, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM:

Duquesne University Trombone Studio Performance

Conducted by Adjunct Professor Jim Nova,

Utility Trombone, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Stay tuned for more information but in the meantime, mark your calendars!

Auditioning Tips from Will Teegarden

JMC private instructor, Will Teegarden, is experienced as a performing cellist and teacher in Pittsburgh. He currently holds the Associate Principal Cello chair of the Erie Philharmonic while maintaining a busy freelance schedule as a substitute cellist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony, the Westmoreland Symphony, and as an associate member of the Columbus Symphony. Will holds degrees in music from the University of Florida and Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied with cellists Steven Thomas, David Premo, and Anne Martindale Williams. Also, he has attended the National Repertory Orchestra, Brevard Music Center, and the Innsbrook Institute Summer Festivals.

JMC asked Will what his advice was for auditioning; here is what he had to say:

Here is my audition attack plan-

1) Start preparation early and slowly- As soon as audition materials are made available, begin "woodshedding" (technical aspects such as fingering, shifts, etc) at slooowww speeds. Play through things at half tempo, gradually increasing the tempo. You want to feel in complete control for the muscle memory to build effectively.

2) Consistency- You want to play the audition materials as often as possible (ideally every day) in similar or the same conditions every time. For example, warm up the same way in a practice session, woodshed, and finish it off with a "mock audition" or run-through of the materials. If you know what time of day your audition will be, try playing your daily mock audition at that time of day!

3) The X-factor- A "perfect" audition doesn't exist, as everyone makes mistakes. But an audition that shows a player's "X- factor" does! This means that their musicality and attention to detail are fully on display as they play their audition materials. Ask yourself, what can I bring to these audition excerpts that will make me stand out? Extra attention to articulation and dynamics? Do I understand fully what the composer wanted? What are the other instruments doing in this piece of music that my excerpt is from? An audition is like a business pitch- you want to make the audition committee feel confident and excited to pick you and invest in you! Therefore, you should think a little creatively and see how much you can express and showcase your musical prowess within the parameters given to you by the audition materials.

Dennis Emert Tours with The Yankee Brass Band

At the end of July, Dennis Emert traveled to New England to tour with the Yankee Brass Band through Vermont and New Hampshire.

The Yankee Brass Band is a band dedicated to playing historically accurate concerts of the Civil War era. The band is highly committed to the historical accuracy of their performances, playing period songs on instruments from that era and in period clothing.

The band began in 1986 and has embarked on an annual tour through New England until 2019. This year was their first tour after a two-year pause brought on by the pandemic.

In maintaining the period accuracy of the band's performances, many of the instruments played in the Yankee Brass Band are early versions of modern brass instruments. Playing the instruments is a challenge and requires adjustments from the players since the instruments do not transcribe well for modern music. Dennis plays the alto horn in the band, which was a widely used horn in brass bands of the mid-late 1800s. Some instruments used in the Yankee Brass Band are extinct in modern music, such as the keyed bugle and the ophicleide.

Dennis's horn is authentic to the period, made in the mid-late 1800s. Most of the instruments in the Yankee Brass Band are antiques, either donated by museums, private collections, or owned by the musicians in the band. These early versions of brass instruments are primarily unavailable outside of original antiques, so they are what the band members have to play.

For more information on the Yankee Brass Band, check their website at

Also, link to a video of the Yankee Brass Serenade Band (with Dennis) performing ‘The Slumber Polka’, at the Lyman Point Park in White River Junction, Vermont.

PMEA Honors Ensembles Audition Music Available Now

District 1 of the PMEA has published the list of music for this year's honors and district ensambles. Click the button below to view a PDF of the audition pieces as well as details regarding the auditioning process. The PDF is also available on the PMEA District 1 Website.

Tell Us What You Think

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Issued August 2022

Newsletter by Joe Weinzierl and Dennis Emert