Anatomy of a Horn Mouthpiece - Houghton Horns

Anatomy of a Horn Mouthpiece

Have you ever heard people throwing around words like ‘backbore’ and ‘rim contour’ and wondered what they mean? Here’s your guide to the anatomy of a horn mouthpiece.

Material of the Cup

(Listed in order from softest to hardest.)

The harder the metal, the quicker the response, but the sound will be less complex.

  • Brass
  • Aluminum Bronze
  • Stainless Steel

Cup Shape

  • More bowl-shaped = More sonorous sound, with a decrease in flexibility
  • More V-shaped = More flexibility, simpler sound
  • More volume (depth) = Heavier, but more covered sound
  • Less volume (depth) = Lighter, more open sound

Material of the Rim

(Listed in order from stickiest to slickest.)

Slicker materials provide more perceived freedom of movement, but potentially a less secure feel.
  • Silver-Plated Brass
  • Stainless Steel
  • Gold-Plated Brass
  • Titanium-Plated Stainless Steel (H-Kote)

Inner Rim Diameter

This is not universally true, but wider inner rim diameters usually work better for larger, thicker lips.

16.5 mm – 19 mm

Rim Contour

The rim width is the surface area of the rim that firmly makes contact with the embouchure.

  • Wider rim = More endurance, less flexibility, drier sound.
  • More rounded rim = Less surface area making contact with the embouchure.
  • More bite (sharper rim) = More pointed, but potentially harsher articulation.


The larger the bore, the bigger and less focused the sound.

See our Brass Instrument Mouthpiece Bore Chart.


Backbores come in many different shapes – they are not usually a consistent taper. However, they can be generally categorized as narrow, medium, or wide.
Backbores can only be considered in conjunction with the bore (i.e. a small bore can be balanced out by a wide backbore). Average together the width of the bore with the width of the backbore to estimate how the mouthpiece will sound.
Generally, a wider backbore means a more free-blowing, but less focused sound.

Shank Taper

The shank taper affects intonation, resistance, and proper fit (your mouthpiece should not be able to rock back and forth in the receiver).
  • Morse (Standard) Taper – Used for almost all horns, including most horns made abroad and imported to North America.
  • European Taper – Used for Alexander horns and horns made in Europe for the European, Asian, and South American markets.
  • There are exceptions to the above two generalizations.

Is there anything we left out? Leave your questions in the comment section below!

Don’t know which mouthpiece is right for you? Schedule a mouthpiece trial with a professional musician.

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