Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have retrognathism -- basically, my mandible is a bit "behind" so that my bite doesn't close very well, and so I am a bit toothy. When I was a kid, I wanted to play the trumpet but I was told by the music teacher that I couldn't because I was toothy and that would get in the way.

So, I was stuck with the recorder for a while, and then I went on to learn to play the keyboard and then the guitar.

Lately, I've been thinking they might be wrong and that maybe I could play the trumpet despite my mandible issues. I already have a grasp of basic music theory, so I could concentrate more on the physical part.

So, what limitations are there for a person to play the trumpet? What kind of difficulty I might expect when blowing a trumpet in my condition and is there something I could do to alleviate it (say, maybe using a different mouthpiece)?

share|improve this question
Find a different teacher. You may well discover that you simply need to hold the trumpet at a slight angle -- which will raise hell in marching band but otherwise won't matter. – Carl Witthoft Nov 21 '13 at 18:15
@CarlWitthoft Well, that happened when I was a kid many years ago, I don't have a music teacher anymore. Maybe I should find one, now. Thanks for the hint! – elias Nov 21 '13 at 19:58
Some trumpeters have their mouthpieces bent by an instrument maker in order to achieve another angle of the trumpet when playing (or to compensate for an overbite). I understand that there is a risk of breaking the mouthpiece in the process, so be prepared for extra expenses, should you choose to try this. – Ulf Åkerstedt Nov 26 '13 at 8:44
@UlfÅkerstedt That's good to know, thanks! – elias Nov 26 '13 at 16:11
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Overbite would only inhibit brass playing potential if your jaw caused your lips to close in a really odd way. You don't need straight teeth to play a brass instrument. If you're using your teeth / jaw to play brass, then you're headed for trouble.

If your lips look like everyone else's when your mouth is closed / relaxed, then I can't anticipate you having many problems that a normal brass player wouldn't face. That said, you may have to do a few things a little differently than most people - for example, you'll probably have to modify the way you produce your articulations as they rely on the tongue forming contact with the roof of the mouth behind the teeth. Your jaw would mean that your tongue would have to travel farther than most, so practicing tonguing exercises religiously would be key.

As far as tone production, like I mentioned earlier - if your overbite is not so pronounced that it alters the way your lips resonate when closed / buzzed, then you should be good to go. Even then, I have friends that play out of the side of their mouths because that's "where they get the good buzz."

I sincerely apologize that you were stuck with recorder.

Using a different mouthpiece, especially on trumpet, would not really rectify any issues. That said, if you find that you have difficulties with trumpet, I'd recommend moving to a lower brass instrument (trombone, euphonium, tuba) as their larger mouthpieces allow for more mandible-freedom.

Hope that helps.

share|improve this answer
Hey, I play the recorder, you insensitive clod! (<-- that's an Internet meme, not a hostile response) – Carl Witthoft Nov 21 '13 at 19:18
Well, my lips do seem a bit weird when my mouth is relaxed -- my mouth does not really closes when relaxed, you see. But I feel better knowing now what it can take. Thank you very much! – elias Nov 21 '13 at 19:54
"Play" is a simple goal. Are you asking if you can be lead trumpet in The World Trumpet Orchestra of Trumpeting, or do you want to blow a few tunes? I think you would need to lack lips entirely for the latter, and "who knows" for the former. If your interest lies somewhere in between, can't hurt and might be fun. – horatio Nov 21 '13 at 22:51
Just in case you guys care, I've got myself a trumpet about a week after this reply. This is the sort of stuff I am troubling my neighbors lately: -- it sounds bad, I know, but it's been fun anyway. Thanks for your encouragement. =) – elias Jan 14 '14 at 20:59
@elias - SuperMario is ambitious, but it's good to hear you making sounds and following your passion. I'll give you a hint: most musicians sound bad most of the time; you can't sound good without sounding bad. Your sound will develop and improve over time, the best thing you can do is keep playing. Keep at it, and thanks for the update, we do care! – jjmusicnotes Jan 15 '14 at 3:34

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.