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I used to play mostly trombone in trad jazz bands. I got turned onto the cornet, and there was a need for someone in our area to play the cornet, so I got it "up to speed". For a little while (short to be honest) I tried to double on trombone and cornet, but found the switch of mouthpieces and embouchures really uncomfortable, disorienting and well, made me worse on both when I switched from tune to tune.

So I stopped playing much trombone, since the cornet is smaller anyway and easier to travel with! Recently I joined a NOLA style second line band and there were 5 trumpets but no sousaphone players. The leader had a sousaphone laying around and asked if I'd be interested in playing. I gave it a go and it turns out I love it! With the 2nd line band I just play sousaphone now.

So this is the real question: I took the sousaphone AND my cornet to a swing jam the other day, thinking that I'd switch back and forth. I guess I had forgotten the issues with the trombone doubling. I hadn't tried to switch back and forth before this jam, and I found that not only was it disorienting and uncomfortable, it was darn near impossible for me to lock in my cornet embouchure after playing sousaphone for a tune. I just couldn't do it, and it got worse every time I tried. And it was very psychologically disorienting and uncomfortable. It felt like Alice in Wonderland or something. The cornet felt so awful and my lips felt rubbery and uncontrollable.

This is a long-winded way of asking WTF? I love both of these instruments (and trombone too), and I would love to be able to switch around on them, but maybe that's just a pipe dream. I don't see it done very much and maybe this is why, but it seems like at best I'll have to choose one per set, or maybe one per day. The technique and calibration are just too different for the accuracy required.

I do remember when I tried with trombone/cornet, that my embouchure on the trombone started fluttering uncontrollably on lower notes, and it felt that the actual muscle development caused by the cornet embouchure was interfering?

Anyway, does anyone have experience with this, and have tips, suggestions for me? Or confirmations that this is a pipe dream, or maybe just not meant to be, or not meant to be for me?

Thanks!

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  • Warmup time between switches is best. Meanwhile, maybe practice switching repeatedly while safely back home (or wherever you practice). Sep 17, 2021 at 14:56
  • @CarlWitthoft I'm talking about switching during gigs between tunes. So there's not much "warmup time". In theory I'm already "warm". Maybe practicing at home switching is a good first start. I think I was mostly interested in others' experience of this.
    – pixelearth
    Sep 17, 2021 at 15:39
  • as a related example, check out Aubrey Logan, who goes from singing to playing trombone without blinking. Sep 20, 2021 at 12:28
  • @CarlWitthoft I'm not sure these are related. I'm specifically referring to embouchure interference. I can go between violin, guitar, clarinet and ONE brass instrument without any issues. It's the issue of how the embouchure orientation, musculature, and fatigue affect accuracy and feel on brass.
    – pixelearth
    Sep 20, 2021 at 14:56
  • I think your own suggestion in one of your comments above "practicing at home" is a good way to go on this matter. Oct 17, 2021 at 16:37

3 Answers 3

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I switch from Jazz small bore tenor trombone, large bore tenor trombone, bass trombone, sousaphone, and trumpet all the time. If I do have to switch between instruments quickly, I look for a mouthpiece with a rim and cup similar to that of the mouthpiece I use for the other. For example, I use a 12C for jazz, and that has a very specific rim shape and cup shape. So I got a Bousfield 5o for my large bore tenor, because that has a comparable rim shape. I use a Jupiter 24AW with my sousa, so I grabbed a 1/2 MD shires bass trombone mouthpiece. For the trumpet, I found a Bach 3c megatone works equally well for all of the doubling. Just find the mouthpiece that makes the transition easier, and you'll be set.

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(I meant to ask the same question as I'm in a similar situation. I've been playing Euphonlum, Trombone, Eb-Bass for many years, and now I mean to practice Cornet.)

My friend - a cornetist - had no problems to switch between Cornet and Bass or Euphonium, but from low to high it seams to be harder. A tip: start with just buzzing high tones without Instrument. You can practice when and where ever you want. The same fort the Trombone- embouchure: let the lips flatter 15min before you start playing.

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  • I'm referring to changing instruments every other tune or something like that in a band performance situation. So there's not really time for buzzing or anything. Well maybe 20 seconds of buzzing.
    – pixelearth
    Oct 18, 2021 at 3:20
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Ask James Morrison how he does it! Some people seem to be able to switch effortlessly between instruments. But a whole lot more can't :-(

This may be a pipe dream for you. But don't give in until you've had a hard look at your embouchure to make sure you aren't relying on pressure, and worked hard at developing flexibility on all the instruments. On cornet, is a lip slur from middle C to the C two octaves higher (and back down) effortless? Or are you 'screwing it in' for the high C?

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  • Nothing for me above the middle D is effortless for me. And embarrassingly I have never hit a high C. I have plenty of work to do so this could be complicating matters for sure.
    – pixelearth
    Oct 18, 2021 at 3:23

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