SRU student’s ‘HotLips’ invention targets top brass
David Tini, a music education major from Altoona, invented a trumpet mouthpiece heater he named “HotLips.”
Oct. 9, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. ¬- Two and a half years ago, David Tini was playing trumpet for the Slippery Rock University Marching Pride during an away football game at Edinboro University. It was 35 degrees and raining, too cold for comfort.
"My lips weren't vibrating the way they were supposed to be," Tini, a music education major from Altoona, said. "I was like, man, I need a mouthpiece warmer and it doesn't exist. So I made one."
Tini invented a brass mouthpiece heater and used it to start a business, "HotLips Instrumental Supplies." After his ice bowl incident in Edinboro, Tini said he commissioned himself to find a way to improve musicians' experiences during cold, snowy or rainy conditions on and off the field.
Fast-forward through two and a half years of testing prototypes, fine-tuning and development to today. The U.S. government recently awarded the $30 warmer a patent. Tini began selling his mouthpiece heater invention Oct. 7, 2015, and hopes brass musicians warm up to it so he can expand production to other brass instruments.
"It's been a long process. I started it off literally just to solve a problem for myself and the more I looked into it, the more I saw that there is nothing like it out there at all," Tini said. "All the brass players have the same problem as I do, this can actually be something that other people use, which is why I decided to pursue making it into a business."
The device is easy to attach, even from stadium bleachers in late autumn. Tini said a musician attaches the HotLips mouthpiece heater to his or her trumpet, and the silicon heater slides onto the mouthpiece, heating the mouthpiece to 50 or more degrees
compared to outside temperature.
"You use the product to play more comfortably without taking away from the characteristic sound," he said.
Tini said trying to play the trumpet in the cold is like trying to run in the cold. Muscles become tense in cold weather and don't work as well.
"Whenever you're playing the trumpet, you're dealing with all the muscles in your lips, which are extremely fine," he said. "So even the slightest cold can negatively impact your playing. The basic premise is just to raise the temperature of the mouthpiece so that your lips, when they touch the mouthpiece, are still able to vibrate correctly," he said.
Tini said he doesn't recommend using HotLips in an environment warmer than 55 degrees, because it could raise the mouthpiece temperature to above 100 degrees.
HotLips comes with a rechargeable battery pack good for 15,000 uses, Tini said.
Obtaining a patent was a lengthy process. Tini said he took on the project this past summer as a full-time job, researching the patent process online and filing the paperwork himself. He said you have to prove that the invention is original. He secured a patent for a mouthpiece on any brass instrument. His plan is to make a heater for trombone, euphonium and tuba next.
"It's like doing your own taxes," he said of the patent process. "You can do it all yourself, but they try to make it as difficult as possible."
With 100 trumpet mouthpiece heaters, Tini, who makes them himself, said he has given a few away to help spread the word on the invention. He expects word of mouth to help, saying, "The musician world is very connected."
SRU's Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator, which promotes entrepreneurship, helped Tini develop a business plan.
"David has a patent on his invention and I think it will do well," said John Golden, assistant professor in the School of Business and SEA director. He's a great student who had a great idea and turned it into a great product. His web page is very attractive, and we are helping him with some marketing. His innovation and creativity embody our mission at the SEA."
While he likes trumpet best, Tini plays piano and guitar and also sings. After two years of playing trumpet in the Marching Pride, he switched to drum major for the '15 campaign. He is a member of the SRU Wind Ensemble, Brass Ensemble and Trumpet Sextet.
He serves in the 28th Division Army National Guard Band and is a long-distance runner.
Older brass musicians may make another association with the name HotLips. It was the nickname of Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on the television show M*A*S*H.
There's no connection to M*A*S*H, Tini said with a laugh. "The connection for the name is simply that the product heats your lips. It makes your lips hot," he said.
For more information about the product, visit Tini's website at: http://www.hotlipsinstrumentalsupplies.com
MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | firstname.lastname@example.org