The mouthpiece is arguably the most important component of a clarinet. The clarinet’s mouthpiece is the part of the instrument around which the player’s lips are placed and where the reed sits and vibrates. Choosing the best clarinet mouthpiece entails determining what the player can do physically and musically, selecting a suitable material, selecting dimensions that are appropriate for the player’s needs and desired tone, and physically trying the mouthpieces in various settings with new reeds.
Assessing player ability is the first step in selecting the best clarinet mouthpiece. A beginner player still requires good response and control, but they may not know how to properly care for mouthpieces and are still learning the techniques required to complete basic tasks on the instrument. For these players, inexpensive plastic mouthpieces are usually sufficient. Advanced players, on the other hand, are more aware of the differences between mouthpieces, have more developed embouchures, and play in a wider variety of environments that demand different tones and projection rates. To achieve the sound and response they desire, these players frequently require mouthpieces of varying quality, physical dimensions, and materials.
Once a player has determined his level of ability, he must choose between plastic, hard rubber, metal, and glass or crystal for the clarinet mouthpiece. Plastic mouthpieces are used the majority of beginners because they are both durable and inexpensive. Hard rubber is most likely the preferred material among players. It costs a little more than plastic, but it blends in better with ensembles and has a consistent, darker tone with strong fundamentals and a lot of overtones. Metal mouthpieces project more sound and are thus better suited to solo playing, especially jazz, whereas crystal mouthpieces are extremely stable but delicate.
Assess the dimensions of each clarinet mouthpiece after selecting the material. The tip opening, facing or lay, and baffle are three measurements that influence the playability and sound of a clarinet mouthpiece. The tip opening is the distance between the reed’s tip and the mouthpiece. The length of the curve from the tip of the reed to where the reed touches the mouthpiece is referred to as the facing or lay. The baffle is the mouthpiece’s surface opposite the window, or opening, where the reed sits.
Examine the dimensions of the clarinet mouthpiece through the lenses of air resistance, embouchure, and response. Regardless of which mouthpiece a player chooses, it must be able to blow freely with the appropriate reed hardness so that the player does not have to exert excessive effort. The embouchure of the player determines how much pressure must be applied to the mouthpiece to achieve a focused sound. A good mouthpiece produces air resistance, which is conducive to the production of both a smooth legato and a short staccato, so response is a combination of these two elements.
More resistance is usually created a narrower tip opening. As a result, it’s easier to play and has a darker tone. Wider tip openings allow for more free-blowing, which necessitates greater control. This type of tip opening on a clarinet mouthpiece makes it both louder and brighter.
Because the reed vibrates more with a longer facing, it produces a commanding sound with easy low notes. Long-faced clarinet mouthpieces necessitate more muscular control. Although a short facing allows a player to easily reach high notes, only a small portion of the reed vibrates, necessitating better breath control. Most players prefer a mouthpiece with a medium face because it accommodates a wide range of playing styles and reed types.
A good mouthpiece is made up of the right materials and dimensions, so experiment with a variety of mouthpieces to find the one that works best with the clarinet. If possible, try out the mouthpieces in various settings. Always try new mouthpieces with new reeds, as the goal is to find one that works well with reeds that haven’t had as much time to break in.
Buying clarinet mouthpieces on the internet is something to avoid. This isn’t to say that online retailers don’t have good products. It simply means that each mouthpiece is unique and cannot be duplicated exactly. To see if the mouthpiece will work, the player must physically try it out.