Looking to upgrade your clarinet mouthpiece? Our woodwind specialists have put together some useful information to help explain a little more about them.
W h a t i s a m o u t h p i e c e?
The clarinet is a single reed instrument belonging to the woodwind family. There are lots of different types. The most common; B flat, sits in the middle of the higher E flat and between the bass clarinet which plays one octave below. There are quite a few other variants which see frequent use by soloists and in orchestras around the world.
Clarinets come in five sections: mouthpiece, barrel, top joint, bottom joint and the bell. To produce a sound, a reed is attached to the mouthpiece with a ligature. When air passes over the reed, it vibrates and passes through a chamber in the mouthpiece, then down through the rest of the instrument. When different combinations of keys are pressed, the air flow changes and creates different pitches. Because it is the first point of contact, the mouthpiece shapes the clarinet’s tone.
Some new clarinets come with a mouthpiece, but as you advance it is likely that you will need to upgrade. There are many different options out there and ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference. So if you are thinking of upgrading to a different mouthpiece, it’s important to try a few different makes and models before making a decision.
T o n e a n d P r o j e c t i o n
The two essential features of a mouthpiece for producing tone are the facing length and the tip opening. The facing length is the curved section of the mouthpiece where the reed vibrates. Longer facings are flexible and therefore easy to control, whereas a shorter facing produces a clearer sound, but with less flexibility and control.
The tip opening is the distance between the tip of the mouthpiece and the tip of the reed. These can be either closed or open. Traditional style mouthpieces tend to have a smaller tip opening and produce a purer, more focused darker sound and a richer tone quality. Wider tip openings create a clear overall brighter tone with an easy response, and these are favoured by jazz musicians for bending notes and producing a brighter sound. For beginners, our woodwind specialists would recommend a medium opening and facing.
Mouthpieces are made from a variety of materials. Durable plastic is often used for student level mouthpieces; although bright, a focussed sound is usually more difficult to attain. Professional clarinet mouthpieces are often constructed from Ebonite (a hard rubber); the sound is more resonant and dynamic, as well as producing a warm, rich tone. Metal, wood and crystal are also used, each having their own tone characteristics. Some mouthpieces are designed for either soft or hard reeds. Usually mouthpieces that have a wider tip opening work better with softer reeds and those with narrower tips work best with harder reeds.
M o u t h p i e c e M a i n t e n a n c e a n d U s e
In order for a clarinet to stay in the best condition, it needs to be maintained and the mouthpiece is no different. If your mouthpiece is well looked after, it will continue to play at its best and will limit the number of times it needs to be replaced. When the clarinet isn’t in use, it would be advisable to put the mouthpiece cap on to protect the tip, face, and your reed. After playing, it is important to remove the reed and clean the inside of the mouthpiece thoroughly with a swab to remove any moisture that may have accumulated.
Cork Grease should be used when the cork wrapped around the tenon of the mouthpiece feels dry. New mouthpieces will need a little more grease to get them started off. After the first week or so, a small amount of cork grease should be applied after playing so it can be absorbed while the clarinet is in the case. Greasing the tenon corks makes it easier to assemble/disassemble the instrument whilst ensuring the correct seal is made preventing air from escaping. Cork grease is a specially formulated substance designed to be used specifically for this purpose. Other lubricants e.g. butter, cooking oils, beauty products or maintenance fluids should never be used instead of cork grease. This will cause long term damage to your instrument!
L i g a t u r e s
Finding the correct ligature is highly important in producing a good sound. Some ligs’ won’t adapt well to certain mouthpieces, so ensure that you have a good fit. Overtightening, especially if there is no reed present, will damage the ligature and could scratch or cause more serious damage to the mouthpiece.
M o u t h p i e c e P a t c h e s
These self-adhesive synthetic patches stick directly onto the mouthpiece, where the top teeth sit. This provides a cushion for the mouth and helps to reduce vibrations coming through the teeth. The patches also protect the mouthpiece’s surface from bite marks and scratches. A variety of different sizes, colours and types of clarinet mouthpiece patches are available here.
We always stock a wide selection of mouthpieces and our friendly woodwind specialists are always on hand to offer advice. We stock many of the best brands and there are always plenty more options available to buy online or in store.
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