Many years ago is when this story begins. It was during the 60’s or maybe before and the Van Doren was the reed played by all serious players and all of their students. They were very inexpensive @ $3.75 for 25 reeds. Very frequently, I would go through 4 or five boxes before a lesson and I am sure that many others did the same. Fixing reeds was OK but not for a lesson as I and many others found. And there were more clarinetists around, at least in Boston, my home.
Gradually, reeds became a thing for which you asked, but sometimes were not there. Yes, you had to wait for a shipment and then finally, the word got around: In order for the dealers to get VD reeds, they had to also buy and stock VD mouthpieces. At this time, the Van Doren mouthpiece was not in vogue and it was diffcult to find one. They had no reputation of any kind. People played Selmer or sometimes Woodwind mouthpieces, but not Van Doren. But, they were soon to change as the reeds only became available if Van Doren mouthpieces were ordered as well.
Funny thing. These mouthpieces didn’t play badly. They were not costly and they had a better sound than many others available at the same time.
Actually during a previous summer I had been in France at the Van Doren showroom choosing reeds, as I am sure many of you have. You could try reeds for hours, ptting aside the ones you liked and later when finished, they wold take the reeds and mark them and sell them to you for about .25 a piece.(Of course, when you got them to your place, they played nothing like they did at 56 Rue Lepic, but that is another story.
I had been picking reeds using a Selmer mouthpiece and I found very few that I liked at all. A fellow came downstairs with mouthpieces on each of the fingers of his hand, and introduced himself to me. He was Robert Van Doren and he allowed me to try the mouthpieces he had brought with him.
All of them played much better than did my selmer and I remember buying a 2RV and a couple of others.
Now, you and the other current students and players know that Van Doren is the worlds best selling mouthpiece and it is quite probably the best as well.
You are paying about $60 or $65 dollars for a very well made mouthpiece, quite consistent and available in every conceivable facing and tip opening. They are made very accurately and although every mouthpiece of the same measurement will play somewhat differently, every facing is there.
Within the parameters of the “M” mouthpiece, you have Van Dorens version of the Kaspar and Chedeville style and they are quite close/ I purchased an M13, a mouthpiece made for the American pitch standard after the above makers and played on it until quite recently, and still go back to it from time totime.
They come with the most open facing, the 5JB,which they call “the mouthpiece for Jazz” to every conceivable length and depth one can think of. Cheap, Cheap, especally considering what the “Craftsmen” will charge, which can be anything and is usually more.
The only disparaging thing one can say is that the basic response of the VD sound is not as romantic and sensuous as that of the Zinner, which is as far as I care to go.
Yes, the reeds can frustrate even “The Dark Knight”, but the mouthpieces are great, well made,beautyfully finished and highly affordable.
Don’t let anyone, (especially me) tell you different.