Mouthpiece coverings, teeth pads

Dear Mr Friedland,

Will teethpads on a clarinet mouthpiece (i.e. Vandoren Bb B45) significantly alter its playing characteristics or the player’s embouchure?
Many saxophone players use them, however, I can’t recall any clarinet players.


Dear ODC:
If you mean the pads that one acquires to cover the mouthpiece and protect the teeth from either moving on the mouthpiece while playing, and/or scratching it, the answer is that in no way does the placement of mouthpiece pads alter the playing characteristics or the players embouchure, accept perhaps, in making it more secure. Most clarinetists do indeed use them , if I’ve taken your meaning properly. But, there are differences in thickness, which can lessen vibration and give the illusion of more comfort. I have always used them, but I find the thinner the covering, the more I feel the response is not hurt, but enhanced. Since we get a lot of the sound through bone conduction (teeth), this can be made more amenable through a mouthpiece pad, (really a covering). I’ve found that saxophonists use a thicker covering than do clarinetists.
But I wonder if you perhaps meant “teeth pads” as covering the lower teeth for approximately the same purpose: lessening the vibration, and in an ancillary manner,diminishing discomfort from biting. In this area I have had considerable experience and know other players who have had discomfort from biting. Biting is either caused by the jaw not pointing down , away from the reed, as part of the embouchure, the use of a reed which is too resistant for the embouchure, and/or taking in too much mouthpiece. There are several remedies for biting. One, which I’ve seen many players employ, is having there lower teeth shaved down, perhaps because they have crooked or sharp lower teeth. This can help. however these players usually have other habits which contribute to the problem. Or they have a dentist make an impression of their lower teeth and then fashion a thin piece of either gold or silver which fits over the lower teeth perfectly and helps to alleviate the biting. Then there are those who simply moisten a piece of cigarette paper prior to playing and carefully fit same over the lower teeth.

Actually, in all of the above, proper embouchure is always the best solution, for some more easily achievable than for others. The pad on the top of the mouthpiece keep vibration absorption down and the mouthpiece from getting disfigured.

Keep practicing.


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