Mouthpieces! Careful. It’s a jungle out there.

September 23, 2010

Hi Sherman,

I’d very much appreciate your thoughts or advice … I favor the sound that soft reeds ( #2) give me when I play. Is there a particular type of professional quality mouthpiece that is designed for a player who uses softer reeds? I currently use a Ridenour RE 10 which came with my Lyrique.
Thank you and best wishes.

Thank you for the interesting question. Interesting because it focuses upon one of the imponderables of the mouthpiece manufacturing process, and that is the embouchure of the player. We are all of us,different and the variances in embouchure have a lot to do with the strength of reeds. Also , another imponderable is what you the player, are used to hearing , both in the room where you practice or the hall in which you play. The strength of reeds you use is but a part of the problem, The sound you prefer as your ideal is another. While in general, we say that a closer the tip of the mouthpiece necessitates a more resistant reed, the opposite also being the norm, it actually depends upon the embouchure of the player to alarge extent.
You have not mentioned if you prefer the mouthpiece which came with your horn. As with all other mouthpiece of a particular design, each will vary slightly. Let us say that your current mouthpiece, the RE 10 is sufficient for your needs.. If so, you need go no further. If not, I would consider a more open facing to try. Or a different maker. They all have different ways of making their product. You may wish to try a Zinner blank, which are quite popular among clarinet players today. They have a lovely quality, some say more sensuous than other mouthpieces. You may wish to contact Mr Ridenour for advice.He is a knowledgeable person in this area, but like all of us, his opinion has a lot to do with his product.. You are the final judge.
Back to your RE 10. If comfortable there, you need go no further. If not, try to attempt to identify what it is you do not prefer.

My only caution would be to step lightly in he word of different mouthpieces. It can be a jungle, and many have lost their way. Of course, we can recall Hansel and Gretel, and scatter breadcrumbs. Not such a bad idea. Keep the reeds you prefer and start by using them on the new mouthpiece. In that way, you have part of your problem in hand, so to speak. Having gotten lost many times in searching for the new, I have learned, as I have gotten more experienced , to be quite cautious.

Good luck,



Strident results in the upper register. What is a Big Full sound.?

September 2, 2010

Dear Mr Freidland:

I have read some of your comments posted on the Internet and can appreciate how valuable and interesting they are to your readers. I am an advanced, nonprofessional B flat clarinet player, having played off and on since 1948. I own a 7-ring Selmer clarinet S/N N7636 (obviously reconditioned), which indicates it was manufactured in 1951 in France, and it has a very full sound, apparently due in part to a comparatively large bore.

However, this horn produces fairly bright, if not strident, tones in the upper register above high C. I use the Vandoren B45 mouthpiece and was wondering if a change to another type of mouthpiece could improve the upper register tone quality. In addition, attempting to play a gliss, such as Artie Shaw’s at the end of his Begin the Beguine, is a risky endeavor.

I would greatly appreciate your comments on the foregoing.
Jim C.

Dear Jim C:
Thank you for your note about the N series Selmer and attendant possible mouthpiece problems, also glissandi.

I think that the VD B45 is a good ordinary mouthpiece. That it is just about the most popular mouthpiece in their mouthpiece stable is in my opinion, only happenstance.Of course mouthpiece considerations are always rather personal or personal to some degree as are mine. But, as I have tried and played in concert many many of the VD mouthpieces with various degrees of satisfaction, I feel somewhat convinced of my conclusions.
To continue, the B45 is only an average mouthpiece.It plays, but never ever gave me the kind of control that I have experienced on other VD mouthpieces, specifically the M13,my favorite of the Van Doren.It is I’m told, Van Dorens take on the Chedeville mouthiece of days gone by, and that mouthpiece was supposed to be extraordinary. But , I have never played on one, just copies of them,like theM13.Allof the M mouthpieces are quite a bit better that B models, especially with pitch. I found with my M13 more comfort in the altissima and better large intervalic movement, and let’s face it,I liked the sound.
But, if you will take that as a suggestion that you may wish to try another Van Doren, good.
But,there are others which play even better and are less,such as the Fobes Debut, much easier, much better for choosing reeds and excellent in the upper extremes without pinching in either embouchure or resultant sound.
Yes, I like the Richard Hawkins best, the R model, though I have and own the S model as well. He is the most sensitive of the mouthpiece makers and I believe him to be more precise and careful in his handmade mouthpieces.He uses the Zinner blank, highly touted these days, for a very nice quality.
So, there you have some suggestions and I start with saying yes, try a new and better mouthpiece, and there are those plentifully available. One thing to remember,each that you play will respond a bit differently, and that is a guaranty, similar, but different.
The only comment I would have is that a bigger bore clarinet does not necessarily result in a bigger or fuller  sound,which is all totally subjective.
And who,said that a bigger  or fuller sound is a better sound, and how do you define a big  and/or fullsound? One takes it for granted, as a “given”.A big sound is all in the ears of the beholder.

Good luck and just practice.
Artie Shaw didn’t copy anybody.
best regards,