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The Mouthpiece: For Beginners

Discussion in 'Mouthpieces' started by pete, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Created by me for me, mostly. Because I see too many terms I have no clue about being tossed around.

    FWIW, these terms are great to KNOW, but in practice, you're not going to need them, much: a good mouthpiece is one that plays good for you. If you need a suggestion, I'd recommend a Selmer Soloist (now that they make 'em again) C* hard rubber for sax and a Selmer C85 hard rubber for clarinet. Or Vandoren equivalents (V5 and B40/45, respectively -- and IIRC). However, my suggestions are just that. SteveSklar's got a nice review thread going for clarinet mouthpieces and Ed's played more sax mouthpieces than any 5 other people you know.


    What Mouthpieces are Made of:

    A note on this: I've found that metal mouthpieces are made out of just about any kind of metal, including sterling silver. The other mouthpiece luminaries on this 'board can probably say which metals can't be used because they're too difficult to work with, etc.

    A nice review of crystal clarinet mouthpieces is at http://clarinet.cc/archives/2004/05/cry ... hpi_1.html

    I own a 1920's wooden clarinet mouthpiece. I've seen a vintage 1880-ish wooden bari sax mouthpiece. I've talked with Peter Ponzol, in the past, regarding wooden mouthpieces. A summary is, "Skip 'em."

    For a more technical essay, check out http://hal9000.ps.uci.edu/does%20saxoph ... er.doc.pdf
  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    "Rod" is a term I've seen a bit of.

    A "rod" is essentially ... a chunk ... of rubber or plastic that's taken to be made into a mouthpiece (see, for instance, http://www.nyh.de/english/technischeformartikel.php and http://www.clarinetmouthpiece.com/story_rubber.asp).

    The interesting thing is that there are different rubber formulae that have different acoustic properties (again, see the above links). While this brings to mind the agonizing "material makes no difference in the tone" argument for the sax, there does appear to be a difference in tone quality with the quality of the rod rubber or plastic.
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator


    The mystery of mysteries!

    A "blank" is a billet that has had all of its external dimensions (mostly) finished. It looks like a mouthpiece, in other words. Some people use "billet" and "blank" interchangeably. They're not interchangeable.

    (Again, I've taken this definition from reading http://test.woodwind.org/Databases/Klar ... 000097.txt and http://www.clarinetmouthpiece.com/story ... turing.asp. There is no written definition I could find, elsewhere.)

    I'll try to add more, tomorrow. If any other worthies wish to comment, please do so and I'll fold your comments into the above.
  5. Carl H.

    Carl H. Distinguished Member Distinguished Member


    Billet refers to a cast semi finished product. It is also referred to as ingot, particularly for smaller sizes. A billet is typically cast to a rectangular, hexagonal or round cross section compatible with secondary processing, e.g. forging. It can be produced either as coil or cut lengths. Ingots and billets are collectively known as barstock.
  6. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Questions: does this information negate the definition I posted, or is it just an enhancement? It seems to imply that a billet does have a hollow core. Does that mean a core that has a full "chamber" cut?
  7. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    To see how a mouthpiece is manufactuered from the beginning "rod" material (a long pole of rubber) to the finished product go to


    then select "Manufacturing" in the horizontal menu near the top

    then click on the "Mouthpieces" on the far right

    The "Intro" will show you the evolution of a mpc in production

    After the Intro
    then click on each pic in the upper right. This scrolls to the right. some pics, if you notice below will show you video of that segment of manufacturing, otherwise it just gives information below it.

    Selmer, from my knowledge, manufacturers all of it's mouthpieces in-house in Paris (or whereever around Paris their manufacturing facility(s) are)
  8. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Shiny. Don't care for the Flash, but it's still shiny.
  9. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Continuing onwards:

    Finishing. This refers to making your blank into a usable mouthpiece. This can mean excavating the chamber and tweaking different parts of the mouthpiece.

    You can also take a look at
    http://www.woodwind.org/clarinet/Equipm ... piece.html

    I'll probably find more, later. Saxophone and clarinet mouthpieces are virtually identical in their nomenclature.

    I also found THIS interesting.
  10. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    "Chedeville" Mouthpiece Explained


    Possibly a better article is at http://www.sterkel.org/clarinet/chedevi ... hpiece.htm
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