Untitled Document
Advertisement Click to advertise with us!

In need of some mouthpiece boot camp

Will someone please help out this newbie with a little mouthpiece boot camp. I understand that at this stage of of my development, the very, very, very start of it, it will not make that much difference to my playing. I am told that mouthpieces are a very personal choice and the right one is the one that works best for me. O.K. I can accept that, but doesn't that infer that what will be best for me in the future will depend on what I get used to at the start? That being said, here are a few questions.
1. Tip opening: How does this affect the mouthpiece's ability to play in the different registers? Is an open tip easier to play in the highest register or harder or does it matter? Does a closed tip make it significantly harder to blow through or is that just my imagination? How does tip opening affect changing the registry? Does using an open or closed tip facilitate this or make it more difficult?
2. Facing: This appears to me to be the area that is the most prone to be "it's what you are used to".Is this correct or are there other factors? How does the facing affect the mouthpiece?
3.Material: From what I've read and heard, hard rubber is a very good if not the best choice. Wood is both expensive and inconsistent, plastic is cheap, consistent but doesn't produce the best sound. Glass or, excuse me, crystal seems to be more of a gimmick than a real advancement in technology and besides that I can't afford those mouthpieces that cost more than my clarinet.
4. Are there other factors that I am not considering?

For the time being, I'm using a Vandoren B45 because it was recommended to me. I'm hoping that this is a good middle of the road unit.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Yes it is. The Fobes Debut is another excellent choice. My advice is not to jump on the equipment train too early. There will be plenty of time for that when you have built up some clarinet chops.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Material: From what I've read and heard, hard rubber is a very good if not the best choice. Wood is both expensive and inconsistent, plastic is cheap, consistent but doesn't produce the best sound. Glass or, excuse me, crystal seems to be more of a gimmick than a real advancement in technology and besides that I can't afford those mouthpieces that cost more than my clarinet.
Hard rubber is possibly the best choice. Wood can warp and is arguably more sensitive to temperature change. However, my experience on playing on wood mouthpieces is "not bad." Plastic is cheap and cheap mouthpieces are generally not as good as expensive ones. That being said, Yamaha makes a decent plastic mouthpiece. "Crystal" is a name for relatively high-quality, clear glass. I haven't seen too many folks use crystal (Pete Fountain, IIRC). You didn't mention metal, but they're also out there. I just find metal mouthpieces difficult to control. We could talk about ivory mouthpieces, too, if you wanna go back to the 19th century or earlier ....

As far as material is concerned, I'd say the overwhelming majority of folks play on a hard rubber mouthpiece. I also tend to the opinion that the mouthpiece is as important as the instrument itself -- all other things being equal.

For some recommendations on mouthpieces, you can try this thread. The B45 is mentioned there, too, and it's a very decent mouthpiece.

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I wouldn't worry too much about the mouthpiece you start on influencing your future mouthpiece selection. I started playing in college in clarinet method class and have no recollection at all what the mouthpiece provided with the instrument was. After the class I put the instrument down until it was needed for doing pit work- covering the simple harmony parts. This led to the band directors discovering I could play clarinet and promptly being drafted into the ensembles. I continued playing in ensembles until I was 1st clarinet in the orchestra and hitting some heavy repertoire with that ensemble. By the time I was doing this I was playing a Selmer HS* and feeling pretty good about my rig.

Skip a few years down the road! and I've been playing lead in a number of ensembles ranging from Dixieland, big band, concert band and 1st in the local symphony. I haven't used that Selmer in years because I moved to a different piece which I use for all these gigs (excluding outdoor unamplified jazz gigs where I use a Lakey). I have pulled the HS* out a few different occasions and find it totally unplayable for me now, too restricting and hard blowing.

My needs evolved and I moved on to different pieces. As you advance as a player you will recognize the limiting factor in your equipment. At that time, searching for different equipment to fit your needs is a logical choice, but don't let lack of chops lead you down the gassy path of looking for solutions to your lack of technique in expensive equipment.

Start with solid equipment in good condition and learn to play it, I mean really play it. You may never outgrow a good student setup, and that is OK, in fact you may be fortunate if you hit the right combination in the beginning stages of playing.


Just start with decent equipment, and play the thing.
Thank you all for your input. I think that what you were all saying is, ''I could tell you, but you still wouldn't know". I understand that it is a bit premature. I guess that I'm just too impatient. I want to learn everything right now. It probably comes from having been a somewhat well known "expert" in my field for a number of years. Now that I'm retired and no longer that big fish in a little pond, I have trouble adapting.
I couldn't agree with you more. Yes, I am having fun and yes, I agree with you about the lessons too. My problems with the lessons thing stem from lack of mobility, arranging transportation, getting around town and such and with finding a teacher. I live in a little backwater town that although not far from the somewhat metropolitan area of San Antonio, Texas, there is a severe shortage of woodwind teachers here and it is a real effort for me to get into the city to attend lessons where there are some. I may have that worked out however. I should find out by the end of this week. I retired out of the telecommunications industry. In that field an "expert" is anyone on the project that is from more than 100 miles away. In that I was a project and construction manager and consultant on international projects, I automatically qualified as "expert".


Old King Log
Staff member
Unfortunately, playing a musical instrument is a skill that is half-learning, half-apprenticeship. Without the guidance of an "experienced" player, you are really skating on thin ice as far as the apprenticeship portion is concerned.

Have you checked the local (Craig's List?) availability of teachers in your area? My experience with teachers (with my children) is that once you get the word out that you are looking, they tend to rise up out of the ground. However, they are looking for compensation, so it's going to cost something.

(My best success was with my son and his bassoon playing. We used a "school recommended" instructor for the first year, but made a quick and successful switch to our next-door neighbor, who saw him with the distinctive case one day. It turned out that she had once been a bassoonist with the Tulsa Symphony, and was more than willing to teach him for free. (We paid her anyway.))