April 16, 2024

“Thanks for providing such a good forum on the Web with your sax and clarinet forums. I check in on them from time to time.

I was wondering if I could be so forward as to ask you for your opinion. I am an intermediate level tenor saxophone player and clarinet player. I have a good equipment set up on my primary instrument (the saxophone, an old Mark VI that I have owned since 1978), but alas, I am still playing on an old student model Bundy. I am one of these players who played in high school and college, but then quit for some years. However, now for the past six months or so, I have been getting back into playing. When I played clarinet in college it was really just for doubling on parts in the jazz band.

Some day soon, when I have some additional money, I would like to buy a
Buffet or Selmer clarinet. My question for you in the interim though, is that I now need to buy a new clarinet mouthpiece, and I noticed your
recommendation for the Vandoren B45, which my local music store here in
Phoenix carries. However, I was just curious. I know that you like your
Ronald Caravan mouthpiece very much, and I saw that you have an
address/phone link for his mouthpieces. Are these pieces generally
custom-made-type pieces that are higher-end and expensive? I was just
curious, and thought I would ask you. Also, do you feel that the Caravan pieces are far superior to the Vandoren product?

I’d understand if you don’t know much about the Caravan current prices, but I just wanted to see if you REALLY liked it a lot better than the B45? My understanding is that the B45 is a very good student-type mouthpiece.
Mouthpieces are such a personal thing. I believe I bought the clarinet mouthpiece from Caravan on a whim. It was because I was going to get one of his saxophone mouthpieces, and saw that he had a clarinet mouthpiece, and I had money and……what the hell. It’s actually the only caravan mouthpiece I use, the other two are in a box somewhere in my studio.

The B45 is a good general purpose mouthpiece. I think I was looking for something a little darker and fuller. I just happened that the Caravan fit the bill and I’ve really never wanted to try anything else. Though, I did play a Selmer clarinet with the Caravan and it sounded Bad.

I’d recommend trying a bunch of mouthpieces, and have someone else listen or record yourself playing them. Some others that I hear are good are Clark Fobes and Borbeck mouthpieces.

10 thoughts on “Clarinet Mouthpieces

  1. I play the M15 for just about anything, and I was wondering what sort of a difference I would experience in my jazz tone if I switched to the much more open tip opening, but similar facing length 5JB.

  2. Please keep the mouthpiece advice coming. I’ve played/studied clarinet for 20 years and have yet to find a mouthpiece I like. I’m currently on a Clark Fobes San Francisco model; it’s the least unresponsive of all pieces that I’ve tried. Still, it’s not free-blowing, it’s constrictive, and there’s no volume when I’m out on a gig. I’ve tried jazz-specific models, like the Peter Ponzol, which was a mockery of a mouthpiece. I can barely get a sound on it. Any ideas, anyone? Is clarinet just not my instrument??

  3. Have you ever tried Pomarico crystal mouthpieces?
    The response is immediate, thanks to the very hard material and there is a complete range of different openings to chose from (from very very open mouthpiece, much more than Vandoren 5JB, to very closed, more than Vandoren M15).

  4. I play a Selmer St. Louis clarinet with an Eddie Daniel’s Rovner 11 ligature on a Hite mouthpiece. It gives me a good free blowing sound and as I play tenor, alto and soprano saxophones Hite mouthpieces are good for players who have to switch from clarinet to saxophone. On saxophones I play Dave Guardala Studio mouthpieces.

  5. The most important aspect of your mouthpiece is not your mouthpiece at all, it’s the physical characteristics of your mouth. The mouth cavity, airway and surrounding muscles are unique to every individual. Imitating setups your favorite players use will not give you their sound. Following the advice of other players who swear by this or that mouthpiece may not get you the results you’re looking for. I knew Stan Getz “The Sound” and he was as mystified by what gave him his ‘sound’ as everyone else. His setup was simply the best match for the mouth he was born with and it doesn’t work for everyone. (I tried it and it sure doesn’t work for me.) Famous quote from Coltrane: “Let’s face it, we would all sound like him, if we could.”

    You have to play a lot – like many hours a day every day – on whatever setup you have and first learn to open your throat and expand and control the air in your mouth before you begin searching for and spending big bucks on your optimum mouthpiece. You will feel it when it happens – the column of air in your mouth resonates with your instrument. It’s a loose, but controlled thing – not tight and controlled. It’s louder, but more centered than you thought you could ever play. It’s an epiphany that comes only after spending many boring, diligent and passionate hours on your ax. Every great player has done it – has paid the dues. There are no shortcuts.

    Once you feel that open sensation, then you can begin going through the endless array of available mouthpieces, but even then, be ready to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

    I’m currently playing six nights a week in a jazz club in Thailand. Clarinet is my focus, but I also use my tenor and alto (both vintage Conn Connquerors). My clarinets are a Buffet Festival and a Leblanc Concerto. The Buffet gives me a warmer, deeper sound, but I love the key arrangement on the Leblanc, which Eddie Daniels had a big say in, so I alternate horns according to whether I feel like sounding warm, or feel like showing off finger-dazzle. The clarinet mouthpieces that seem to give me best sound and projection are Morgans – the J6 and J7. I use Ponzol reeds 2.5, when I can find them and Marca, Pete Fountain 2.5 and 3 when I’m out of Ponzols. I don’t have to use a microphone with this setup and stay above the group easily, even in the low register.

    So how did I find this site? You guessed it. I’m damn curious about who might be making great mouthpieces and the possibility that something better than what I’m playing on might be out there. Benny Goodman and Stan Getz changed mouthpieces often and never stopped looking. None of us do. But they would both agree that it’s folly to become a gear-head and think that a piece of equipment can replace thousands of tedious hours in front of a music stand.

    1. Thank you for sharing your insights into channeling breath through a mouthpiece that suits one’s oral anatomy. Any pieces & reeds that may utilize the timbre of a pair of Boosey & Hawkes – Empire (grenadilla) well – to help narrow the choices? Do the hard rubber pieces give more mouthfeel to the air column? Thanks.

  6. Bolek Peplowski – Your cleasmates would love to hear from you! We’re having a celebration on Sept. 6 in Plymouth. Organizers couldn’t locate you, so I’m giving this site a try! All the best – M

  7. I use a Pomarico crystal mouthpiece and I love it! People that I know that have tried them either love them or hate them. But I think that the tone that you get from a crystal mouthpiece is just wonderful.

  8. I have taken up swingjazz with my clarinet again, after having a 25 years break. In my younger days the reeds and the mouthpiece was a nightmare and a never ending story. I’m using Vandoren V12 2,5 and a Vandoren B45. I see the B45 is good for students. However, the mouthpiece is just a simple piece of plastic. Are there really objective differences or is it simply that whatever fits your personal style, is the best mouthpiece?
    As to reeds, haven’t anybody been able to make reeds from a plastic/carbon whatever material different from wood? I have tried one German one (Fiberreed) and one Canadian (Legere) one, but they really don’t work.
    But may be it comes down to Bopep’s (Ken’s?) statement – it’s all about practising.
    My style i rather rough – people say I play the tenorsaxophone on my clarinet.

  9. I’m currently using an old Selmer HS** (H S double-star). I read some great reviews on this piece, and was lucky enough to find two of them on ebay a few years ago (one’s a little scratched up – my back-up). But, I can’t remember where I read the review, but I’m glad I did. I play tenor primarily, and alto – and I’ve been practicing a lot lately on clarinet – trying to get my chops up. I really like the selmer HS** piece – nice big sound for big band and jazz playing – I can really cut through on those Miller arrangements and Goodman charts.

    I also occasionally use an e. anello, and an Ernie Northway clarinet piece – for jazz. They are both comparable to the selmer in the way they feel – their open-ness, projection, etc. I prefer a more open piece, so I can put more air through the clarinet (similar to tenor) and get a bigger sound.

    I’ve tried the B45 – too closed off for big band – can’t get enough sound out of it.

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