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Mouthpieces


The combination of the mouthpiece and reed is the most important part of a clarinet. The next most important piece is the barrel, and then the first keyed joint. The importance decreases, so that the bell could be made out of paper mache and no one would be able to tell the difference.
NEVER stand a clarinet up on the floor on its bell! Always use a clarinet stand or lay it somewhere. I have seen many clarinets fall, and it results in a broken mouthpiece about 50% of the time!





Beginning to intermediate level mouthpieces

If your son or daughter is starting out on clarinet, please don't frustrate them by skimping on second-rate reeds or a cheapo mouthpiece! They will probably be successful with any good-working instrument if they have a good reed and mouthpiece.

Some people think it is better to start beginners with a mouthpiece that has a more open facing, like the first two below. This allows the student to use a softer reed and still get a nice, round sound. Here is a list of good, inexpensive mouthpieces for less advance players. I think plastic mouthpieces are fine for beginners. For intermediate players, go with one of the hard rubber ones below.


Name
Model
tip opening
price
recommended for
Fobes Debutmade of plastic
1mm$29beginning through Jr. High.
I tried three of these in August 08, and all were used. They were not consistent, and only one of them played well. However, it is unfair to judge based on used condition. Perhaps two of them got hot and were warped. Also I was using a Legere Quebec cut reed, which is not at all what a beginner will use.
GenusaIntermediate
1.04mm$30beginning through Jr. High
Hite Primiéremade of plastic
.043 inch$20for beginning players, and just fine for more advanced players, high school and above. One will want to start using harder reeds earlier with this mouthpiece.
I wouldn't hesitate to start a beginning student on this mouthpiece, particularly if that student was taking private lessons.
A Legere 2 1/2 reed works great with this for a beginning student.
Chedeville Prime
machined from solid hard rubber stock, not molded
 1.03mm$139Highly recommended. As of 1July2012, this is the mouthpiece I play.
Vandoren 5RV Lyrehard rubber 1.09mm   Similar to by best Chedeville Prime
 Portnoy BP02
molded hard rubber
 $80
Similar to Chedeville Prime

If you are a more advanced player, you will want a hard rubber mouthpiece. They sound better and last longer, and the good ones start at about $70.

1July2012: I have changed to the Chedeville Prime mouthpiece for my performing and reviewing of clarinets at this site. It gives me a more focused sound, more overtones, and probably a little less open but longer facing than my Vandoren B45. Two mouthpieces that are somewhat similar are the Tom Ridenour TR-40 (a little more closed), and the Portnoy BP02. The Portnoy BP02 is a little softer, mellower, and perhaps has a bit less focused sound. I carry the Portnoy as my backup mouthpiece. See my review at clarinetpages.info. See the Chedeville sub-page with information from my e-mail conversation with Omar Henderson.

[May 2013] I ordered a second Chedeville Prime because I was so happy with my first. However, when I got the second one, it did not play nearly as well as the first. Eventually, when I realized the problem, I sent it back. Omar Henderson replaced the mouthpiece for free. The second one plays better, but not up to the level of my first one. I thought that the computer guided machining process for the Chedeville line would make for great consistency. Evidently NOT! I recently played a Vandoren 5RV Lyre that plays almost like my first Prime mouthpiece, and probably more like it than the Portnoy BP02. (The VD might have that .06mm difference in tip opening shown in the specs below.)

During the days I was in grad school and teaching music, I played on a Hite D mouthpiece (tip opening .041"). Sadly, David Hite passed away, but his mouthpieces are still being marketed, and the prices seem quite reasonable. I haven't heard if the quality has gone down. I have one that I purchased after David's passing, and it plays like my other two. These days I hear great things about Fobes mouthpieces. The Hite mouthpieces don't seem to play well with my Legere Reeds.

No name mouthpieces are not always bad. If it is plastic (with a very shiny appearance), then it is doubtful that it will be good. Some hard rubber no-name mouthpieces that came with French “stencil” clarinets are excellent.

For Advanced Students:

All are made of hard rubber. There are many fine makers and models that I have not listed.
For a good chart for Vandoren mouthpieces, see saxplus.com.

Name


Chedeville
PrimeThis is the mouthpiece that I currently play, and this is technically their student model.
 tip opening 1.03mm
 Vandoren5RV Lyre   1.09mm
Portnoy
BP02
  
Tom Ridenour
TR40
The TR40 just happens to be the one I own. I would probably like a different facing better.
 
VandorenB45very nice, the mouthpiece I played after the Hite D and before my current Chedeville Prime.
tip opening 1.20mm
VandorenB46
 tip opening 1.15mm
Vandoren3RVa bit more open than the B45
HiteDThe mouthpiece I got from Joe Allard, my teacher in Grad School at the New England Conservatory.
Medium length, .041" tip, a classical orchestral facing. I recommend a #4 reed for this mouthpiece.
Fobes



New information that I need to verify: Concerning the B45 moutnpiece that I use:
It's important to note that Vandoren Traditional mouthpieces are constructed to play at A=442, rather than the American standard of A=440.  To get an A=440 tuned Vandoren one has to specify the "13 series". 


Crystal and Poly Crystal mouthpieces:
I just had an opportunity to try a James N Pyne * Clarion Poly Crystal mouthpiece. It is beautiful, but I hated the way it played. I didn't like the sound or the response with my Legere Signature 3 3/4 reed.
Poly-crystal is evidently some kind of plastic. It doesn't feel at all like the cool glass feel of traditional crystal mouthpieces. The traditional crystal breaks easily when dropped. The poly-crystal won't have that problem. From a long time ago when I tried a real crystal O'Brien mouthpiece, it had a quick response and kind of a hollow sound.

Jazz Mouthpieces:

Portnoy 3 has a nice open facing and should work well for this.
Brillhart 3 or 4


The older Brillhart mouthpieces were better for both clarinet and sax. Here is an example. Actually this old #2 would be great for jazz.











But don't take my word about jazz stuff. See the JAZZ page!

Good-old Mouthpieces  found in cases:

These mouthpieces are often found with used horns, and I like them.

Name



 D. Bonade7 1/2 hard
rubber
 excellent 
 Bonade Clarity
(has three deep scores across the table)
hard rubber wonderful!  
Vandoren2RVhard rubberAn old favorite for young students. Still very good.





Noblet2Vhard rubbergood student mouthpiece. may not be as good as the no-number model below.
Seems to be a bit more open than my Hite D
Nobletno numberhard rubberterrific!
no nameX4plasticamazingly good
MUSART 
K13 
HR 
very nice 
like B45 
 Portnoy
hard rubber
Excellent  
Like my Hite D. 
SelmerHS* (star)
tip opening less than 1.05mm

SelmerGeorge Bundy 3hard rubbervery free blowing and responsive
 Vandoren5RV 
hard rubber
tip opening about 1.065mm 
 

Footnotes:

For other recommendations, I would trust the people at Muncy Winds (See Links). A good place to see technical information (like tip opening measurements) is The Woodwind&Brasswind.

Many other measurements and technical information is found in this article at ClarinetPerfection.com.

See this thread about beginner mouthpieces at woodwind.org.

How to measure mouthpiece facings, discussed at woodwind.org.