The clarinet mouthpiece is a must-have for any serious clarinet player. You may try playing it like the trumpet, without the mouthpiece, and all you'll get is a non-tuned, acoustically unpleasant sound. It matters to the extent that if there's a bad mouthpiece on a great clarinet, the clarinet will still sound bad! It's where all the elements come together to create a sound and a good mouthpiece can make even a poor clarinet sound good. We went above and beyond in our search for the leading clarinet mouthpieces of 2021 in the market and put together this list comprising of 9 items. In the end, you'll find a very valuable buyer's guide to help you in your quest for the best. Let's jump right in!
Buyer's Guide: Finding Your Finest Clarinet Mouthpieces
Whether you are a beginner at the clarinet or looking for an upgrade on your clarinet's mouthpiece, a high-quality embouchure that improves sound quality and eases playability is just what you need! This section has everything you need to go about making a purchase for your next clarinet mouthpiece!
Breaking Down the Components of a Clarinet Mouthpiece
Each little component on a clarinet's mouthpiece affects the sound it produces so knowing what the mouthpiece is made of is going to help you make a better purchase decision.
Tip and facing length
The most frontal part of the mouthpiece, the tip is also the most important part of the mouthpiece when it comes to producing sound. It is shaped by the facing length of the mouthpiece, the shorter it is, the wider the tip opening would be and vice versa.
Where the mouth of the clarinetist is placed, the beak of a clarinet mouthpiece is also called the wall and it extends from the tip down to the body. The angle of the beak affects the sound produced.
Tip rail and baffle
The tip rail is present at the meeting point of the reed and the mouthpiece. Directly behind it is the baffle, its shape is responsible for making sound on a clarinet's mouthpiece.
It is the open space in the center of the mouthpiece and it is the size of the chamber which affects the sound produced and the range of dynamics.
Also a spaced hole in the mouthpiece, the window is usually fully covered by the reed and helps regulate different vibrations of sound from the reed.
How to Choose a Clarinet Mouthpiece
Now that you are aware of all the components that go into the mouthpiece of a clarinet, let's help you find a clarinet mouthpiece that perfectly suits your skillset - consider this a deep insight into how you can get the most out of each component.
If you are a beginner clarinetist, you must already have a plastic clarinet mouthpiece. Though it is the most affordable option, it is not very durable. Look into hard rubber mouthpieces, they are exceptionally durable and can be found in varying price points!
It is the beak's shape and angle that affects the sound produced from the mouthpiece, some professional clarinetists prefer a lower angle while others go for a greater angle.
Tip and facing length
If you are just starting out on the clarinet, consider getting a mouthpiece with a softer reed which will have an open tip and a short facing length allowing great flexibility and producing brighter tones. If you are an experienced clarinetist, look for a harder reed mouthpiece which will have a long facing length and a tiny tip producing darker tones.
Usually listed as 'high' or 'low', the baffle helps produce sound using its shape. If it is close to the reed, it will be a 'high' baffle which will produce brighter sounds while 'low' or 'scooped' baffles produce darker tones.
If you are looking for clarinet mouthpieces that make the sound more focused, consider getting one with a small chamber but if you want a bigger or full-bodied tone, search for a mouthpiece that has a big chamber.
How Does the Material of a Clarinet Mouthpiece Affect the Sound?
Believe it or not, the construction of your clarinet mouthpiece is also responsible for affecting the sound produced. Plastic mouthpieces, usually for beginners, produce low-quality, bright sounds while those made of hard rubber project round, full-bodied tones.
Professional clarinetists may purchase a crystal mouthpiece which produces fairly bright tones and has great projection abilities. Wooden clarinet mouthpieces are used traditionally but they are rarely found, mostly due to their difficult projection abilities and unstable sound quality.
What is the Role of Reeds and Ligature?
Two of the most important accessories for a clarinet mouthpiece are reeds and ligatures. Without any one of them, the clarinet mouthpiece will go mute!
Ligatures are usually made of metal and rubber. The metal ones help produce bright tones and have great projection abilities. If you plan to play solo or in front of a large audience, consider getting a metal ligature for a better volume throw.
For better sound quality, select a rubber ligature. They usually require a stronger airflow but tend to cause less damage to the reed on the clarinet's mouthpiece.
Reeds produce different sounds using vibrations and have different strengths. If you are a beginner clarinetist, reeds with a strength of 2 or 2.5 break in easily and work well!
Clarinet Mouthpiece FAQ
Q: How does the shape and tip of a clarinet mouthpiece affect the sound?
A: The tip of a clarinet's mouthpiece is shaped by the length of the mouthpiece. Generally, softer reeds have a short facing length and an open tip which produces a brighter tone while harder reeds usually have a long facing length and a small tip which produces a darker sound.
Q: When should I upgrade my clarinet mouthpiece?
A: According to professional clarinetists, the day you get yourself a clarinet is the day you get a new mouthpiece since most beginner clarinets come with a plastic, sub-par quality mouthpiece which will not produce good sound. If you play the clarinet regularly, replace its mouthpiece when it starts to wear down (usually takes about 2 years).
Q: How much does a clarinet mouthpiece cost?
A: Clarinet mouthpieces come in a range of prices depending upon the construction, facing lengths, opening tips etc. On average, an entry-level mouthpiece can cost anywhere between $30 to $150. Higher end clarinet mouthpieces are usually customised according to the clarinetists' needs.
Q: Why do clarinets squeak?
A: In a clarinet, the reed of a mouthpiece is responsible for producing all sounds. If you notice a squeaking sound, the reed may be damaged, incorrect or dry. You might also be hitting the reed too hard with your tongue or may have placed the ligature incorrectly.
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