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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000850.txt from 1999/02

From: "Kevin Fay (LCA)" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Mouthpiece Thread
Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 08:06:57 -0500

A couple of thoughts on the mouthpiece thing:

--As far as the symmetrical/asymmetrical rails go, Dan Johnston makes them
both ways. The Stanley Hasty facings (which I used for a number of
years)have the "skewed" or "crooked" rails; the Dan Johnston models (which I
also used for a number of years) are "straight." The "skewed" rails add
resistance, making large intervals easier. The extreme width of the tip &
side rails also add a bit of resistance, but make it almost impossible to
get inadvertent overtones (trans. to "squeak").

--$175 is a lot of money. On the other hand, you tend to get what you pay
for. I just bought (and use) a Greg Smith 1* for 150 bucks--and even if it
is "only" a refaced Zinner blank, I'm more than happy to pay it 'cuz it
makes me sound better. I figure that the high price is due not only to the
amount of the time the craftsman spends on the thing, but also who the
craftsman is. Making mouthpieces at this level seems to require a pretty
in-depth knowledge of how to play clarinet at a very, very high level; only
top-notch performers need apply. James Pyne, Dan Johnston, Charles Bay,
Clark Fobes, Richard Hawkins & Greg Smith are all great clarinet players who
are pretty finicky about mouthpieces; we are fortunate that they share their

--I do not understand, however, why the Vandorens or Woodwinds of the world
don't throw a suitcase of money at one or more of these gentlemen and
replicate some of the custom mouthpieces. It *should* be possible to have
these things machined with an extremely close manufacturing tolerance, so
you wouldn't have to be a virtuoso craftsman to make them. With a close to
minimum-wage machine operator, enough of these could be sent to keep the
price down to the store-bought mouthpiece level. Then students could afford
them, too, no?


-----Original Message-----
From: Roger Garrett []
Subject: Re: [kl] Mouthpiece Thread

Very long post - delete now if there is no interest!!!

Interesting information gleaned from mouthpiece makers is fun to read and
helpful in determining how we approach playing our instruments. As
Richard Hawkins told me, the technology is available for ANYONE to
face/manufacture mouthpieces - but mouthpiece makers keep their secrets.
He and I agree that it doesn't have to be that way - too bad that it is
that way. The point of my posts regarding mouthpieces and mouthpiece
design, as I have studied it for the past year, is to provide that
information freely for all who are interested. No secrets here!

Some ideas that might warrant further discussion on this thread:

Asymmetrical rails (ASR) vs. symmetrical rails (SR)- advantages and
disadvantages. The ASR provide the full spectrum of sound and a pleasant
resistance to blow against. The deepr baffle associated with such a
mouthpiece drops pitch. A major disadvantage is that it requires a
powerful embouchure, a more pressure-oriented approach toward the
reed/mouthpiece, and an enormous air supply. The SR provide evenness,
clarity and projection. The disadvatages are that maintaining that same
sound in each register sacrifices something somewhere along the way -
whether it is resonance, volume (in exchange for that resonance), or
pitch. Mouthpiece refacers, as Jim Pyne prefers to call people such as
Hawkins, Smith, and, perhaps myself, work with blanks that are readily
available and not only face them but readjust window, tip rails, side
rails, baffle, and windway. I tend not to get into the bore too much -
the expense associated with reamers and measuring tools is beyond what I
choose to do with mouthpieces. I did hand make my own tools for the
baffle and I use over 18 different files on the interior - as well as
different machine bits on high speed drills.

I sent some of the mouthpieces I do to a clarinet professor in Oregon at
one of the major institutions - who happens to be one of my former
teachers, and his comments were that he is looking for alternatives to the
"high end" mouthpieces. I guess the issue was not so much cost but that
he can't play well on a Hawkins or Smith. Neither can I. Does this mean
they are not good? Absolutely not - for many people they are terrific,
and I endorse them for that reason!!! Listen to Greg Smith, Larry
Combs, and Richard Hawkins play - the mouthpieces are
wonderful.....just not for every person. The story my former
teacher and current professor of clarinetrelated to me
was very interesting and very telling regarding approaches to the horn.
That is - back in the days when Kanter was making mouthpieces, he could
produce a mouthpiece that very nearly matched another. One of the
students of this professor was having difficulty finding a mouthpiece.
Her embouchure looked right, her use of air was excellent, tongue
position, etc......but she was simply uncomfortable on mouthpieces which,
by the way, she sounded very good on. My friend called Kanter and
explained the situation. He had an idea. He said he would try something
and send the mouthpiece up - if the student didn't like it, she didn't
have to buy it. A month later, he received the mouthpiece and excitedly
tried it. To his dissapointment, it was awful. He couldn't get it to
sound well at all. The student arrived at the lesson and tried the
mouthpiece. Not only did she sound great, she fell in love with it. What
does this prove? Not much.....except it helps support the contention that
every approach is different and requires a different setup. Every aural
cavity is different, every set of teeth is different, heck.....the way we
talk and hold our tongues in our mouth affects the way we play! What
works for me doesn't necessarily work for my student. I have
asserted for years that people who speak German or French as a native
language may have a natural advantage over those who speak English or
Japanese - simply by virtue of how we manipulate the aural cavity during
speech - the habits we form. This is not something I have
researched......just something I have noticed in beginners., while ASR may work for many, as they do for me, they do not
work for others. I had to visit Jim Pyne and try 25 mouthpieces before I
found any that I liked - and he still had to complete custom work on each
of two I purchased form myself. In fact, the professor I mention above
wanted to match his Kanter and went to Pyne. Three hours and 30
mouthpieces later, he had a mouthpiece that he liked. That Mr. Pyne is
good at this approach is a benefit to all of us. Is that what I want to
do? Nope. It is a separate approach that services professional and
student clarinetists in a different way to the AR mouthpiece that is made
by hand but provided in quantity for students and professionals to try. I
LIKE my mouthpieces - but I don't claim that they are the answer for
everyone - just as Clark Fobes makes a fantastic mouthpiece - but
recognizes his mouthpieces aren't to be used by everyone. There are
reasons not everyone is playing on a Pyne, or a Gennusa, or a
Morgan, or a Fobes, or a Hawkins, etc...... it is called individual
preference. Presenting the information I have regarding Pyne's
mouthpieces is not wrong. If it is incomplete, it is because Mr. Pyne
does not share that technology with us - understandably so. It was nice
to read a bit more of what he does though. Secrets? When I began my
sabbatical, Mr. Pyne was one of those I contacted to pay him to help me
learn more about mouthpieces, mouthpiece design, etc. He told me, after
my third email propostion and two months later, that he didn't want to
reveal what he does. I understood then - and I understand now.
But....he shouldn't get upset if information is incomplete when it is
presented - he is the one not providing all the information! I measured
the Pynes I have and those of others and recongnize the ASR curve, tip
opening, window size, etc. I spent three hours matching mine
and actually came up with a mouthpiece that plays similarly. But - it
isn't any better than 23 of the 25 I tried in Arizona - why? Because they
are difficult to make and match - even for Jim Pyne.

I'll get off my soapbox......but my final point? Mouthpiece design is not
that big a deal. There are two openings, a baffle, a couple of rails, and
a table. Manipulation of these areas is an individual thing - and
different people approach it with different ideas (including the
scientific and the accoustic). However, I still think a very good, superb
quality hard rubber mouthpiece should be available for students for under
$60. There simply is no need to pay $170 for something that costs someone
less than $40 to make and takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Roger Garrett
Professor of Clarinet
Director - Concert Band, Symphonic Winds & Titan Band
Advisor - Recording Studio
Illinois Wesleyan University

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