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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000071.txt from 1999/06

From: Roger Garrett <>
Subj: [kl] Testing mouthpieces
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 10:33:42 -0400

A recent posting suggested that mouthpieces that are hand made and crafted
with a final test are therefore representative of that person's tone quality.

I disagree.

I have never heard Jim Pyne play (although you have to play pretty darn
well to play principal clarinet in the Buffalo Symphony), and I have never
heard the Kaspars play, nor have I heard David Hite play, Clark Fobes play
(except knowing that he plays in the studio recordings of the movies I saw
- the music for The Faculty was better than the movie!), never heard Greg
Smith play solo, never heard Gennusa play, but then - the mouthpieces are
played on by many, many people - many of whom sound nothing like each
other. I don't think Marcellus sounded anything like John Mohler, yet
their mouthpieces were made by the same person. I have heard lots of
people play Jim Pyne's mouthpieces (I play one!), but they don't sound
anything like each other.

Each person has his own sound. This is a concept I teach at the
university, and it is one that is physically assurred. That a person can
match some of the characteristics of another's tone is more closely related
to concepts of playing than equipment used. Equipment used can and often
does contribute to a person's ability to imitate another's tone, but a
person who simply buys the mouthpiece made by Richard Hawkins is not going
to sound at all like Richard unless he hears Richard and imitates that
sound. This is a very standard concept taught in music education, and it
is a very standard and well-accepted theory for teaching music in any area
- including keyboard, strings, etc. We only play like others through our
imitation of their playing - not through our equipment.

What is the play test for? It is to be sure that the mouthpiece blows the
way the mouthpiece tester feels it should. I can't tell you how many times
I've finished the mouthpiece on the table and the curve is right, the tip
rails and side rails are right, and the baffle looks fine, but the
mouthpiece plays weird. Sometimes it is something simple like depth on one
side of the baffle is different than depth on the other, or one tip corner
not quite the same as the other, or the curve of the tip rail is too flat,
or too curved, or one side rail is slightly thicker/thinner than the other.
Sometimes the bore needs an adjustment too - and sometimes the throat of
the blank needs sanding or filing. The play test helps determine: a) if
the mouthpiece blows well; b) if the mouthpiece blows in tune; c) if the
mouthpiece has more/less edge than other similar mouthpieces made by the
same person or doesn't seem to hold the resonance as well as the others; d)
if the mouthpiece articulates well, etc.etc.etc.

To assume that the mouthpiece made reflects the tone of the maker is a
major stretch in my opinion. But, don't take my word for it - check it out
for yourselves! Line 20 people up and have them play on the exact same
mouthpiece and see if they sound the same. In fact, take 20 people from
the top orchestras and do it - still won't sound the same.

The poster also assumed that Richard Hawkins play tests the mouthpiece as a
final step. I didn't say that, but perhaps that poster has information
that I don't have. I couldn't say for sure. I just want to make it clear
that I didn't provide that kind of information.
Roger Garrett
Professor of Clarinet
Director, Concert Band/Symphonic Winds/Titan Band
Advisor, Recording Studio
Illinois Wesleyan University
Office: (309) 556-3268
Fax: (309) 556-3411

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