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 Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: Ed Lowry 
Date:   2019-12-05 01:22

I was taught many years ago that when performing an experiment with changing variables, it is generally wise not to change two variables from case one to case two. That is, hold everything constant, change one variable, measure the result, and attribute the difference in the result to the changed variable.

The advice to folks on this list and elsewhere, looking for new clarinets, mouthpieces, and reeds is problematic because different mouthpieces "require" different reeds. When looking for a new mouthpiece, the advice is to bring a reed you’ve been playing on that you like. Looking for a new reed? Don’t change the mouthpiece when selecting another reed.

I once wanted to try out a crystal mouthpiece. At the Clarinetfest in New Orleans I couldn't get any to play, so I gave up.

It strikes me in retrospect, however, that the interdependence of reeds and mouthpieces makes searching for a new reed or mouthpiece very difficult. Simply (and perhaps too simply) stated, some mouthpieces require softer reeds than others. Thus, for the student especially (but for everyone, I suggest), is the mouthpiece that she’s trying in the music store not producing the sound she wants because it’s not coupled with the right reed, or is the mouthpiece just not right for her, regardless of what reed she tries? And how will she be able to bring in the “right” reed for what could be the perfect mouthpiece if she’s never used, broken in, and adjusted that perfect reed for what might be a terrific mouthpiece?

For me personally, I wonder if the mouthpiece I now use (and like) not really close to the the optimum mouthpiece I could have, but for the fact that, many years ago, it meshed well with the reed I happened to bring in?

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 Re: Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-12-05 03:32

Trying new mouthpieces is a bit dicey. I had for years done as you refer and slapped on the best reeds I had to the new mouthpiece to make judgement. BUT you have to admit that all reeds (cane and plastic) become adapted to the mouthpiece you use, and the bends in the reed will NOT mesh ideally with a mouthpiece that has differences of tip opening and facing length.

One may begin as you describe to get some ballpark reading of what is happening, but then you should either introduce a brand new reed of acceptable strength or have the agreement that you can have a home trial period where you can break in reeds over the course of a few days (most ideal).

I will relate one story that changed my mind. I tried some of Brad Behn's mouthpieces at the Clarinet Symposium at Oklahoma some years ago.....with my most trusty reeds. It was fine but not outstanding. Brad took out a new reed that was the half strength softer than mine (observing that this combination should work better for me and the particular mouthpiece of his that I was playing). It was a game changing moment for me. The sound blossomed in ways that I had not thought possible. So yes, you should try to get past the idea of a "trusty reed" because the dimensions HAVE changed and it will not allow the new mouthpiece to start with a reed at a neutral configuration.

................Paul Aviles

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 Re: Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-12-05 06:16

Yeah. Sometime back, someone posted a link to a YouTube video where two well-known clarinetists worked through a bottle of wine in the course of trying out a bunch of mouthpieces and discussing how they usually do that. One of the points was to use new reeds. I've had good luck doing that, even without the wine. As you say, different mouthpieces to well with different reeds, and you want to give a new one a chance to show it's character without being conditioned by a reed you've chosen, and possibly adjusted, for a different mouthpiece.

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 Re: Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2019-12-05 19:22

Whenever looking for a new mouthpiece, you need to have a full understanding of what you are actually looking to improve. What is it from your old mouthpiece you are unsatisfied with? Otherwise, you will end up waist of a lot of time and money.

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 Re: Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: Grabnerwg 
Date:   2019-12-06 01:53

Two things:

Work with your mouthpiece craftsman to see what brand and strength of reed he/she recommends for a particular mouthpiece model.

Use new reeds. Old "favorites" have accommodated themselves to your old mouthpiece.

Walter Grabner
Mouthpieces, Barrels, Clarinets, Ligatures....period.

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 Re: Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2019-12-06 01:56

fernie121 wrote:

> Whenever looking for a new mouthpiece, you need to have a full
> understanding of what you are actually looking to improve. What
> is it from your old mouthpiece you are unsatisfied with?
> Otherwise, you will end up waist of a lot of time and money.

I regard fernie121's statements as truly brilliant. It makes me think of those who have a "drawer full" of mouthpieces. Could it possibly be because those players really didn't know what was "wrong" with their setup and set out to resolve a certain unknown problem simply based on a gut feeling that "something better" was out there without really knowing what that "better" playing characteristic really was? Are you saying to yourself: "I'll know it when I hear it or feel it?"

Now, onto the mouthpiece/reed playing combo. To those who have been playing for years, I sense that you probably already know the basic characteristics of the elements that make up a mouthpiece. If you don't, that's OK...there's plenty of material on the Internet to help you understand how each part of the mouthpiece affects the playing experience. But, IMHO, you truly have to have a firm understanding of these elements.

This may sound unrealistically too simplistic, but, in searching for a new mouthpiece, are you in actuality trying "to reinvent the wheel?" If you're interested in a Brand X mouthpiece, I sense that there are many players out there who are already using that brand successfully. Wouldn't it be simpler to find out who they are and ask them what reed they are using? That, I believe, would at least be a good starting point. I have seen quite a few posts on this BB aimed specifically in that direction and I'm convinced this approach should be the starting point of your journey. This endeavor, IMHO, should not equate to rocket science.

Many of you know that I'm just a "hobbyist", so please take what I write with a huge grain of salt.

Thank you.

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 Re: Finding the right mouthpiece -- too many variables?
Author: EbClarinet 
Date:   2019-12-08 23:25

I agree with the originator of this thread. There r too man variables to consider. Some of the things that I haven't read mentioned in the variables are technique, person, personality of the player, the instrument or proficiency level of the player. Then there's growth in musicianship over the years, $$$ and other things that are just left up to personal preferences.

I'm 1 of these gifted clarinetists that can make do with what ever. I don't have a lot of $$$ so I've had to force my equipment to work excellently for me unless I just have a bad instrument, which I've had 3 of those saxophones which were cheap instruments and the intonation was horrible on them. Those I couldn't force to play in tune but I had great mouth pieces for them.

I don't know or remember what kind of mouth pieces came on my low C bass clarinets in college but I had great tone quality on them with a rover big. I had great tone quality on the saxes 2 but they were 40 cents flat.

I'm going to get the Vandoren 5RV for my Eb Sopranino sax when I can afford it. I currently don't know what kind of mouth piece I have that came with the instrument but again I've forced it to work and play in tune with my recordings. I just don't like that I've bitten marks on the top and I'm willing to indulge my self for the sax, plus I have 1 on my Eb clarinet and it plays in tune.


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