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How To Choose A Mouthpiece
Tips And Avices In Picking Up the Ideal Clarinet Mouthpiece
Choosing the right mouthpiece for a woodwind player is maybe the most important issue, especially
for us, the clarinetist. Searching for an ideal, a better mpc is like searching for the Holy Grail. It is a
never ending quest. The trick is not to find the absolute, the perfect, the divine mouthpiece but rather to find
the right one which suits the best your playing style and ability.
Among all the different component of the clarinet, the mouthpiece is the most vital one. Changing a mpc
will have a greater influence on your playing than switching instruments. The horn is merely an amplifier of
the sound produced by the mpc.
There are several ways to buy a clarinet mouthpiece.
First you can buy one off-the-shelf, from a well known brand (Vandoren, Selmer, Pomarico), this is the most
affordable (and the easiest) way to acquire a good stock mouthpiece (or a few!)
Order a custom mouthpiece is indeed a more costly approach, but if you can afford it, it may be
the right solution to find the mpc that suits optimally your requirements. You must find a manufacturer who is
able to design a mpc according to your needs and wishes. The final result will depend on the information you
provide to the craftsman and how he will translate it into a successful product.
What is called a "signature" product is in fact a custom mouthpiece designed for or by a renowned artist and then
manufactured for a wider public.
Giora Feidman, Eddie Daniels, Buddy The Franco and many others have designed signature mpcs. The issue is that what
plays well for those virtuoso musicians will not necessarily work for you. Nevertheless a signature piece of
equipment is always a proof of quality and fine craftsmanship.
Testing as many as possible mpcs is the best possible method to find the right one. As we already mentioned the
choice of the mpc is a crucial step so it must be taken seriously.
Let's take in consideration the feeling and the sound.
The factors that influence the feeling are the air resistance, the embouchure and the response.
Air resistance is a physical phenomenon and is pretty straightforward to apprehend.
The key is to find the appropriate level of resistance which allows you to blow freely with the reed strength
Your particular embouchure will determine the level of pressure you have to apply on the mpc to center the sound
properly. Again choose the appropriate level of pressure you are comfortable with which will allows you a real
pleasure of playing (without biting the mpc).
Finally, the response which is the result of the air and embouchure resistances must be in unison with the ease of
articulation. A brittle and short staccato, a smooth and long legato are the signs of a good response.
The quality of sound is more difficult to evaluate, although the feel is a more physical issue that can be measured
by instruments, the beauty of the sound is a more subjective matter. An oscilloscope can analyse the sound waves
but there is no machine to tell us about the beauty of a sound.
The sound you want to produce is in your mind, you already created it. Choose the mouthpiece that allows you to
generate it, with the best intonation.
The tonal flexibility gives you the power to communicate several colors of expression and artistic ability.
If possible try new mouthpieces in different musical environments, soloing, chamber music, symphony orchestra
to test the adaptability of the mpc to different acoustic surroundings.
One problem in choosing a mouthpiece is that all the benefits are not always immediate and that it
can take a while until you fully take advantage of the new features.
Always test new mpc with a new set of reeds, because if your old reeds were suitable to your old mouthpiece there
are not necessarily appropriate to the new one. Try also different position of the reed on the mpc. In general,
test new mpcs with the horn you are accustomed to, because you are trying the mouthpiece, not the instrument. It
gives you also a ground for comparison.
The mouthpiece is a element of a whole, it is a delicate chemistry between the musician, the reed, the
Buying a new clarinet mouthpiece should be an upgrade, an enhancement, an enrichment which will elevate
you to a higher musical level. It must be a positive experience, a source of inspiration, of new musical ideas. A
good mouthpiece is one that allows you to play freely (free blowing is the keyword), that allows you the fullness
of sound without fighting.
No matter if you play an expensive professional clarinet or a cheap plastic model, remember that it is the
mouthpiece that will determine considerably the musical and acoustic characteristics, the pleasure of playing and
the beauty of the music.
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