How to choose a mouthpiece
This article was originally written by Edward Pillinger to help clarinet players when choosing a mouthpiece, but saxophone players may also find it useful.
Choosing a mouthpiece is not easy. A clarinet mouthpiece must satisfy the demands of both the instrument and the player. The internal dimensions of the mouthpiece must ensure that the instrument will play in tune, with good tone and a wide dynamic range, whilst the lay (facing) and beak configuration need to be compatible with the player’s blowing technique and feel comfortable.
The tone-chamber and aperture (sometimes referred to as the throat) affect intonation to a degree, but it is the bore shape and size which exert the greatest influence. A large aperture may improve the tone of the throat notes (E4 – Bb4) but can lower their pitch. Most French style instruments with a mean bore size of around 14.6mm (Buffet R13, Howarth S3, all new Leblanc) will have good intonation when used in conjunction with a conical bore mouthpiece whose ideal bore dimensions should be 14.9mm at the end of the tenon tapering to 13.9mm at the top of the bore. The maximum dimensions should not exceed 15mm at the bottom and 14mm at the top unless the player is prepared to use a shorter barrel.
Full, bright tone can be achieved by using a larger bore mouthpiece such as a 926 on a small bore clarinet, and this is a popular set-up with many players, but a shorter barrel (possibly with a smaller inverse tapered bore) may be necessary to remedy any flatness in overall pitch. It may also be necessary to enlarge the throat tone-holes.
The facing is the single most important factor to affect the performance of reeds. The lay includes the tip rail shape and thickness, in addition to the thickness of, and distance between, the side rails. Thick tip and side rails dampen response but do enable reed strength to be adjusted by moving the reed up or down the lay. However, the overall improvement in dynamic response which is brought about by more slender tip and side rails outweighs this smallFollow: