How To Select a Mouthpiece
By Mike Vaccaro
Mike Vaccaro Sax and Clarinet Mouthpieces
The first thing you must realize when buying a saxophone or clarinet mouthpiece, is how the reed effects your mouthpiece decision. If you use a reed that you like, and that is "married" to your mouthpiece, the only mouthpiece you will favor will be a mouthpiece that is much like your own. I would assume you're looking for a new mouthpiece because you're trying to improve something in the response, sound quality, or pitch of your current setup.
It's best to have several good new reeds of different strengths to try a new clarinet or saxophone mouthpiece. A new reed will help determine the accuracy of the facing. Reeds of varying strengths will also make different facings play harder or easier, thus giving you an idea of what the particular mouthpiece requires.
It is ok if you have to completely change your reed strength to accommodate a new mouthpiece. Remember, you are looking for something new and more appropriate for what you do!
Play for short periods. Play more melodic passages throughout the range of the instrument and check sound, intervals and the ability of the mouthpiece to respond quickly between registers.
Play slowly and listen carefully. Playing only quick, familiar patterns when testing a sax or clarinet mouthpiece, can cover up any inherent shortcomings it may have.
First impressions are important. Remember, the mouthpiece is supposed to make the style and sound of the music you intend to play easier to produce.
You will always produce the sound that you hear in your head. The mouthpiece should make that easier.
Clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces are complex fixtures.
To take any measurement, whether it is the facing length, facing opening, or the internal features, and make that a criterion for your decision, is an intellectual mistake.
It's how the mouthpiece plays and makes your job easier that counts, and not the measurements.
Remember that you are looking for something because most likely your mouthpiece does not make performing as easy as you want it to be
Some performances require soft-playing clarinet or saxophone mouthpieces and some performances require a mouthpiece that will project enough to reach the back of the hall. Know what you're looking for and the purpose for which you are going to use the mouthpiece.