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Buying Guide:Saxophone and Clarinet Mouthpieces

How to Select Mouthpieces for Saxophones and Clarinets


The easiest way to upgrade your clarinet or saxophone is to invest in a new mouthpiece. Our staff can help you find exactly what you are looking for in a mouthpiece, teaching you about the design and features that will not only improve your horn, but will also improve your confidence and performance. Only two woodwind families use a mouthpiece: the clarinet family and the saxophone family. As it is the direct link between the player and the instrument, the mouthpiece is incredibly important and a good mouthpiece can make the difference between a rewarding playing experience and dispiriting frustration.


Most beginner-level instruments come packaged with a basic, mass-produced plastic mouthpiece. By replacing it with a professional unit, the life of the instrument can be extended dramatically, delivering both performance and financial benefits. There are a few things to keep in mind. Don't buy a mouthpiece just because someone famous, or even someone you admire, plays one. Everyone's mouth, lungs, and abilities are different so the same mouthpiece won't necessarily work for everyone. A good mouthpiece will be easy to blow, will play in tune, and will be very stable, consistently producing clean tones without difficulty. Its tones will be clear, resonant, and focused with good projection and a strong fundamental.


Parts of the mouthpiece
Knowing the various mouthpiece components by their function and common names will empower you to make an educated decision about which mouthpiece you need to achieve the sound, feel, and level of precision you want.


A. The Window is the opening between the tip rail, side rails, and end of the mouthpiece.


The Table is the flat area below the window that the reed is clamped to.


B. The Side Rails of the mouthpiece are the two narrow surfaces between the window edge and the point where the mouthpiece sides begin.


C. The Tip Rail is the narrow surface between the tip and the window.


The Facing (sometimes face or lay) is the surface that meets the reed. This term refers collectively to the table, side rails, and tip rail. The facing is only one among several elements that make up a good mouthpiece, but it is an important one. There are three general types of facings: short, medium, and long. A long facing produces outstanding low notes, but higher notes are hard to play clearly with sustain. The player must have very good control and a muscular mouth. The tip of the reed vibrates more, giving a reedier, or even mushy, sound.


A short facing, as you might guess, swings things the other way. High notes are very easy to reach. Exacting breath control is a must. Only a very short section of the reed vibrates for a precise sound.


A medium facing is a best-of-both-worlds situation that works for the vast majority of players. It is compatible with a wide variety of reeds. It is also comfortable, suitable for nearly all types of playing, and brings both high notes and low notes within reach.


D. The Tip Opening is the distance between the flat surface of the tip rail and the stationary reed.


E. The Baffle is the surface opposite the window. Its depth impacts reed movement.


The Chamber (or windway) is the area where air enters the mouthpiece.


How to Select Mouthpieces for Saxophones and Clarinets


Mouthpiece materials

The most common materials used for clarinet mouthpieces are plastic and hard rubber, with the occasional sighting of an exotic crystal unit, which is not used by many students. Saxophone mouthpieces are typically made of plastic, hard rubber, or metal-usually various alloys of aluminum, brass, and stainless steel.


A plastic (acrylic) mouthpiece usually is a mass-produced unit such as the one that came with your woodwind. They have limited durability and may warp over time.


Over the years hard rod rubber has proven itself to be the material of choice for millions of players, and there are several reasons why. Hard rubber is many times more stable than plastic, delivering clear tone again and again over a longer life span than its plastic counterpart. The well-focused tone of hard rubber mouthpieces is also generally accepted as more desirable than plastic's, with a very strong fundamental and plentiful overtones with more presence.


A metal saxophone mouthpiece produces a tone that is an acquired taste and these mouthpieces are usually used by soloists. They have much more projection than is needed for the typical ensemble player.


To help you find the right mouthpiece, you can try it out with your horn for a full 45 days before deciding to keep it. When you find the mouthpiece that you know will work for you, Our 45-Day Lowest Price and Complete Satisfaction Guarantees will give you confidence in your purchase.