Prior to writing this article, I did a little web research to see what teachers are recommending for their students. Unfortunately, the most common reference to student mouthpieces that I found can be summarized as “Try to eliminate all stock mouthpieces. Encourage quality student mouthpieces”. Thanks for narrowing it down so-called experts . . . OK . . . So what constitutes as quality student mouthpiece?
To me, a student mouthpiece must . . .
- Be comfortable and free blowing: We all know that one of the fastest ways to discourage a kid from playing an instrument is to make him work too hard to get air through the horn. I use a slight A frame in my JCII mouthpieces that allow for greater ease of blowing but still hold the sound.
- Allow for slightly heavier reeds: Many student mouthpieces feature a short lay and a fairly open tip which make them great for the soft, orange box reeds but too difficult to play as the student progresses. I recommend a medium to medium long lay (17 mm – 18 mm) with a medium close tip (1.06ish). These dimensions allow the student to begin with a “blue” box reed of 2 or 2.5 that will hold the sound while not being too resistant.
- Provide focused resistance: I teach students to feel the sound in the front of their mouths which requires a mouthpiece to offer enough “positive” resistance at the tip for the student to feel secure. Even longer faced mouthpieces that can be used with heavy reeds, in my mind, are too flexible for the beginner. I prefer to allow students the flexibility once they have a grasp of a good sound/air relationship.
- Be affordable: Convincing a parent to swap out the “perfectly good” mouthpiece that came in the rental or new clarinet he just purchased can be a challenge. All the better if it is not overly expensive. The tipping point for most parents in my area is $35.
So what fits the bill? Below are mouthpieces that I believe match up well with what I look for for my students. Even though I make my own, I feel comfortable when a new student comes to me with any of the below.