What Color Is Your Mouthpiece?

Of course I don’t mean by the title of this article that I am curious as to the actual light reflecting from your piece but rather the tonal color it projects.  When I speak of the color of sound, I usually try to avoid using the terms bright and dark as those terms evoke such varying tonal concepts among different players.  Instead I try to divide the sound into a few distinct properties:

  • Core – How dense is the sound?
  • Breadth – How focused is the sound?
  • Vibrancy – Does it project more upper or lower overtones?

Of course, we also have to take into consideration how comfortable we are with the piece in performance.  When it comes to comfort, I work with clients in three distinct areas.

  • Flexibility – How much freedom does the sound have to alter its character?
  • Resistance – How hard do you have to blow to start the sound?
  • Follow Through – How hard do you have to blow to maintain the sound?

As each of us has a particular sound in our head that we want to hear before we even begin to play, it is important to know how differences in our various set-ups can help us achieve that sound with the least amount of effort.  As I continue with this article in the days ahead, we will look at how the physical geometries of the clarinet mouthpiece affect each of these 6 important performance attributes.