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The stock mouthpiece your clarinet came with probably isn’t of the highest quality, especially if you’re playing a beginner instrument.
You may not have even thought about it in a while.
It’s possible you thought it wouldn’t make any difference.
Surprisingly, however, the mouthpiece is one of the most important components of your instrument.
You’ll learn why a little later.
First, let’s look at the best clarinet mouthpieces for tone, quality and ease of use.
Our Best Choice: Vandoren CM4158 M13 Lyre 13 Series Profile 88 Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece
The Vandoren CM4158 has a medium long facing, profile 88 beak, a tip opening of 102 (1/100mm) and is designed for use with Vandoren #3.5 – #5 reeds.
One of its key advantages is that it makes it easier to play in higher registers.
The medium long facing can help you get more natural tones, too.
If you’re looking for a quality mouthpiece, the price shouldn’t scare you away.
For some, it could be a slight inhibitor, but it all depends on the quality you need and the results you’re expecting to begin with.
Most customers say they’ve been able to achieve considerable tonal clarity with this mouthpiece.
While it's the minority, some have noted it’s not capable of producing open, free flowing sounds and it sounds a little thin.
The Vandoren is worth a look.
Vandoren CM308 B45 Traditional Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece
Here’s another popular clarinet mouthpiece via Vandoren.
The Vandoren CM308 is a universal mouthpiece with a tip opening of 119.5 (1/100mm), medium long facing, traditional beak.
It works best with Vandoren #2.5 – #3.5+ reeds.
Many users love the straightforward nature of this mouthpiece.
Less enthusiastic buyers say this mouthpiece is too open and others have had issues with it breaking on them.
Results may vary, but this mouthpiece could be the right choice for some.
D’Addario Reserve Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece, X0
Best known for their guitar accessories, especially guitar strings, D’Addario also makes quality clarinet mouthpieces.
The D’Addario Reserve is made from hard rubber, offers consistency thanks to precision milling and is available in four facings and two pitch systems.
Many buyers are impressed with the D’Addario although some say it offered too much resistance.
We’ll be talking about this is more depth later, but mouthpieces are highly individual, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that some people don’t like certain mouthpieces.
You’ve got to find the one that’s right for you.
Yamaha Clarinet Mouthpiece 4C – Best For Beginners
The Yamaha 4C comes with a high quality phenol resin, is highly consistent and is ideal for intermediate players.
Beginners seem thrilled with this mouthpiece.
Negative reviewers don’t seem to have anything definitive to say, so it could be bypassed altogether.
This Yamaha mouthpiece is affordable and shouldn’t be out of reach for most.
Have a look and see for yourself.
Vandoren CM1405 BD5 Series 13 Black Diamond Ebonite Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece
The Vandoren CM1405 offers clarity, depth and presence with a unique chamber, and great intonation and performance.
This mouthpiece features a medium tip opening, facing and new design, offering darkness, depth and flexibility for any performance situation.
Leading clarinetists across the world are adopting the BD5 as one of their favorites.
Reviewers confirm this is a great mouthpiece for intermediate players, and it offers a rich tonal quality to boot.
Negative reviewers aren’t entirely forthcoming for their reasons for not liking the product as much, but let’s just say to each their own.
This is another Vandoren we couldn’t ignore.
Yamaha YAC1267 Standard Series 5C Mouthpiece For Bb Clarinet
The Yamaha YAC1267 features a quality phenol resin and its design is based on the top grade custom mouthpieces.
Most customer reviews indicate satisfaction, especially for the price.
It’s always worth checking to ensure it’s the right tool for the job, however, so make sure it’s the right choice for you.
Clark W Forbes Debut Student Clarinet Mouthpiece
The Clark W Forbes Debut mouthpiece is hand finished, play tested and great bang for buck.
Beginners say it’s an incredibly consistent mouthpiece, so if you’re just getting started, you may want to check out this product.
Some negative reviewers have pointed out that the fit isn’t quite right.
Always check to see whether your instrument accepts a specific mouthpiece before purchase.
Aside from that, the Clark W Forbes just might suit your needs.
Rico Graftonite Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece, B5
The Rico Graftonite mouthpiece comes with a tip opening of 0.050”, facing length of 19mm and is available in three tip openings and three chambers.
This mouthpiece is purported to be durable and won’t easily chip or crack because of its polycarbonate construction.
The product was originally designed by Arnold Brilhart in the 1980s and offers ease of tone production and playability.
Users have a lot of great things to say about the Rico (now owned by D’Addario) and there isn’t much by way of solid criticism.
For the price, it’s certainly worth checking out.
Clarinet Mouthpiece For Jazz: Selmer Clarinet Mouthpiece (77113)
The Selmer 77113 is ideal for jazz students (and students of other genres) as it offers accurate pitch, focused tone and balanced response.
The mouthpiece has been injection molded from durable plastic and has been precision faced.
It has #3 medium facing.
One of the best things about the Selmer is that’s incredibly cost-effective.
And, beginners seem quite pleased with their purchase and use of the product.
Some say it may not fit perfectly without modification.
While not all agree, it's good to be aware of the possibility.
What Should I Look For In A Clarinet Mouthpiece?
It’s fair to say the mouthpiece is one of the key factors affecting the tone of your instrument.
So, there are many things to think about here – ease of use, fit, tone and more.
Let’s look at each of these elements in more depth.
One That’s Fun/Easy To Use
Ease of use is especially important to beginners, who may not yet know how to control their breathing and use the right technique to get a good sound out of their instrument.
This is not a quality every player is looking for, as they may favor tone, intonation, in-tune performance and other factors over how easy it is to play with.
But for those just getting started, it is important to look for a mouthpiece that helps you develop faster as a player versus one that’s going to make your musical journey a bumpier ride.
One That’s Suited To Your Mouth
Everybody has a different mouth – lips, teeth, tongue and so on.
So, the most important part of hunting for a mouthpiece is finding one that’s right for you.
If it feels good to you, you will naturally play better, and practicing will be a lot more fun too.
But you can’t know whether a mouthpiece is right for you without trying.
It’s worth going to your local music store to see whether they will let you try out mouthpieces to find one that’s best suited to your needs.
Some manufacturers will even let you try out their mouthpieces for a small deposit on a credit card.
So, you’ll find the industry is relatively friendly towards beginner and professional clarinet players who are looking for mouthpieces.
One That Fits Your Instrument
As we’ve already looked at, not all mouthpieces are created equal.
That means not all mouthpieces are suited to all instruments.
When buying, check to ensure you’re buying the correct mouthpiece for your instrument.
This should save you the time and frustration of having to modify the mouthpiece to work with your clarinet.
One That Sounds Great
Although beginners aren’t always focused on tone, intermediate and especially pro level players are.
The more experience you have, and the better you are at playing the clarinet, the more quality you expect from your mouthpiece.
You probably know what you like in terms of tone and how you want your instrument to sound.
So, I can’t tell you which mouthpiece is right for you, but I do suggest trying out a few to see what works best for the settings you’re playing in.
One That’s Durable
This section refers more to the materials the mouthpiece is made of versus how well it holds up to abuse.
As with any instrument or its components, it’s best to take care of your gear and not subject it to unnecessary bumps, dings and drops.
You will find that the higher end mouthpieces are made of a composite of rubber and plastic.
This will give your clarinet a warmer, mellower tone.
Better materials generally cost more, which also explains why certain mouthpieces cost more.
How Do I Know Whether A Mouthpiece Is Right For Me?
Leading experts recommend testing out a variety of mouthpieces.
This is because there’s a good chance you won’t find your perfect mouthpiece without some trial and error.
So, don’t be afraid to try.
Go to a music store and test out a few.
Or, talk to a higher end manufacturer and see if you can leave a deposit to have them send you some of their best products.
You can also ask for referrals, but what works for one may not work for another.
The best way to know what’s right for you is by testing.
When testing mouthpieces, you’ll want to bring both soft and stiff reeds, as different mouthpieces are more accommodating of certain reeds.
You should also bring a tuner with you if possible.
You can get a tuner app for your phone if you don’t already own one.
You’re going to use this to check the intonation of the instrument.
Intonation refers to how in-tune your instrument is across the entire spectrum of notes.
With a mouthpiece, you aren’t looking for precision as much as you’re looking for consistency.
It’s also good to try the high notes and low notes on the clarinet in addition to tonguing.
This is one of the main things to evaluate – the feel and response of the mouthpiece.
Some resistance is necessary for blowing but it shouldn’t feel like blowing is so hard that you can’t focus on your technique.
You can also feel resistance with tonguing versus slurring, which is why it’s worth trying different articulations.
Another thing you can do to assess a mouthpiece is to record yourself playing each of them.
For the most part, however, you can tell by feel.
Can I Try A Clarinet Mouthpiece At A Music Store?
The only way to know whether a mouthpiece is right for you is by trying it.
Only, you can’t very well try out a bunch at a music store, right?
After all, your mouth is going to go directly on them, and as we know, the mouth is full of bacteria.
As it turns out, at reputable music stores, you should be able to try out mouthpieces before purchase.
Good to know!
Some companies (usually higher-end manufacturers) will also allow you to test out a bunch of their mouthpieces by giving them a deposit on a credit card.
They will send you a box along with the mouthpieces inside, and you can keep the one you like and send the rest back.
So, you don’t need to rush into buying a clarinet mouthpiece if you aren’t sure what you want yet.
You can test out a few and see which one is right for you.
Just don’t forget to bring your clarinet!
Is it Worth Spending More On A Mouthpiece?
Mouthpieces are generally somewhere in the $15 to $150 range, although you can find mouthpieces that cost considerably more, and you might consider them if you play at a professional level.
But is it worth spending more?
The truth is that the mouthpiece is more important than the instrument you use.
It has a greater impact on the tone and playability of the clarinet than anything else.
This doesn’t mean that more expensive mouthpieces are always the right fit, or even that they’re better matched to your needs.
But it does mean that every cent you spend on a mouthpiece is worth it.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your clarinet, before you go out and buy a more expensive instrument, perhaps try replacing your mouthpiece and see what kind of effect it has.
Best Clarinet Mouthpieces, Final Thoughts
Here’s a great video that offers additional insights into choosing a mouthpiece:
Your clarinet playing experience can change drastically simply by swapping out your mouthpiece.
The right mouthpiece can make it easier to play and have a positive impact on your tone.
Considering the cost, it’s worth paying for the upgrade, especially based on the benefits.
Mouthpieces can last you for years, even as you swap out your instrument.
So, if you haven’t looked at mouthpieces in while, maybe it’s time to upgrade.