Vandoren 5RV – $79 USD
Vandoren B44 – $79 USD
Vandoren M30 – $79 USD
Hawkins S – $205 USD
Hawkins B – $215 USD
So the story is that during my master’s degree, my teacher had recommended that I use a Vandoren 5RV for its immediate response and ease of playing. I really liked this mouthpiece and used it for a few years until I was faced with an orchestral audition in which I had to play Daphnis, Bolero, Til Eulen’, Rite of Spring, and so on.
I looked for…
I wanted something that would have more of a “cover” when I pushed more air through the instrument. I wanted something that would give me complete control of my articulation. I wanted something that would give me excellent intonation. I wanted something that would give me a good sound. I don’t usually get too hung up on tone anymore because it is just too subjective to worry about, in my humble opinion. If you don’t like my sound, I’ll get over it or might I try to change it a bit to be more appealing. If you say my intonation is off, well then it’s off and I need to fix it.
5RV vs B44
Well, at the time I also had in my possession a recently inherited B44, and this is actually kind of vintage piece that is at least 25 years old. It was ok, but for me it had too much of an edge to the sound, and was not as flexible or responsive as my 5RV. Maybe today’s B44 is better… but I don’t know anyone that uses this and I was take that as a telling sign.
5RV vs Hawkins S
I found the Hawkins S had a very nice sound, but the intonation of the mouthpiece did not work on my clarinet (a very, very old Conn). That is why Mr. Hawkins has two models of his e-flat clarinet mouthpieces.
5RV vs Hawkins B
The intonation, articulation, and the cover in the sound (the sound did not spread in the altissimo wailing of the Daphnis) are very good in the Hawkins B. Mr. Richard Hawkins (not to be confused with Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist scholar whom I also respect) is a world-renowend clarinetist (and professor at Oberlin Consevatory) / mouthpiece craftsman whose mouthpieces are all hand-crafted by Mr. Hawkins himself on the very popular German blank, Zinner. His mouthpieces have been widely played around the world since their inception, especially in orchestras, to my knowledge. I was pretty sure I was going to go with the Hawkins B, until…
Hawkins B vs M30
I have always liked the Vandoren M30 mouthpieces. I personally feel more comfortable on a bit more open mouthpieces with longer facings, which M30 kind of is. I find this needs a lot of work from the player in producing consistent flow of air when producing a well, consistent sound. In return, a player has a more control over their articulation, inflections, and a wide range of colours. To be honest, I think the Vandoren M30 E-flat clarinet mouthpiece is not only better than its B-flat cousin, but also is a great mouthpiece. It gives me much freedom and control in articulation, I can push lots of air into it, and it has a very beautiful sound. And if you’re going, dude you don’t know what you’re talking about, they don’t have an E-FLAT M30! Well guess what, this is their newest E-flat mouthpiece.
One thing about Hawkins B is that before I got it, the friend who recommended it to me mentioned that it grunts in the altissimo sometimes. It totally does sometimes (in my experience), and I don’t know why that is.
I recommend 5RV for younger students or people (including pros) who have almost no previous E-flat clarinet experience, M30 for more advanced students- pros, and Hawkins to people who like Hawkins products. People who love Hawkins products seem to love Hawkins products, just like people who love Grabners love Grabners, Fobes Fobes Backuns Backuns and so on.
I was also supposed to try the B40, but I didn’t have enough money to try that as well. I want to try it, it is also highly recommended for its sound and response. But personally, I do not do so well with short AND open facings, it tends to give me hernia. And I don’t like herniae. Do you?
My current e-flat set up:
M30 + 3.5 V12 + a Vandoren German leather ligature (coupled with leather plate) that I just have for some reason + a really old Conn instrument