I want to write a very short entry tonight about something I have learned repeatedly over the years, but recently struck me quite hard for some reason.
Like many clarinetists I am definitely guilty of having tried many mouthpieces in the market. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this alone, but what I did do incorrectly in the process was that I didn’t always use new reeds to try a new mouthpiece. What do I mean by that? Why do I need a new reed to try a new mouthpiece?
It’s actually pretty simple. Reeds change. You know how you “break-in” your reed? How a reed is stiff in the beginning and it’s not too stiff anymore? Well what do you think happened to the reed? The shape has changed. Moreover, the shape has “given in” or taken to your mouthpiece that you used to break it in. So it gets more comfortable as you go, until it starts to get too “soft” which means the shape of the reed is getting too close to the dimensions of the mouthpiece.
Back to New Mouthpiece
If you break in a reed on an M30, take that reed and play it on a Behn mouthpiece, I will guarantee you that you will not see the full potential of a Behn mouthpiece. Don’t believe me? Now try a brand new reed on a Behn mouthpiece. You’ll see!
Of course it goes without saying that your clarinet has to be in fully working condition in order for you to properly judge your new mouthpiece. Also, I find some metal ligatures (Bonade regular, Vandoren Optimum, etc.) tend to warp the reeds while sitting. i.e. When I would be playing the e-flat clarinet in a Mahler symphony, and then go back to the b-flat the reed would often produce zero vibration. I find that Rovner ligatures don’t do this. But this is strictly my experience, your experience might be different. I don’t know why this is this way, but this is what I’ve found.
If you want to see the true potential of a mouthpiece, try it with a new reed. You will be very surprised. If you don’t believe me, go and grab a mouthpiece you bought but never used that much. Grab a new reed and give it a go. If it used to be unresponsive, dull, or uneven, it might not be anymore.