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Author Topic: Starting a mouthpiece safari  (Read 365 times)

Offline kurth83

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Starting a mouthpiece safari
« on: January 07, 2024, 05:05:40 PM »
I have a BD4 and a BD5, am going to order every VanDoren piece with the same size gap or smaller, but avoid the really short facing ones, as I am looking to put on a stiffer reed.  So I am opting for the longer facing smaller gap ones initially.

It means for the first round I have ordered:
M13
M13 Lyre
M15
M30 Lyre

I skipped the very short facing 5RV variants.

I'll keep y'all posted how it goes, should get them by the end of the week.  Probably take several weeks or more to really get them all dialed in to what reeds they like and to know if they are really better than the BD5.

My issue is the BD5 limits me to a 1.5 (or a 2 but with greatly reduced endurance).. I sound a *lot* better and have more control on the 2 though so I am looking for other options that might similarly help me but with less of an endurance hit.

One thing that helped is WWBW had open box sales on most of them, I don't mind a scratch or two while trying them out.

I am planning to keep them however, building the collection.  I have a great clarinet so not looking to upgrade there at the moment.


Offline Windsong

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2024, 08:14:05 PM »
It is exciting to experiment with mouthpieces. 
I have not been disciplined enough to keep all those I've tried, and on occasion have felt obliged to let go of one that matches a horn I sell.

I took a refurbishment/refacing clinic some years back at the University Of North Carolina (Greensboro) under the guidance of the highly regarded Dr. Edwin Riley, and found it entertaining and informative if not terribly effective in its goal, but 3 days is a short time to learn anything well.
I need to brush up on my metrics again, so I can map what works for me.

I have enjoyed the V45 as a good, do-it-all piece, and have been wanting to play an M13 Lyre for a while now.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on their characteristics.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2024, 03:11:57 PM by Windsong »
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Offline kurth83

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2024, 02:46:01 PM »
Here are my initial impressions (with a #2 reed), remember my goal was to find something better than a BD5 on a 1.5 which wasn't working for me, nasty tone, and high range was more of a struggle than it should be, on a 2 the BD5 is great but my endurance was too low to stick with it.

First the M13, the smallest gap (with long facing) VanDoren makes, so theoretically the easiest mouthpiece they make to play on.

It's loud and bright, so presumably good for section playing in a symphonic band for example where projection matters more than tonal subtlety.
With my pitifully weak embouchure it plays very well with a 2.
High range is nice.  Better than what I had with the BD5 on a 1.5.  The BD5 on a 2 had great high range too, but my endurance suffered, so I get most of the benefits of a '2' on the BD5.  I actually like the tone as an amateur symphonic band is likely the first venue I will play in.
So overall this one is a big win over what I had.  Since it's the easiest to play of the bunch, it seems a good logical step up from a student mouthpiece.

M13 Lyre - slightly larger gap, 'lyre' series specifically aimed at darker tone.
Slightly darker version of the M13, slightly larger gap makes playing slightly harder on the same reed.  I think this is the general expectation for this mouthpiece.  High range is there but just feels different, can't express it better than that.
Playing soft on this one is better than the M13.  But not as much projection (darker = softer) is the tradeoff.
Also did fine on a 2, but my endurance is going down as the gap gets larger.
If I need a darker tone, this one would be the goto (over the BD5) now.

M15 - still more gap over the m13 lyre.
Tonally somewhere in between the M13 and the M13 Lyre although closer to the M13.  It has the power of the M13 but slightly darker, so I like the sound.
High range is the most finicky of the bunch and my endurance is dropping, so this one may be too much gap for me for now.
This one is good for soft and loud, really seems to capture the best of the M13's combined, but not as dark as the Lyre.
The high range finickyness put this one out of the running for me, but if I could learn to control it it would be a great all-arounder.

The M30 is next but has not arrived yet.  It's larger gap may put it out of my endurance range for playing.  We'll see.  Given that larger gaps seem to be trending down in playability for me I am not expecting it to be a win.  The M13 is on a 2 is a big improvement over the BD5 on a 1.5.  Although if you can handle it, the BD5 on a stiffer reed was fantastic.

Offline lydian

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2024, 12:59:31 PM »
Sounds like a safari may be a bit premature. Anybody still playing on 1.5-2 hasn't developed enough control or embouchure for any particular mouthpiece to make a difference. Stick with what you've got, and then go on a safari once your skills are further along a year or two from now.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2024, 11:00:35 AM by lydian »

Offline Windsong

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2024, 09:28:45 PM »
Thank you for that update and preliminary evaluation.  I play 3 reeds, and at my age, and with a somewhat weak enbouchure, that is as hard as I plan to go.  My embouchure falls apart on a 3.5 after 15 minutes, despite my efforts.  I prefer La Voz reeds, as the best cane reed for.me, but opinions are great and entirely diverse as far as reed brand choice is concerned.

I have been back playing for just under a decade, and played a 2 reed for the first few years, until I realized my range was limited, and tone in the upper clarion was compromised.  Altissimo was off limits with a 2, so I jumped to a 2.5, which kept me plenty happy for a few more years.  Reed changes take time.  There are advantages to taking the time necessary to master each strength until you develop your style.  Style dictates largely what reed will work best for you. 

While I recognize Lydian's truths in the statement above, I do believe that your desire to solidify a sound that enables you to maximize your full potential early on is benificial.  I do agree that by the time you get to a 2.5 or 3, trying the MPs again might feel like a completely new experience with different perspectives, but in this regard, the journey may outshine the destination.
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Offline kurth83

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2024, 09:52:37 PM »
Well, progress continues to be made, after the switch to the M13, and some adjustment, I find have developed enough to play on a 2.5 reed.  Loving the better tone, control, and range it provides (I can squeak a Bb, and the G# is usable, so about a half-step improvement over the 2 - I want a double C someday).  Have to rest a bit more but overall the endurance is sufficient for my practice schedule.

So I am now in the realm of a "normal" student clarinet player, according to one of my band director friends. :-)
I'll consider that my official graduation from rank beginner.  Nothing like 2 hrs a day of practice to move things along,
that and 40 years as an amateur classical musician to build on.

What a difference the mouthpiece change made, so glad I did the exploration.

I finally got a good teacher too, she is a player (I heard her perform the Weber concerto #1 recently), was principal of the Juneau symphony a few years back (yep, Alaska).  First lesson next week.

So we'll find out soon how much of what I've done passes the "teacher test". :-)

I also got a BD2 in, but haven't tried it yet, as the M13 is working well for me for now.

Offline Windsong

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2024, 07:05:52 PM »
That is rapid progress to a 2.5!

How did your first lesson go?

I too began taking lessons again a few months back, and I was immediately embarrassed to learn how many "bad habits" I had acquired from being away too long, and just winging it for the last decade.

My teacher's initial criticisms?

1)  My reed is too soft (She plays a 4.5 on a Vandoren B45).  But then she asked me how I bent notes and had such controlled vibrato, and I told her:  "Well, uhh...I attribute that to the #3 reed.", so she backed off, a bit.)

2)  My fingers are "light years away" from the tone holes and keys, making me slower than I could be.  She wants me to hover directly above them, which is entirely rational, but feels odd.  I have a fair amount of arthritis, and do the best I can to hold my fingers as close as I can, but the cramping I experience requires my fingers either to be moving or be held flatter to my palm, so...

3) Crossing the break, she wants my right hand down precisely as I hit G, and not to wait until I engage A.

4) That I do not double lip, and she thinks I could form a better, tighter embouchure if I did. 

5) She finds it intriguing that my preferred clarinets are from the 1920s-1940s, and that of the 50 or so clarinets I own, the newest one is a 1959 B&H.  She really thinks I would be happiest with a new Yamaha 650.  (She may be right.  She has one, and I will say it has a phenominal tone.)

These are all great suggestions, but we'll see what sticks.
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Offline kurth83

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2024, 10:36:01 PM »
I am on my second lesson.

On the positive side I am told I have a good tone...

Everything else is stuff I need to work on:

I am told I have many bad habits, crossing the break by putting the right hand down when I hit the G going up is new to me.  Now I am assigned exercises in the Rubank Intermediate method to work on holding the right hand down for all throat tones G and up.  Also working on other alternate fingerings and playing habits.  Working on exercises for lifting two fingers together smoothly, chromatics (which use different fingerings than scales), breath and articulations.  It's great stuff.

Apparently clarinet staccato can be stopped with the tongue, something you would never do on trumpet in a classical setting.

She also recommended the VD 5RV Lyre mouthpiece, which I bought, and it was not for me, but the BD2 is looking good, perhaps even better than the M13, but it needs a stronger reed, a box of 3's is arriving tomorrow to try.

I too have a good vibrato which is important to me, and if a stronger reed inhibits that I may not go too much stronger.

She recommended the Vandoren Optimum ligature, I bought that and it was a home run, fantastically better than the stock ligature that came with the clarinet.  The difference was a big as a mouthpiece change, I had no idea a ligature could make that kind of difference  I am using the #1 plate.

I was also taught maintenance, including using cleaning paper to clean sticky pads, didn't know about that either.

She told me I need to learn how to work on my own reeds, something I have been avoiding by buying the disposable daddario (rico) ones.  She emphasized you can craft reeds that fit your playing, and that cannot be bought stock.

In short getting a good teacher is everything I had hoped for.

Seeing as this thread is about the mouthpiece safari, the BD2 is the 'softest' feeling Vandoren I have played on, or the easiest if that word means anything.  Won't know how it plays until I get the #3 reeds, but I am hoping the combo works.  Then I won't get flak for not playing on a proper reed strength any more.  But the reality is I will have gamed the system by fitting a mouthpiece to a reed (Clarinet Ninja did that too, matched a mouthpiece to his reed of choice - vandoren v12 #4).

And FYI a 4.5 on a B45 would wipe me out in 30 seconds or less. :-)  But I know of band directors that make all their clarinet students play on a B45.

Offline Windsong

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2024, 10:05:58 AM »
All good stuff!
 
Yes-- there is such resistance over a #3 for me, and coupled with double lipping, I feel as though I can barely hang on.  Certainly is reduces my enjoyment significantly.  By the time I get to high Bb, I am literally out of umph.

Great information about the Optimum lig.  I have been flat out surprised by the difference a good versus bad lig has on tone and resistance.  I have been reasonably pleased with my Rovner Dark, but it is not at all the same with some mouthpieces.  I find that different MPs require different ligs.   I bought a high falootin' vintage Penzel Mueller lig with the Reed press plate, and was dubious initially, but while no stark difference is felt in the lower registers, it seems to control reed flutter and reed lock in the high clarion and above.  I wonder why this is not utilized by other manufacturers.

With the Rovner ligature, I also notice that tension on the thumbscrew has an impact on playability, too.  Over-tightening that massive single screw is easy to do, but has an adverse impact on things.  My instructor specifies that it should be only tight enough to hold the reed firmly from moving on the table, and no more.
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Offline kurth83

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2024, 10:40:44 AM »
Wow thanks for that, I tried less tightening on that ligature and things opened up noticeably.

My teacher wants me to play on a 5RV and it's working well now on a 2.5 by just loosening the ligature a little bit.

The BD2 was a bust, gets a slightly nasally sound to my ears when I play it regardless of reed strength.  I was hoping a 3 would clear it up but it didn't.

The 5RV has a sweeter (slightly darker tone) than the M13 (which is very bright) for me, and better control up high.  It gets a solid usable A for me and goes quite loud so the darker tone can be overcome easily enough.

I'll stick with the 5RV for a bit to see if it can work endurance-wise.  Vandoren's literature has a great quote that my teacher agrees with:

5RV: "The time-proven standard for professional musicians."

I might add that it is an easy to play mouthpiece.  To me easy is important.  The equipment is supposed to support you, not give you a fight to get what you want out of it.  My CSVR clarinet is the same way, the ease of play is fantastic.  The new ligature also made things noticeably easier.  I am hoping now that the equipment issues are mostly settled I can focus on playing, although reed twiddling seems to be in my future, and will hopefully be the last major equipment issue.

High-end Yamahas have a reputation to be easy to play compared to other brands, don't know about the 650, but any of the CSVR, SEVR, CSG's are reportedly fantastic in that regard although I only have experience with the CSVR.  Frankly, after my clarinet safari I would rather have one really good clarinet than a bunch of not so good ones, the playability difference was amazing.

If it was me I would buy a 650 from wwbw (with their wonderful 30 day return policy) to give it a try.


Offline Windsong

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Re: Starting a mouthpiece safari
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2024, 08:06:06 PM »
"The equipment is supposed to support you, not give you a fight to get what you want out of it."

Absolutely right. 

Resistance is not good.  You need enough to provide for tonal control, but no more, and finding one's own perfect combo is a bit of a trick.

I have not tried the 5RV, but have wanted to for years and far too many people rave about it being among the best of the non-custom faced pieces that can be had for reasonable coin, so I think I am just going to buy one.  I have been very pleased with my Woodwind Co. Robert Marcellus #13, and would buy more, but as they are rare as hens' teeth, I reckon it is time for me to find another favorite.

As quality "players" are concerned, my PM Artist and Brilliante get most of my attention these days.  The Artist is the further refined and more robust of the two, despite the latter's flashy name and even tone.

I just had a look into the CSVR, and that is quite the sophisticated machine, indeed.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2024, 04:16:35 AM by Windsong »
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