Clarinet Mouthpieces: How to Test

10th August 2022

We asked leading UK professional player Nick Carpenter for his top tips on choosing the correct clarinet mouthpiece for you. Dawkes offer a wide range of clarinet mouthpieces, these tips will help you when testing between different models.

Use the Same (New) Reed

When trying any new clarinet mouthpiece it’s important to use a new reed. Your old reeds will have become ‘shaped’ to your current mouthpiece facing and as such may not respond as well on a new mouthpiece. Pick out a couple of new clarinet reeds from your usual brand and use them for testing.

Physical Feel

First impressions of a clarinet mouthpiece are important. Does it feel physically comfortable? You may wonder how they vary and the main difference is the angle of the beak. Vandoren for example offer two main angle variants, the traditional (slightly steeper) and profile 88 design (slightly shallower).

Vandoren Clarinet Mouthpiece beak profile differences

Tonal Range

When you feel physically comfortable then the process of comparing and contrasting tone can begin. We all understand that good tone and sound quality starts with the player, and lots of practice. However, a clarinet mouthpiece is the ‘amplifier’ of your efforts and some designs will be more or less suited to assist your tonal quality.

It pays to have a good understanding of your current sound and what you may be trying to improve upon. Does the new mouthpiece offer more quality across the whole range?

Response & Articulation

We’ve mentioned pure tonal quality but the response of a clarinet mouthpiece is also critical. By this we mean how it deals with dynamic changes and the speed of transitions. You want a mouthpiece that can deliver a big sound, whilst retaining warmth. The same mouthpiece needs to be able to play the softest, controlled pianissimo.

Check how the mouthpiece you are testing reacts to staccato and interval leaps. Remembering of course these come from hours of practice but compare the new model vs your own mouthpiece to see if there are improvements.

D'Addario Reserve Evolution Clarinet Mouthpiece


Last on this list but not in terms of importance(!) is to check the intonation of the tested mouthpiece on your Clarinet. Remember that mouthpieces can be pitched differently. Check the pitch is relevant for your Clarinet (A440 vs A442). Internal dimensions (large chamber etc) will also affect intonation between intervals. For example the Vandoren BD range and D’Addario Evolution models will play slightly flatter because of their internal designs. The important thing is to check your overall pitch on a high quality tuner (note: mobile phone in-built tuners are not very accurate!) and check the interval gaps between the 12ths.

Try on 14 Day Approval

If you can come to Dawkes Music in Maidenhead we can offer you (1.) a high quality testing room to try a range of models and then (2.) 14 day home approval on whatever you take away. This means you can get used to a new clarinet mouthpiece in your own environment. Try it in an acoustic you know and compare it verses your old mouthpiece.

We’ve written another guide to Clarinet Mouthpieces which may offer extra information and assistance, especially with regards the different models available.