Jazz Clarinet Mouthpieces – Which is Best?

25th November 2021

We asked leading UK professional player Simon Bates to demonstrate and discuss a range of jazz clarinet mouthpieces and ask “which is best?”. We looked at the leading models from Vandoren as well as alternatives from Otto Link and Meyer.

If you’re wanting to play in a more jazz oriented way on Clarinet we would advise selecting a jazz designed mouthpiece to really help. Check out the video and our info on how to choose below…

The Model Options

In this test we asked Simon to compare the following popular jazz clarinet mouthpiece models:

We chose these jazz clarinet mouthpiece models based on our own experience and customer buying patterns. The four different options do feel quite different to play and produce differing tonal characters – as you can hear on the video. He was using the same strength #3 reed on all models, the same BG Duo Ligature and his own Yamaha Clarinet.

How To Choose?

We would normally recommend either (1) booking a testing room in-store to try a few out and see which plays best for you, or (2) if you can’t make it to Maidenhead then take advantage of our 14 day home trial option where we can send up-to 3 mouthpieces out at once for you to test at home.

If you’re testing these models after using a more classical clarinet mouthpiece previously it’s worth noting you may need to change how you play and the reeds. In general, these ‘jazz’ facings tend to prefer slightly softer reeds and commonly will be better suited to American cut filed reeds – explanation here.

The mouthpiece and reed combo won’t immediately turn you into Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw, but with the right set-up and a more jazz leaning playing approach you will be on the right path. In broad strokes the embouchure can be a little more relaxed and fluid and of course don’t forget to swing those quavers!

jazz clarinet mouthpieces

The Verdict

After a good amount of testing Simon’s preference was for the Meyer 6MM. The Meyer had a little more edge and projection for Simon vs the Otto Link which tended to be a little warmer or sweeter. The two Vandoren’s (5JB and 7JB) have a much different character to their American alternatives.

They both feel a little harsher and more lively, the 7JB in particular has a lot of volume which is both a gift and potentially a curse, depending on what and how you play! The 5JB is certainly the more versatile of the two Vandoren’s and maybe more suited to most players. However, if you want volume and can handle the huge tip opening the 7JB will give big results!

What About Reeds?

In the same way certain mouthpieces are designed to be more suited to a ‘jazz’ sound there are also reeds which commonly work better with those mouthpiece designs. Some suggestions to try would be:

  • LaVoz feature a specific unfiled Amercian cut which is ideal for jazz/commercial set-ups
  • Gonzalez RC reeds have a bright tone with lots of projection and can work nicely for this
  • Legere Signature reeds are synthetic and naturally provide a clean, bright sound
Clarinet Reeds

Tech Specs

Reading the tip opening sizes and facing lengths can give an experienced player an idea of how the mouthpiece will play. However, we find that the real ‘proof of the pudding’ is when you play test them and that’s why we strongly advise testing in-store (if possible) or using our mail-order 14 day approval scheme.

For those that are interested, see the tech specs for the models we tested below:

Otto Link #5: Tip Opening 1/100mm (116) | Facing Length: Long

Meyer 6MM: Tip Opening 1/100mm (140) | Facing Length: Medium

Vandoren 5JB: Tip Opening 1/100mm (147) | Facing Length: Long

Vandoren 7JB: Tip Opening 1/100mm (170) | Facing Length: Long