All clarinets come with a mouthpiece, so shopping for a new one may not seem like a priority. However, stock mouthpieces (the mouthpiece that comes with a clarinet) are almost always of subpar quality. This may lead you to believe that a clarinet doesn’t play well when the problem is, in fact, your mouthpiece. Picking a higher quality mouthpiece for your clarinet can make a world of difference in terms of sound quality and ease of playing.
In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about purchasing a clarinet mouthpiece as well as review some of our favorite models and brands that we think are the best clarinet mouthpieces on the market.
Quick Answer: The Best Mouthpieces for a Clarinet
How To Choose A Clarinet Mouthpiece: A Buyer’s Guide
There are a few things to consider when picking a new mouthpiece for your clarinet. Most new clarinets will come with a mouthpiece but depending on whether you went for a beginner clarinet or something more expensive, it might not be the best quality. You therefore will want to check that the new one you’re looking at purchasing is actually better and not just equal or lesser value than the stock mouthpiece that you started with.
Below we’ll take a look at some of the different factors that affect the quality of clarinet mouthpieces and what you need to watch out for when upgrade your mouthpiece.
The first thing to consider is the material that your mouthpiece is made out of as it can make a big difference in the sound that your clarinet produces. The most common choices are plastic and hard rubber but you can also find mouthpieces made out of crystal and even wood.
Plastic mouthpieces are durable and easily the most affordable option and will usually come with beginner and student level clarinets. Even a decent quality plastic mouthpiece will most likely produce a brighter sound of lower quality and so we wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re just starting out.. Plastic mouthpieces may be fine for a student clarinetist, but other options are recommended if you want an upgrade.
Hard rubber is the most common choice for clarinet mouthpieces. These are durable, affordable, and made in a wide range of qualities. A high-quality hard rubber mouthpiece can be a good option for a clarinetist at any stage of their career. They produce a pretty round tone and provide average projection abilities. If unsure of which material is the best choice for you, a hard rubber mouthpiece is the safest option to go for.
Crystal mouthpieces allow for the best projection and also produce a fairly bright tone. These can be a great option for upper-level musicians. However, there is the downside that these mouthpieces are extremely fragile and they require additional care including a mouthpiece pouch to keep it safe.
Wooden mouthpieces are the rarest type which you’re unlikely to see as the sound quality can be unstable and projection of sound is also difficult. These are rarely recommended and probably only remain in circulation because of tradition and those playing in period ensembles.
Parts of a Clarinet Mouthpiece
When evaluating clarinet mouthpieces, it’s good to know what the different parts and measurements are and how these affect the sound that the mouthpiece will produce. Below we’ll cover these and how they can differ from model to model.
The angle of the mouthpiece is known as the beak it extends from the mouthpiece tip down to the body. It’s the part of the mouthpiece that you put your mouth over when playing and so its shape and angle mainly affects your embouchure. Some mouthpieces have a lower or greater angle than others so if you’re unsure of the proper angle for you, traditional is usually a safe choice.
Tip and Facing
The tip and facing length can vary on different mouthpieces. These measurements correspond with your skill level and reed thickness. Beginners who use softer reed strengths will do best on a mouthpiece with an open tip and short facing length. A professional is more likely to prefer an advanced or closed tip and long facing length. These measurements work best with harder reeds. If you’re somewhere in between, find a mouthpiece that’s medium across the board.
The baffle directs the air into the chamber of the mouthpiece. Higher baffles tend to produce a brighter sound. Darker sound can be achieved with a mouthpiece with a scooped baffle.
The size of the chamber can affect both the sound production and dynamic range. Smaller chambers can make the sound more focused, but they may also restrict the ability to create louder dynamics. Larger chambers will produce a more full-bodied sound and allow you to go up to fortissimo with ease.
The window is the hole that becomes mostly covered by the reed. This part of the mouthpiece tends to be pretty standard in size so it can work with whichever type of reed you prefer.
The durability of a mouthpiece is another important factor to consider. Hard rubber and plastic mouthpieces are the most durable and so they need the least specialized care for this reason. Crystal and wood mouthpieces are a lot more fragile. Just tucking them into the clarinet case often isn’t seen as ideal for keeping these mouthpieces safe. They should be stored in a mouthpiece bag to prevent damage. The fragility of these mouthpieces is one of the reasons why they’ll only be found for intermediate and professional instruments.
How Reeds and Ligature Influence Sound
A guide to clarinet mouthpieces wouldn’t be complete without talking about reeds and ligatures. These two parts of a clarinet need to be added to the clarinet mouthpiece for sound to be produced on the instrument. The choices you make for your ligature and reeds can also affect the sound that you produce.
Some clarinet mouthpieces will come with a ligature and others will not. Just like most parts of the clarinet, ligatures can be made from different materials. The material composition of a ligature can change the sound that the instrument produces.
Metal ligatures are the most common. They tend to help most with sound projection so they are preferred by clarinetists who regularly play solos or perform in larger venues. However, they can contribute to the sound being overly bright. The best clarinet ligatures are often made from metal and are gold-plated.
Rubber ligatures tend to offer better sound quality, but they’ll require you to produce a stronger airflow to reach higher dynamics. These ligatures are also less likely to cause damage to the reed.
Not all clarinet reeds are created equal. Some are made with more consistent quality than others and there’s also reed strength to consider. If you’re a beginner and unsure of which reed strength to get, 2 or 2.5 is usually a good place to start. You’ll know the reed is the right strength if it’s a little difficult to play on when you first start using a new reed. Once it has been broken in, the reed should feel just right. For this reason, it’s hard to judge if you’re using the right reed strength after the first couple of practice sessions. (It also isn’t recommended to perform on a new reed, but one that is broken in.) Make sure you’re picking a reputable brand of reeds in addition to getting the right strength.
As previously stated, reeds need to be broken in for your sound quality to be optimal. For this reason, many clarinetists will choose to carry a reed case that can house multiple reeds at a time. Rotating between reeds within one of these reed cases will make it so that there are always a few reeds that are already broken in and at least one in that process so there is never a shortage of performance-ready reeds.
Picking a good mouthpiece can be difficult since it’s such an individual choice. Especially if you’re new to the clarinet, it can be even harder to understand the implication of these choices. Getting a recommendation from a trusted advisor such as a band director or clarinet instructor can be extremely valuable. They’ll be able to assess your embouchure and give you personalized recommendations based on their years of experience. You can also check out our reviews below for more ideas of which ones to go for.
Best Rated Clarinet Mouthpiece Reviews
Now that we’ve covered all the factors and features above, we’ve rounded up what we think are some of the best rated clarinet mouthpieces covering many styles, so there’s sure to be one that will suit you.
#1. Vandoren CM1405 BD5 Series 13 Black Diamond Ebonite Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece
There’s a good reason Vandoren appears multiple times in this list, and that’s because they’re a well-established brand that’s been producing clarinet mouthpieces since 1905. All of their mouthpieces are made of a vulcanized rubber called ebonite, which offers a more focused sound than plastic or natural wood, and this Black Diamond model showcases that.
The Vandoren Black Diamond Ebonite was created to provide clean, controlled sound with the long-lasting, hard-wearing physical quality that is a hallmark of the brand. Classical clarinetists favor these mouthpieces, but with their ability to create rich sound while allowing free-blowing, they make great mouthpieces for beginner players and professionals.
The chamber contained within the clarinet mouthpiece, unique to this series, offers a truly brilliant depth of sound and holds the reed in a way that feels balanced to the player.
#2. D’Addario Reserve Bb X0
- Precision milling delivers unparalleled consistency, eliminating the need to try many before purchase
- Crafted from a unique proprietary hard rubber for tonal beauty and evenness
- Designed by a team of top players, craftsmen, and engineers
The Reserve line of D’Addario mouthpieces is inspired by clarinets from the 1920s, bringing some of that vintage feel to the modern era and modern player. While the inspiration may come from the past, the technology that D’Addario uses to create the hard rubber and cork mouthpiece that fits multiple reeds is state of the art.
This series’s unique quality is that each D’Addario Reserve Bb X0 mouthpiece is milled rather than molded. The milling process helps to eliminate the necessity for the player to test multiple clarinet mouthpieces before finding the correct one. It’s this technical precision that D’Addario prides itself on and sets it apart in the market. Milled mouthpieces always stand above the rest when it comes to quality.
Lastly, we should talk about the sound, and this clarinet mouthpiece has a bright sound with even intonation. Its precision milling allows the player to play true and accurate scales in both solo practice and ensemble. Additionally, its open tip enables it to be flexible enough for jazz-style playing.
#3. Vandoren CM3178 M15 Profile 88 Bb
- Easy to articulate with a colorful spectrum of sound
- Tip Opening - 103.5 (1/100mm)
- Long Facing
This clarinet mouthpiece offers the tried and tested vulcanized rubber of Vandoren with a more orthodox shape than the BD5 series. This long-sided beak shape has a smaller tip opening at only 1.035 mm compared to the 1.13 mm tip opening of the BD5 series. Thanks to this design, this mouthpiece is easy to articulate for all players.
While being easy to articulate, this traditional design also offers an unrivaled response, helping beginner players learn how much resistance to give when blowing over the reed to avoid the squeaks clarinets can produce. This mouthpiece can even aid in the playing of higher registers.
Beginner players will enjoy how easy this mouthpiece is to pick up and play, while intermediate players will love how this mouthpiece offers a full spectrum of colorful sound that is still warm. Despite its slightly higher price point, it offers something for everyone.
#4. Vandoren CM346 B50 Bass Clarinet Mouthpiece
- Produces a rich and velvety sound especially in the upper register
- Tip Opening - 215 (1/100mm)
- Long Facing
Lightweight at only 2.4 ounces with a sleek design made of durable material, this bass clarinet mouthpiece has features that will make it worth the money to preserve and enhance the sound of intermediate and professional players.
With a wide tip opening, Vandoren’s design on this bass clarinet mouthpiece requires quite a bit of air even though it is articulate and has a quick response. Players should note that reed size may need to be adjusted to accommodate this fact and move down in size to avoid a breathy sound.
With the correct reed, the CM346 B50 Bass Clarinet mouthpiece offers rich and velvety sound with a true deep low register and a smooth high register that is easy to reach. Thanks to this mouthpiece, the higher register is more comfortable to play even on plastic instruments that might hinder regular playing.
#5. Vandoren CM4158 M13 Lyre 13 Series Profile 88 Bb
- Easy to play in the upper register and has a pure sound
- Tip Opening - 102- (1/100mm)
- Medium Long Facing
This clarinet mouthpiece possesses a profile 88 beak, a medium-long facing design, and a slightly more open tip than the M13 mouthpieces. This larger opening crafted from vulcanized rubber and cork, like all Vandoren mouthpieces, allows for easier blowing and more relaxed playing, which can reduce the stress of playing for long hours.
The Lyre 13 series is recommended for symphonic and chamber music playing, but it works well with harder reeds and players who wish to double and use the same mouthpiece for clarinet and saxophone.
The sound it produces is pure, with beginners stating that it helps to improve their playing primarily in the lower register. Regardless of experience level, the CM4158 Lyre 13 Series has rich and centered sound with a price point that makes it available to everyone.
#6. Vandoren CM308 B45 Traditional Bb
- Universal mouthpiece designed by Bernard Van Doren and appreciated by many musicians and band directors.
- Tip Opening - 119.5 (1/100mm)
- Medium Long Facing
Universally recognized as the standard, the CM308 B45 Traditional is appreciated by clarinetists and band directors worldwide. It’s an enduring beak design, with a medium-long facing and tip opening that falls on the intermediate side. This clarinet mouthpiece offers an excellent foundation for beginners and experts alike.
For a mouthpiece that provides a great universal standard, this one is medium-high priced with a price point accessible to beginners willing to spend and experts. In fact, beginners and students are often recommended this mouthpiece when they want to step up their playing but might not be ready to commit to a more expensive instrument.
Whether you are a jazz player or have a classical preference, the B5 Traditional by Vandoren offers a quality that all musicians wish to possess. Playing with this mouthpiece gives clear and reliable tones, quick response, thanks to its durable craftsmanship.
#7. Yamaha 4C Clarinet Mouthpiece
- Yamaha's official original-equipment 4C clarinet mouthpiece, identical to what's included with new Yamaha standard, intermediate and professional...
- The 4C size was designed by Yamaha so that even a beginner can make a terrific sound
- Made from safe and durable phenol resin plastic.
The Yamaha 4C Clarinet Mouthpiece is the mouthpiece included in all standard, intermediate and professional series Yamaha equipment. It’s no surprise that this is the mouthpiece most beginners learn to play on, as it has the lowest price point of all the best-rated clarinet mouthpieces listed here while still maintaining great professional level sound.
Considered by some to be “student grade,” this mouthpiece is made of high-quality phenol resin, which reduces the price while still maintaining durability. It has a medium tip opening and medium facing, so players often turn to a softer reed for general playing.
Some players may forgive inferior quality sound for such a lower price point, but this mouthpiece offers what any beginner needs: consistent sound with easy blowing capability. The tones are well-balanced overall octaves and should hopefully encourage new players to keep practicing.
#8. Selmer 7711-3 Goldentone #3 Bb
- Golden tone is a Selmer brand name associated with quality student mouthpieces
Lastly, this Selmer mouthpiece is another budget-conscious pick that is great for students and beginner clarinetists alike. While not as durable as ebonite, being made of molded plastic has the advantage of keeping costs low. If you’re just beginning to play clarinet and you’re not sure if you will commit or lack a budget, this is the mouthpiece for you.
Educators have typically chosen this or the Yamaha 4C to teach students the basics of proper embouchure formation and blowing techniques. It offers easy blowing with a medium facing and medium opening. A common recommendation is to use this mouthpiece with a soft reed.
Concerning how it sounds, the Selmer 7711-3 Goldentone gives a good performance. It offers a balanced response, accurate pitch, and clear sound. More expensive clarinet mouthpieces on the market deliver specialized sound for a particular style, but they will require more from your pocketbook.
Conclusion: Which Clarinet Mouthpiece Should you Buy?
Consider your commitment to playing, budget, and the type of clarinet you own when you’re choosing one clarinet mouthpiece to buy. If you own a bass clarinet, your choices from this list will be limited.
However, if you’re looking for a B flat clarinet mouthpiece, you can’t go wrong with a traditional mouthpiece with excellent reviews and a fair price point. The Vandoren Black Diamond Ebonite Bb clarinet mouthpiece fits the bill. This mouthpiece is a universal standard for all styles, and both beginners and professionals alike will enjoy its clear, rich sound.
If you are a beginner or budget-conscious, try the Yamaha 4C Clarinet Mouthpiece. Although its price is easy on the wallet, it has excellent sound, and you’ll be able to play well while you save up money for a higher quality mouthpiece.