Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mouthpiece Review: Selmer C85

Of the fifty or so mouthpieces in my collection, only one--a Morgan purchased in 1989--might qualify as a specifically made "jazz" mouthpiece. All of the others, like each of my clarinets, were manufactured with a classical market in mind. [editor's note 6/27/18: This review was written before I purchased nearly 25 vintage Brilhart mouthpieces, and a Benny Goodman Selmer model, all of which could be said to have been designed for the jazz market--E.S.] While mouthpiece choice is ultimately very personal, with no two players getting the same results from the same equipment, jazz players often have to re-purpose materials from the classical market. This ongoing series of reviews is therefore written in the hopes that giving one player's opinions and experiences might be of some help to others.


Selmer C85 105

First and foremost, this mouthpiece is loud. But loudness itself isn't really a positive quality unless it's accompanied by other aspects of sound. Depth, flexibility, color spectrum and dynamic range all play their parts and will determine whether it's worth listening in the first place.

What makes this loud "good" and others less successful is the depth, flexibility, and a certain plaintive quality this mouthpiece yields, deep in the tone. There is an inner motion to the sound possible--rather than giving one generic sound, it's multi-layered. It also has a strong edge to the sound, without sacrificing body.

All registers respond immediately to this mouthpiece--it very much feels like a hair-trigger megaphone, freeing the player up to focus on the music rather than any physical challenges. Player who like to exert while playing might find this mouthpiece shouts too much (or that it has too little resistence), but those who like to lay back while getting big results will probably like the feel and response of the C85.

I've read elsewhere on the web that the C85 series was designed specifically for the Selmer 10S/Recital series clarinets, and that they don't work particularly well for pre-10S Selmers. This hasn't been my experience--the C85 works very well on my 1955 Centered Tone and 10S alike.

I can tolerate a pretty wide variety of facings, from fairly close (105) to fairly open (120), and have used both the C85 105 and C85 120 on my horns. They yield similar results, though I prefer the 105 (pictured above is a new 105, purchased as a backup--the one I use more often is a "vintage" 'piece from the early '80s, with an inlaid stamp of the Selmer logo, letters and numbers).

In the grand argument about whether material matters, count me with those who believe it does. These mouthpieces are made from rod rubber, and the sound seems, from both a listening and playing perspective, a bit more defined and harder edged than the molded hard rubber mouthpieces in my collection. Whether it's ultimately material that accounts for this will be debated by those more expert than I am, but my "player's opinion" is that the rubber itself does seem to contribute to that difference.

For those who like Vandoren B40s or B45s, but are looking for a slightly edgier sound, this mouthpiece handles very similarly (with the 120 being the closest facing to those popular Vandorens), and being reasonably priced, it's worth looking into.


Keith said...

I picked up that C 80 and it really gives me a better tone than my Rico Reserve 100 piece. THanksso much for your review.

Keith said...

Great Review. I really like this piece. K

ES said...

Glad it's working out for you, Keith--Happy New Year!


PaulyinOz said...

I use a C85 120 purchased in the early 90s and ir's just fabulous with my early 60s Buffet R13. Love your blog! Thanks.

Daryl Davis said...

Thanks, Eric! I just bought a C85 105, from Muncy Winds, for my daughter to try on the 10S she's had on long-term loan since 6th grade (she's now in 9th). The 10S came with a Buescher mouthpiece, which Becky found indistinguishable from her Vandoren B45. I decided to try the narrower tip opening after reading your comments, and that was all I could find anyway. Becky tried the C85 for the first time this evening and said, "It works better." It sounded better to my ear: I was asleep when she started practicing, so I had no idea which mouthpiece she had mounted.

Becky hadn't touched her clarinet this year, as she wanted to focus on saxophone. But she's the baritone sax in a regional high school big band (her twin sister is a trombonist and also a member of the band) and the director wants her to play the clarinet part in Glenn Miller's arrangement of "Stardust."