Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jazz Clarinet Q&A: Mouthpiece Strategy for Selmer Centered Tone


Great blog. It's a joy to read. Because of your blog, I have a question. I'm a life long sax player, studied in college, etc. Unfortunately, I never needed to play clarinet. My double was always flute. Anyway, for the past year or so, I've been diving into clarinet. I've always loved it, especially in traditional Jazz and Brazilian choro. I play soprano in a trad jazz group and in a choro group, but I really want to play clarinet as well.  So...

I recently acquired a beautiful Selmer Centered Tone and I'm in love. Can you recommend one, two or a few good mouthpieces that seem to work well with the Centered Tone? It came with a HS* oval mouthpiece which is way more closed than I'm accustomed to, but it definitely sounds good. I know how personal sound and mouthpiece choice are, but some of problems have to do with how open I should go. I know a lot of sax players seem to like open clarinet pieces, but I like to approach the clarinet as its own instrument.


Wayne Swanson
Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute & EWI


Hey Wayne--

Congrats on the Centered Tone and thanks for the kind words regarding The Jazz Clarinet. As you probably know I'm a CT player myself--I think they're the Mark VI of the clarinet world. 

As to your mouthpiece question, all the usual caveats apply (I'm sure you know them)--the choice is individual; use what works for you; etc., etc. 

Having said this, I think you're smart to ask, because it's quite possible to make a mistake with that HS* oval, which would be a real shame. The obvious advice would be to say "go ahead and have someone open it up", but the trouble is that it's axiomatically easier to take rubber off than add it back on, and you're looking to stabilize your concept right now, first and foremost. 

So, my suggestion would be to do something like this:

Although they're not perfect for a CT bore, you can sometimes get very good results from a contemporary Selmer C85 mouthpiece. If you have the time, money, and inclination, I'd buy, or at least test, a few different facings (105, 115, 120), and see if one of them is more comfortable than the others. You're job might be done there--if a C85 120, for example, works well for you, the search might be over. Be forewarned, though, that while many players like myself have had no trouble with the C85 on a Centered Tone, others have experienced intonation problems--a lot of it comes down to embouchure and air flow concept. 

After experimenting with the C85, and determining which facing is best for your playing, you might want to have the HS* oval opened up to your specs. But I'd make sure you really believed in what you were asking for first--in other words, make sure you know and are comfortable with your playing before having a great vintage piece worked on. That HS* oval is, in my opinion, the equivalent of a vintage Otto Link for a tenor player. If and when you get to that point, let me know and I can offer a suggestion or two regarding who to send it to.

Keep swinging, man!


1 comment:

Jeff Rosner said...

I have both a 6-ring and a 7-ring CT clarinet...both P-series and also a Series 9. Love them all. I have had very good luck with some older Morgan pieces, both the RM series (I have a 1.05, 1.10, and 1.15.Also have a J-5 (my main piece which measures ~1.25, and a J7, about 1.40. I also highly recommend the Grabner K14. All of these have good intonation. I have had bad results with older WW NY pieces (even a "Dick Stabile", and a variety of Selmer, Buffet, Normandy and various refaced blanks.