Clarinet Mouthpieces and Ligatures


Mouthpiece Setup

Your mouthpiece setup (Reed, Ligature, & Mouthpiece) is a critical component of any total instrument setup, and may be more important than the clarinet itself in the early stages of playing. Assuming the main body of the clarinet working properly, spending a little extra time and money on mouthpiece setup can greatly improve the response, intonation, tone quality, and easy of playing of the instrument. After all, this is the part of the instrument that produces the actual sound. It’s important to remember that choosing a mouthpiece setup is an extremely individual process and just because a particular setup works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you. A good clarinet teacher or our clarinet specialist will be able to point you in the right direction so don’t be afraid to ask questions.


Most stock mouthpieces that come with new instruments are of average quality and many young players struggle because of this. Upgrading the mouthpiece is one of the best ways to improve sound and ease of play for beginners. There are a large number of mouthpiece manufacturers who make mouthpieces in many different styles with varying costs. Vandoren mouthpieces are a great choice for inexperienced players looking to upgrade. Vandoren offers a wide variety of clarinet mouthpieces that cover almost every style of music from Classical to Jazz and are used by beginners to orchestral professionals throughout the world.

Vandoren makes about 10 or 11 different models of mouthpieces for clarinet. The 5RV Lyre or B45 would be a good place to start. The Lyre versions of these mouthpieces have larger tip openings and will generally blow a little freer. These may be a good choice for beginners as these mouthpieces will offer a little less resistance. As the player’s embouchure develops they may move up to a mouthpiece that offers more resistance. Advancing players may want to enlist the help of a private teacher when searching for a new mouthpiece.


The ligature can be made of metal, plastic, leather, thread or even wood. This is the part that fastens the reed to the mouthpiece. Ligatures can affect the way the mouthpiece plays and how the reed vibrates against the mouthpiece, but is less critical than the mouthpiece or reeds. For the most part, clarinet mouthpieces will all be very similar in size, but it is still important to make sure the ligature is a good fit. The most common materials used for making ligatures are metal, cloth and leather. Good ligatures for beginners would be metal (nickel) Bonade ligatures (regular or inverted)  or Rovner ligatures, which are made of cloth or leather and sometimes incorporate metal plates where the ligature touches the reed.


Brandon Wozniak is one of Minnesota's most exciting saxophonists. He returned to the Twin Cities in 2006 after six years in New York City and a six-month stint in Shanghai, China. Brandon studied music at Indiana University with David Baker and privately with Tom Walsh. He performs regularly with Dave King's (Bad Plus, Happy Apple drummer) Dave King Trucking Company with saxophonist Chris Speed, the Atlantis Quartet (City Pages Best Jazz Artist 2011, Star Tribune Best Jazz Artist 2012), the great drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt (Weather Report, McCoy Tyner), Bryan Nichols Quintet, Chris Bates Red 5 plus others. Brandon has also performed with singer Nellie McKay, toured with the Tommy Dorsey Jazz Orchestra and shared the stage with organ great Dr. Lonnie Smith and guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg.

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