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Mouthpiece Nomenclature

This article, by Clark Fobes, reedman@ix.netcom.com was posted Klarinet in August 1996.

Nomenclature describing the physical components of clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces has always been a very uncertain and even confusing subject. Even those of us who make mouthpieces do not use the same terms to describe the complex interior and exterior shapes of the mouthpiece. Far more individualized is the "system" of mouthpiece facings. Any mouthpiece maker wants to set himself apart from the next fellow. This is the nature of creative art, but I agree that in some cases a facing name resembles a rune more than a systematic means of information.

But let's start with the parts that can be more or less agreed upon. The following nouns that describe the integral parts of the mouthpiece are a part of the standard nomenclature used by mouthpiece makers. I have indicated with an * the words that I use that may not be a part of the common language, but that I have heard from some of the masters such as David Hite, Everett Matsen and Glen Johnston.

Instead of using an alphabetical system, I will break the mouthpiece down into general areas. Within each group heading will be the physical elements that pertain to that specific area.

  1. Outside Shape
    1. Tenon - Cylindrical portion fitted with cork that fits into the barrel joint.
    2. Shoulder * - area where the tenon meets the body.
    3. Body - The general conical shape that the ligature fits around. This is always where the maker's stamp is located.
    4. Beak - Tapered portion that fits into the mouth. Descriptions of the beak include the angle or shape of the taper to the body, (steep, shallow, duck billed) the width where the corners of the mouth are displaced (narrow,wide) and the amount of radial curvature (ranging from high to flat).
    5. Bite * (also called the tip) - approximately .5mm of material where the beak meets the radius of the tip rail. This is most often described as thick, medium or thin.
  2. Mouthpiece interior - The mouthpiece interior has two distinct sections. These are:
    1. Bore - Tapered conical interior that starts at the tenon end and comprises approximately 2/3 the overall length of the mouthpiece.
      1. End bore * or Exit bore - round shape where the bore meets the tenon end. This is a very critical dimension.
      2. Crown or Ball * - this is the hemispherical section at the top (tip end) of the bore. The relative position of the highest point of the crown to the tip is critical to the overall tuning of the mouthpiece as is the minimum width of the bore where the radius of the crown begins.
      3. Bore Taper - angle created by the reduction of the bore diameter from exit bore to the minimum width where the crown radius starts.
    2. Chamber - sometimes called the "Windway" - Area where the the air enters the mouthpiece.
      1. Window (sometimes called the "slot") - the opening described by the tip rail, side rails and squared end.
      2. Baffle - entire surface opposite from the window
      3. Tip baffle - area about 1/8" below the tip raiL
      4. Side walls - the two surfaces that are roughly perpendicular to the baffle. (Slightly angled on most French style mouthpieces)
      5. Ramp * - angled surface that opposes the baffle and cuts in from the end of the window into the bore.
      6. Throat * - shape where the chamber meets the bore
    3. Face *- Surface that meets the reed
      1. Table - entire area below the window that the reed is clamped to. This surface can be flat or slightly concave. Convexity occurs very often, but in my opinion is a flaw.
      2. Side rails - The two narrow surfaces between the window edge and the point where the mouthpiece sides begin.
      3. Tip rail - the narrow arcing surface between the tip and the window.
      4. Tip corners - the points where the side rails and tip rail meet (inside corners).
      5. Curve - most often referred to as "the facing" This is the portion that arcs away from flat and allows the reed to vibrate in interesting ways. It is not actually a full arc to the tip. The area just below the tip is flat. The length of the curve is measured from the tip to the point where the arc breaks away from flat. Always decribed in millimeters.
      6. Tip opening - The distance between the flat surface of the tip rail and the stationary reed.

Notes on Tip opening measurement

In the US we have developed an odd system of measuring tip openings in 100ths of a millimeter. For example, a typical Everett Matsen facing is 102 (on his gauge!) which is 1.02mm. Some mouthpiece makers use a the standard of 1000ths of an inch. One of David Hite's standard facings is decribed as .41" There are approximately 2.5 100ths of a mm to every 1000th of an inch. To convert Hites number into the metric system multiply 41 x 2.5. The result is 102.5 or 1.025mm

I don't know when the system of 100ths of a mm was started, but the standard gauges for American makers were made by Eric Brand for years and are now made by J.J. Babbitt. Tip gauges are graduated in 100ths of a mm. This allows for more graduation and finer measurement, but there is one huge drawback. None of these gauges is the same!! I compared mine to Matsen,s and found that mine was exactly 5 points larger. What he measures as 102, I measure 97. My good friend and colleague, Greg Dufford has a gauge that is much smaller than mine. I believe ours are off by as much as 10 points. So even mouthpiece makers cannot talk to each other very intelligibly about tip openings!

Clark W Fobes

Mouthpiece Makers

Although almost everyone has played on a Vandoren mouthpiece at some point in her or his life, there are other sources.

Dr. Stanley Geidel has advice about choosing the right mouthpiece available from the Online Clarinet Resource

Mouthpiece Manufacturers: (Sponsor indicates a www.woodwind.org sponsor)

1Stop Clarinet and Sax Shop
590 E Kings Hwy
Ste 3-146
Maple Shade,NJ 08052 USA
Email: 1Stopinfo@usa.com
Tel: 609-792-8530
Clarinets, Accessories, Mouthpieces

Ackerman Music
70 Portland Road
Hove,Sussex BN3 5DL United Kingdom
Email: >info@ackermanmusic.co.uk
Tel: +44 1273 702444
Fax: +44 1273 702222
Clarinets, Accessories, Mouthpieces
Basset extensions, period mouthpieces and copies of your own mouthpieces

Albert Alphin Wind Instruments, Inc
590 South St
Box B
Needham,MA 02492 USA
Email: aawinds@comcast.net
Tel: 781-449-4197
Fax: 781-449-2029
Clarinets, Barrels, Mouthpieces, Accessories, Repair
Free Catalogue on request

Emil Anello Mouthpieces
8640 North Teal Court
Milwaukee,WI 53223 USA
Email: manello@execpc.com
Tel: 414-355-2738
Fax: 414-449-3351

AW-Reeds GbR
Brandstrasse 27
Nürnberg, 90482 Germany
Reeds, Mouthpieces

j. j. Babbitt
Elkhart,IN USA
Tel: (800) 293-6514
Also sells mouthpiece blanks.

Bay-Gale Woodwind Products
Charles Bay
PO Box 3935-C
Westlake Village,CA 91359 USA
Email: cbay@baywoodwind.com
Tel: (805) 497-8161
Fax: 805-497-8208
Barrels, Ligatures, Mouthpieces, Accessories

Blayman Music
1025 Rose Creek Drive
Suite 620-371
Woodstock,GA 30189 USA
Email: sales@blaymanmusic.com
Tel: 770-928-9216
Fax: 206-984-4992
The famous "Blayman Music Stand"

991 Wildwood Lane
Highland Park,IL 60035 USA
Email: walter@clarinetxpress.com
Tel: 847 266 8644
Mouthpieces, Accessories
Bass clarinet stand

Dawkes Music
The Woodwind & Brass Warehouse
Reform Road
Maidenhead,Berkshire SL6 8BT England
Email: sales@dawkes.co.uk
Tel: +44(0)1628 630 800
Fax: +44(0)1628 777466
Clarinets, Mouthpieces
Distributors of Weinberg Mouthpieces

Peter Eaton Clarinets
Orestan Lane
Effingham,Surrey KT24 5SN United Kingdom
Tel: 01372 452513 International +44 1372 452513
Fax: 01372 451416 International +44 1372 451416
Clarinets, Mouthpieces

Clark W. Fobes Clarinet Products
130 Beverly
San Francisco,CA 94132 USA
Email: reedman@ix.netcom.com
Tel: (415) 585-0636
Fax: (415) 585-0636
Barrels, Mouthpieces, Repair

Roger Garrett
Email: rgarrett@titan.iwu.edu
Tel: (309) 556-3268
Mouthpieces and Mouthpiece Refacing
Clarinet, Eb Soprano & Bass Clarinet, Alto Clarinet/Basset Horn; Reed Cases, Batons, and Baton Cases

Ignatius Gennusa
1642 Cliff Drive
Edgewater,MD 21037 USA
Email: ben@redwinejazz.com
Tel: 410 798-8251
Fax: 410 798-9362

A. M. Gigliotti, Inc.
P.O. Box 8387
Cherry Hill,NJ 08002-0387 USA
Email: info@clarinetworld.com.
Tel: 856 667-0837
Fax: 856 667-0837

Richard Hawkins
92 Pyle Rd
Oberlin,OH 44074 USA
Email: hawkinsrg@aol.com
Tel: 440.776.9875

Jewel Music Products
53844 Cherrywood Drive
Shelby Twp,MI 48315 USA
Email: dave@jewelmusic.com
Tel: (810) 677-9449
Dave Knox Mouthpieces

Bas de Jong
Juliana van Stolberglaan 45
The Hague, 2595 CA Holland
Email: dejong@jomuma.demon.nl
Tel: 00 31 70 38 17 440
Fax: 00 31 70 38 17 440
Bas de Jong is the distributor of Viotto mouthpieces in Europe.

Lomax Classic Mouthpieces/The Woodwind Corner
1012 S. Glenstone Ave.
Springfield,MO 65804 USA
Email: mike@lomaxclassic.com or joel@lomaxclassic.com
Tel: (417) 865-0996
Mouthpieces, Clarinets, Repair

Mike Vaccaro Sax and Clarinet Mouthpieces
c/o Mike Vaccaro
3540 Lemon Ave.
Long Beach,CA 90807-4720 UNITED STATES
Email: Mke@MikeVaccaro.Com
Tel: 562.424.4958
Mouthpiece, Refacing, Mouthpiece Refurbishing
Custom Made Clarinet and Saxophone Mouthpieces,
Mouthpiece Refacing and Refurbishing

Mouthpiece Express
PO Box 21587
Roanoke,VA 24018 USA
Tel: 1 877 672 3278

Pillinger Mouthpieces
15 Sitwell Grove
Stanmore,Middlesex HA7 3NB United Kingdom
Email: sales@pillingermouthpieces.co.uk or ed@pillingermouthpieces.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0)208 954 4058
Fax: +44 (0)208 954 4058

James Pyne/Clarion
1672 Rushing Way
Columbus,OH 43235 USA
Email: info@pyne-clarion.com
Tel: (800) JPYNE 440 614 766 7878
Barrels, Mouthpieces, Ligatures

Fred Rast Mouthpieces
PO Box 218
Brookdale,CA 95007 USA
Email: mpcmaker@yahoo.com
Tel: 831 338 3159

Runyon Products, Inc.
P.O. Box 590
Opelousas,LA 70751 USA
Email: reedman@RunyonProducts.com
Tel: 1-800-624-1729 (337) 948-6252
Fax: (337) 948-3308
Mouthpieces, Accessories

Henri Selmer et Cie
(Patrick Selmer)
18 Rue de la Fontaine Au Roi - 75011
Paris, France
Tel: 33 1 49 23 87 40
Fax: 33 1 43 57 24 95
Cane, Clarinets, Mouthpieces

Gregory Smith Mouthpieces
2737 Hurd Avenue
Evanston,IL 60201-1209 USA
Email: gregory@gregory-smith.com
Tel: 847-866-8331
Fax: 847-866-9551

Gregory Smith Mouthpieces
2737 Hurd Avenue
Evanston,IL 60201-1209 USA
Email: gregory@gregory-smith.com
Tel: (847) 866-8331
Fax: (847) 866-9551

Vaccaro and Stevens Woodwinds
P. O. Box 7991
Long Beach,CA 90807 USA
Email: mike@mikevaccaro.com
Tel: 800.449.8975 562.424.4958
Fax: 562.424.2512
Barrels, Mouthpieces
Hand made, hand tuned, and hand voiced clarinet barrels and bells. Clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces.

Dirk Vandamme
Stationsdreef 92 8800
Roeselare, Belgium
Email: d.vandamme@planetinternet.be
Tel: ++32(0)51 20 53 19
Fax: ++32(0) 51 24 14 05

Vandoren sas
(Robert Van Doren)
56 Rue Lepic - 750118
Paris, France
Email: info@vandoren.fr
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 41 83 00
Fax: +33 (0)1 53 41 83 01
Cane, Accessories, Ligatures, Mouthpieces, Reeds
In Paris, the largest Sheet Music Store for clarinet and saxphone (more than 15000 different titles); ordering possible through the Web at vandoren.com. American distributors: Dansr, Inc., 2209 818 W. Evergreen Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
, 888-707-4455, Fax 773-292-1545, Website - http://www.dansr.com

Hans Zinner GmbH & Co. KG
Marktrodach, Germany
Email: info@hans-zinner.de
Tel: 49 09261/2347
Fax: 49 09261/52329
Mouthpiece Blanks

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