- Jess Voigt Page: Selecting repertoire while you’re in school
- Bill Plake Music: Remember to Pay Attention to This Important (Yet Too Often Overlooked) Component of Your Practice Routine
- Dr. Cate’s Flute Tips (Cate Hummel): The Secret of Tuning Up Db (C#)
- Jenny Maclay: 30 Day Self Care Challenge for Musicians
- LearnSaxophoneOnline.com (Jeffrey Cunningham): Crystal Clear Articulation
- Observing Focal Dystonia (Andrée Martin): Lose your GPS
- Trent Jacobs, bassoonist: Addressing Stress VPI
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): The Internet Is Not Always Your Friend
- International Clarinet Association (Nicola Buckenmaier): Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer: The First Female Clarinet Soloist
D’Addario was kind enough to send me a couple of their new(ish) Reserve Evolution clarinet mouthpieces to try out.
The Evolution currently comes in a single opening/facing, but the two Evolution mouthpieces I received are different in appearance: one is the standard black, and the other is what’s called “marble” on D’Addario’s website, or “sandstone marble” on the box. I usually don’t care to have equipment that calls too much attention to itself, but this is pretty cool and subtle enough not to be gaudy on stage.
I can’t definitively say that there is a difference in how the marble/non-marble play or sound. For the two I have in hand, the marble is possibly very (very) slightly more dark/muted, and the non-marble has very slightly more brightness/presence. But this doesn’t match my experience trying the mouthpieces back-to-back at the ICA conference (“ClarinetFest®”) over the summer. In any case, if there’s a difference, it’s trivially small, and I think you can pick the one that you think looks nicest.
As I’ve pointed out in my reviews of D’Addario’s other clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces, these are made with very, very high consistency, which finally brings mouthpieces into the online shopping age: you can just order one from wherever you find the lowest price, and count on it to play just as well as any other. No need to order a bunch of them, put a deposit on your credit card, ship back the ones you don’t want, pay a restocking/sanitation fee, etc. And if you lose or break yours, you can get a replacement quickly and probably not notice any difference. They are great-playing, affordable mouthpieces, but the consistency is the unique, killer feature. I’ve personally adopted each new clarinet and saxophone mouthpiece as it has hit the market.
(I don’t have a formal relationship, endorsement deal, etc. with D’Addario. They do sometimes send me products to try, presumably with the hope that I will review them favorably, but there’s no advance agreement. And I think that the consistent quality is a significant development in the mouthpiece market, and worth comment.)
What I’m looking for in a mouthpiece is a good balance between response and stability. To some extent these may be two sides of the same coin. A very responsive mouthpiece “speaks” immediately, even on resistant notes or at softer volume. But sometimes the tone and/or pitch are too flexible, and keeping them in check takes a lot of work. A very stable mouthpiece has consistent tone and pitch, but may take more work to get notes to respond as desired.
The particular quality of tone is my third consideration. I don’t make this my first priority for a few reasons. One is that a mouthpiece that strikes a good responsive/stable balance is already likely to have an appropriate, middle-of-the-road, versatile tone. (Often, within that middle-of-the-road zone, more “responsive” mouthpieces tend toward “brightness,” “presence,” or “liveliness,” while more “stable” mouthpieces lean toward “darkness,” “warmth,” or a “covered” sound.) Another reason is that tone quality is one of the more malleable aspects of a mouthpiece’s playing characteristics. If it functions well on the response/stability axis, then with a little time I will probably adapt my embouchure in minute ways (even without realizing it) to find the tone I want.
For the last seven years I have been using D’Daddario’s Reserve X5 clarinet mouthpiece, so I’m using that as my frame of reference. The Reserve and Evolution mouthpieces are both good, solid choices, and I can’t really say broadly that one is better than the other. But they have some differences in response, stability, and tone, which I’ll outline here in case it helps you pick one that best suits your preference.
Basically I find the Reserve to lean slightly toward responsiveness, with the expected tinge of brightness/presence, and the Evolution to tend more stable, with the darker/more covered sound. It’s subtle.
(Besides the mouthpieces, D’Addario also makes Reserve and Evolution reeds, which I find to have those same characteristics: Reserve = more responsive, Evolution = more stable. A D’Addario representative tells me the similarly named mouthpieces and reeds are “not meant to be exclusively paired together.”)
The following audio clips are all played using the same reed, a D’Addario Reserve 3.5. It’s just a little softer than I prefer for the X5, which accounts for some of the responsiveness and brightness but not all of it. Using a 3.5+ brings the sound and response just slightly closer to the Evolutions.
These photos are of the packaging for the X5 and Evolution mouthpieces. The measurements, oddly, are mostly in inches. (The X5 packaging is several years old, from when these were still sold as “Rico Reserve;” I don’t know if the box otherwise still looks the same.) The side view diagrams seem to indicate that both have a tip opening of ~.042 inches, which seems like a possible typo. Assuming the openings are precisely 1.05mm and 1.08mm (as also indicated on the packaging), these might be better expressed as .041 and .043.
I like both the Reserve X5 (my current favorite of the Reserve options) and the Evolution, and currently they are both living in my clarinet case. If forced to choose, I think at the moment I would fall back on the X5, because responsiveness feels important to me right now. But I can easily see myself switching to the Evolution at some point, perhaps depending on repertoire and performance situation.
In any case, the Evolution is another strong addition to D’Addario’s line of mouthpieces, and worth checking out.
Here are videos from my recent faculty recital at Delta State University. I performed the Saint-Saëns oboe, bassoon, and clarinet sonatas, plus the flute Romance and “The Swan” from The Carnival of the Animals as a baritone saxophone transcription.
“The Swan” is originally for cello, so I assumed it might work well as a baritone saxophone transcription. It turns out it really fits quite comfortably in the alto saxophone’s range, but I decided to take it on as a baritone piece anyway as a personal challenge.
- Bill Plake Music: Clarifying A Common Misconception About Your Lungs To Help You Breathe More Optimally
- ClarinetMike Blog (Michael Dean): ClarinetMike’s Top 10 Tips for Successful Private Lessons!
- Nicole Riner, flutist: Developing your Home Music Studio: A Worksheet
- LearnSaxophoneOnline.com (Jeffrey Cunningham): 6 Steps for Learning Music by Ear
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Acknowledge the Listeners!
- Sam Newsome’s Blogspot: Soprano Sax Talk: Teachers Versus Role Models, and The Note Onion Theory
- Jenny Maclay: Common Clarinet Emergencies and How to Fix Them, and Questions to Ask Yourself for a More Productive Practice Session
- Jennifer Stucki, oboist: How does the altitude affect your reeds?
- Recorder Jen (Jennifer Mackerras): How to take apart stuck plastic recorder joints
- Angela Lickiss-Aleo: IDRS Class on Contemporary Techniques
- eflatclarinetproject (Jennifer Fraley): Getting Back to Practicing
- International Clarinet Association (Nora-Louise Müller): The Bohlen-Pierce Clarinet: Exploring a New Tonality
The Flute View (Leighann Daihl Ragusa): Developing Your Ornamental Toolbox
- Jenny Maclay: The Musician’s Guide to Studying Abroad: How to Turn Your Dreams Into Reality
- Recorder Jen (Jennifer Mackerras): How you breathe in is vital to a good recorder tone
- Dr. Pierce’s Bassoon Studio: A stand for an EWI
- Nicole Riner, flutist: A graded list of flute etude books available on Petrucci: college level
- Sax Spy – Blog: 3 Low-Note Exercises From the Masters
- Trent Jacobs, bassoonist: On forming blanks and cracking cane
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Psychology of the Oboist and Transitions
- Jenny Maclay: The Complete Guide to Developing Great Technique
- Sam Newsome’s Blogspot: Soprano Sax Talk: Websites: Relevant or Relic?
And, as always, this is an excellent way to get your blog post selected as a favorite:
- Joffe Woodwinds: Bret Pimentel
- Jennifer Stucki, oboist: Why is my Reed Playing Sharp and Flat?
- Rachel Yoder, clarinet: Objective Language in Applied Music Instruction
- Just Flutes Blog (Roderick Seed): Tips on Andersen Etudes: Op15, No. 3
- Sam Newsome’s Blogsite: Soprano Sax Talk: Acute and Chronic Practicing
- Bassoon Blog (Betsy Sturdevant): Contrabassoon for Dummies
- The Flute Examiner (Kelly Wilson): 11 Cool Things About the Tongue
- Peter da Silva Music: Woodwind Tips – Venting
- Recorder Jen (Jennifer Mackerras): Why we should all start practising long notes
- The Flute View (Jolene Madewell): 7 Tips for Sparking Joy in Your Practice Room
- Joffe Woodwinds: Practicing on the Gig
- JQ Flute: Rough times happening? Oh look, there you are making gold out of it. Here’s 3 heartfelt observations about your playing to get you through the storm
- Oboemotions: Promising Research
- Kristopher King (bassoon): Low A
- The Flute View: Creating and Refining Better Habits in Your Practice Room by Rena Urso
- Wayne Leechford: Auditioning for All-District
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): My Winter Warm-Up Routine For Cold Days
These are questions I am often asked about clarinet or saxophone ligatures, by blog readers or by my students.
- Is there a ligature that can accomplish _____ for me? If you are looking for something to hold the reed onto the mouthpiece, then yes. If you are hoping to achieve something loftier, then probably not.
- Should I get one of the rigid (usually metal) kinds, or one of the soft (usually some leather-ish synthetic) kinds? The very cheapest options are usually metal, and they generally work fine. If they are of especially low quality, they might break quickly, or scratch your mouthpiece or dig into your reed. The soft ones are a little more expensive, but have the advantages of (a) better gripping an oddly-shaped mouthpiece or reed and (b) surviving being stepped on.
- What about a fancy one, with jewelry metals or cryogenic treatment or inset “tone jewels” or some other expensive gimmick? Won’t those make me sound better? This is extremely doubtful. There’s a possibility that you will sound a little different inside your own head, and that might make you play a little differently. Or that platinum plating (or just having spent a lot of money) will increase your confidence. But it’s very questionable that the ligature has some inherent sound quality that your audience can hear, unless you plan to hit it with a drumstick. Remember that in some parts of the world, top orchestral clarinetists use shoelaces. (I heard a story of one of these clarinetists being asked what kind of shoelace he used. His response: “Black.”) If you are deeply invested in the idea that a ligature needs to be fancy or expensive, Michael Lowenstern has a video you might find enlightening.
- But doesn’t a ligature affect the reed’s vibrations? The vibrate-y part of the reed is the thinner part, away from the ligature.
- Should I use the kind with one or two screws? What about those ones with no screws? Any number of screws is fine, as long as it holds the reed on the mouthpiece.
- Should I get the kind where the screws go on top of the mouthpiece or underneath? I really cannot emphasize enough the unimportance of the screw situation.
- How tight should my ligature be? Tight enough to hold the reed securely in place.
- How far back or forward should I put the ligature? You could try some different positions and see if one feels better to you. Some mouthpieces have a line on them to suggest where the ligature should go. You are not obligated to follow this guideline, but if you are having difficulty deciding where your ligature should go then I suggest using this as a starting point.
If you would like to purchase something that will improve your tone quality or your articulation or whatever, I recommend getting some recordings of very fine clarinetists and some lessons with an excellent teacher. Enjoy!