A customer wrote to ask : "What's a good set up for jazz on the clarinet? I've changed my embouchure a lot but I'd like to have the best set up possible also, any advice would be great! Thanks!"
I'd like to have the best setup possible, too! So, here's my answer:
"Nice to hear from you! Well, that's a tough question...Its very individual. If you look at a list of famous players on any instrument (especially woodwind) the setups tend to be all over the place. Generally speaking, Jazz players generally use a more open tip and a lighter reed than classical, but a big part of the equation is having a 'jazz tone' in your head, and adjusting your timing, attack, phrasing, etc. to reflect a Jazz concept. Who do you listen to? Buddy DeFranco? Artie Shaw? Peanuts Hucko? Lots of listening and practicing with play-along tracks or jazzy friends will help the most...
Now that, being said, its harder to get a Jazz sound on a Vandoren M13 mpc with #4 reeds - that's a pretty closed, stuffy setup. I've used Bernard Portnoy mouthpieces on my horn (and with students) and had good results...either the BP02 or more open BP03 facing. These can generally be found on ebay for about $40 used. Also, an older Selmer HS** (2 stars, not one) gives a nice tone and is open enough to offer some flexibility. One of the most popular with both Jazz and Greek musicians is the VanDoren 5jb, but be prepared for a very open facing (which will effect intonation at first) and a very light reed! I loved the tone of the ones I tried, but my jaw got sore after about half an hour...
Also, don't forget reeds! I'd try a synthetic Fibracell 3.5 or 4, (which run a grade softer than comparable cane reeds) or, if you really prefer natural reeds, look at a non-classical cut from Alexander: they make some really nice reeds cut specifically for a Jazzy sound."
How's that for an answer? What is your Jazz mouthpiece of choice?
The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.