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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, February 28, 2011


The PMC Quick Note is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Q&A: Woodwind Mouthpiece Choices
The following question was emailed in by Dobie Carroll from Liberty-Mtn. View Schools inquiring about woodwind mouthpieces. After sending the response, I received permission from Dobie to print the question and answer as a Quick Note article. If you have a question that we can help answer, please let us know. For a complete list of Quick Note back issues, please review our catalog.


I realized recently how little I know about woodwind mouthpieces. I have a sixth grade alto sax player that I know practices a considerable amount of time that had horrible tone. I dug around and found a Selmer Goldentone mouthpiece in a drawer and took off her stock mouthpiece and it was like a Christmas miracle. She sounds like a saxophone player now instead of a bumble bee. I did a considerable amount of research on facing and chamber and all of the parts that make up these mouthpieces. But what I would really love is for someone (hopefully you) to make some mouthpiece suggestions for different level players. I'm sure it has much to do with the players' characteristics, but I'm just a little worried that my overall woodwind tone is suffering more than I'm aware of. Do you have any range of suggestions for clarinet and saxophone? Specifically, I have two 8th grade sax players who both play alto, tenor and bari. Air support is NOT an issue. These kids are wind machines and I just want to know that their mouthpiece is able to adequately support their ability.

Let me know if there is anything you can suggest.


Dobie Carroll
Director of Bands / Tennis Coach
Liberty High School
Mountain View - Birch Tree R-III Schools
P.O. Box 464
Mountain View, MO 65548
(417) 934-2020 ext. 224




These are great questions and I will do my best to answer them. I am not surprised to hear your story about the difference in sound a change of mouthpiece can make. One of the things that we like to offer is a mouthpiece clinic (especially for your high school musicians) so that they can experience a step-up mouthpiece before deciding which one to purchase.

For clarinet and saxophone beginners, I still recommend them starting on the beginning mouthpiece that comes with the instrument. The beginning mouthpieces are built to take abuse and this keeps the prices down for kids to get started. Once they have played for about a year, it is a good thing to step them up to an improved mouthpiece. Usually, this level of mouthpiece will have thinner walls and will be made of improved materials and design. We have had very good luck with either the Fobes line of mouthpieces or some mid-level Selmer options. Mouthpieces in this category usually range from $30-$60. For advancing high school players, it is time to move up to a “pro-level” mouthpiece and ligature. We have tremendous luck with clarinet players moving to Vandoren mouthpieces (most commonly the B45 with a Rovner ligature) and the saxophone players moving to a Selmer mouthpiece (most commonly the Selmer C* with a Rovner ligature). Other ligature and mouthpiece options are available, but these are the most popular. Mouthpieces in this category cost from $80-$200 and ligatures are in the $25-40 range.

I would also need to mention the importance of having very good quality reeds. Make sure all of your players are used to using a reed guard for storage……do not let them leave the reeds on the mouthpiece or put them in the plastic “slips” that come with some boxes of reeds. Spending a few dollars on a reed guard will pay off immediately in reed life and tone quality. As far as brands of reeds, we have great luck with Rico Royal reeds for price and consistence (especially for beginning and intermediate students) and Vandoren reeds for advancing players. I prefer beginners to start with a box of reeds that are “strength 2” and then as soon as they go through that box moving them to a 2 ½. Once they have been playing for a couple of years, they should be ready for reeds in “strength 3” and that should be as stiff as they need. Some clarinet players prefer to wind up on 3½ reeds to facilitate better tone production in the high register.

I hope this helps. Please let me know how your students are progressing.

Palen Music
(417) 234-2524 cell

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Brett Palen, Eric Matzat, Jason Moore, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Harlan Moore (816) 792-8301
Joplin Dave Coble (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Bryan Snyder (918) 770-6827


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