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Walter Grabner

991 Wildwood Lane

Highland Park, IL 60035

847.266.8644

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Clarinet Mouthpiece Facings Explained

 

Let’s get this straight right from the beginning 

 

Regarding the tip opening:

 

1.     A more open tip requires a “softer” reed.

2.     A closer tip requires a “harder” reed.

 

Regarding the facing length:

 

1.     A shorter facing length requires a “softer” reed.

2.     A longer facing length requires a “harder” reed.

 

These two factors work together in this way:

 

1.     A close tip and a long facing length would require the “hardest” reed.

2.     An open tip and a short facing length would require the “softest” reed.

 

It is amazing how much confusion there is over this.

 

(Also, reeds are not hard or soft, they are more or less resistant depending on how they are made and the nature of the particular piece of cane)

 

Now we can discuss facings and how they are measured.

 

 

 What is the “facing”?

·       The curve of the window of the mouthpiece, in which the reed vibrates

·       Allows control and dampening of the reed by the embouchure

·       Expressed as a series of numbers

·       Numbers describe the resistance curve and tip opening

 

Importance of the facing

·       Dictates how the reed will vibrate

·       Dictates strength of reed required

·       Dictates position of the lower lip

·       Influences tone

·       Influences attack

·       Influences speed of articulation

 

How is it measured?

·       System developed by Eric Brand Company

·       Used universally

·       Measures points of “distance” of reed from mouthpiece 

·       Tip and four “points” on smaller mouthpieces

·       Tip and five “points” on larger mouthpieces

·       Basically plots a curve which you can graph

Tools required

·       Feeler gauges

    .0015”

    .010”

    .024”

    .034”

    .050” – used on Alto, bass clarinet, and contra alto clarinet mouthpieces, etc.

 

 

brand1

 


·        Glass gauge

    Measures in ½ millimeters

    Shows measurements where feeler gauges stop

 

 

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·       Tip gauge

    Tapered wand or Plunger

    Measures in mm

    Measures “tip opening”

    No two gauges the same

    Some confusion about what is being measured

 

(AT right – measuring the tip OPENING, using the glass gauge and the tip wand. Measurements are in Millimeters)

 

 

·      Properties of a good facing

    What “the numbers” mean.

     A = where .0015” gauge stops (in half mm from tip of mthp)

     B = where .010” gauge stops

     C = where .024” gauge stops

     D = where .034” gauge stops

     E = where .050” gauge stops (alto, bass, contra mouthpieces only)

 

brand3

 

Example: Bass clarinet mouthpiece facing:

 1.74   (tip opening in millimeters)

    48 – A

    34 – B

    24 – C

    18 – D

    10 – E  (larger mouthpieces only)

 

In the diagram to the left, F = where the lower lip makes contact.

 

Diagram from the Eric Brand Manual

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    Almost always a smooth curve

    Can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. 

    Must be accurate or can cause MANY problems

    Closer vs. more open TIP

     Closer - reed requires harder tip

     More open  - reed requires softer tip

    Longer vs. shorter FACING LENGTH

     Longer - harder reed

     Shorter - softer reed

    Combinations

     Close/long (most “symphonic”)

     Open/long

     Close/short

     Open/short  (Jazz mouthpiece)

 

·       Facings are widely misunderstood

·       A person can play on a wide variety of facings

·       Symmetrical vs. asymmetrical debate

    Reed requirements

    Effect on tone

 

Examples of typical facings

1.04

30

20

10

4

 

“Chedeville”

1.05

38

24

11

4

 

Selmer C*

 

1.03

30

20

 9

3

 

Grabner K11

 

 

1.07

30

20

10

4

 

Grabner K14

1.74

48

34

24

18

10

“Pro bass clarinet”

 


Other Exterior Features of the Mouthpiece

 

·       Window Length – Generally 30 to 34 mm – same as reed “vamp length” – why?

 

·       Window Width - critical

    At base – approx. not so important

    At Tip – totally critical, affects tone and response drastically

     11.8 to

     12.0

 

·       Tip Rail

    Critical for security of tone production

    Affects tone quality

    Integrity of surface critical – must be flat

    Wide – darker/slower

    Narrow – brighter/faster

    Too narrow - SQUEAK

    Polishing VERY important

 

·       Side Rails

    Integrity of surface critical – must be flat

    Thickness not as important IF window is wide enough

    Too thin can cause instability (squeaking)

    Polishing VERY important

 

·       Table

    Establishes the flat plane for the reed

    Critical to the integrity of the facing

    Can cause problems if warped or “humped”

    Can warp with use

    Flat vs. Concave – a debate

 

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Copyright Walter Grabner 2004