Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

The clarinet equipment rule of three is this, if you are planning on buying a clarinet, clarinet mouthpiece, clarinet ligature or clarinet barrel, you should try AT LEAST three different models and three of the same model.

Of all of this basic equipment, it is important to start out quality made products that will help you concentrate on learning music on the clarinet, not fight equipment.


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Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

Where to start?

Okay, let’s say we are in the market for a clarinet mouthpiece. Do this. Talk to your band director or clarinet teacher and ask what mouthpiece best suits you for your age? If they do not know, see if they can ask a clarinet professional (go to Private Clarinet Teacher to learn how to find these professionals).

The band director is important to ask because he/she might like their whole section to play the same kind of mouthpiece. Alright he or she makes a recommendation. Now what do you do?

Let’s go with some mouthpieces that I recommend you try. We’ll use these mouthpieces as examples . So, here are three different models of mouthpieces made by the same company, Vandoren:

Vandoren Clarinet M13 Mouthpiece(three of this model)

Vandoren M30 Mouthpiece (three of this model)

Vandoren Clarinet 5RVLyre Mouthpiece (three of this model)

Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

Where to buy?

You have a few choices on how to try these out and then buy them.

1. Go to the local music shop

2. Shop online

3. Mail-order catalog via telephone

In any case, even shopping on line or via the phone, you should try at least three Vandoren M-13 mouthpieces, three Vandoren M-30 mouthpieces, and three 5RVLyre mouthpieces. (I know my writing is repetitive on this page, but I’m trying to hammer it in your head, like any good teacher attempts to do, right?).

Why? I’m not trying to have you buy nine mouthpieces, just trying to get across that one of these will fit you the best.

Even though mouthpiece companies use laser-guided, NASA based, equipment to make their products, even a thousandth of an inch can make a difference in your sound and for your particular mouth structure.

Your mouth might like one mouthpiece better than the others. So, get at least three Vandoren Clarinet M13 Mouthpieces and give them a try. Pick which one you like the best.

Now, blow through three Vandoren M30 Mouthpieces and pick your favorite one out of those three.

Now, try three of the Vandoren Clarinet 5RVLyre Mouthpieces.

Then, take your favorite mouthpiece of each group and play between the M-13, M-30 and 5RVLyre. You probably will have a favorite STAND-OUT mouthpiece at the end of these trials.

If you are a very beginning clarinetist, your clarinet embouchure has not formed enough to do this. Have a clarinet professional pick out a mouthpiece for you in your early study.

Clarinet Equipment Rule of Three WARNINGS: Return policy, Sterilization and Scratching...

Needless to say, if you are ordering via web or phone, you need to ask about the mouthpiece return policy and how they sterilize the mouthpieces once tried. Also, this is three times the amount of one mouthpiece on your credit card, pay attention to the return policy and restocking fees.

The stores may request that you place a piece of adhesive tape to the top of the mouthpiece to keep your upper teeth from scratching it. Also, some metal ligatures may scratch the mouthpiece. If you put too much tape on the mouthpiece to keep the ligature from scratching, this could affect the sound of the mouthpiece negatively.

Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

Try and buy only one piece of equipment at a time.

DON’T TRY OTHER EQUIPMENT WHEN YOUR FOCUS IS THE CLARINET MOUTHPIECE. But, Mr., I want to try everything? KEEP YOUR FOCUS. Dare I ask you to buy only one piece of equipment at a time?


Well, currently you play on the equipment you play on. You are used to it. Now, let’s focus on making the equipment you have function better. So, start by trying on the mouthpiece.

Once you’ve settled on a new mouthpiece, it is okay for you to move to the very next piece of equipment. I would say try clarinet ligatures next.

The exception to the policy is if you have a clarinet professional that you trust (not the music store clerk that you just met), they might have a series of equipment that they like and have students buy.

So, your clarinet teacher might say, I’d like you to try several Vandoren M30 Mouthpieces, several BG Clarinet Ligatures, a box of strength 3 Vandoren Rue-Lepic Clarinet Reeds, and several Bakun Clarinet Barrels. See, your teacher is guiding you to equipment that will model the sound that they personally produce.

Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

What reed do I use?

Well, hopefully you are disciplined at picking your reeds. If you are not, you need to read the Clarinet Reed Adjustment page. Remember, ROTATE YOUR REEDS!!! You should play your top three reeds while trying your mouthpieces.

Also, when you try the three first mouthpieces, try them all with the same reed. This way the only difference in your equipment is the reed. Do your best to keep all of your equipment stable while you are trying a new piece of equipment.

How about the Clarinet Equipment Rule of Three on reeds? Well, remember you can buy a different box of reeds every time you purchase a box. You will find your favorite brand soon enough.

Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

Why Three?

So, WHY THE MAGIC NUMBER OF THREE? Honestly, this is the minimum amount of mouthpieces you should try on any one occasion. If you have a chance to try ten M-30 mouthpieces, go for it, then ten M-13 mouthpieces then ten 5RVLyre mouthpieces. You should pick a real winner. Just take care and don’t get really confused.

The reason I say a minimum of three is this, you try number one mouthpiece. It seems to play really well. You play through it and then switch to number two. Number two plays easier, but sounds brighter. Now, you are immediately confused. Does this model mouthpiece lean toward the first mouthpiece or second? Well, with mouthpiece number three, you can settle on this decision.

You try mouthpiece number three and it might have the magic “dark-sound/easy blow.” Or not. Now, you play through all three mouthpieces again and probably are figuring which one you like the best.

So, once you’ve found that mouthpiece, don’t go to the counter and buy it. Now say, I’d like to hold onto this mouthpiece and try three of the next model mouthpiece.

Start over again with that model. You are constantly in the process of elimination on equipment trials. It often helps to have a clarinet teacher listening to you or a friend or colleague.

YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME PROCESS FOR BUYING A CLARINET, EXCEPT MUCH MORE THOROUGHLY. Buying a clarinet is a much more expensive process. That is why you should hang out and play through as many models as you have a chance.

Clarinet Equipment
Rule of Three

Travel 100 miles


However, take care in becoming an equipment junkie. Some folks try equipment on an obsessive level. Remember, you wish to practice enough to control this equipment, not let the equipment control you.

Settle on good equipment. Keep your eyes open for better equipment. Don’t buy into the “This mouthpiece will solve all my problems” scenario.


How do you decide which mouthpiece to buy? GO BACK TO SQUARE ONE. Make sure you return to your old clarinet mouthpiece. Once you return here, make sure you LIKE the new mouthpiece you just spent hard time figuring out was the best.

If you think your old mouthpiece is still the best, DO NOT CONFUSE FAMILIARITY AS BETTER. Sometimes you do return to your old mouthpiece and think, yes, this is best. Take in consideration that you are used to that mouthpiece. Do the other mouthpieces sound better than the old mouthpiece? If they sound better, but are really hard to blow, you might have to keep searching for a mouthpiece.

If you pass this test, and like the new mouthpiece best, buy it. Keep that old one though. Don’t through it away. Some mouthpieces have a tendency to submit to gravity on really hard floors: THEY BREAK!

So, have I thoroughly confused you? Welcome to the world of clarinet and clarinet equipment.

Maybe, just maybe, the Clarinet Equipment Rule of Three - RULES?