The effects of design on the tone and response of clarinet mouthpieces

Pillinger, Edward (2000) The effects of design on the tone and response of clarinet mouthpieces. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


PC-based sound analysis was used to measure timbral changes brought about by small incremental modifications to the internal and external dimensions of clarinet mouthpieces. Methods were developed for use with the software data acquisition and analysis programmes to cope with the non-linear behavioural aspects of the mouthpiece. In addition, the research investigated and evaluated conventional and new methods of displaying the sound spectra; this new, visual method resulted in a quick way of simplifying and clarifying the data, leading to efficient comparison of the effects and trends caused by design modification. Professional clarinettists and a controllable artificial embouchure were used in the procedures for gathering sound data, with an expert listening panel enlisted for comparative listening tests. The excellent tone produced by the artificial embouchure suggested that the effect on timbre from vocal tract resonance was minimal, and that tone was controlled by a player's subtle adjustment to lip pressure, lip position and variation of air pressure alone. Baffle angle and shape, together with the slipway under the reed, were shown to play an important role in balancing brightness in a way hitherto not clearly understood, whilst the lay profile, arguably influencing the tone and response more than any other parameter, was found to have a direct relationship with the reed's natural curvature during vibration. A large bore mouthpiece in conjunction with a small bore, French style instrument equipped with a shorter (and sometimes smaller bore) barrel, was found to increase vibrancy in many set-ups and to shift the spectrum of sound closer to Germanic tone. The influence exerted by different materials on tone was also considered, with special emphasis on the development of new resins. These polymers, which could be cast and machined, enabled the testing of materials with widely differing properties of density, hardness and flexural qualities. The research demonstrated that the nature of the material used in the manufacture of a clarinet mouthpiece becomes increasingly significant once all other parameters approach optimum configuration.

Information contained within the research will enable a more informed choice in the selection of lay profiles to be made by both players and makers, and aid in the design of new mouthpieces where both traditional and new features might be combined, thereby offering a broader range of playing properties.

DX218699.pdf - Published Version

Download (49MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item