Jane and I had quite a packed day, as I’d booked an appointment at Windblowers in Nottingham. The latest they could do was 1:30pm so our morning activities had to be a little curtailed. Fortunately we managed to set off in good time, the traffic was fine and parking was readily available down The Ropewalk (a nearby street) although I had to pay for it – normally, I’d aim to park further away and walk in but there wasn’t going to be time to incorporate that into the plan.
Windblowers is the leading shop in the region for all instruments you blow into and we were there to get Jane a new clarinet mouthpiece and case. I’d asked the CSWO clarinet section where to go at one of our Christmas gigs and they were unanimous in their answer.
I think that was a good call. We got a sound-proofed room and a selection of different mouthpieces to try, along with a bit of support and advice but also plenty of time left to get on without anyone hovering. That allowed Jane to swap between each option (and the original mouthpiece) several times. We were looking for something that felt better to play throughout the range, was in tune (the mouthpiece can accentuate or ameliorate the instruments natural tendencies) and gave a better tone. I even recorded a short example of each so we could both listen back and quickly swap between them for comparison (hurrah for the mic and speakers on my iPad Pro).
In the end, we settled on a Vandoren 5RV 13 series mouthpiece – a close call between that and the BD5 from the same manufacturer. Both seemed to us to have a richer, more resonant tone particularly in the lower-mid register and the 5RV went just a touch further on that. It wasn’t a cheap day (the parking charge was relatively inconsequential) and we could have saved a little online but we wouldn’t have been able to do the side by side comparisons or pick up the other tips that came out in conversation so all was definitely worthwhile.