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When buying a new mouthpiece for a clarinet/saxophone - you're faced with a whole table of information on facing lengths, tip openings and chamber sizes. How do all these specifications relate to how a mouthpiece plays?

I'm interested in where each of these features are in a mouthpiece (as in, what's the 'facing', and why's it important), and how each would affect volume, tone, and control - or anything else relevant.

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That's really only part of the story. Yes, more gap leads to more sound power, but matching a mouthpiece to your embouchure (as well as your axe) is what matters. You gotta play on the mouthpieces to figure out which one(s) work for you. –  Carl Witthoft Aug 24 '14 at 11:03
    
@CarlWitthoft - I realise that's a big part of it, but I'm not particularly looking at buying, I'm happy with what I have. I'm just interested in what all of specifications mean. –  Chris Aug 24 '14 at 23:05
    
This is, to be honest, a very big question. The best brief online resource that I've found for this is Theo Wanne's site, under the knowledge section. theowanne.com/knowledge/mouthpiece-facings –  Iain Duncan Nov 17 '14 at 23:31

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What makes this complicated is that different brands of mouthpiece makers use different labeling methods for these characteristics. Generally speaking though, you can make the following deductions:

Tip Opening: This is the distance from the tip of the reed to the tip of the mouthpiece (when a reed is in place). The wider the tip opening (or higher the number), the brighter the sound (think jazzy). It is also harder to play (reed has to travel farther to vibrate), but it can help you play louder without the reed choking.

Facing Lengths: The facing is the length of the reed that is not touching the mouthpiece (again, when it's in place). The longer the facing, the higher the amount of the reed is vibrating when you play. This means it may require more muscle to play with a long facing, but it will produce a fuller sound (better tone quality).

Chamber Sizes: The chamber size the how hollow the mouthpiece is. The wider (or hollower) the chamber size, the warmer and fuller the sound - but it can also sound dull if it is too wide. The narrower, the brighter and crisper.

The reason there is so much on mouthpiece specifications is because it is the most important part of your instrument (aside from the reed itself). I've seen many people make huge improvements simply by investing in a quality mouthpiece. Small changes to each of these variables can help you attain the particular tone you're looking for.

Which to Choose?

Many of the most commonly recommended mouthpieces have a medium facing. Most of them also have a medium or close tip opening (for classical playing). Chamber sizes are generally not advertised, but are usually in this medium zone as well. The moral of the story? Choose medium, medium, medium. But the best way to find a mouthpiece that's right for you is to go to a music store and ask to play test what they have/recommend.

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Couldn't have asked for a better answer - thank you! And welcome to the site! –  Chris Jan 4 at 1:38

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