I play Bass Clarinet for a school band, and may have to buy my own mouthpiece. I'm wondering what the difference in tone quality is between a plastic and rubber mouthpiece, and if a rubber one is more difficult to play?
For all woodwinds, plastic mouthpieces are generally "starters" that come with student clarinets. Professional mouthpieces are usually made of a hard rubber called ebonite.
How difficult the mouthpiece is to play depends entirely on the design and shape of the piece (largely on the tip opening and how that is matched with your reed strength), not on the material. Rubber mouthpieces will have a better tone quality, not affecting playability.
Yamaha does make some plastic mouthpieces that are very consistent and generally accepted for school players, but if you're looking for something of higher quality (and consequently more expensive), try out some Selmer or Vandoren pieces.
If we have any professional bass clarinetists in the audience, I would be interested to hear what is considered "standard" in the profession right now.
The shape of the mouthpiece is generally more important than the material, though ebonite/rubber is vastly more common among the better mouthpieces, so I would expect that to be the material of almost any reasonable choice.
The real thing you want to figure out is how open you want the facing:
There are a variety of other characteristics that can affect the sound, but can be difficult to easily quantify.
Really, the best way to pick your mouthpiece is to try a bunch of them. You will be amazed at how differently they sound and feel. If you have access to a high quality music store that stocks different mouthpieces, that would be the best venue for trying them. If you don't, I recommend going through a large online retailer, such as woodwind & brasswind. They will allow you to order multiple mouthpieces and return the ones you don't like. You may have to do this over the phone, but I have done it multiple times.
Choose at least 3, preferably 5 mouthpieces of varying facings, and get a few different strength reeds to try with them. Then play on them! Try to pay attention to:
- How easy is it to make sound?
- Is the sound clear or grainy/airy?
- Is the sound more "thin" or more "rich"?
- Can you play both loudly and quietly?
I played clarinet for a long time before I realized how big a part of sounding good or bad was getting the right combination of reed and mouthpiece FOR YOU, and there's no magic way of knowing this other than trying a bunch of them.
I'm afraid I do not know much of bass clarinet mouthpieces, but depending on your budget, I'd recommend picking out a handful of mouthpieces in the $50-$150 range and just giving them a whirl. Even if you don't want to spend $150, it's useful to have as comparison. Good luck!
I've heard that beginner players tend to use a plastic mouth piece, because its cheaper and easier to replace if broken. However a hard rubber mouth piece will allow you to develope a better sound although if dropped they will shatter, and they are more expensive. So if you are prepared to pay a lot and arent to clumsy go with rubber, otherwise start off with plastic.