Ramón's Blog

News and updates about current projects and new products.

Wodkowski Mouthpieces – Spotlight on the 1 and 1B

Jul 27, 2017


These siblings are the most traditional models from my catalogue. Steeped in history, their design and style spans a century of French and American clarinet tradition.

The 1 and 1B were derived from my experience studying and working with hundreds of vintage French clarinet mouthpieces and the professional players who use them across America and abroad – past and present. This tradition in America is rooted in the East Coast, in part the heritage of the Curtis Institute and “Philadelphia tradition” as some have come to call it. This tradition has direct roots to the French school of playing from the early 20th century, with links to Bonade, Hamelin and Rose, among others, and has produced some of the finest players of the past century.

In creating these models I was not especially interested in recreating a specific mouthpiece – the mouthpieces of the past varied so much from one to the next that is is not possible to isolate one design and call it a fair representation of a makers work. I instead aimed to capture the voice and character of these mouthpieces in new designs, adapted for 21st century playing standards and needs – maximum response, playability, colour palette and dynamic contrast.

The 1 and 1B are essentially siblings, separated by a generation – the 1 being the older design historically. Model 1 has a close tip, medium length facing, on a large chamber mouthpiece. The facing is nearly the same as what was originally applied to the very first French ebonite clarinet mouthpieces made a century ago by Bercioux, Chedeville, Lelandais, Eugene Vandoren, etc – originally close tip and short length facing. This shorter facing gave a clear, focused tone, with use of a medium to soft reed. This facing has survived through the past century, evolving and lengthened slightly over time by various craftsmen, offering the same sort of character but with more flexibility, response and colour palette – greater variety of possibilities to accommodate the player of the late 20th century.

I was fortunate to have worked with Donald Montanaro, former associate principal clarinettist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and professor at the Curtis Institute. Mr Montanaro and I spent a great deal of time working with his original French (Chedeville) mouthpieces, which have been a major inspiration and influence on my work – I also have worked with most of his pupils and many of their pupils, and have built an extensive record library of how these mouthpieces measure and function. Although he was not a mouthpiece craftsman, Mr Montanaro had a wealth of knowledge of French mouthpieces, design and concept.  He was in part responsible for the survival of this style of mpc, as he collaborated with Vandoren on the creation of the M13, M14 and M15 series of mouthpieces – commercial, machine finished renditions of vintage French mouthpieces which have become staples in the commercial catalogue.

The 1 model is the culmination of my work with this style of facing, and remains my best selling mouthpiece in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

The model 1B is the younger sibling of the 1 model. This design is very much a part of the Philadelphia tradition from the mid 20th century – close tip (slightly more open than the 1), long facing, on the same larger chamber mouthpiece. This facing style was very popular on the East Coast of America from the mid 20th century to today. Anthony Gigliotti famously played a longer facing of this style, as did many of his pupils. Donald Montanaro, Harold Wright and others used longer facings into the 1970s and 80s – Mr Montanaro came back to the shorter 1 style facing in his later years.

This design offers maximum responsiveness, articulation and “point” or focus to the sound – a more slender sounding example in a way compared to the 1. The facing of this style of mouthpiece (close tip and long curve) is especially difficult to execute – if done incorrectly it can be shrill, bright, and sounding aggressive in the louder dynamics. I have balanced this facing curve to achieve maximum response, colour, and power without sacrificing quality of tone that makes this design special.

These two designs remain my most popular sellers in North America – their cousins, the 2 and 2SW models, derived from the mouthpieces popular in the Midwest of America in the 1950s, will have a spotlight post soon