The Hite Site

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions about
Hite Clarinet and Saxophone Mouthpieces

Table of Contents

General Questions

Premiere by Hite clarinet and sax mouthpieces

J & D Hite clarinet mouthpieces

J & D Hite saxophone mouthpieces


Where can I get a Hite mouthpiece?

It is best that you get your Hite mouthpieces from your local dealer. This way, you can get the mouthpiece for trial in conditions where you're used to playing, and see how it sounds and feels to you. If your dealer does not have any Hite mouthpieces, you can ask him to special order it for you. Dealers will usually be anxious to accommodate customers in this way. Just ask him to give us a call or drop us an Email note.

Dealers may order directly from us or from several other distributors with whom they are probably familiar and from whom they already order other products regularly.

It is also possible to order Hite mouthpieces from mail order houses. You can usually get mouthpieces here on a trial basis.

(Remember that when you try a new mouthpiece you should use a new fresh reed. If the reed is adapted to another facing, it will not give you a true reading of the new mouthpiece. )

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Can I order a mouthpiece directly from David Hite, Inc.?

It is possible to order from David Hite, Inc. directly if you are unable to obtain what you're looking for through other sources. We sell direct at our established retail prices. (See our retail price list.) However, you may find that you will get better service from your local store. In some cases, you may find that your teacher may be interested in helping you find the best mouthpiece.

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Will I get a better mouthpiece if I order directly from you?

All our mouthpieces are made to a very strict standard and must pass a serious playing test before being shipped. The mouthpiece that you get from your dealer certainly will be of the best quality we have to offer. (We do, in some isolated cases, offer custom work to established and experienced professionals. This work is done on a limited basis based on prior consultation and scheduling availability.)

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Why are your direct prices higher than those I find in some other stores?

Stores are at liberty to price their merchandise competitively as they choose. Our policy is to avoid competing directly with any of our dealers. Therefore, we do not offer special direct discounts. We make it a point to keep our mouthpieces reasonably priced and avoid over charging.

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Why are your prices lower than many other mouthpiece makers'?

Our mouthpieces are priced reasonably relative to the general market. Some mouthpiece makers sell primarily direct, and at premium prices. These price variations are not necessarily an indication of relative quality or of the relative skill and individual attention given to the mouthpieces.

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Why don't you advertise endorsements -- famous players who use your mouthpieces?

We do not rely upon endorsement advertising. We feel that each player should rely upon his own judgement as to how the mouthpiece performs for him personally for his unique playing requirements. (And since we do not pay professionals for their recommendation or endorsements, we can pass this savings on to our customers.)

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Why don't you offer more facing options?

Our facings are the result of extensive research and familiarity with mouthpieces used successfully by professional players over a great number of years and in a variety of geographic locations. In addition, optimum facings are very closely related to the internal dimensions of a mouthpiece.

In the case of the clarinet facings, when we found that soloists and orchestral players who have spent a great deal of time experimenting with the objective of finding the ideal facing all came independently to within very small tolerances of the same facing, we feel that it is best for our customers to benefit from this experience. As a matter of fact, over the years, we have found that very few clarinetists care to make any severe changes from these specifications.

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Why are the Premieres better than other student line mouthpieces?

The Premiere mouthpieces are personally finished by hand rather being left with a machine finish as found on other student line mouthpieces. Premieres are produced very accurately and faced on special facing cams which we have carefully designed and maintain ourselves. The micro hand finishing is then done exclusively by David and Jean Hite with special attention to the accuracy of the tip rail. This special finish is not possible to accomplish on a machine. When a mouthpiece is finished in this manner, it is easier easy to find a playable reed, the reed vibrates truer without the tendency to "squeal" or "chirp" and the high register is much more accurate in pitch and stability. The overall sound is richer and purer as well as more responsive to attack and dynamic change. Also, the sound is devoid of the "noise" heard in most student mouthpieces -- "noise" being overtones which are produced improperly and are out of tune with the fundamental pitch. We use terms such as "reedy", "edgy", "rough", "shrill" to describe this undesirable type of tone.

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What are Premiere mouthpieces made of?

The Premiere line of mouthpieces is made of plastic, the same material used over the years in many professional level mouthpieces (especially for saxophones). Plastic mouthpieces have developed a bad reputation over the years because they have been finished poorly, generally with very open facings. When finished well with proper facings, the plastic produces quite surprisingly outstanding results!

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What's the difference between the Premiere and the J & D lines?

The reason the Premiere line of mouthpieces is less expensive than the J & D line is that the basic casting can be produced more cheaply and accurately by a process called injection moulding. (The plastic mouthpieces which have developed a bad reputation over the years have been finished poorly, generally with very open facings. Traditionally, softer reeds were always furnished with these mouthpieces to make them play easily enough for beginners. The combination of the open facing and the soft reed -- plus the poor finish of the tip rail area -- defies the possibility of ever achieving a nice resonant, round, solid sound. The soft reeds also contribute to a natural tendency to go very flat in the top of the upper (middle) register. Beginners generally are unable to deal with this problem effectively.) The closer facing on the Hite Premieres (which are finished with the same care as the professional J & D line) can be played easily with heavier reeds (Vandoren #3 or comparable) which will produce a very true intonation pattern in the upper notes. In this way, young students do not have to form the bad habit of pinching to play the upper notes -- first to get them to play at all and then to get them to play in tune. In this respect the Premieres play very much like the J & D line mouthpieces.

The J & D Hite mouthpieces are made of vulcanized rubber and are produced by a method called compression moulding. The mouthpiece first comes out of the mould in a soft and pliable rubbery condition. Later, it is vulcanized (about an 18 hour process) and cured on shrink plugs to insure the accuracy of the casting. The material itself, as well as the greater options that can be incorporated in the internal design, provides us with a superior mouthpiece. Even though the material may possess the best potential in the production of fine tone, the mouthpiece must still be finished properly and accurately to achieve this optimum result.

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Why don't you make a bass clarinet and baritone saxophone mouthpiece in the Premiere line?

Although bass clarinet and baritone saxophone mouthpieces have been made in plastic in the past (and may still be available) we don't find the available basic casting designs suitable. Due to the combination of relatively limited sales for these instruments and the large investment that must be made to make the moulds to produce them, this project is not financially feasible. Our professional J & D basses and baris are very reasonably priced while offering the very best available for these instruments.

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Why do you put a piece of tape on the beak of the mouthpiece?

Many players use a mouthpiece patch to buffer the vibration of the mouthpiece, thus cutting down on the "sound" that is "heard" through the teeth and bone structure into the ear. Although preferences may vary as to the thickness of the patch, the industrial-strength tape we apply to Hite mouthpieces serves this function.

The patch is especially important on the plastic Premiere by Hite mouthpieces because the plastic can wear rather rapidly from the contact of the teeth to the top of the mouthpiece when playing. Some people's teeth are rougher and sharper than others. And sharp teeth can wear a surprisingly deep ridge in the mouthpiece in a rather short time. The tape will protect the mouthpiece from this type of wear. At the same time, it will keep the teeth from slipping around, making the embouchure more stable. Eventually, if the tape does wear through, it should be replaced. Normally, however, it will last a very long time. (We also use the tape on our J & D Hite line of mouthpieces for the same reasons. However, the rubber will not wear as rapidly as the plastic.)

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What kind of ligature should I use on the Premiere mouthpiece? Will the one that came with my instrument work?

Any standard ligature will fit the Premiere by Hite clarinet or sax mouthpiece. There is a large choice of ligatures available on the market at this time. The ligature, can make a difference in the playability of the mouthpiece and reed. These refinements, however, will vary according to the taste and general sensitivity of the player. To some, they all sound the same. To others, a significant improvement of one over another will be in evidence. (You might want to try a J & D Hite ligature.)

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How should I take care of my mouthpiece?

One of the most important things you can do to take good care of your mouthpiece is to clean it out carefully after you use it each time . Do not swab it out with the clarinet. Remove it before you swab the clarinet. (You swab the clarinet by inserting the weighted end of the swab pull into the bell and pulling it out the top end. Be sure the swab is pulled out straight! If it is wadded up, it may get stuck inside the clarinet. When this happens, the harder you pull, the more it gets stuck! And remember to wipe out the tenon joint connections as you take the clarinet apart.)

The reed should be removed carefully from the mouthpiece. Then, the best way to swab the mouthpiece is to thread the corner of the swab up through to bore of the mouthpiece until you can take hold of the corner as it comes out of the window of the mouthpiece. Pull the swab carefully up through the mouthpiece about half way, or until it snugs up, and back it up and forward it a time or so, and then remove it as you started it. This will remove the moisture and residue from the inside of the mouthpiece. It's best not to insert the weighted pull of the swab into the mouthpiece bore as you risk dinging the delicate tip of the mouthpiece. Now you can put the reed in a reed holder, carefully replace the ligature and cap on the mouthpiece, and store them in the case.

Further, if you have the choice, be sure there is a soft surface like a rug under foot when you assemble or disassemble your clarinet. If you should happen to drop your mouthpiece, it is much less likely that it will be damaged. Tile, wood, or cement floors are very unkind to mouthpieces which are dropped on them! Crystal mouthpieces are the very worst in the casualty department when dropped. Vulcanized rubber will break especially if the tip hits first. Plastic will almost certainly be damaged if dropped on a hard floor. When it doesn't break, it will bend. At first, it may not look like it is damaged, but careful inspection will show that it might be bent down or out. When this happens, it no longer plays the same. The mouthpiece cannot be repaired at this point --- it must be replaced.

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Are J & D mouthpieces made for one brand of clarinet or will they work on all makes?

The Hite mouthpiece is designed to be compatible with all French design clarinets of any make. French clarinets are the predominant instruments sold in the United States and England. Most Japanese clarinets are modeled after the French style. (Although, the Japanese also make a German style clarinet.) Student line instruments produced in America follow the standard French Boehm system clarinet design. The mouthpiece socket in the barrel has been standardized so that all mouthpieces in production will fit properly on any French style instrument. (The German mouthpiece tenon joint may be a millimeter longer.)

J & D Hite Bb clarinet mouthpieces differ somewhat in the bore size and shape from the older, original French mouthpieces, but the intonation is perfect while altering the voicing of the tone. During the last forty years, many French mouthpieces have been altered to follow the American design more closely.

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Are the different models of J & D Hite Bb clarinet mouthpieces just variations in facings?

No. The different models of Hite clarinet mouthpieces vary in both internal and facing measurements. Internal dimensions must be paired with appropriate facings (and vice versa).

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Will J & D Hite Bb mouthpieces play well on Wurlitzer clarinets?

It has been reported to us that J & D Hite mouthpieces play and tune well on Wurlitzer clarinets. However, the traditional facings on German mouthpieces are considerably longer (measuring up to 20 millimeters in length), and the tip openings are much closer (measuring generally between .036" to .039" at the tip). The German reed is slightly narrower and longer, and, of course, heavier to accommodate the facing.

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Do J & D Hite mouthpieces play best with a specific barrel type (bore dimension and taper)? Do I need to buy a new barrel or get my clarinet customized to play in tune with Hite mouthpieces?

The Hite Bb clarinet mouthpieces will play with any of the standard barrels that are furnished with instruments sold in America. The standard length barrel for the Buffet, Selmer and Leblanc Bb instruments is 66 millimeters in length. Older instruments may require a 67mm length barrel to play dependably down to A-440 pitch. Some Jazz (commercial) players who double on the saxophone may prefer 65mm length barrels because they play "down" in the tessitura of pitch to achieve a broader, more flexible sound. Some will even play a 64mm length barrel.

Some mouthpieces on the American market which are produced with larger internal dimensions (for the purpose of voicing the sound differently) may require that you obtain a shorter barrel to correct the resulting pitch problems. Although this is a matter of personal preference, this option has been discouraged by many players and teachers who prefer a more traditional approach.

Many Hite mouthpiece players find that the Moennig style barrel adds a desirable dimension. However, this is not a necessity for the purposes of general tuning and tonal voicing.

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Will the same reeds work on the "D" and the "M41" model Bb mouthpieces since they have the same facings?

The same reeds will play on both the "D" and "M-41" Hite mouthpieces due to their identical facings. However, a slight variation in reed is probably preferable due to the differences in internal dimensions. Most players report that they can use slightly heavier reeds on the "M41". (The difference in the tonal characteristics of these two models is due to differences in interior contours. )

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Is the J & D Hite alto clarinet mouthpiece appropriate for all kinds of basset horns as well as alto clarinets?

There are basically two types of basset horns available in the United States. Those instruments made by Buffet and Selmer are designed to be used with a mouthpiece of the same general dimensions as the Bb (A) clarinet mouthpiece. (Due to the lower pitch of the instrument, however, a slightly more open facing is generally, but not always, preferred. ) This design basset horn can be somewhat difficult to manage but is preferred by many players because they feel that the sound is, perhaps, more authentic.

The other type basset is made by Leblanc. The design of this instrument is related to the larger bored Eb alto clarinet. (The basset horn is pitched in F, a tone higher than the alto clarinet. The basset horn traditionally has a range extending down to low C, whereas the alto clarinet extends down only to low Eb.) For the Leblanc instrument, the mouthpiece is larger. Although it does not have the same tonal voicing as the smaller bore instrument, it is, nevertheless, very resonant, flexible, and responsive, and can be more dramatic in its dynamic range. Many players (especially in England) prefer this model. The J & D Hite model #123 mouthpiece is appropriate for this style basset horn.

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Do you make a contrabass clarinet mouthpiece?

We do not make a J & D Hite contrabass clarinet mouthpiece. The demand for this particular mouthpiece has not been sufficient for us to develop our own casting. However, personal experience with the contrabass mouthpiece and with many customers over many years has resulted in the following recommendations:

1. The best mouthpiece for both the Bb contrabass and Eb contra-alto clarinets is the Selmer Eb contra-alto mouthpiece. This mouthpiece, unlike the mouthpiece designed for the Bb contrabass clarinet, can be used with the standard baritone saxophone reed. This is a big plus in both the quality and availability of reeds, and the price of baritone sax reeds is much less. The wider Vandoren contrabass reeds are not produced some years because the cane simply does not grow large enough during some growing seasons. The narrower mouthpiece channel combined with the narrower corresponding reed dimension produces a far superior quality of tone, dynamic range and response for the contrabass clarinet.

2. The facings found on contrabass mouthpieces are generally too close for ideal results on these lower pitched instruments. (If you are interested in solving a contrabass clarinet mouthpiece problem, you might want to contact us. We may be able to help with an appropriate facing.)

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Are J & D Hite sax mouthpieces good for playing sax quartet literature?

Yes, Hite saxophone mouthpieces blend and complement well in the quartet setting.

There are generally two schools of saxophone quartet players.

  • Players who are classically trained and generally perform classic recital literature. In this case, alto players prefer the "Classic" model alto mouthpiece (either the "M64" or "M68" facings). The soprano, tenor and baritone players get along well with the standard Hite "commercial mouthpieces" which they find "comfortable" in playing character.
  • Players who are commercially-oriented who decide to play saxophone quartets. Hite sax mouthpieces work especially well in this setting. Many times these groups play arrangements of commercial music or compositions written specially for this tonal and phrasing style. Like the Canadian Brass, many professional sax quartets "cross over" into all styles.

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Which of the Hite Bb clarinet mouthpieces do you recommend for sax-oriented doublers?

Doublers playing both the saxophone and the clarinet, generally prefer the slightly more open .043" tip facing found on both the Premiere (#111) and J & D Hite model "J" (#121-J) mouthpieces. This is especially true for players who are primarily saxophonists but who also play clarinet. If the player is extensively trained in playing "classical" clarinet, he may prefer the "M-41" or the "D" model.

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Can I use other ligatures on J & D Hite saxophone mouthpieces?

J & D Hite saxophone mouthpieces are furnished with ligatures which are correctly sized and fitted to each mouthpiece. Standard ligatures generally will not fit correctly. The tenor and baritone mouthpieces are streamlined in their outer size. The tenor uses a alto sax size ligature (it is adjusted to fit the appropriate reed), and our baritone mouthpiece uses the standard tenor saxophone size ligature (adjusted to fit the baritone saxophone reed). A standard soprano saxophone ligature may be a bit too large for a Hite soprano mouthpiece.

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Why don't you make J & D Hite mouthpieces in more open facings?

Hite mouthpieces reflect the facings that are in use by many well trained professional players. True, some players have learned to play mouthpieces with much more open facings. However, with the proper reed and proper basic training in breathing and tone production, the facings which we produce are capable of producing a dynamic range which is more than adequate for most playing situations.

It is important to learn that a weak tone is not generally the fault of the facing or the result of a mouthpiece which is "just too close!" A more open facing will not necessarily produce a louder sound. A well faced mouthpiece with a properly adjusted reed can produce a really big tone. A loud tone is not the same as a big tone.

Some saxophonists find themselves truly frustrated when trying to compete with electronic instruments -- guitar, keyboard, -- and drums, especially in outdoor arenas. They may attempt to deal with this in a variety of ways including more open facings.

However, we produce Hite mouthpieces with the needs of the studio and all around commercial player in mind. These players must meet a great variety of playing situations -- shows, jazz, recording, etc. -- with a concern for the endurance factor in playing long hours. Also, they encounter a great variety of requirements in dynamic balance, mixability of tone, and perfect intonation.

Saxophonists who double on other instruments must play mouthpieces and reeds that are compatible with the embouchures they use playing the clarinet or the flute. "Wide open facings" just don't fit into this picture!

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Do you make metal mouthpieces?

We do not make metal saxophone mouthpieces at this time. We have encountered many metal mouthpiece users who have switched to the rubber mouthpiece because it can be livelier and more attractive in many ways. Metal is not as vibrant as rubber and is generally made with higher baffles to brighten the sound. These factors are, of course, a matter of taste and experience. Metal mouthpieces which are machined from bar stock are very expensive. The expense does not necessarily indicate that they are a preferable mouthpiece.

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THE HITE SITE, designed and maintained by Jean Hite.    Comments to:
All contents copyright © 2003, David Hite, Inc.    All rights reserved.
Revised: Friday, 10 January, 2003    URL: