I play Bb clarinet and I currently use a vandoren b45 mouthpiece and I'm using a 3.5 vandoren reed also. I recently noticed that I had a very bright sound and I want more of a darker sound. I was thinking of upgrading to a vandoren m30 I think its called but I'm not sure. I switched to 3.5 reeds a few months ago so I'm not sure if my bright sound is from the reed or the mouthpiece. I'm not sure what to do so all help is appreciated!
I'm not sure what your experience level is so forgive me if I miss the mark.
Have you always had this bright tone?
Do you hear other clarinets around you that have a darker, more resonant tone?
Did the problem start or get worse with the switch to 3.5 reeds?
Have you tried many different 3.5 reeds without change?
In my experience, mouthpiece is one of the last things I look at when it comes to darkening tone. Embouchure, air, the shape of your resonating chamber (inside your mouth) all effect tone much more than mouthpiece. Then of course there's the reed. Reeds play a HUGE role in tone, even two reeds, same brand, same stiffness, can sound very different.
If, however, you are a conservatory level player, who takes private lessons and knows that their air/embouchure is correct, and you know that your reeds are not the issue, then by all means, this may do the trick for you. The general consensus is that the M30s help to darken tone in the upper register.
I have played the Clarinet for about 11 years, so I am well experienced in this field, and I am not aware of your playing abilities, so do what you think is best, and what you are ready for. If you have any doubt, ask a music/band teacher, or even better, a professional clarinetist.
If you want a darker sound, one contributing factor might be your instrument, so it depends on the instrument you are playing. Buffet Crampon is always good. Wooden Clarinets are the best.
As for mouthpieces, reasonably priced mouthpieces are Vandoren, I believe the best Vandorens are the "Vandoren Masters Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece", that mouthpiece comes in two facings, the CL4 facing provides more stable intonation and articulation, and the CL5 facing (which is more suited to your particular need) provides a more dark, centered, and overall better sound.
My personal prefrence for mouthpieces are Clark W. Fobes' mouthpieces, the best and the one I use, the "Clark W Fobes CWF Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece", and that is a really expensive mouthpiece, but it is, in my opinion, the best.
But all Clark W. Fobes moutpieces are good.
Also, you might want to consider getting a diffrent barrel. I believe that Clark W. Fobes makes very good barrels, that really improve your sound. Also, Buffet Crampon makes good barrels, the best of which is the "Moennig" barrel. If you decide to get another barrel, consider the length of the barrel. First, measure the barrel you are currently using (in millimeters). Then, if when your clarinet is assembled and is pushed all together completely, are you usually sharp or flat? If you are sharp, get a longer barrel, if you are flat, get a shorter barrel. When you tune the next time, tune on your written "G", the one where no keys are pressed and when no fingers are down. When that note is in tune, measure the gap between your upper joint and barrel, and apply that to your barrel measurement. A word to the wise, if you are going to get a longer barrel, don't go to long, because if you become flat, you cant push in anymore, so it is better to be shorter than longer.
When it comes to reeds, I use (and love) "Olivieri" reeds, specifically the "Olivieri Elite Bb Clarinet Reeds". However, these reeds run a bit harder than most reeds, so a 3 Olivieri would be equivalent to about a 3.5 Vandoren. The reason I prefer Olivieri is because, for one, out of the 5 reeds in a box, all of them are fantastic, whereas Vandoren, out a box of 10 reeds, maybe 5, 6 at the most are okay, even the "56 Rue Lepic" reeds, which is their best make of reed. Also, Marca is good too.
I hope I have helped make your decision easier.
Best of luck!
Also, all of the items I mentioned and more can be found at the "1 Stop Clarinet and Sax Shop", you can find them by typing that into a search engine. And I swear by them, and no one put me up to any of this.
There's about a 99% chance the problem is your embouchure, as your teacher, if you have one, will tell you. It's unlikely to be the reed or the mouthpiece, and it's certainly not the ligature--that's absurd.