Upgrading Your Beginner Clarinet & Saxophone Reeds
Have you been playing the same reeds since you started learning clarinet or saxophone? If you have a few years of lessons under your belt, it might be time to see what else is out there! Like your instrument and ligature, your reeds will have an impact on the sound you produce and how it feels to play.
Student reed ranges, like Vandoren Juno and Rico Orange, have a slightly thinner vamp than step up reeds, which makes them easier to play. However, they may not be the most suitable choice once you have developed your own style of playing.
Classical & Jazz Reeds
Some reeds are suitable for either classical or jazz settings, as the mouthpiece will play a big part in altering your overall tone colour. However, there are certain reed varieties that are more commonly used for certain genres.
Classical players usually seek a dark, mellow sound. The D’Addario Reserve range and Vandoren Traditional, V12, 56 Rue Lepic, and V21 series are popular reed choices for classical players.
Jazz and contemporary players usually aim for a bright and edgy sound. D’Addario Select Jazz and Vandoren Java Red, Java Green, ZZ and V16 series are some of the most popular reed choices for jazz players.
Unfiled vs Filed
You may have seen that some reed ranges, like D’Addario Select Jazz, have the option of being unfiled or filed. Unfiled reeds have a U-shaped vamp, whereas filed reeds have a strip of cane removed below the vamp. Unfiled reeds are generally a bit less responsive than filed reeds but are well suited to bright, free-blowing mouthpieces. Removing the strip of cane from filed reeds allows the reed to vibrate more freely, which gives greater flexibility and makes them more responsive. Filed reeds pair well with more resistant mouthpieces.
What about synthetic reeds?
There are a number of benefits to using synthetic reeds. Unlike cane reeds, they aren’t affected by changes in humidity and don’t need to be broken in. They are also more durable and consistent. One synthetic reed will cost about a fair bit more than a cane reed, but you can expect it to last at least six months.
Think you might be interested in trying synthetic reeds? D’Addario Venn and Légère have excellent synthetic reeds and are always improving the production of these products to hone the tonal benefits of cane reeds while retaining the advantages of using synthetic reeds.
Venn Reeds were initially released a few years ago, with the new and improved second generation version coming onto the scene in 2022. These reeds have a fibre-based structure consisting of a mixture of resin and reed particles to simulate the characteristics of cane reeds.
Légère Reeds have been around since the late 90s and have a number of varieties suited to different playing settings and genres. Their clarinet reeds are available in European, Signature, and Classic cut. The European cut is our best-selling variety and is loved for its quick response and bright, warm tone. The Signature cut has a darker tone and is slightly more flexible than the European cut. The Classic cut is renowned for its durability. It favours a more percussive attack and works well in marching bands and larger ensembles. Classic cut produces the darkest tone of these three reed cuts.
Légère saxophone reeds are available in Signature, Studio, Classic and American cut. Signature is our best-selling Légère saxophone reed. They respond easily and have a bright sound with colourful overtones. The Studio cut has a more percussive attack, making them ideal for rock and other live performances. The Classic cut is the thickest of the Légère saxophone reeds. They are very durable and ideal for students and outdoor performances. American cut is the most recent addition to the Légère range. They are bright, flexible and very responsive.
How can I be confident I’m buying the correct strength?
Like shoe sizes, reed strengths differ between brands and reed types. Fortunately, there are charts available that allow you to compare and figure out what should work for you based on what you are already playing.
Delving into the world of reeds is an experience that bridges the gap between science and art. The subtleties of a reed can influence the tone, projection, and even the overall character of their performance. A reed is not just a mass-produced accessory; it's a living, organic part of the instrument that resonates uniquely with each player's embouchure and style.