Published on 23/01/2011
Once you buy a clarinet or saxophone, you need to select the reeds. Which brand and strength you choose is important to how you sound. You need to select the reed that will help you play the best. Reeds are the tone generator of the instrument.
Reeds are categorised by their thickness and are usually sized 1 to 4. The proper strength reed for you is the hardest you can comfortably play on.
Most beginners start out on reeds with 1½ strength. The higher the number on the reed, the stiffer the reed is and, the more difficult it will be to produce a note. If it takes lots of breath to get a note and you can hear air escaping from the side of your mouth then the reed might be too hard. Low notes will be more difficult if the reed is too hard.
As your jaw muscles get stronger you will need to increase the strength of reed. Sticking with a softer reed once you've been playing a while can produce a weak and reedy kind of tone. Higher notes on the instrument will be difficult to reach with a softer reed and might sound flat.
In summary, the thicker the reed, the more difficult it will be to produce a note, but the nicer the note will sound.
When you have finished playing, you should always remove your reed and place it in a reed guard. Buying a reed guard allows the reeds to lie flat and dry slowly. This prevents the reeds from warping. A reed guard that holds 4 reeds is a good investment as it lets you have 4 good reeds that you can rotate on a daily basis.
Rico reeds are ideally suited to beginners. They are reasonably priced, fairly consistent within the box, and produce a nice sound for the amateur player. They can be quickly broken in after they have been used a few times.
Vandoren reeds can produce a better sound, and are suitable for more experienced players. Vandoren reeds are individually sealed.
Reeds have a relatively short life span. Being a natural plant material, the reed will be affected by the weather. How long a reed lasts will depend on how often you play as well as the weather.
Reeds will vary within a box. Buying a box of reeds will let you try several out, and will save you lots of visits to the music shop. Crescendo Music sells reeds individually or by the box. Buy reeds for the Bb and bass clarinet, and alto, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophone.