The kind of reed that you should use depends on your skill level. Size 2 or 2.5 reeds are best for beginner clarinets as those are simpler to use and produce good sound. It is advisable to start with softer clarinet reeds and work your way up.
A reed is a uniquely cut and formed thin piece of cane that is positioned onto the mouthpiece of a clarinet. Reeds are normally not substitutable between instruments so be sure to buy the correct ones for your specific instrument. Clarinets use single reeds.
A reed is considered to be the most important part of a clarinet and finding the perfect reed can be tricky. They come in diverse strengths and cuts and a good reed is crucial for producing quality sound and tones. Without a reed, the clarinet wouldn’t be able to produce its unique tones.
The majority of the reeds were created from Arundo donax (Giant Cane), but recently, there’s been a rise in synthetic reeds. The synthetic reeds are made from plastic and carbon fiber. Synthetic reeds are appreciated for being consistent and durable. It’s the player’s preference to settle with either synthetic or natural reeds.
When acquiring clarinet reeds keep the following factors in mind;
Size and strength of the reed.
Lately, producers are making reeds that fit popular mouthpieces. For clarinetists, the critical thing to look for is the reed covers that completely cover the mouthpiece without leaving any gaps that cause leaks.
The strength of a reed is indicated by numbers, which range from 1 to 5, with 1 being the thinnest and 5 the strongest and thickest. Reeds with higher strengths and thickness require more air and pressure to vibrate. The objective is not to get to the highest strength reed, but instead, to find the right reed strength for you and your desired sound.
Reeds are retained with a ligature that is supposed to fit the mouthpiece without sliding off but not too tight that it prevents the reed from vibrating freely.
Brand of the reed
There are plenty of clarinet reed brands to choose from, but only a few are credible.
The table below summarizes the most established clarinet reed brands, their origin, what makes them reliable and the level of skill required to use them.
|Brand||Origin||What makes them reliable||Skill level|
|Rico||US||Their reeds are effortless to use especially for someone who’s still learning mouth positioning.
They have gained the loyalty of music educators and students worldwide.
The complex cutting, sanding and examination technology used guarantees that each reed contains the finest built blank. Rico has polished this process thereby consistently delivering good reeds.
|Beginner and Intermediate players|
|Vandoren||France||This brand is popular for its artistry and precision.
Their traditional reed offers firm articulation with a full, dark sound.
The exemplary response that the reeds have produces a rich tone with clear sound.
|Beginner and Intermediate players|
|D’Addario||Italy||The D’Addario thicker reeds offer a rich, warm tone in all registers with the traditional tip thickness allowing for ease of articulation.||Advanced players|
Settle on a cut
Reeds are normally manufactured in two different cuts; the French file cut and the regular cut. French files have a faster response time than the regular cut reeds.
To decide on the cut, “match” it with the mouthpiece type of your clarinet. French file cut reeds are perfect for the darker-sounding clarinet mouthpiece for better response, while the regular cut reeds are perfect for the brighter sounding mouthpiece for powerful tones.
Cuts don’t matter as much for a beginner.
It is wise to purchase your reeds in bulk since you’ll be using new reeds constantly. This will not only save you time but also save you money. Buying in bulk will always ensure you have spare reeds.
Remember to examine the reeds independently and discard any reeds with uneven knots, grains and discolored ones. A good reed is yellow to golden-brown in color. Finally, play-test your reeds and store the perfect ones in a reed holder.
To avoid playing the same reed continually, you can write the date on the back of the reed you’ve just started playing and always check on the date and change the reeds as required.
If unfortunately, you’re allergic to cane, coated reeds exist just for you.
Always wet your reed for a couple of seconds before use to enable the reed to play better.
After playing, remove the reed from the mouthpiece and carefully store it in a reed holder.
A reed can make or break your clarinet sound. It is pivotal to buy the right reed for your skill level. Caring for and properly maintaining your reed is just as crucial.
How often should I replace my reed?
Most reeds require replacement after 2-4 weeks but if you play frequently, you should change your reeds just as much. If used constantly, the reed can lose its resonance and the tone will be affected when this happens, you need to replace your reed.
How do I preserve my reeds?
Do not overuse one reed. Instead, rotate your reeds to keep them clean and allow them to last longer.
Always remember to take your reed off the mouthpiece and safely put it away in its case whilst not in use but if the reed is still on the mouthpiece when not in use, use a mouthpiece cap.
Ditch the saliva and instead, use water to dampen your reed.
What else should I remember about reeds?
Given that reeds are fragile and can easily break if brushed against anything, always keep extra reeds with you.
You can also clean your reeds. Use a food-safe detergent and water to clean your reeds and allow them to completely dry before putting them away. Do not use bleach or non-food detergents on your reeds.
Leaving your reed in the mouthpiece can cause the reed to deform and become unplayable so make sure to store your reed in its case.