Buying reeds for someone else?
Be wary! People can be very particular about the brand and size reed they use! If you're buying reeds for someone who already plays, a good idea is to find out (on the sly) what brand and size they prefer. People who play professionally may also use different reeds for different styles of music. Sneak in their instrument case and look for discarded reed boxes. Bring up the subject of reeds, casually, in conversation. Interrogate their fellow musicians or teachers. Whatever it takes!
If you're a parent buying reeds for the first time for your budding, young musician, you may have to consult with their teacher first. Teachers can be very opinionated about what reed they allow their students to play on - and rightly so - just as they are opinionated about what brand instruments their students play. However, may we suggest that any of the lesser priced brands in the 1.5 or 2 (or soft size) are a good deal to start out with. Oh yeah, don't forget to tell your young musician to not bite on the reed! Although it will create a lot of repeat business with us, it could create some damage to your credit card. Beginning students can go through an awful lot of reeds in the beginning. If you don't like them going through 3 or 4 reeds a week, you may also want to try a synthetic reed such as the fibracell reeds we offer. Synthetic reeds may be expensive but they can last up to 3 months at a time!
What does size have to do with it?
The size of a reed has everything do with it's thickness, not how large or small it is. The higher the numbers go, the thicker the reed. Beginners usually start out with a 1.5 or 2 (soft), then quickly move to a size 2.5 or medium soft, after a few months of practice. The most common size used is a 3 or medium strength reed. Most people, when looking at a reed, can't tell what strength it is. But the strength can be felt when playing the reed.
Softer reeds (size 1 to 2.5 or soft to med. soft) are usually best with mouthpieces with open facings (#7-11). Harder reeds (3.5 and up or mediums to hards) generally work well with mouthpieces with closed facings (#3-5).
Some of you may notice that, although you buy a box of reeds in the same size, there is a noticeable difference in strength from one reed to the next. The reason is that the reeds in a box (let's say it's a size 3, for example) range within a 2.8-3.3. So, some may be a little softer or harder than a pure size 3 reed. Some people avoid that problem by going with a synthetic reed such as Fibracell (see www.fibracell.com for more info). These reeds are consistent in size and strength so a medium sized synthetic reed will feel the same as the next medium sized synthetic reed you use.
There has been a lot of talk among Music Masters about cane quality. Some of the old school players who have been around a while say they can tell the difference from 30 years ago to now. Basically, when you get a box of reeds some seem to sound great - others just so-so.
Well, we believe the reason has a lot to do with our environmental situation these days. Cane is simply not as abundant these days as it used to be. Cane takes time to grow and some of it might still be a little green when it gets to you. Some Music Masters take the reeds that sound a little green and put them away for a few months to a few years. After a while, they seem to mellow out and play great.
What players have to say about reed brands.
So far this is what we've heard from our e-mail from musicians.
The box looks different but this is still the "Rico Reserve"!
These reeds were formally known as "Rico Reserves". Just to clarify, D'addario owns, produces, and distributes Rico products. The Rico Reserves have been super popular and one of the most often ordered reeds on our site. D'addario is rebranding by dropping the "Rico" and just keeping the name "D'addario" but, essentially, this is the same, awesome reed.
Rico Traditional - Commonly known as the economical, ideal reed for beginners, do not underestimate the popularity of the "Orange Box" with the professional reed player. The Rico brand has been used by all levels for many years. We used to recommend this only to beginners but found that some professionals still prefer this brand. D'addario now owns and manufactures all Rico products. We had a great experience visiting their reed factory recently and we got to see the precision the company puts into making their products. "Wow" is about all we can say! For those who want to explore more of the Rico and D'addario products, try the "Reserve" (see above). However, for a solid reed that's time-tested, the "Orange Box" Rico reed is still a great choice.
Vandoren Traditional - Great for marching, durable, bright and clear sound. This is the most often ordered reed on our site for clarinet. The Vandorens come individually wrapped, reed by reed, in each box. (ten reeds per box).
Vandoren V12 - designed for the advanced clarinetist, it is made up of a thicker wood (.124" heel) and is recommended for longer facing mouthpieces such as the Vandoren 5RV. The V12's are made from cane tubes with the same diameter as the cane tubes used for alto saxophone reeds. The longer palette means that more of the reed is vibrating, resulting in a deeper, richer sound. The thicker reed also helps the reed last longer.
Vandoren V16 - designed for the jazz and rock sax player, it has a thicker tip and more gentle slope from the heart of the reed, giving the musician more control, brilliance and premier performance.
Vandoren German Select - for the clarinet player using the Vandoren German mouthpieces.
Vandoren Java - easier to blow than the Traditional reed, it is designed for jazz and commercial music. It is particularly suitable for open mouthpieces and its thicker extremity (tip) makes it ideal for beginners and professionals alike.
Mitchell Lurie - a softer sound, good for concert band, delivers subtle tonal nuances and a wide dynamic range in all registers. Developed by the renowned clarinet master Mitchell Lurie. Although most band directors request the Mitchell Lurie as a concert reed, we've heard that jazz folks like them as well. So, just because a reed is marketed for a certain style of music, don't let that stop you from trying it out.
Rico Jazz - awesome reed, jazz players love 'em!
Rico Royal - good quality, a step above the Rico Traditional.
Rico Grand Concert Select - top of the line clarinet reed, crafted of the highest quality, premium grade hand selected cane, has more "wood" bulk which offers a more well-defined, centered sound.
Hemke - jazz sax players love them.
Plasticover - great for marching season, extremely durable, combines the tone quality of a cane reed with the long life of synthetic. Takes some getting used to.
La Voz - good student reed, preferred by band, orchestra and jazz ensemble players.
Fibracell - consistent and extremely durable. A synthetic reed that has a strong and loyal following. I know the makers personally (their shop is down the street from me) and can vouch for their dedication to the craft of reed-making. Parents should always get their kids to try at least one fibracell - it's long-lasting and has a great sound.
Your mouthpiece and your reed
The mouthpiece and the reed work together to make the type of sound musicians are looking for in certain pieces. For example, it's not uncommon that a professional sax player will have several different mouthpieces in their case to change out depending on the piece of music they're playing. The importance of this stems from the fact that the point of orgin of the sound (where the instruments sound is first created) is often more critical than the instrument itself. It's not unlikely that a musician will spend and equal fortune on reeds and mouthpieces as they do on the actual instrument itself. Mouthpieces have this thing called 'chamber' and 'facing' which determines the sound the instrument produces.
We Appreciate Your Comments
Please e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org us with your opinions about the reeds we offer! We look forward to hearing from you!