What You Need to Know About Buying Reeds for Clarinet and Saxophone

What to do when you know little about reeds for clarinet and saxes???
Here are some tips...
  •        There are many reed manufacturers and each has its own numbering system.  Reeds are not measured by inches. They are measured by strength. Strengths can vary from 1 to 5, by half number increments. 1, 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, etc. Some brands, though,  may be designated by soft, medium soft, etc.  You can find the brand name and strength of the reed by looking on the back.  Pacific Winds Music carries a wide variety of manufacturers and strengths.
  •         This may all seem confusing, but the general consensus is that first year students start out on a 2 1/2, or medium soft.  In my opinion, 2 strength reeds play too weak, don’t have the same vibrant sound and don’t last as long. They just wear and break down quicker as the players usually play a lot in the beginning of the discovery period. The reed has to be strong enough to blow against and be able to stay open to vibrate. If the reed is too weak, and it closes shut against the mouthpiece, the vibration or sound doesn’t happen.
  •        2 1/2 strength reeds can be played into the second year of playing. However, as the student starts developing a stronger embouchure and extending the range of the instrument, they will need to have a stronger reed to match their development. Second to third year players should be moving on to a 3 strength reed and a  better quality brand.  Strengths vary between different reed brands, and we have a chart that will help you.

  •         As students move on to high school level of playing, they may want to experiment with different cuts or profiles of reeds.  Differentiating the various reed choices is part of the learning process.This might  also be the time to move up to a better mouthpiece. Reeds are sensitive to the tip openings of different mouthpieces… That is a whole different topic!

Chris Peters

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