The reed is an essential part of the clarinet, and it lies fixed onto the mouthpiece. When you blow some air into the mouthpiece, the air that passes along the reed makes it vibrate to create acoustic waves.
Compared to the Oboe and bassoon that use double reed, the clarinet only uses a single reed.
The reed comes in a small and thin wood piece that rests against the mouthpiece. It is usually made of Arundo Donax, a Mediterranean reed grass that grows to full size and then dried under the sun. It is then cut flat into a rectangular piece. Then, it is planed and polished. Then, they are sorted out according to categories and strength and marked. Once marked, they are packaged and shipped up for selling.
The clarinetist—someone who plays the clarinet—blows air through the mouthpiece to create sound. The airstream passes through the elastic reed, which causes it to vibrate vigorously. These back-and-forth vibrations create acoustic waves.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Clarinet Reed
The type of reed that the clarinet has will partly determine the sound that it creates. Its elasticity will also factors well in the kind of sound it produces. So, when choosing a clarinet, it will help if you carefully consider the following succinct factors when selecting a reed:
The Strength of the Reed
Clarinets come with a wide variety of reeds. These myriads of reeds also exhibit variable strengths. It will be useful to look at the thickness of the tip of the reed and the reed vamp because these two factors determine the reed’s strength. It will also be helpful to note that the thinner the reed’s tip is, the lower its strength, and the quicker its response. On the other hand, a thicker reed tip comes with a better strength because they resist more air passage.
Two types of labeling systems are used by manufacturers to label the strength of the reed. The first system includes very soft, soft, soft-medium and medium, medium-hard, and hard. The second labeling system includes a number system ranging from 1 to 5. The very soft strength is number one, while number 5 is the hardest. As you shop around for a reed, you will find the reed strength indicated in the front part of the reed box.
It will be useful to note that you should choose a reed strength based on your playing skill level. The reed strength should enhance your playing ability instead of limiting it. It will help to remember that too soft a reed will produce an excessively bright sound. Moreover, the tone center tends to be unfocused with such a reed.
On the other hand, the reed that is too hard will sound muffled and airy. Such type of reed will not produce specific notes in some instances.
If you’re a beginner, it will be useful to start with the 2.5 strength reed. It comes with a soft strength that is reasonably manageable for beginners. Remember that too hard a reed may be a bit discouraging for a newbie. It will help if a newbie first develops the embouchure muscles and strong air support before experimenting with harder reeds.
Choose the Right Cut
Reeds usually come in two cuts; one is the French file cut and the regular cut. The reed’s cut may not matter much for a newbie clarinetist, and you may not bother with it as a beginner. However, it will be good to note the difference between the two.
The French file cut exhibits a faster response time than the regular cut. It will help if you match the type of mouthpiece with that reed cut. If your clarinet’s mouthpiece, for example, shows darker sound, it will help to choose the French file cuts. The regular-cut reeds, on the other hand, are perfect for brighter sounding mouthpieces. The most recommended clarinet reed by most clarinet teachers is the Vandoren clarinet reed.
Clarinet Reed Brand
When choosing a clarinet reed, you should go for the products of trusted brands. You can find a handful of well-known, trusted brands like the Vandoren, D’Addario, and Rico. The brand most recommended for beginners is the Rico Brand. It is a U.S. brand that manufactures easy-to-use reeds. Beginners, of course, need to build first their embouchure muscles and air support. So, they need a reed, like the Rico Brand, that enables them to do so.
Vandoren, on the other hand, focuses on mouthpieces. It is a French brand that is famous for their detailed craftsmanship. D’Addario, however, focuses on manufacturing strings for different instruments.
Best Beginner’s Clarinet Reeds
Aside from knowing the succinct factors when choosing a reed for clarinet, it will also help to know the top brands that manufacture the best reeds for clarinet. Here are the most recommended brands and models of clarinet reeds:
1) Vandoren Traditional Clarinet Reeds (CR1025)
The Vandoren Traditional Clarinet Reeds (CR1025) may not be the perfect reed for beginners, for they tend to be on the harder side of the range. Yet, you will find a range of Vandoren Traditional Clarinet reeds used for live performance. This reed is known as a traditional reed. It is known for its excellent response to various registers. Moreover, it lets you engage in a pianissimo attack even in the highest notes.
The Vandoren Traditional Clarinet Reeds (CR1025) is very flexible and lets your legato and staccato execution while allowing you to maintain the tone richness. This gives its sound body and clarity, which is typical of Vandoren reeds. This reed is also available for all saxophones and clarinets in different strengths. It also comes in a sealed Flow Pack to ensure its freshness.
2) Royal by D’Addario Bb Clarinet Reeds
The Royal by D’Addario Bb Clarinet Reeds is among the favorites of beginners and even advanced players. If you want to refine the clarinet’s sound further, you can opt for these reeds. These reeds feature a thinner profile that provides them with great quality. They are also very much revered by educators and players worldwide for their clarity of sound and ease of response.
The Royal by D’Addario Bb Clarinet Reed exhibits a traditional cut. It works well for those playing classical and jazz music. It also comes with a design meant for ease of playing. D’Addario has one of the best state-of-the-art production facilities and technologies for reed manufacturing. Thus, you can be sure that you are getting quality reed when you opt for this brand. With the reed’s quality construction, you can produce greater resonance and pure tone from your clarinet.
3) Rico Bb Clarinet Reeds, Strength 2.5
The Rico Bb Clarinet Reed features a thinner vamp as well as a unified cut design for comfortable playing. It also comes with a traditional blank for a more transparent sound. Moreover, this reed is perfect for a wide range of playing situations. It’s ideal for students who are just learning the rudiments of clarinet playing. It is also revered by teachers of clarinet worldwide.
The Rico Bb Clarinet Reed came from France, from canes grown explicitly for making Rico reeds. Thus, this reed belongs to the finest reeds at hand. It sports a hard to match quality and consistency.
The Rico Bb Clarinet Reed has been the standard reed for students and beginners and is affordable. It is available in 10 reed boxes as well as three reed packs. It also comes in 25-reed dispensers. This brand name, of course, is synonymous with quality. So, you will not get frustrated if you opt for this brand.
4) Cecilio Clarinet Reeds, Strength 2.5
The Cecilio Clarinet Reed belongs to the most popular reeds in the market today because it is budget-friendly and affordable. However, the sound quality it produces may be subpar with the more expensive ones. Yet, you can still get by using this reed. It is also better than the most generic brands in the market today.
The Cecilio Clarinet Reed comes in 2.0 and 3.0 strength ratings. Thus, it is on the softer side of the equation, and it is suitable for beginners who are just learning the rudiments of clarinet playing. Its made and construction, of course, reflect its affordable price. It is also a good buy considering that it comes with ten reeds in a single package, enough for rehearsals and practice sessions.
5) Kmise Clarinet Reeds (A0871)
The Kmise Clarinet Reed (A0871) is made of natural cane and comes with a softness of 2.5. It’s perfect for those who are just learning the rudiments of clarinet playing. It is affordable than synthetic reeds and showcases the traditional version of reeds. Thus, when you use it, you get the feel of the standard clarinet.
The Kmise Clarinet Reed is individually wrapped for better transport and storage. It is wrapped individually to protect them from cracking. This package comes with ten pieces of reeds that are enough for you to use in your rehearsals and practice sessions.
When to Replace Your Clarinet Reed?
There are signs indicative of the fact that you need to replace your clarinet reed. Some of these indicators are the following:
The reed doesn’t produce sound anymore: When there’s no sound coming from your clarinet, it may be because the reed is very hard, or the reed is wrongly installed on the mouthpiece. It may also be a case of a broken or chipped reed. In such a case, you need to replace the reed.
It Produces a breathy and fuzzy sound: In such a case, the reed may be very hard. It may also be a case of a wrongly placed reed on the mouthpiece. Moreover, it can be a broken or chipped reed. So, you need to check the reed and may be replace it.
Its sound squeaks: In such a case, the reed may be either too hard or too soft. It may also be a case of a broken or chipped reed. Moreover, it can be a case of wrongly placed reed on the mouthpiece.
The clarinet’s high notes are sounding flat or not heard: The reed is either wrongly installed on the mouthpiece or is too soft. In such a case, you need to check the reed, and replace it if necessary.
It produces thin sound: If the reed produces a thin sound, then the reed may be too soft or wrongly installed on the mouthpiece. In such a case, you may replace it with the appropriate reed.
As an essential part of the clarinet, the reed should be carefully selected to get the most of your clarinet. If you’re a beginner, you can find helpful the abovementioned factors to consider, and the most recommended reeds to zero in on the right clarinet reeds for beginners.
Of course, your choice of the reed will either help you enhance your playing skill or limit the sound that the clarinet produces. Thus, you need to select the right reeds to ensure that you will get the optimal sound from your clarinet.
Remember that the reed type you will choose will partially determine the sound that the clarinet will produce. The reeds elasticity and versatility will factor well. Thus, you need to select with care the reed that you would use in your clarinet.