Finding good clarinet reeds is one of the biggest concerns of any clarinet player who seeks to produce a decent sound on their instrument. A good clarinet reed must not be too soft because it will not have any resistance, which will lead to a squeaky and thin sound. On the other hand, a good reed should also be not too hard, because it will not allow a player to play with flexibility and ease. With all this in mind, the “perfect” clarinet reeds for advanced students needs to be strong enough, so as to provide enough resistance but at the same time soft enough to remain highly flexible and capable of easily producing a sound.
Buying Clarinet Reeds
Easier said than done
If you are a clarinet player, you are probably aware that all of this sounds very nice in theory. However, when it comes to finding a good reed, many clarinet players tend to spend lots of money and time, only to end up with just a couple of decent reeds. If you are struggling with this, as well, we will try to help you with your search with a few tips on buying clarinet reeds.
First of all, let’s start with the strength. Their thickness commonly categorizes reeds, and they are given 1-5 gradings, with the inclusion of half grades. Simply put, the thicker a reed is, the more difficult it will be to produce a note with it. However, the sound will be nicer. Therefore, if you are a novice player or an inexperienced one, you should go with softer reeds, ones that have lower gradings.
Your best option would be a reed with a 1.5 grading. If it proves too difficult to blow on, try going with a softer reed, a one grading one. While you progress, get better, and your jaw gets strong, you will be able to progress to thicker, harder reeds gradually. To get a decent sound, you will have to use reeds that have at least a 3.5 grading.
Keep in mind that if a reed doesn’t sound “perfect” the first time you play on it, it doesn’t mean it is a bad one. In fact, do not forget that there are no “perfect” reeds. For a reed to “develop” a good sound, you will have to give the wood some time to adjust to the temperature levels and the humidity. It usually takes no more than a week for a reed to be fully playable and ready.
The best way to start is to take the reeds out of their box and start playing with them just a few notes. Keep in mind that it will not take longer than 10 seconds per single reed. After you are finished with the playing, put the reeds side up on a dry flat surface, so as to let them dry. If you put them side down, their curved side will dry much faster, which will cause them to warp.
Even though the majority of clarinet reeds are made out of wood, a good number of modern ones are made out of synthetic materials, as well. While they are capable of producing a very good sound, their lifespan is usually shorter, in comparison to the wooden reeds. You can also go with wooden reeds that have plastic coatings. These will last long and be well protected from the fluids, thanks to the coating.