I've recently started learning to play the clarinet. Having read quite a bit about the different reeds available, I bought a few to try out - I got a selection of Ricos and Vandorens in different strengths.
Although I found the Ricos slightly easier to play, I prefer the sound of the Vandorens - the Vandoren 2 was easily the best of the bunch, so I went ahead and bought a full box of these.
However, none of them sound anywhere near as good as my 'favourite' one from my initial selection! I've worked through about half of the box now, and have only found one reed that sounds anywhere near reasonable - the others all sound very muffled and 'breathy', and I find them really hard to play. I've tried 'playing them in', but I don't hear any real improvement over time.
My question is... is this normal? Is reed quality always this inconsistent? Is there really something wrong with the reeds, or is it me? I know my embouchure probably isn't great yet, because I've only recently started playing, but this is ridiculous!
I need to find some new reeds soon, because if I break my 'favourite' one, I don't have a spare! I'd be very interested to hear others' experiences and/or recommendations. My clarinet is a Buffet B12, and if I use my 'favourite' reed, I can produce a tone that I'm really happy with - so I don't think I'm completely useless!
Well, heres the truth, every box of reeds has its good reeds and bad reeds. You should be rotating at least 5 reeds at a time (meaning switching them every hour or so when playing, so you get equal wear on your reeds). It can take months to really break in a reed well. What I like to do, is test every reed, and give them each a rating. I've heard some clarinetist mark them ++, +, 0, -, and -- from best to worst. Whatever works best for you. You best reed, you should try and use a little less than the others, but still be playing on it at least once a week. Use your best reed for concerts and you next best one as a back up.
The truth is, even if your reed has a really crappy tone, you can still use them for practice. Who cares how you sound when you practice? So keep your other reeds, and just use them for practicing. If you want to work on tone use your better reeds.
I personally play on Vandoren 3s for both my bass clari and my B flat clari. I might need to upgrade to 3 1/2s on my clari soon though. The strength doesn't necessarily make the tone better, its just how strong your lips are and how much resistance you like. I've tried ricos, grand concert, and a few other brands, but i like Vandorens the best.
my darn section leader got me hooked on vandorens, and I can't love them more. My tenor sounds so rich on a vandoren 3 1/2 or 4, and you can seriously hear the difference between rico and vandoren, I now hate ricos, they play WAY to bright for my taste!
I consulted a Vandoren clinician on this subject...
He said the apparent "inconsistencies" are built in! Each reed is made to exacting standards, and a "mix" is put into each box. This allows for variances to compensate for differences in climate, temperature, humidity, etc.
I've always played Vandorens and was frustrated by this, and was equally frustrated when it was explained! He then told me I could come to the factory to determine my "reed profile" and could purchase JUST those reeds that fit my profile (he was a Vandoren performing artist)... I doubt I'll travel to Europe or wherever they're now made.
So, keep that in mind... the "inconsistencies" within each box are by design! (BTW: I've found the new "Rue Lepic" reeds are more consistent)
Well, from my experience there are always bad reeds and good reeds in a box,usualy out of 10 you can only find 4 or so that are anywhere near satisfactory!But when you find a reed that doesn't work for you I would recomend putting it back in the box because with a temperature or humidity change it could start working better for you. Also you can buy Different Kinds of Vandoren reeds,I use Vandoren V-12 (silver box)they are suppesedly more consistent. Though I wouldn't recomend them for a begginer because they're more expensive (about $29.50 for ten). I would also recomend getting a reed case that holds at least four reeds at a time. I use a Vandoren reed case that holds four reeds, the reed case helps prevent warping and cracking of the reeds. As far as breaking in reeds goes it can be helpful because they last longer, but as you are breaking reeds in you should'nt play on them for more than 15 minutes, you need to do this everyday for about a week or two!Good luck finding some reeds! Hope this helps!
Thanks for your help and advice, everyone. I feel a bit better know, knowing that it's pretty normal to find a mixture of good and bad reeds in a typical box.
I haven't thrown any of my 'bad' reeds away - I've kept them all, labelled with the date when I tried them, and I plan to try them again from time to time. I'll be interested to see if any of them improve with different temperature/humidity conditions.
I found oboetrainer's feedback from the Vandoren guy really interesting - don't think I'll be visiting their factory to determine my reed profile either though! :-) I'll just carry on experimenting - I haven't tried the Rue Lepics yet, but might give them a go, and maybe a few other brands as well. I went for Rico vs. regular Vandoren to begin with because they both seemed pretty popular. To be honest I didn't think I'd even be able to tell the difference as a complete novice, but I definitely prefer the sound of the Vandorens on my clarinet, and they feel quite different to play. So there might be something else out there that would work even better for me.
Anyway, thanks again everyone - I really appreciate your help! :-)
I've played on the Vandoran V-12's for at least 17 years, and a few years ago, switched to the Rue Lepic reeds exclusively. Over this time I've also built up a stash of around 100 V-12 reeds of varying "quality" based on my personal playing preferences... which I still go through for my rehearsing and practicing.
It's good that you're labeling your reeds, and like the other guy said, rotate them (I still play on reeds that say 6/96 - JUNE 1996!!!!!!). My reeds can and have lasted for years because I don't play on them 10 hours straight, and my students are amazed by this!
Good luck, and never stop trying to improve what you're doing!
ive started using vandoren reeds (3) about a month ago and ive experienced teh same thing.
my sisters friend recently taught me how to "sand" my reed
and it sounds reallly good once you know how to do it right.
basically you get a blank sheet of paper(lined paper works best for me for some reason) and you put teh flat side of the reed down
and rub it against the paper gently for about a minute
if you do it too hard or for too long
it can make your reed useless and it wont work at all
jsut do it simply rubbing your reed gently(not too gently though, it wont have any effect then)
I always had a feeling that the variance of reeds in a box of Vandorens was set as such. The reason being, every box has at least one if not more than one crummy reed.
That said, I am now trying to find a website that sells reeds super cheap. Can anyone recommend such a site? I found a website called www.reedsforless.com. So far they seem reasonably cheep. Any help or advice would be appriciated. Thanks!
I have 7 years experience, and I've tried many different reeds and vandoren are definatly the best but it all comes down to personal preference. I play on V-12's, size 3, although they are expensive they have a very good tone and in every box i always find that over half of them are 'good' reeds, where as with a regualar box of vandoren's i usually only find 2 or three 'good' reeds.
also do not play on the reeds straight out of the box. Many people do not know this but I went to a band clinic a few years ago and had a master class and the professor said that you have to soak your reeds first. 5 minutes in water, 5 minutes out, repeat for about 30 minutes. This is because your saliva breaks down the reed faster, which is also why you must switch reeds often.
I have been getting my reeds from www.reedsforless.com - This site seems to have the best priced reeds around. You mentioned the V12 reeds. Here is a link so you can check it out real quick. Let me know if there is someplace better to get reeds. Also, I will take your reed advice. Thanks!