The reed is the generator of the sound of a clarinet/saxophone through its vibration. It is crucial in determining the type and quality of sound produced. They are produced from cane which is meticulously cut and shaved to precise dimensions to produce a reed of specific cut or strength. The main reed manufacturers are Rico and Vandoren, who between them make the majority of the world’s reeds. 

Are they the same?

Reed Strength/Size

Reeds are graded in strengths (1 being soft, 5 being hard). The stronger the reed, the thicker and harder the cane is. Students are recommended to start on a soft reed (either 1 or 1 ½). This allows for easy tone production without the need for a strong embouchure. Stronger reeds require a more developed technique, but produce a much greater tonal and dynamic range.

Reed Cuts

Reeds are cut (or profiled) to different dimensions to aid particular playing styles. For example the Vandoren java saxophone reeds were developed specifically for jazz players and are cut with a long flexible tip allowing vibration across a large surface area.

About the author

Jack is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Normans Musical Instruments and has been in this post since September 2012 after Graduating from University with a degree in Music. Jack's expertise is in guitars, technology and live sound although he does have a very well rounded knowledge of all aspects of Music.