The right reed Choosing the right clarinet reed is important because, in conjunction with the mouthpiece it is what produces the clarinet’s sound! We get lots of questions at Normans about reeds, often from parents of children who want to know 3 things – what type, what brand and what strength? What type of reed? This may seem obvious and is for certain cases. The most commonly played clarinets are as follows: Bb clarinets as well as A clarinets use Bb reeds. Eb clarinets as well as C clarinets (aimed at younger children) use Eb reeds. What strength? Reeds are marked with a number. In very simple terms – the higher the number the ‘stronger’ or harder the reed. Beginners usually start with a 1, 1 ½ or even 2 strength reed. There are of course other variables here, like what type of mouthpiece you’re using, brand of reed, ligature etc. I’ve included a comparison chart showing the popular brands of reeds and how their strengths relate to each other. If you can, purchase a small number of reeds first to try and see how you get on. Also remember that, particularly if you’re a beginner you may change strength in the future so don’t buy too many. If your reed feels very easy to ‘squeeze’ you may need a harder one. What brand? The most popular brands are Rico and Vandoren. Both brands do a range of standard reeds as well as some more off-piste models. Beginners are recommended to stick to the standard models first – you can always experiment later depending on what your style is. It is worth noting that the strengths of different brands don’t always marry up so check the comparison chart below. Browse our reed selection here.