The Clarinet Reed: making the good vibrations
The clarinet reed is a very important part of the clarinet. A small and usually inexpensive piece of your kit, the reed can make a large difference to the quality of any clarinet player’s sound.
A clarinet is known as a single reed instrument. Like a saxophone, a clarinet uses a single piece of reed to produce a sound, unlike double reed instruments like the oboe or bassoon. To play the clarinet the reed rests on the bottom lip which is pressed against the bottom teeth.
The reed is controlled by a combination of air pressure and lip pressure. The reed vibrates when blowing the clarinet, and which send air into the column of empty space inside the clarinet, causing it to vibrate and make a sound.
Reeds come in different strengths, which are printed on the reed. What reed is required is determined by the individual player and the clarinet mouthpiece. A reed that is too strong may make the clarinet too difficult for a beginner to play. Beginners usually start on a reed with a strength of 2 ½. If you are unsure what strength reed you should be using, your teacher should be able to help you decide.
There are a few tips when using reeds. Always play with a moist reed. A good habit to get into is to suck on your reed while you are putting your clarinet together. Try to never touch the tip of your reed, as the reed is very thin at this point and easily damaged. Keep your reeds in a reed holder, and rotate their use.
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