Clarinet reeds are a source of frustration to many clarinet players. A fragile piece of equipment, your choice of reed can have a huge impact on your playing. Choosing and caring for your reeds are important skills a beginner clarinet player should develop as early as possible.
Reeds come in different strengths which are indicated by a number which is printed on the reeds. Choice of what strength of reed to use when playing depends on both the player and the clarinet mouthpiece being used. Beginners usually start on a low numbered reed, for example a 2, as they need a reed that does not provide too much resistance while they are still developing breath control. A reed which is too strong will be too hard to blow and will result in a ‘windy’ sound. Advanced students will usually use a reed of around 4 – 4 ½ on with their clarinet.
Reeds should be kept in a special reed holder. Most clarinetists rotate their reeds, as this ‘breaks in’ the reeds, and helps prevent wearing too quickly. Reeds should be replaced as soon as they are chipped or split, or if they are becoming hard to play with.
A reed should last around three months once you start playing them. It is a good idea for a clarinetist to always have some new extra reeds on hand at all times.
Clarinets should only be played with moist reeds. The best way to achieve this is to suck on your reed while you are putting your clarinet together. Try to make sure that your reeds are reasonably dry before you put them back in their holder.
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