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How to Choose a Single Reed for a Woodwind Instrument

Single Reed Breakdown

Single Reed Diagram

Natural vs. Synthetic

When buying a single reed, you have a choice between natural cane and synthetic materials.

Considered to be the best in the world, reeds made from the woody grass Arundo donax have long been favored for their rich tone. Cane from the Var region of France is preferred for natural woodwind reeds, but cane from Spain, Argentina and other countries is gaining popularity.

Many materials are used to make synthetic reeds. When you require a woodwind reed that always sounds the same despite atmospheric conditions, synthetic reeds respond the same way every time you play. For example, a musician in a marching band who needs to perform rain or shine opts for a synthetic reed for its consistency.

Strength and Tone

Tone of an instrument is determined by the strength, which is represented by a number located on the reed. Higher numbers indicate a stiffer reed. The more experienced musician is able to provide the breath support and embouchure strength needed to play the strongest reeds, which produce the much-desired dark tone.

When a reed is too soft, it sounds too bright and the upper register may be flat. When a reed is too stiff, articulation is lost and playing softly is more challenging. If you're not sure which strength to choose, try a few different reeds out or just ask your music instructor.

Anatomy of a Reed

The reed consists of the tip, the vamp and the heart. The tip rules the initial response and this depends on its size; a thinner one creates a more immediate sound, while the heavier one can handle more air.

The vamp is the part without bark. Longer vamps are preferred by jazz musicians because they are so flexible and responsive. Concert musicians tend to prefer shorter vamps because they offer more focus.

The heart is at the center of the vamp and dictates the reed's tone and color. The sound depends on how thin or thick the heart is, with the thinner producing a reedier quality.

Trust Woodwind & Brasswind

When choosing single reeds, you need to consider the musician's age, skill level and type of playing. If you are a student, ask your music instructor to recommend the best choice of reed for you.

Whatever reeds you select, you don't need to worry about paying too much. Woodwind & Brasswind's 45-Day Lowest Price Guarantee means that if you find the same single reeds advertised for less elsewhere, we'll make up the difference. When you buy any reeds from the Woodwind & Brasswind, you can buy with complete confidence.

* For sanitary reasons, woodwind reeds are not returnable.

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