Clarinets use a single reed held to the mouthpiece of the instrument by a ligature. As the musician blows through the clarinet reed, the air inside its resonator vibrates to produce sound. The clarinet reed is typically made from the cane of Arunda donax grass but can also be synthetically produced.
Clarinet reeds are numbered 1 to 5 to indicate strength with 5 being the hardest. However, this numbering system is not entirely standardized and the hardness of particular reeds may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The mouthpieces of a clarinet are usually hard rubber or may be made of plastic on inexpensive models. Ligatures are typically made of metal plated in nickel, silver, or gold.
Clarinets have the largest pitch of contemporary woodwinds and have proven to be adaptable to many different genres of music. One of the most famous classical pieces for the clarinet is the “Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622” written in 1792 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart was friends with the virtuoso clarinetist, Anton Stadler, and wrote this piece with Stadler’s excellence in mind. The piece plays a single clarinet against an entire orchestra and expertly showed off Stadler’s technique. It is a very distinctive piece that nearly all clarinetists learn at some point in their career.
Another famous piece is Claude Debussy’s “Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet and Piano,” composed in the early 20th century. Debussy wrote it to be a final test for students at the Paris Conservatoire. His Romantic style of composition is well suited for expressive musicians who may even want the opportunity to show off their skills some. A contemporary composition for the clarinet is John Adam’s “Gnarly Buttons.” A modern masterpiece, this chamber piece features a solo clarinet but also includes such instruments as the trombone, mandolin, and guitar.
In addition to purchasing clarinet reeds, consider various products designed to maintain and protect your instrument and its reeds. Find items like reed cases to protect your reeds and easily keep them in a proper rotation. Purchase a reed vitalizer to store your reeds at the ideal humidity levels so that your reed tips stay flat. The Woodwind and Brasswind even offers a Reed Wizard developed by Ben Amato of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra which quickly and accurately adjusts a single reed to the established norm. When choosing clarinet reeds of any strength, be sure to also purchase accessories that will keep your clarinet reeds in top condition.