D’Addario (pronounced da-dairy-oh) is an American company that specializes in musical instrument accessories like strings for guitars, other fretted instruments, and orchestral instruments, as well as reeds for woodwind instruments like saxophones and clarinets.
Musicians around the world, from beginners through to professional players, know and trust D’Addario reeds to help them play consistently and confidently. However, many players, whether they are just starting out on a woodwind instrument or if they are interested in trying a new brand of reed, have questions about reed strengths.
For woodwind players, there are some general reed strength rules. First, understand that strength is a measurement of a reed's stiffness. While some manufacturers label strength with words, rating it "soft," "medium" or "hard,” reed strength is more frequently indicated by a number printed on the packaging. The standard scale for reed strength runs from 1 through 5, with 1 being the softest and 5 being the hardest reed.
If you're a beginner saxophone or clarinet player, it's usually best to start with a softer reed - around a strength of 2. As your skills improve, you can work your way up to harder reeds. This is important because a stronger reed requires advanced breath control and embouchure to use properly.
Beware, however, that there is a misconception that playing on a softer reed is a sign of a less-experienced musician. While it's true that beginners are advised to start out with a fairly soft reed, there's more to it than that. For example, a saxophone player may find that a heavier reed makes it easier to play altissimo notes and achieve higher volume, but at the same time, it can make vibrato and note blending much more challenging. An experienced player making frequent use of those techniques will probably select a softer reed. Overall, you should choose the reed strength that's the best fit for your playing style and experience level.
Reed Comparison Chart
Beyond understanding the different reed strengths, it’s often helpful to consult a reed comparison chart if you’re looking to try out a different reed – even if you’re just looking at another reed from the same manufacturer.
For example, let’s say you play alto saxophone and typically use a strength 3 D’Addario Reserve reed. You’re interested in trying D’Addario’s Plasticover synthetic reed. You might think, “well, I play a 3 in Reserve, so I’ll just grab a 3 Plasticover.” However, a quick glance at D’Addario’s reed comparison chart tells you that you should actually try a Plasticover 3.5.
The same goes for clarinet players – just because you use a strength 3 in Rico doesn’t mean you should immediately buy a strength 3 in Reserve or Plasticover.
Here’s a handy chart from D’Addario to compare a variety of saxophone reeds and clarinet reeds from D’Addario brands as well as a comparison to some other popular reed brands.
D'Addario Saxophone Reed Comparison Chart
D'Addario Clarinet Reed Comparison Chart
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