Vandoren is one of the most respected companies in woodwind accessory manufacturing. The French company makes saxophone mouthpieces and clarinet mouthpieces, saxophone reeds and clarinet reeds, and ligatures and caps that are used by beginners and professional players around the world.
Vandoren was founded in 1905 by Eugène Van Doren who was a clarinetist for the Paris Opera. The company moved to 56 Rue Lepic, Paris, where Eugène’s son, Robert Van Doren, took over. In 1967, Bernard Van Doren, grandson of Eugène, took the helm of the company. He introduced new machinery to the company, and moved the factory to its current location in Paris at Bormes les Mimosas in 1990. Over the years, with the improvements in technology, Vandoren increase its production and became a major manufacturer of reeds and mouthpieces for woodwind instruments, including clarinets and saxophones.
Vandoren makes popular jazz and classical saxophone reeds which are appropriate for all levels of player. Each style of reed has its own unique qualities that we’ll outline below to help you select the best Vandoren saxophone reed for you.
In general, jazz saxophone reeds have a thicker tip and a thinner heart, which bring out upper overtones for more edge and projection. This helps saxophone players and sax sections cut through brass and rhythm sections in a jazz band or an amplified rock band. Keep in mind that jazz reeds play about a half strength softer than classical reeds. Vandoren offers several styles of jazz saxophone reed:
Java Green – This is Vandoren’s brightest sounding jazz saxophone reed. It has great flexibility, bright sound and nice projection. Java Green reeds are available for tenor, alto, baritone and soprano saxophone.
Java Red – With a thicker heart and a steeper slope from heart to rails, the Java Red is flexible but more stable with more body and edge than Java Greens. They also play a little harder than Java Green reeds. Java Red reeds are available for tenor, alto, baritone and soprano saxophone.
ZZ – These reeds offer the flexibility of Java Green but have the heart and tip of V16 reeds. They are responsive and colorful, while not too bright and not too dark. The ZZ reeds are a great all-around jazz reed. ZZ reeds are available for tenor, alto, baritone and soprano saxophone.
V16 – This reed has the thickest of the Vandoren jazz cuts. It is darker, broad, and adds more body to the attack. They play quite a bit harder than other Vandoren jazz cuts. V16 reeds are available for tenor, alto and soprano saxophone.
If you’re unsure about which of these Vandoren jazz saxophone reeds to try first, you can purchase the Vandoren Saxophone Jazz Reed Mix which offers one of each for you try. This is available for alto, tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone.
The thicker heart and thinner tip of classical saxophone reeds offer players a darker sound with quick and precise articulation. Vandoren also offers a popular selection of reeds for classical saxophonists:
Traditional (also known as Blue Box) – These are, by far, Vandoren’s most popular saxophone reeds. They are great for beginning and intermediate saxophone players. They are versatile with a thin tip and thick heart. They offer rich sound and are even through all registers. Thy have a precise and immediate attack. While popular with beginner and intermediate players, there is no reason you couldn’t stay with the Blue Box for your entire performance career. Traditional reeds are available for alto, tenor, baritone, soprano, sopranino and bass saxophone.
V12 – These reeds feature a thicker cut and a thicker heart which gives a darker, warmer sound. The thicker tip gives more body to the attack and may make your reed last a little longer. The V12 is a top choice among professional classical saxophone players. These play somewhat more resistant, so if it’s your first time trying the V12 reeds, try a half strength softer. V12 reeds are available for alto, tenor and soprano saxophone.
V21 – Cut from a thicker blank, the V21 reeds feature the profile of V12 reeds. The V21 offers warm, dark tone qualities but are more centered with a compact response. These play close to Traditional (Blue Box) strength. V21 reeds are available for alto, tenor and soprano saxophone.
If you play an alto or tenor sax, you can buy a Vandoren Saxophone Mix Card to try out a Traditional, V12 and V21 reed.
As a reminder, with any saxophone reed, it’s a good idea to break them in slowly, have several reeds that you rotate playing at any given time, and be sure to store your reeds properly! These tips will make your reeds last longer and will keep your embouchure in shape.
If you need help selecting the best Vandoren reed for you, contact our knowledgeable staff who can discuss your playing level and style as well as your specific saxophone to find which Vandoren reed will fit you best.