How Do I Choose a Clarinet Reed?

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When choosing a clarinet reed, it's important to examine one's skill level to decide how thick the reed should be. Find out why clarinet beginners should use a thinner reed with help from a professional saxophonist in this free video on music and instruments.

Part of the Video Series: Music & Instruments
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Video Transcript

Hey. My name's Brian Medeiros. I'm a woodwind player, and I'm going to explain how to choose a clarinet reed. When you're choosing a clarinet reed, or any reed for any woodwind instrument, it's important to, first of all, take a look at your skill level. When you're blowing into a clarinet or saxophone, you need to put your teeth on top and curve your lower lip underneath and blow like this. Depending on your skill level, you're going to need a different thickness of a reed. This reed is a three-and-a-half. I've been playing for a long time, and three-and-a-half is a pretty strong reed. When you start out, I would suggest a more soft or thinner reed, which would be a two or a two-and-a-half. If I was starting out, pick a two; just a good rule of thumb. You put the reed on like so. Oh, first of all, it's really important to wet the reed, front and the back. A reed comes out of the ground. That's why they call it a reed, like a reed in a pond. And they're porous, and they have holes that go all the way through them. So when you're wetting your reed, it's important to wet the back of the reed. I usually start with the back of the reed, because just like a reed in a pond, the water travels up the thing to feed it. So you've got pores in this thing that you can wet with your mouth. Get it nice and wet so it vibrates good. It prevents it from squeaking so much. Put it on there, and tighten it down. Some choices of reeds, you know you can pick; they actually have synthetic reeds made out of some composite plastic stuff. I prefer wood. And Vandoren is a great brand to pick. A brand of reed, my personal favorite, Vandoren Javas. They're designed for jazz music. And you can buy them single, you can buy them in 10-packs, you can buy cases of them. It gets cheaper the more you buy, just like anything. And choosing a reed, it's important to choose a soft reed when starting out.

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