Reeds – Part 2 of 1000

I am 13 years old and I have been taking clarinet for 2 years now. Everyone says that I’m extremely talented (which I hope is true=). This coming school year I am going to start private lessons. I have been using number 3 Mitchell Luries. I would like to try something else because these reeds tend to have a fuzzy tone and they don’t last very long. I practice around 2½ to 3 hours a day, sometimes up to 4. What kind of reed and reed strength do you suggest I try? Thank you for your time!

There is one misconception about which I have written before: stiffer reeds do not mean you are getting better. It is simply a reed with more resistance.

The Mitchell Lurie reed plays easily when first using, and as you said, they do not last very long. But if you play on only one reed all the time, it will not last long at all, no matter what the brand. Use two or three, maybe even a half dozen reeds that you alternate. Much better for you and the reeds.

Three hours a day means you play a reed with more heart in the middle of the reed, like the Vandoren #3 or 3½. They are very inconsistent and take a long time to “break in”, but inevitably they will last longer. Also Vic Olivieri reeds from Spain can be excellent, though they are shaped differently than your mouthpiece and need to be shaved down to fit or else they tend to squeak; sometimes the sides are uneven and need to be sanded with very fine sandpaper.

There is a sandpaper block that Vandoren sells for much too much: one side is rougher paper than the other and it is supposed to be the same paper they use when they make the reeds. It is really wonderful to carefully sand the underside of your reed; it can do wonders for the resistance.

Reeds are very peculiar and your new teacher will probably want you to follow his advice. I actually hate Vandoren reeds. So does every serious clarinetist. They are very frustrating, but always seem to play the best. Be very patient.

There is a Vandoren reed that I use that is the best I have ever played, and the most consistent. You can play a medium reed, have it last and with a good resonant sound. It is the White Master German Cut reed made by Vandoren. They are narrower than the French reed and therefore have to be fitted very carefully to your mouthpiece, but I have played hundreds of concerts and recordings on these and I must say they are my favorite.

Of course, you must begin to think about making your own reeds from scratch. It can be the best solution. There are books of instruction on this issue. Read carefully and go slowly. You may find you have a knack for it. If not, there is no shame in commercial reeds. Most fine players use them.

I would move off from Mitchell Lurie reeds, (well you may like the imperial, if it is still made) and on to Vandoren. As soon as you find your first good one, which may take a bit, you will be hooked.

Good luck in all your work and good success.

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