I just wanted to write and say thanks you a thousand times for your kind and thorough advice! I did get together with my accompanist last night, and it looks like your tips, along with a few strategic cheats we found as we worked through the “Jesu” piece, will work well for us.
Yes, I’ve been befuddled in the past by the sheer number of geegaws available for the clarinet. I’ve been around long enough now to know that most of them are pure hoke, but once in a while I come across a ligature or a doodad that makes my playing more comfortable if not actually better — often enough that I still flip through the music catalogues.
A recent discovery I made is that the much-maligned Rico reeds (Grand Concert Select thick blank, in this case) actually respond better for me than my Van Dorens — that is, they’re rich and resonant and responsive right out of the box, whereas my Van Dorens need considerable time to “break in.” The Ricos seem to get mushy faster, but perhaps that’s a trade-off. Instant break-in vs. longevity. Unfortunately, the purse-strings often dictate my choices, and I may have to yield to longevity. Does the search for the perfect reed ever end?!
I can’t agree with you more on the Rico, Grand Concert Thick blank reed because they are great.
If you want to make them less mushy slower, let them dry out after playing them for a few minutes, rub them down evenly until the grain becomes smoother and let them dry on a smooth glass or the like.
Also a thick blank reed that is better than the Rico is the Gonzalez, which is made in Argentina and is supposed to duplicate the old Morre reed, which is what Robert Marcellus is supposedly to have played.(Marcellus is a clarinetist who actually had a larger,wider kind of sound than most. Listen to any Cleveland Orchestra with Szell and you will hear, also he has about the best Mozart, with Szell.)
Be that as it may, this reed is the best for fine response, playing in general and longevity. It really is so much better than the VD (my affectionate connotation). One reed which I have found to be less than the hype is the Xyleba. (That may be spelled incorrectly.) A couple of people play on them with good results, but I tried two and just did not feel like trying any more of the box. They look terrific, are made in Valencia, Spain, but they are a bit “conflicted” is my word.. Yes, it comes down to how they play, right?
There are many answers to reeds “out there” so to speak, and Legere Plastic is one.
Read my test results over a six month period. I cannot recommend that reed, although it does play and for long periods, however they too get mushy and there is a lack of humanity about them that I found disturbing. Sound is a very personal thing, is it not?
Reeds are still cheap enough not to strain one too much. Alternation is a good idea, not allowing oneself to get “married” to a good reed is another.
The “period of adjustment” can be forever.
There is so much to learn and I never learn enough. Reading about the instrument is simply not nearly enough.
Stravinsky said, “there can be no dialectic about music without music” and that is especially true about playing.
Statistics are as numerous as ligatures and reeds, but those who really know, play, learn , and then know.
stay well, sherman