Exploring Other Reed Options

This week I want to try out some other reeds. For more than 29 years now, I have been using Vandoren Java reeds; both the red and green boxes. Lately, I haven’t been getting as many playable, right out of the box, reeds as I would like. That does not mean I don’t get to use all of the reeds in the box. 

The way I use reeds is maybe a little different from the way others approach a box of reeds. I don’t sand or clip or manipulate reeds in any way. I play each one to see which ones play immediately. Then I order them from playable to least playable. Of course, I play the best ones for practice/performance. For the others, I play for about 5 minutes a day and put them away. Eventually, they become more playable and then they become my practice/performance reed.

It seems to be taking longer than usual for Vandoren to become pliable, which I maintain is a great product. 

exploring this week

This week, I am exploring D’Addario Reserve and Giardinelli tenor saxophone reeds. I have heard good things about both brands from other reed players. I am also trying out a new synthetic reed, D’Addario’s Venn reed.

At this point in time, I have opened and played the reeds from the box of Giardinelli. On the outside of the box, it states, “Thicker blank offers rich, full tone and projection. Ideal for all types of players. French cut-and-filed construction provides superior control and response.” I could not have said it better myself.

The Giardinelli reeds are a little stiffer, but the vibration is unhindered. Though stiffer, the reed produces a great sound that projects well. Because of the thicker “blank,” I think they will last longer. I have not gotten into the box of D’Addario Reserve yet.


I have played the synthetic reed by D’Addario. As I suspected would be the case, it is way too stiff. When I could get it to vibrate/speak, it sounded great. I bought the reed strength I normally play, which is 2.5. It’s too much.  The last synthetic I bought was a Fibracell Premier Synthetic Tenor Saxophone Reed Strength 1.5.

Knowing that synthetic or plastic reeds can be really stiff, I ordered the least stiff Fibracell. It turned out to be too soft. And a soft synthetic reed is worse than a natural cane reed which is too soft.

In the past (when the Navy was footing the bill), I have gotten lucky and got a synthetic reed which was perfect. It was a medium Bari brand reed. Back then various synthetic reeds only cost around $10. Today’s cost is around $29. It’s a little too expensive to search for that perfect synthetic reed. Perhaps in a few months, I may try again to find that perfect reed. For now, I can’t afford it.

In conclusion, I think I may be switching reed brands. I will have to play more of the reeds which I have recently purchased to be sure. Ordinarily, I don’t really care about reed brands. If I’m using something that works, I usually stick with it. That is why I have used Vandoren for so long. Even after I have played these new brands for a while, I still may end up back with Vandoren. I certainly love the mouthpieces from Vandoren. I think they are my greatest discovery since I began playing again in 2017.


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