What Strength Reed Size Should I Use?

A reed's strength is most often shown as a number. Beginner reeds are typically of a lower strength, such as sizes 1.5 and 2 (soft and medium soft). When deciding which reed strength to use, a player will need to decide if they need a beginner or more advanced reed.

So what size do you choose? A reed's thickness is the most important factor when choosing. Just as with the strength, reed thickness is expressed as a number. The lower the number, the thinner the reed, and the higher the number, the thicker the reed. Reeds typically range from 2 to 4. The tone and responsiveness of an instrument will depend on the thickness of the reed. Thinner reeds (between 2 and 2.5) are good for beginners since it vibrates more easily and it has a brighter tone; preferred among Jazz players! On the other hand, thicker reeds with a size of 4 to 5 are harder and need more skill to sounds, but the tone is a lot bolder.

Your reed's strength identifies its density and flexibility. In general, single reeds range from 1.5 to 4, while double reeds range from soft, medium-soft, medium, medium-hard, and hard. Reed strength also varies between different brands. So a 3.5 in Rico Royal may play more like a 3.0 in Vandoren.

Because the tone and sound of a reed will differ based on brand and size used, how can you possible know which is the best reed? Only by exploring different reeds will you will be able to tell which one is best suited to you, your experience and your style. Some musicians prefer Rico reeds as they are more economical; a popular reed among younger players. Vandoren reeds are also preferred because the higher quality cane, though a bit more expensive, produces a darker more refined tone.

Reeds are just like the mouthpieces on brass, or strings on a guitar, its all about personal preference when choosing between different measurements. If you are beginner you can start with a softer, economical reed. Once you gain some experience, venture out to different brands and strengths to find your perfect match. Ultimately, your perfect reed, brand and strength will be the one that is most comfortable and compatible with your reed instrument.