How To Prepare Your Clarinet Reeds

Especially in the early days of playing the clarinet, many people think that all you have to do is grab a reed and start practicing immediately. However, properly preparing your reed can help extend its life and improve your sound quality. A reputable source can help with preparing you for all you’ll need to know when getting started on the clarinet.

Choosing A Reed

Not all reeds are created equal. Choosing one of the top rated clarinet reeds can make a big difference.

The quality of reeds can be inconsistent especially among some of the cheaper brands. Getting reputable reeds or learning to make your own can help combat a lot of the issues that come with breaking in a new reed. Make sure you’re getting the proper size reed for the best experience and sound quality.

Breaking In A New Reed

Breaking in a new reed can be a lengthy process. You often have to play on the same reed in multiple short bursts to get it to its optimal playability.

Switch between reeds throughout a practice session to avoid damaging reeds. This also allows you to break in new reeds without wearing out one that may be performance ready.

Many seasoned woodwind musicians choose to keep a reed box in which reeds are rotated between. This allows for there to always be reeds multiple reeds in performance condition and a few that are still being broken in. A good quality reed that’s properly broken in will often last well over a month.

Dud Reeds

Regardless of which reeds you purchase, there are always some duds mixed in. While more reputable reeds may have less, they still exist and learning to weed out these subpar reeds may take time for those new to reed instruments.

It’s almost impossible to say if a reed is a dud after a single practice session. Try out the reed a few times and try to remember that one may not be playing the way that your other ones seem to. If it doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better to play on after a few practice sessions, you likely have a dud reed and will have to start breaking in a new one. Feel free to use these reeds for practice, but make sure you’re also preparing your next performance reed at the same time.

Preparing New Reeds

A new reed will need thorough wetting; more than one that’s already broken in. While the taste may not be ideal, always wet the reed with your mouth as excess water or pressure can easily damage a reed. Ensure that you wet all sides of the reed and be mindful that you may have to rehydrate the new reed a little more often until it’s properly broken in.

New reeds should be practiced on in short bursts. Trying to play too much on the stiff new reed is a recipe for it ending up with a crack. Play until the reed dries once or twice and then switch to one of your other reeds to prolong the life of your entire reed collection.

Make sure the reed is properly aligned on your clarinet. New reeds are more easily subject to cracks especially when first wet which is when it’ll be going onto your instrument. Ensure that the ligature is at a proper tightness so your reed can’t move around but also isn’t damaging your precious new reed.

Getting Performance Ready

Getting a reed to the point that it feels performance-ready may be a more tedious process than many realize. Often the best performance point for a reed is the end of its life. Having a couple of these on hand is an excellent way to ensure your performance goes smoothly.

To get fully prepare a reed for a performance, there’s a bit of luck needed. First, the reed needs to be of acceptable quality, to begin with, and then it can’t end up with any damage along the way. A lot of practice sessions of varying lengths will be played on your reed before it hits the sweet spot.

Your Reed’s Sweet Spot

You’re sure to know when your reed is at its sweet spot. You’ll hear an audible improvement to your sound quality and playing your clarinet will feel like a breeze. The amount of effort required to get gorgeous sound out of a clarinet with the perfect reed drops drastically and that’s when you can be sure that the care you gave to that once new reed was completely worth it.

Get your reeds performance-ready in your practice sessions and regularly start breaking in new ones. A new reed is the first step towards preparing the perfect reed for your next clarinet performance.

RJ Frometa
Author: RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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