- Reed choice can be hard for a beginner wind instrument player
- We list 5 of the best clarinet reeds on the market today for all budgets
- Commonly asked questions answered
- Also, check out our breakdown on clarinet vs bass clarinet!
Many clarinetists, especially students, often face the following issue – they are new to the instrument, they buy their first reed, only to find that it does not adapt, or that they do not like the sound and come to the erroneous conclusion that the instrument is the one that does not work.
Although an all too common scenario, the fact is that the mouthpiece to reed ratio is different for each instrument, even if it is of the same brand and model.
Read on as we dive deep into the best clarinet reeds for beginners, intermediate, and professional clarinet players, alike.
What Are The Best Clarinet Reeds?
- Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Traditional Reed (Our Pick)
- D’Addario Rico Clarinet Reed (Best Value)
- Mitchell Lurie Bb Clarinet Reed (Best Budget)
- Vandoren CR5035 Bb 56 Rue Lepic Clarinet Reed
- D’Addario Royal Bb 2.5 Strength Clarinet Reed
1. Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Traditional Reed (Best Overall)
The Vandoren CR101 Bb Reed is extremely flexible and maintains a richness of tone that gives body and clarity to the sound.
- Most recognized
- Ideal for all players
The most recognized reeds in the world are the Vandoren (also, an Amazon best-seller). The reason for this lies in the fact that they respond extremely well in the higher register, which is not the case with all clarinet reeds.
They are particularly flexible, which makes it possible to play with different articulations with relative ease.
Vandoren reeds are great for beginners due to their various reed strength models. It is not recommended to exceed the reed strength of 3 as this may hinder your first experience playing the instrument.
Without a doubt, Vandoren CR101 reeds are the ideal choice for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players due to their global recognition and ease of use.
2. D’Addario Rico Clarinet Reed (Best Value Clarinet Reed)
Featuring a thinner vamp and unfiled cut designed for ease of play, Rico by D’Addario Bb clarinet reeds are ideal for a wide array of playing situations.
- Easier to play
- Great for beginners
Like the Vandoren CR101, the Rico by D’Addario is an exceptional reed that is considerably budget-friendly. Unlike the CR101, these reeds have a thinner vamp cut, which reportedly makes them easier to play due to the fact that sound can be generated more easily.
In this sense, they are also a very good option for those who are taking their first steps with the clarinet.
Another advantage of this model is that they are particularly inexpensive, which makes them very popular with clarinet teachers due to the fact that they can be used en masse in class, and can be recommended to the students for home/out of school use.
3. Mitchell Lurie Bb Clarinet Reed (Best Budget Clarinet Reed)
D'Addario's Mitchell Lurie Reeds are the perfect fit for intermediate and advanced woodwind players.
- Balanced sound
- Not too soft or hard
Slightly cheaper than the aforementioned reeds, Mitchell Lurie reeds are another popular choice for budding clarinetists. They are known to work very well on almost all clarinet models and are manufactured with great care and precision out of premium grade cane.
Neither too hard nor too soft, they are easy to play and are known for achieving a great, balanced sound. For a tidy player who needs quality but is not willing to spend a lot of money, Mitchell clarinet reeds are an excellent choice.
4. Vandoren CR5035 Bb 56 Rue Lepic Clarinet Reed
With a thicker cane and a heel taper steeped in the German style, 56 rue Lepic reeds produce excellent warmth and richness.
- Warm, rich sound
- Thicker cane
- Quick response in all registers
Unlike the more traditional reeds made by Vandoren, the Vandoren CR5035 Bb Clarinet 56 Rue Lepic Reed is made from thicker cane with a heel taper, similar to German-style reeds.
Their sound is extraordinarily rich and complex in all registers of the clarinet, allowing a great capacity for projection.
As a particularity of this model, the strength graduations of this clarinet reed are smaller and more specific, which gives more options for different instrumentalists.
It is always good to remember – for this instrument as for all instruments – that the instrument should suit the player, not the other way around.
While the Vandoren CR5035 is an excellent choice for the intermediate to advanced player, beginner players can still utilize these to good effect.
5. D’Addario Royal Bb 2.5 Strength Clarinet Reed
Filed and featuring a thinner profile, they’re revered by players and educators worldwide for their ease of response and clarity in sound.
- Excellent for beginners
- Soft and easy to play
- Greater clarity of sound
The D’addario Royal 2.5 strength reeds are an excellent choice for beginners in the clarinet world. The reed is exceptionally soft and easy to play, but not at the expense of sound quality.
The royal 2.5 strength allows players to produce brilliant sounds and facilitates the playing of fast and agile passages due to its good response and tightly designed mouthpiece tapering.
General Considerations About The Clarinet
For the most part, there are five parts with which clarinets are constructed. These are the mouthpiece, body, upper or left articulation, lower or right articulation, and bell. These parts are joined together using spigot and pin connections.
The lower part of the mouthpiece has a groove, on which the reed vibrates, and the upper part is conical, to fit in the player’s mouth.
According to experts, the precise shape and finish of the mouthpiece, along with the curvature of the rails, are extremely important in determining the instrument’s tone.
The variation between mouthpieces (and reeds) showcases the differences in tone among good clarinetists at a time when the rest of the instrument is almost standardized worldwide (a wider setting tends to produce a louder, less refined tone).
What Are Reeds And What Is Their Function?
Reeds are elastic sheets of natural plant tissue (bamboo, leaf, straw, or wood), metal, plastic, or other material which, under the influence of a stream of air from the lungs will vibrate at a frequency determined by its dimensions, mass, and elasticity.
This vibration is used to excite periodic pressure waves in a column of air inside the tube of an instrument.
The frequency of these waves, and therefore the note sounded, is determined primarily by the shape and dimensions of the air column, which are the most important factors in this coupled acoustic system.
In the case of clarinets, single beat reeds are used. These are conical pieces of reed attached at their thicker end with string or a metal ligature to a mouthpiece roughly conical with a flat board tangential to the base.
The thinner part of the reed is placed over the mouthpiece opening and vibrates as air is introduced. This movement periodically closes and opens the opening, thus transmitting bursts of energy to the column of air inside the instrument.
Through its embouchure, the player can determine the maximum opening and modify the reed vibrations’ characteristics by selectively damping the overtones.
The player’s tongue controls the quality of the attack and transient, which also affects the tonal characteristics of the reed.
What Strength Of Reed Is Best For Beginners?
We have talked a lot about clarinet reed strength. Generally, it is recommended for those who are just starting with the instrument to opt for a strength of 1, 1 ½, 2, and 2.5. These will be softer, which will make it easier to produce sound.
What Is The Highest Strength Reed For a Clarinet?
While the softest reeds are the 1’s, the strongest are the 5’s, which are defined by their greater resistance capacity, and by their greater thickness. These qualities require more production and air pressure from the clarinetist.
How Do You Know When To Replace The Reed?
The easiest way to answer this is to think about the passage of time: every 2, 3, or 4 weeks is a good measure of time.
In turn, this also depends on how much you use your reed. If you practice many hours per day, you may not be able to (or should not) wait until 4 weeks to change it.