The clarinet is one of the most popular instruments and easiest to learn. A key part of any orchestra, the clarinet is a beautiful instrument that is a member of the woodwind family.
Sound is created through the reed, which is placed on the mouthpiece at the top of the instrument and it is the reed that we will be looking at today.
When you first start to play the clarinet, the chances are that you’ll have to be told how to specifically create a sound due to the complexity of how the reed works but you’ll get to grips with it before you know it.
Once you have managed to perfect the sound of the clarinet, you’ll find after some use that you have to replace your reed so the next question is. What reed should you go for?
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, there are reeds for all abilities with varying needs to suit your clarinet career. Depending on how often you wish to play your clarinet or how difficult the pieces that you are playing are, brands manufacture reeds for different levels.
In this article, we’ll talk you through the top 5 reeds available followed by a specialized buyers guide taking you through everything you need to consider in your research and then we’ll end with an FAQ answering the most commonly asked questions.
Don’t have time to read the rest of the article? Here’s our top pick:
It probably comes at no surprise that our recommendation comes from one of the most respected brands when it comes to musical instrument equipment.
These reeds are traditional, meaning that they are perfect for musicians of all levels and can even be used on saxophones as well as clarinets. These reeds work particularly well for those who are advancing their music playing and need to hit higher notes more consistently.
Why is this our winner? Each reed is individually sealed to ensure that they are perfectly preserved when newly used. Their flexibility allows for richer sounds and gives body to the music.
Extremely durable thanks to its high quality materials, the Vandoren CR103 reeds allow the user to increase their ability and confidence by assisting in producing a stronger sound.
OUR TOP PICK
Our top pick is a firm favourite due to its versatility. Whether you are a beginner looking to work on the higher and lower notes with more consistency or a professional who wants to produce a stronger sound, the Vandoren CR103 reeds are the ones for you.
The slim design has a flexibility that makes the music richer and will increase confidence and ability in the player.
The traditional design means that they can fit almost any clarinet with ease as well as provide great sounds on any piece no matter how difficult.
The individual packaging also ensures that the reeds are of the highest quality when you use it.
With 4.8 stars from over 5,500 reviews, the Vandoren CR103 is the best rated and most popular clarinet reed available.
Many users praise the product for its versatility and ease of use and the range of abilities of the market.Vandoren is a brand that is among the best of the best in the market so they can definitely be trusted if you’re unsure where to put your money.
- Traditional design makes strong sound
- Useful for any player’s ability
- Versatile for any piece of music
- Individually packaged
- High price point
Our second pick is another selection from Vandoren in the form of their CR1935+ reeds. Boasting a strength of 3.5+, these reeds are harder making them ideal for more advanced players.
The thick heel means that there is more vibration and thus a richer sound. Because of the thick heel, the reeds also last longer as well meaning that you get more use for your money.
They are more robust and take a while to break in but this is only credit to their longevity and if you are a more advanced player then you will have no problem in doing this.
Again, with 4.8 stars from over 1,000 reviews with most of the praise going towards the thick heel design creating richer sounds.
Used by professional players, the Vandoren CR1935+ are among the best reeds on the market because of the vibrant sound they produce.
There is a reason that this remains a staple in many clarinetist’s life as the durability and strength of the reed is one of the leaders in the market for advanced and professional players.
- Ideal for advanced players
- The thick heel design means that the reeds last for longer
- Thick heel also gives a richer sound
- High price point
Our third recommendation is from D’Addario with their Rico reeds, another reliable brand when it comes to clarinet reeds. These unfiled reeds are thinner meaning that they are extremely easy to play.
Ideal for beginners thanks to the thin design, the Rico reeds are great especially when it comes to performing jazz pieces.
D’Addario is the most common brand used in education with teachers and students making up a lot of their market and for good reason.
Sold at a great price point and guaranteeing immediate sound, Rico’s reeds have probably popped up in every clarinetist’s career at some point or other.
With a 4.7 star average from over 4,900 reviews with the quality and improvement of sound after use frequently commented upon.
The versatility in what pieces can be played can be commended as well, although they are not recommended for extremely advanced and professional players who may need a thicker reed.
These thin reeds are amongst the best on the market for those at the start of their musical journey.
- Ideal for beginners
- Great for jazz pieces
- Great for those who are on a budget
- Not guaranteed for more advanced users
Our penultimate pick comes from D’Addario again with their Royal reeds. An ideal reed for those specialising in classical and jazz music, the Royal reeds are made from the traditional Rico materials but have a stronger tip meaning that their vibrancy is more amplified.
These reeds are favorites among beginner and some advanced players as well as they are durable and reliable. The thin tips mean that they are easy to play with and, like the Rico, are also favored by teachers and students across the world.
Because it has a strong spine and thin tip, it makes the Royal reed flexible and the sound becomes richer meaning that beginners looking to advance their skills will benefit greatly from using these.
With 4.7 stars from over 1,500 reviews, it’s not surprising to see that the Royal reeds are the natural upgrade from the Rico reeds.
As players begin to advance, they need to rely upon stronger and sturdier reeds that can handle more difficult pieces.
The Royal reeds are a brilliant step in that direction and difference in sound quality is staggering. The D’Addario brand, like the Vandoren brand, can be relied upon to help players improve their skills.
- Versatile and flexible creating a more vibrant sound
- Ideal for beginners looking to advance their skills
- Recommended by teachers and used by students worldwide
- Not recommended for professional players as they will need a thicker reed
The last recommendation on our list is from Cecilio and is the best option available for those on a strict budget who don’t want to compromise quality.
Each reed is individually packaged in plastic cases to ensure that the quality is contained.
The perfect reed for those who are beginning their clarinet journey, the Cecilio reeds have a thin design meaning that beginners will be able to get to grips with creating a sound with them.
This means that they are easy to break in and get going. The plastic cases also mean they can be carried around with no concerns of breaking or splitting.
With 4.5 stars from over 1,000 reviews from people discussing how perfect they are for beginners. Great for children in particular who are starting to play as they are a great price and easy to use.
They fit into most clarinets with ease so no need to spend ages trying to get the reed fitting in correctly and worrying about them splitting and breaking.
- Great for those on a budget
- Ideal for beginners
- Can begin to squeak after long periods of use
Best Clarinet Reeds Buying Guide
Researching clarinet reeds can be overwhelming because of how many there are on the market but rest assured, the recommendations in this article explore the best at every level of ability.
The reed is such an important part of clarinet as without it, you simply cannot play and the reed itself determines the quality of the sound.
Whether you are just starting to play or are an avid player want to switch reeds, this buyers guide will tell you everything you need to look out for when considering which reed to purchase.
If you’re still unconvinced and want to conduct further research then there are certain factors to consider before you decide which is best for you.
These are your level of ability as the reed thickness can determine what is best, how often you plan on playing your clarinet per week and the budget.
Before delving into these aspects, bear in mind that most brands will allow you to purchase 3 reeds at a time rather than 10 so you can test whether the reed is for you if you’re still unsure.
Level of ability
Your level of ability is important when deciding what reed to purchase. Thinner reeds are ideal for beginners who are getting to grips with the basic techniques as they are easier to break in and make a sound.
Thicker reeds, on the other hand, require more advanced skill and take a little longer to break in but the sound they produce are richer due to the vibrancy in the heel.
Thicker reeds have the capability to play more difficult pieces and last longer than thinner reeds as advanced and professional are normally required to play their instruments for longer periods of time.
Thinner reeds assist with helping beginners get from that basic level to a more advanced level.
How often you plan to play
Following on from your level of ability, you need to consider how often you intend to play your clarinet.
If you’re a beginner who doesn’t play too often then a thinner reed is definitely for you but a professional or advanced player who is required to perform regularly at recitals and concerts will have to ensure that their reed is of the finest quality and not prone to wear out after lots of use.
Aside from this the difficulty in the pieces can determine how much you will need to practice so if you purchased thicker reeds for a beginner, it would take a while before they hone the skills to break the reed in properly and wouldn’t do much good, however, a thin reed for an advanced player would make it more difficult to hit the lowest and highest notes.
As expected, reeds can come at all sorts of prices. Naturally, the high end brands have gained their reputation through decades of creating the perfect reed to ensure that the player is getting the best sound.
For those who are starting out or don’t want to splash out too much cash on their reeds, there are plenty of cheaper options available that don’t compromise the quality.
The recommendations listed in the article are the best in the market varying from high end to low cost with hundreds if not thousands of reviews backing up their quality.
When looking for low cost reeds, beware of how thin the reed is as low quality reeds will be prone to snapping easily or splitting at the tip.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best clarinet reeds for beginners?
If you’re a beginner, the best reeds to purchase would be ones that have a thinner tip. As explained in the article, thinner tips make it easier to produce a sound.
Brands such as D’Addario specialise in producing reeds that are perfect for students and schools as they have both a great price point and are made from the finest materials.
Any of the reeds in this article that have been recommended for beginners in the descriptions are the best on the market that you should look into.
D’Addario are the ideal brand for those at the beginner level who are wanting to transition to advanced skills as the Royal reeds are the natural step up from the Rico.
How often should you change clarinet reeds?
As expected, this is entirely dependent on how often you play but at the beginning stage assuming you’re practicing a couple of hours a week, your reeds can last up to 6 months whereas more advanced players can be expected to swap reeds every 2 to 4 weeks.
This is because of the amount of practice and the complexity of the pieces that advanced and professional players are expected to perform.
After a while, players can gage when it is time to swap their reed usually because the sound the reed produces will begin to lose its richness and quality.
Why do I squeak when I play clarinet?
When a clarinet squeaks, it is usually a sign that you are not engaging in the proper techniques when attempting to play. You must ensure that you are slightly biting on the reed but not too hard.
Another reason could be that the reed is beginning to wear out and needs replacing. Usually, squeaks happen with thinner reeds and can cause a player to become more aggressive when playing in an attempt to save the sound but this will just cause the reed to break or split.