• by Ortizo Instrumentos musicales

Know what reeds are and what they are used for in clarinets, saxes, and horns.

What are reeds

We present to you one of the most important accessories for many wind instruments, an accessory that helps you express your feelings through the air.

Reeds or reeds are an essential accessory for instruments such as the oboe, bassoon, English horn, clarinets and saxophones ; They are part of the Woodwind family, because they are responsible for producing the sound by vibrating with the wind that is produced when blowing through the instrument.

Reed classification

  1. There is a wide variety of reeds or reeds classified as double or single, depending on the type of instrument for which it is required, since each one uses a reed or reed specifically designed for it.
  2. Another classification is framed within qualities such as hardness, strength or caliber specific to each rod; they are also divided into soft, medium and hard.
  3. The third classification is according to the material they are manufactured; Some are made of wood and others are synthetic.

simple reeds

Simple reeds or reeds, as their name indicates, are those that are made of a single sheet, having a flat back and a thin, sharp tip at the top, which fits the mouthpiece of clarinets or saxophones.

double reeds

Double reeds are constructed of two pieces that vibrate against each other and unlike the single reeds, they are built on the mouthpiece of the instruments that use them, such as the oboe, bassoon, English horn, contrabassoon, etc.

Reed hardness classification

Regarding the hardness of the reeds or reeds, we find that they are measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with some variations depending on the manufacturer; However, the most common classification is the following:

  • Between 1, 1.5 and 2, the softest are found
  • Between 2.5 and 3, those of medium hardness.
  • Starting at 3.5, the hardest ones are classified.

Softer reeds or reeds are designed for beginners, because they offer little resistance to the air column; therefore, they vibrate more easily. Generally, as wind players advance on their instrument, they develop a stronger and more controlled column of air, which is why they require a reed with greater resistance.

Fabrication material 

As mentioned above, the reeds are made of synthetic material or wood; the latter being traditional manufacturing. Wooden reeds offer the purest and most real sound of the instrument; However, its useful life is limited and the loudness can be affected by environmental conditions such as climate, altitude, humidity or storage conditions, among others. For their part, synthetic reeds, made of carbon fiber or polymer, provide a much longer useful life than those made of wood and currently offer a sound with similar characteristics to natural reeds.

There is a wide variety of reeds or reeds and manufacturers, because each musician's experience is totally different when trying the same one of them. Everyone looks for the product that brings them closest to their ideal sound and may require trying several reeds or reeds, until they feel comfortable with the hardness, flexibility or other particularities that they offer.


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