Choosing Reed Strengths

All of your reeds look a little sad.  Some have a corner chipped off, some are cracked down the middle, one even looks like it got a spiky haircut!  Trendy, but not good for playing.  Time for a new box of reeds, but how do you know if you should buy the same strength you were using or move up?

Some people will tell you that you should always be moving up, but I believe you should use the reed strength that best suits you.  I know professionals who play on a 3, and I know professionals who play on a 5.  You’re not considered better just because you use a harder reed.  That said, we have to figure out how to pick the best reed for you.

You should be able to make a solid, clear tone with a little effort.  If you struggle just to make a sound with your current reed, and the sound that you get is airy and inconsistent, you may be using a reed that’s too hard for you.  If your tone is very loud, spread, and dotted with lots of squawks, your reed may be too soft.  Still not sure?  Instead of buying a full box, get one reed of the same strength you’ve been using, one that’s a half-strength softer, and one that’s a half-strength harder.  Break them all in and start playing - see which one sounds the best.