View Full Version : Reed strength & playing experience

Tears June
03-11-2003, 03:18 PM
1) I'm interested to know what strength you start to use when you first to play sax?

2) How soon takes you to move from one hardness to another (supposed it's 1/2 strength difference)?

3) I found some reed that is more thin/softer than other version even it is same strength. An example is Java 2.5 is much more easy to play than Blue box traditional, V-16 or ZZ 2.5. I have No problem to use Java 2.5 but so painful to use 2.5 Traditional. I can see the vamp, tip & heart is much more thick on Traditional. However, I like Traditional sound more than Java. Should I use Traditional 2.5 just for 10 minutes long tone in each practice session? Or stick on the Traditional 2.5 (but can be so psinful...)

PS: I found 2.5 Traditional sound much better and more consistent than No. 2 .


03-11-2003, 05:43 PM
Well, 10 minutes isn't much time to practice. I'd say use the
Vandoren Traditional #2 for a month or so. You'll know
when it's time to chnage, because as your embouchure strengthens
and develops properly, you'll begin to choke off the thinner
reeds. Thicker reeds usually DO sound better, but don't torture
yourself. Buy a box of 10 reeds (#2) pick the good ones, and
play 45-60 minutes/day for the next month. You should be
ready to chew them like gum by then<GRIN>. Since you
already have the 2.5, check your progress occassionally, but
don't rush yourself. I've played clarinet for YEARS, and sax
since last September, but I generally use Vandoren Trad (Blue Box)
#2 with a Meyer 5 mouthpiece (.071 tip opening). With a
smaller tip opening I have to use a Vandoren 2.5, but I don't
use smaller tip openings anymore.


03-11-2003, 07:10 PM
I almost forgot to mention that your observation concerning
Vandoren reed hardness is correct. The Traditional are 1/2 strength
harder than other manufacturer's reeds. A Vandoren Trad 2.5
would equate to a Rico 3 (generally). I believe the Java's are the
same as Rico, and haven't tried the ZZ's so can't say. There is
a reed hardness chart floating online somewhere, maybe Steve
Goodson's website(??(.


Tears June
03-12-2003, 03:11 PM

You mean if I really like Trad 2.5 sound, I should stick on this, not only long tone exercise but all exercise everyday?

However, I found Trad 2 is much softer than 2.5. Because Java 2.5 should be same strength with Trad 2 if our concept is correct (Trad is 1/2 harder than many other reed in same strength). Thus, I would say Trad's strength = V-16 = ZZ.
These 3 reed is about 1/2 to 1/3 harder than many other reed (like Java)

BTW, I bought whole box reed (I've over 10 box un use reed at home because I don't like taht sound). I also done Break-in for all reed. Which give a bit longer life to the reed.


03-12-2003, 07:30 PM
Well, the Java is going to feel a bit different than the Trad's, because
it's a differnt reed. I'd say simply play the reed that you're comfortable
practicing with at this point. If you switch back and forth during a
session with reed strength, that might not be as productive as building
your embouchure so that you can play consistently. If the Java's are
comfortable, use them for a while. Buy a box of #2 Trad's if you'd like.
The box of 2.5's will not go bad, so save them until you're comfortable.
I can play Vandoren #2.5 Trad's for an entire practice session, but I'm
not nearly as comfortable as witht he #2 (the 2.5's cause me to bite).
They do have a richer sound, but that doesn't count for much if my
jaw is sore. Always choose the path of least resistance<GRIN>.


03-13-2003, 03:33 AM
I too use the traditional #2's on a Vandoren A35 MPC. I can also use the #2.5's but it's a little more work. The # 2's are effortless, I never bite with them and play effortlessly up to altissimo E.
Also remember the Traditional has the thinnest tip of all the Vandoren reedsand the most wood behind it at the vamp.

Tears June
03-14-2003, 03:29 PM
Vincent, FrankB2

I haven't use no. 2 for long time and I can't remember how's the sound.
Have you ever figure out any difference of traditional 2 & 2.5 in sound? Which is more bright, brilliance, better projection, thick & rich? I guess is' 2.5, right?


03-14-2003, 03:44 PM
The #2 Vandoren Traditionals that I've used vary in sound quality.
The 2.5's do have a richer sound when you find a good one, but
the #2's are just as capble of producing a decent clean tone. I'm
happy with the #2's, and I'm hard to please<GRIN>.


03-14-2003, 03:45 PM
In my last post, it might sound like the #2's vary more than
the 2.5's. They ALL vary, and I'm lucky to find 3 or 4 reeds out
of 10 that I like, regardless of strength.


03-14-2003, 03:48 PM
Personally I don't know anyone who's had success (from my ear's opinion) with the Vandoren traditional, regardless of strength (including myself). Stick to Java. They're better for classical too. 2.5 or higher is the way to go, with a more closed mouthpiece.

You should be able to begin on a 2 and then quickly move to 2.5. Quickly meaning in about 6 months. I've played for 6 years and have gotten to 3, using a Meyer 5 (close tip), having started on la voz medium, moved to la voz MH, then over to the vandoren java, starting on 2.5, then to 3. And 3's are still a bit tough to me, after about 6 months of playing them.

Tears June
03-14-2003, 04:15 PM

Eric Marienthal is a good example. He use Traditional No. 3 on hsi Beechler Beellite #7. He made real great tone.


Cameron Wigmore
03-17-2003, 01:33 PM
Back in high school it was a status thing - the harder the reed, the more serious you were!. Ha!
I got up to a 3 1/2 strength rico with an otto link 8*. My sound, (and tuning), was wild, and when a serious teacher got his hands on me he made me learn to play on a #2 hemke, then 2 1/2 after a month or so.
When I practice altissimo I use an old reed that won't bust my chops. At any other time I use a 2 1/2 reed, (whatever brand - if it blows good, that's what matters).

04-29-2003, 05:37 PM
My question might belong in the Beginners section, but I'd like to get some opinion from seasoned players on this basic question: If all other factors (sax, player, mpc, embouchure) remain constant, how do you know your reed is too hard? Too soft? How does reed strength affect the range and "stability" of your tone?


04-29-2003, 06:09 PM
If the reed is too hard I have trouble with the bell notes and pp attacks. If the reed is too soft and doesn't give enough resistance I tend to go flat, especially on long notes, and to close up at higher volumes. It seems that without resistance I get very lazy with my embouchure.

04-29-2003, 08:24 PM
I agree absolutely with Retread, if a reed is too soft, it is inclined to play out of tune, especially when you or it gets tired. A sax does seem to be at its best when you are working it hard and certainly if I am playing regularly, I may go for half a strength harder reeds than when I'm not playing as much. However, there is no need to go all macho for the sake of it and play something extremely hard; I stick within the 2.5-3 range mostly, though I sometimes use 2's on tenor and bari. It is as much a mistake to have a reed that is too hard for you. Note, I say 'for you' because other players are quite comfortable with reeds of 4 or more. Good for them, but not for me.

04-29-2003, 08:57 PM
Here is a chart that explains reed strength comparisons when switching brands. This chart assumes that VanDoren Classics are the standard.

Roger Aldridge
04-30-2003, 04:07 PM
It's hard to generalize about reed strength.

Setting aside the individual player for a moment, much depends upon the particular characteristics of your mouthpiece such as size of tip opening, design of the chamber & baffle, and the facing curve. You can line up a selection of mouthpieces with the same tip opening but with different chamber sizes, facing curves, etc and you'll most likely discover that some of them need a somewhat harder reed and some need a softer reed. In some respects, the facing curve is an even bigger factor regarding reed strength than the tip opening.

Returning to the player, on another thread (I think it's under Tone Production) there is a discussion about the best place to put the lower lip on the reed. Some players don't take in enough of the mouthpiece beak into the mouth. As a result, they compensate for this by using harder reeds. When more mouthpiece is taken in -- so that the lower lip is at the point on the reed where it breaks away from the facing curve (look at the mouthpiece and reed from the side to find the exact point) -- it's often necessary to drop back a 1/2 size or so to slightly softer reeds.

Thus, between the mouthpiece and the player there are a lot of variables to consider.

king koeller
04-17-2010, 03:18 AM
After many years(38) of trial and error... I have found the reed of my dreams!!
VANDOREN JAVA 3 1/2!! Green Box!
They are perfect for my Alto setup, Morgan Vintage 7M .080" and they are perfect for my tenor setup
Morgan Hard Rubber Jazz 9M .110"
I"m so happy to be able to make music now!!
The Java's really play!!
Now they have new red box, I'll have to try those too!!!