Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reeds and the Plethora of Clarinet Accesories

There are few things as frustrating to a clarinetist as reeds. If you all are anything like me, you are constantly searching for the perfect reed. I buy different brands, different strengths, and different cuts, all trying to find the ideal reed. That is, one that suits my mouthpieces, feels right in terms of response and articulation, and matches my tonal concept. This task is perhaps one of the most baffling and often ends with a frustrated clarinetist with a messed up idea of what they want in a reed.

No matter how many brands I have tried, I find myself always returning to the same brand and cut of reed. This certain reed has always worked well for me, but I keep trying other brands for the chance of finding something better. I had a teacher who once told me that one could get lost trying to try all the different reeds in the world and that one would do well to find some that work and to stick to them. I believe this to be good advice, to an extent.

I think it is very wise of clarinet players to always be on the lookout for something that can make their jobs easier, whether it be reeds, mouthpieces, barrels, ligatures, clarinets, etc. I think the real danger comes when a person becomes obsessed with trying equipment, constantly being captivated by the "new" and the shiny things that come along. We must always turn a keen ear to everything that we try, to avoid being deceived by the beautiful appearance, or being swayed by the long list of A-list players who use said piece of equipment.

Each person, clarinet, and reed is different. Even if a piece of equipment works for most people, it may not be ideal for you. You, and you alone will be the final judge of that, but never pass up opportunities for input. Have other people listen to you play on different things, record yourself and listen very, very carefully, for often, the changes in the sound will be very subtle, if even present. There is a huge, dark forest of clarinets and accessories. Before you venture into it, be sure that you have the skills required to get back out. If you are not listening carefully and looking for the input of players that are wiser and better than you, you will likely get very lost. Always trust your ears. They are the truest judge of any piece of equipment.

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