After I first posted my previous blog, I revised it a few times. However somewhere along the way I guess I missed a chance to save one of those updates and lost the portion where I talked about reeds. So let’s talk about it here. E-flat clarinet reeds!
Vandoren “Traditional”/ “Blue Box” e-flat clarinet reeds 3.5 – $20.75 USD
Vandoren V12 e-flat clarinet reeds 3.5 – $23.10 USD
Vandoren V12 b-flat clarinet reeds 3.5 – $24.00 USD
I will use my M30 e-flat mouthpiece as a point of reference here, because after all, each mouthpiece gives different resistance, response, colours, and intonation. This is true for reeds as well, from my experience. I say “from my experience” instead of “in my opinion,” because I put many reeds of each category to test, which I hope to give me at least an average if not close to accurate result.
Traditional / Blue Box e-flat reeds 3.5
I have found that these reeds are usually pretty “safe” in terms of response. I have seldom had issues with these reeds with response, and what I mean by that is when I want the first sound to happen, it does. However, I have found that these reeds can be sometimes quite inconsistent in resistance/ sturdiness from box to box. What I mean by the sturdiness is: the reed’s proneness to warp under water/ physical pressure. I would imagine this is related to the duration of the drying process in them manufacturing process, and also the density of the original bamboo/ cane, or perhaps it depends at what time of the season I open these boxes, but I would be getting far beyond my area of knowledge to make such assumptions in public. Usually I find reeds from each box kind of stays within in the parameter of the box “family.” Also I find that on all clarinets (soprano, e-flat, bass, etc.) the strength of the reed affects the intonation (and of course articulation- you need your reed to be strong enough up there, otherwise the reed will close and not speak for you or anyone), increasingly noticeably as you go up on the clarinet. Softer: flatter, harder: sharper. If you think I’m crazy, ask your oboist friend for their two cents on this.
TL;DR- Some boxes are just right, some boxes are a tad soft, etc.
Traditional BB vs V12 e-flat reeds 3.5
The V12 e-flat clarinet reeds have been around for a few years now I believe, along with the V12 bass clarinet reeds (but that’s a topic for another blog, another time). These are a few bucks more costly than the Traditional reeds, but I think they have their merits. In general, they seem to be quite consistent from box to box, and I have yet to feel that these reeds are to soft. The cut of the reed looks like the one you see on the b-flat V12, less smiley and more neutral. Does that make sense? Like their b-flat cousins, they are warm and beefy/ fluffy/ velvety/ what have you, and the response is not as immediate but not bad. I actually prefer this response sometimes because especially on the e-flat clarinet sometimes I am asked by the composer or the conductor to tongue ferociously like a demon child not even a mother could love, and I want the reed to give me enough back-spring for me to articulate powerfully and fast . The V12 e-fat clarinet reeds I think are pretty good in sound, intonation, and response.
V12 e-flat reeds 3.5 vs V12 b-flat reeds 3.5
One of my former teachers used to say, “Never buy e-flat reeds, just cut the bottom of your old b-flat reeds.” Well as he also used to say, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” Of course, most “tried and true” methods have their merits and demerits. The merits in this method are:
1. You don’t have to buy e-flat clarinet reeds separately.
2. If your clarinet is very flat, it can help.
3. I find shortened b-flat reeds last longer than e-flat clarinet reeds.
B-flat clarinet reeds are bigger in every way, and the ratio is definitely not a perfect cinderalla-shoe-fit on the e-flat clarinet mouthpiece, obviously. But for the most part it plays okay with the bottom of the reed taken care of. I use regular scissors because I don’t have fancy wire cutters/ a saw. This is not a matter of money, but my own laziness. I would usually also sand the sides of the reed to get more appropriate resistance/ response, using sand paper or a reed knife (whatever is closest to me at the moment). Now the demerits are:
1. Sometimes reeds split in the process of manual cutting (bye reed).
2. Your intonation will be higher (and sharp if your set up is in the ball park of in tune).
TL;DR- If the rest of your set up is generally flat, or if you get called for a gig for tonight to play the e-flat clarinet (which you presumably don’t play very often if you don’t have reeds for them) and you don’t have the time or the money spend to go to the (online) store to buy e-flat clarinet reeds, break some in and choose the good ones, this is a viable option.
I use all of these reeds. I use the Traditional reeds because they are cheaper (and in Calgary V12 reeds in general are outrageously expensive), and they work well (more so if you find the right box). If I have a new music rehearsal that I am late to, I would pull one of these out and start playing (but I am never late………………). I often use V12 reeds in orchestra, and for practice sessions I cut b-flat reeds to use on the e-flat clarinet if the reed is getting to soft on the b-flat clarinet set up.
ALSO if you get a box of reeds that contains reeds that are too hard or too soft, I would not give them away or sell them or throw them away or try to be a trooper and use them, but simply store them away (maybe label a visible corner of a box “soft/ hard on a ___ mouthpiece”) so you know what you’re getting into in the future) and come back to them in a different season or on a different set up and see how they feel. Give me a benefit of the doubt and you might be surprised by the results!
What reeds do you use on your e-flat clarinet? Please feel free to comment or share!