Almost a year ago, I got my new b-flat clarinet (Schwenk und Seggelke M1000B). This clarinet is pitched lower than my previous R13 b-flat clarinet, so it prompted me to get a higher pitched mouthpiece. After having my clarinet adjusted a bit at Buffet by the master technician Melanie Wong, I went down to D’Addario, in hopes of finding a mouthpiece that is more suitably pitched for my clarinet. There I was greeted warmly by Tom Kmiecik, Artist Relations of D’Addario. He was in a meeting with a client but welcomed me in anyway, and gave me a bunch of mouthpieces to try. Not only that, he gave me a few reeds to try with the mouthpieces. I was very impressed with the consistency of their products. Anyway, fast forward a few months, and I contacted Tom out of the blue to see if they have any bass clarinet mouthpieces in development (they had been working on a bunch of saxophone mouthpieces). He said not at the moment, but they were close to introducing their bass clarinet reeds. Fast forward a couple more months, Tom sent me a few boxes of reeds to try! Finally last night, I got to try the D’Addario Reserve Bass Clarinet Reeds (3.0), in a concert hall (Winspear Centre, where the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra plays).
The setting was wind ensemble, and the program was not too forgiving for the bass clarinet. My most normal set up is Vandoren B50 coupled with Vandoren V12 3. However, most V12 3s are too hard for me (and most 2.5s are too soft for me). Keep in mind, the B50 is Vandoren’s most open facing mouthpiece (quite resistant). I found the D’Addario Reserve Bass Clarinet Reeds fell somewhere between the 2.5 and 3 Vandoren V12 bass clarinet reeds. At first I was a little shocked by how freely the Reserve reed played, but after a couple of minutes I got used to the feel and was able to effortlessly control my new set up. Silent entrances were made much easier, and blending and tuning were much more definitive and therefore also much easier (to hear and adjust). I played on one reed for the entire soundcheck (I had forgotten that I was playing on this new set up, which is a good sign). To provide more context for the bass clarinet’s role in the wind ensemble (if you are unfamiliar) the bass clarinet often doubles the first bassoon parts, the tutti clarinet parts, and also often the low brass. I need to be able to switch quickly from having light and almost percussive bassoon-y sound to producing very full and carrying low brass sound to intoxicatingly play my solos in that uniquely warm bass clarinet voice. The Reserve reed was able to do these things very well, especially blending with the bassoon.
My experience with the D’Addario reeds so far is that the reeds are very consistent out of the box, however they do not normally tend to last nearly as long as Vandoren reeds. If I played in a major orchestra, I think I would probably play the new D’Addario reeds because they are so practical (aside from sounding great) and consistent. However I felt these reeds were not as beefy and resistant as the Vandoren reeds (which are not actually bad things for me, personally) that I felt as if these reeds wear out fairly quickly, like the other D’Addario reeds I have tried in the past. Vandoren reeds I feel sound kind of stiff in the beginning, then sound good, then sound GREAT, and then die. I find Reserve reeds sound really great from the beginning, and then start dying. Different reeds for different occasions, I suppose.
I like the new D’Addario bass clarinet reeds a lot. I think in the future I might also try the 3.5s. At this point I would probably use these reeds for professional auditions, but probably not for daily practicing,
Thank you Tom Kmiecik and D’Addario for your kindness and generosity!