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When should I get a harder reed?

Do you know when to move on from your beginner's reed? Alice gives some advice...

Most new learners will start on a strength 1 ½ slab cut reed like the orange box Rico or Vandoren Juno.  These are thinner tipped, with less central material (heart) than a French filed reed meaning an easier blow and less expense when (and they will) get broken.  

As you play for a bit longer your embouchure (mouth shape/ muscles) will strengthen and you will get better at supporting the air you create.  At this point your 1 ½ reed will be very easy to blow and will be prone to squeaking, note cracking, make your high notes harder to get and sound weak/ edgy. 

You can generally feel when a reed is too soft.  This is the time to talk to your teacher if they haven’t suggested a new reed already and try a strength 2, experimenting with some different makes of French filed reeds e.g Vandoren Traditional or Rico Royal. 

The French filed reeds have a thicker heart so offer a fuller, warmer sound and that little bit of resistance needed to support the production of higher notes.  Because of this they tend to feel a bit harder compared to your original reed strength so trying a 1 ½ is always a good option before jumping to a strength 2 French filed reed.

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