Reed Death?

by Cindy

How do you know when to throw out a reed? I have some reeds that seem to squeak more than they used to (could just be me). I play on a #3 vandoren reed

Also, how come I squeak on low notes? I thought it was more common to squeak on high notes.

I really enjoy your website - thank you!!



Hello Cindy,

Clarinetists tend to play reeds to death
and for some reason, probably because of expense, we play them a little too far into death. Likely, if a reed is squeaking often, it is time to throw it away. It is likely warped on the back of the reed (the flat part that goes on the mouthpiece).

You can check for warp age by putting the reed on a very flat surface like a piece of glass. See if you can rock the reed with your fingers. If so, you can take a piece of fine sand paper or a mill bastard file and gently rub the reed back and forth. Take care of the pressure, especially on the tip of the reed. When you pick the reed up, you will see part of the reed is shinier than other parts of it. You can either try the reed out now, or rub a little more until the back is as flat as possible.

Sanding the reed will help remove some of the squeaks and will lighten the reed some. At this point, I do not perform on this reed anymore, but use it as a practice reed to get me through scales and such.

Also, make sure you are rotating your reeds well. If you play on one reed forever, then move to the next. You will kill each reed really quickly. You should have five to ten reeds working at a time and rotate through every one of them. This will make them all last longer.

So, put the clarinet together for rehearsal. Change the reed in the middle of rehearsal. When you practice at home, use the next reed. If it is a long practice, move through two or three reeds. Next day at rehearsal, use the next reed. Again, this will help you from killing your reeds too fast.

What I’ve written above this line is just scratching the surface of fiddling with reeds. The world of reed knives, humidity boxes, soaking in water, rubbing against plane white paper are among the other thousand things you can do to improve reeds.

You can read more about reeds at Clarinet Reed Adjustment.

About squeaking on low notes, if you are killing your reeds, squeaking will occur all over the clarinet. I recommend you check your embouchure by visiting the Clarinet Embouchure
and Poor Clarinet Embouchure pages.

It is my guess that your embouchure is moving around a good deal. I just wrote another response about Clarinet Embouchure that you should read and try: Clarinet Embouchure Changing. Wishing you best of luck and let me know how things work out for you.


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