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Saxophone Reed Strength

So, now you know what kind of reeds you want to buy. What strength should you purchase.

This answer is actually a lot easier than you think. Regardless of how strong your mouth is, regardless of what kind of tone you want from your horn, the strength of reed is actually inversly realated to the size of the opening of your mouthpiece.

So, what does that mean. Well, each mouthpiece has a number or a code. Selmer uses letters like C* or E where the farther down the alphabet you go, the larger the opening. Dukoff uses numbers and letters where a Dukoff 10 is a very large opening and a L would indicate large bore. Claude Lakey use a different method again for instance 7*3 on an alto is a very large opening and a very large bore.

How do you tell how big your opening is? Put your mouthpiece flat on the table with the hole down and then look at the space between the tip of the mouthpiece and the table itself. That hole is the opening and the larger it appears, the bigger the opening the mouthpiece has. The bigger the space, the lighter the reed you should try first.

I often use different strength reeds for different mouthpieces, for different situations. Where you want to be quiet and breathy, you might use a softer reed. In situations where volume is what you are looking for, a harder reed would be better.

If you are just starting out, no matter the facing on your mouthpiece, start light but…not too light because that too will affect how easy or hard you find it to play a note.

One other thing to mention is that each reed company brand is different so a #2 Rico Royal might not be the same as a #2 Vandoren. Reeds like Lavoz don’t even have numbers, they use words to describe the reeds like med hard etc.

Check out the Saxophone Reeds page for more information on types of reeds available.

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