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Changing Reed Strengths

I play a No. 3 VanDoren Blue Box on a Ridenour RZ MT-36 MP with a Rovner Versa ligature. I had a few No 2 1/2 strength reeds left and I played on one of them. To my surprise they did not collapse or squeak as I went into the altissimo range. The sound seemed a bit more focused as well. Should I continue using the harder or softer reed, or alternate between the two?


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Use the ones that suit you best. Also note that the reeds you're talking about aren't synthetic, so there's a good deal of individual variation. I've occasionally sandpapered or clipped natural reeds.

There's nothing I'm aware of that says that you must use a harder reed. Remember that Benny Goodman used 1s and 1.5s.


Old King Log
Staff member
The reed strength that will work for largely depends on the mouthpiece facing. When I was young (but not gay), I used to play everything on a 3 1/2 Vandorne (sic). Since that time, I have learnt that softer is more often better, and my norm these days with cane reeds is 2 1/2.

Since it's cheaper to purchase new reeds than it is new mouthpieces, reeds remain the starting point for experimentation.
I find that softer reeds tend to have quite a brash sound on my setup (vandoren leather ligature+refaced Bundy 3/Vandoren B40) and that my control and intonation are better when I have a bit more resistance (I mainly use vandoren blue 4s). On the other hand, reed strength isn't any kind of manhood test, and you should play on whatever you're most comfortable with and think sounds best.


Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
Generally speaking, the more open the tip, the softer the reed to equal the playing resistance of a more closed tip with a harder reed. I have the bad habit of adjusting mpcs to reeds. I have to stop that.