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Plastic reeds for beginner?

I need help choosing a plastic reed for a bass clarinet. I am a complete beginner (a long-time bass guitar player), I used to play a regular clarinet in my teen years, and now I love to complete my dream about bass clarinet (Yamaha YCL-221). I like to have a plastic reed (for its longer life), but I don't know if I have to prefer plastic tenor sax, or plastic bass clarinet reed and which size (1,5?) will be good for suitable easy playing at the begining. Thanks for any advice.


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
There are so many good synthetic reeds out there but most don't last more than a year. Still that is pretty good for me. On the plus side, you never need to prep a synthetic reed, they are playable dry! On the other side, they never quite sound as good a wood reed to me. YMMV. Discovery of what you love can be fun too.


Staff member
When I started on BC, I went to my local music shop and bought some individual plain Rico (orange) reeds ranging from 1.5 to 3 to get an idea what strength I needed. I decided that 2.5 was a good starting point, and then I bought some 2.5 Fibracells. After a while, I realized that I was having trouble getting the lowest notes to speak, so I switched to a 3. I keep hearing how Fibracell quality has gone down the drain lately, so I'm not sure what I will do the next time I need to buy reeds. I do like the Harry Hartmann Carbon Fiberreeds on sax, but I'm afraid they may be too buzzy / brash on bass clarinet.


Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
I'm not sure I would recommend these necessarily for a beginner, but for BC I use Legere Signature reeds. Have used them since I started back on BC 5+ years ago. They're great. Sound like cane. Respond like cane. Last like a synthetic. I have 4 I use in rotation.
Thanks for advices. Finally, my bass clarinet arrives and I have to chance to play it. I tried classic Vandoren 2,5 reed and plastic Fiberreed Carbon S for tenor sax. As a complete beginner, I can barely say the differences: tenor sax is slightly easy to play with a tone little bit of "plastic" but great and Vandoren? Very nice full tone, more "natural" and a little bit more interesting, but as I say, I'm a beginner and this can only be my fantasies. :) Anyway, my "new" Yamaha is great I can play all low notes very easy, but no higher notes at all. I think that register key doesn't work well. Now I need to find a teacher in my region, who can judge it and show me some exercises on the instrument.
FWIW: I play BC in a professional orchestra. I tried synthetic reeds and did not like them on my BC. (I am not a "prude" as I use Legere reeds on my soprano clarinet, they just didn't work for me on bass.)
On my BC I use: Vandoren JAVA (green box) Tenor sax reeds (2.5). I've tried'em all and these work best for me. They give me a centered tone but with a little edge.....just enough for some "presence".
For new BC players I'd go the usual "reed route": start with regular Ricos, graduate to Rico Royals, and then up the food chain...(digging deeper in your pockets as you go - lol) I would start out softer reeds.....

As far as the upper register goes you just have to work with it. For notes above the staff I approach them with the same tongue-position as playing altissimo notes on my tenor - almost vocalizing them...(this is how I do it).

Register keys (I hate them....same goes for saxophone octave keys) are an animal themselves. You should have two register keys. Only one should be open at any given time. If both are open, the upper registers will not work.


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
FWIW: I play BC in a professional orchestra. ... As far as the upper register goes you just have to work with it. For notes above the staff I approach them with the same tongue-position as playing altissimo notes on my tenor - almost vocalizing them...(this is how I do it).
I found this to be true on a vintage (20+ years old) bass clarinet when I started working on bass clarinet. Never got the sound I wanted up there so I cheated. I bought a Selmer Privilege and never looked back. Expensive, hell yes. Worth it, to me, yes. Could immediately play the full range of the instrument as easily as I do on my saxes! YMMV.
I gig for a living.

I tried every brand of synthetic-reed on my tenor sax.

  • They play immediately, no need to wet and work any warping out
  • They last longer
  • The tone isn't as full or complex
  • They have one tone and one tone only, you can't shape them by changing your embouchure or your oral cavity to get different vowel sounds out of them
  • You can't change the tone by changing your breath support for subtones or overblowing for a bit of distortion.
Now, whether or not you want to do these things for your expressiveness is entirely up to you. But with a synthetic reed, you won't be able to.

Of the syn reeds I tried, I disliked the Carbon the least.

Insights and incites by Notes
I'm strictly an amateur player, but I play quite extensively in several ensembles. I use Legere European cut on my soprano clari. I agree with the pro factors listed, but I can't agree on the business of only having one tone. It took a while before I found the ideal reed/mouthpiece combination, but now that I have I find that I can easily get great flexibility of tone. I don't find them as good on bass clari.
If I were still giving lessons, I would encourage my students to learn on a cane reed and not try a plastic one until they have learned to get maximum expression out of the cane.

Starting with plastic, there would be no way to know what expressive devices they are missing.

I'm thinking that if players like Stan Getz and Stanley Turrentine couldn't shape the sound of individual notes, I wouldn't enjoy their playing nearly as much as I do.

But that's just me. There is definitely more than one right way to make music.

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