Want to Make a Fabulous Sound On The Clarinet?

Start With the Reed!

 Tips on How to Put a Reed on a Clarinet Mouthpiece

in 10 Steps

1. Take time to handle your reed with care.

2. Make the reed moist but not soggy. Put the thin end in your mouth for a few seconds before it goes on the mouthpiece.

3. Handle and adjust the reed by the base or  sides at the bottom – never by the tip of the reed

4. Put the reed absolutely central to the mouthpiece, and straight with the side rails of the mouthpiece

​5. Put the tip of the reed at the tip of the mouthpiece. Press the reed with the flat thumb towards the tip. See the faint black line of the mouthpiece – the reed is then in the best place to make the best sound.

​6. Slide the ligature down the back of the mouthpiece to avoid touching the reed.

7.Place the ligature central to the reed making sure the screws are not on the side of the mouthpiece.

8.Bring the ligature down the reed to below where the reed is shaved.

9.Tighted the ligature screws so the reed is kept securely in place – without nipping the reed.

10.Protect the reed and mouthpiece. Slide the mouthpiece cap down the back of the mouthpiece and cover both the reed  and the mouthpiece tip, until you start to play

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Understand Your Reed

12 Important Reeds Facts To Help Your Playing

1. Reeds Do Break But Can Last a Long Time

Reeds do Break! There is no point feeling frustrated or upset if the reed splits, chips, or simply stops working but with some extra care and special handling you will extend the life of your reed.

2. Reeds Are Made from Canes

The reed is a part of a large bamboo cane, grown in countries with warm climates. France has a good reputation for growing the finest quality canes. You may have some canes in your garden that are used for propping up the tomato plant or runner beans. The canes used for clarinet reeds are much wider. When a reed is made, a machine cuts a piece from the side of the large cane and then shaves this piece to shape it into your reed – gradually thinner and thinner towards the tip.

3. Vibrating Air Makes the Sound

When the air is pushed through the mouthpiece, the tip of the reed vibrates, making the air vibrate. The vibrating air then travels down the clarinet to produce the fabulous sound. We want to treat the reed with care to make sure it can work as well as possible.

4. Moist Reeds Work Best.

Sometimes people put the tip of the reed in a small glass of water to make it moist. Other people choose to put the tip of the reed in their mouth for a few seconds. Whichever way you choose, make the reed moist, never soggy.

5. Reeds Are Handled by Their Base

Hold one of your reed up to the light and you will notice that you can see light coming through it – mostly at the tip where the reed is thinnest. We hold the reed by the thickest part, (which is by the base and sides) to prevent chipping or splitting it for the best sound.

6. The Flat Side of the Reed Sits on the Flat Table of the Mouthpiece

Remember this – The flat side of the reed goes on the flat reed table of the mouthpiece. The thin end of the reed lines up with the thin end of the mouthpiece. Easy !

7. The Reed Is Held GENTLY in Place by the Ligature

Notice the lines that go up and down on the reed. They can be seen on both the front and the back. They are the fibres of the reed and they go from the base to the tip. Compare two reeds together. No two reeds look the same. They are unique and different and their fibres look different. They have been cut from a living piece of cane that has grown from the ground. The fibres that vibrate at the tip of the reed are the same fibres that extend to the bottom of the reed.

The way the ligature is used affects the sound. When the screws of the ligature gently hold the reed in place the tip of the reed is able to vibrate as much as it can. Nipping the fibres at the base of the reed prevents those same fibres vibrating well at the tip of the reed.

8. Ligatures come in different styles

Some ligatures are designed to be adjusted by the screws at the back of the mouthpiece, on the opposite side to the reed, whilst the conventional ligatures have the screws on the same side as the reed. The ligature is placed central to the reed and mouthpiece, with the screws in their perfect place – where they are meant to be, depending on the kind of ligature style you have. The screws must not be off centre to the reed.

9. The Thick Part of the Reed Is Where the Ligature Sits.

Notice the distinctive line going across the reed. The best place for the ligature is just below the line from where the reed is shaved. Putting the ligature too high, above where the reed is shaved prevents the reed vibrating well.

10. Reeds Are Graded

Reeds are graded by thickness – soft, medium and hard. These strengths are indicated by numbers. The lowest number is for the thinnest reed, which will be the softest reed and the easiest to play. The grading numbers rise as the reeds get thicker. The recommended reed strength for an absolute beginner clarinet player is number 1½. Soft reeds are easy to play at the beginning and the sound is produced with a small amount of effort.

11. Reeds Are ALWAYS Protected by the Mouthpiece Cap When Not Being Played

It's a good idea to get into the habit of replacing the mouthpiece cap immediately the clarinet is not being played because It is so easy to ruin a good reed by catching it on something.The mouthpiece cap protects both the tip of the mouthpiece and the reed – both of which are delicate and need special care.

12. Reeds Are Always Dried After Playing

At the end of each playing session the reed must be dried along with the rest of the clarinet. This is for good reed care and for reed care and for hygine reasons. Dry both the front and the back with a clean cloth. Lightly pull the cloth from the base to the tip in one movement, taking special care at the tip end.

To Summarise

Tips on Now to Put the Reed on a Clarinet Mouthpiece

Handling the reed with care will avoid it chipping, and make it last the reed for a long time.

Moistening the reed before it is played makes the reed vibrate better.

Placing the reed perfectly on the mouthpiece will enable you to play with ease and make a better sound.