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Author Topic: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience  (Read 151 times)

Offline windydankoff

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Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« on: December 12, 2020, 03:28:50 PM »
As a clarinet experimenter, I am tossing around many interactive variables. Synthetic reeds make my work far less confusing, by eliminating the constant variability of wet cane. As a performer, I am equally appreciative. My clarinets sit for hours in a dry environment ... and then ... I just pick it up and blow!

Due to a jaw weakness, my reed search is focused on soft reeds for low blowing resistance. Reeds that are too hard cause me pain, literally. Only one brand I tried gives me the full quality of performance (easily, at least to altissimo G).  I discovered my favorite reed and cannot imagine going back to the 20th century.

Here, I summarize my experience with various brands RELATIVE TO MY NEED for low resistance. I am using standard classical French and vintage American mouthpieces.

MY winner is ...

FIBERREED  (Harry Hartmann) - Dannie at the USA office sent me an assortment to try. The one that sings for me is the Carbon Classic, grade S. It feels like beginner-soft, which I need. However, I can play past altissimo G which I could not do well with any other soft reed. The quality of tone and expressive control is beyond what I thought possible for a soft reed. In two days, I became a better player! A bit of texture makes it feel comfortable and secure. So far I have 3 months on two of them and they are going strong. Yes, it looks bizarre. My theory:  It is an efficient spring, being thinner than normal, and hard. So, it vibrates with less energy loss than wet cane or other synths. Also they seem to work with a good variety of mouthpieces.
    USA site:   https://www.fiberreedusa.com/Carbon-Classic-French-Boehm-Clarinet-Fiberreed-p/hhfr-cc-fc.htm  Contact: Dannie Hofmann

Fibracell - These were very pleasing for 1 year, but for two more years, I had quality problems. They are truly soft as described. I started with 1 and graduated to 1.5 (equivalent to typical 2). They sound good, but not as consistent nor as good in altissimo as Fiberreed.
  Source: http://www.fibracelldirect.com and others

Légère - I heard that the European Signature Cut is a favorite. Website shows it to be the least resistant of their reeds. I tried a 2.5 (the softest). It was much to hard for me.
       https://www.legere.com/products/clarinet-reeds/
      Note:  Amazon sells some returned ones at reduced prices

Forestone - The "extra-soft" I got is is much too hard.

Bari - have not tried.

Bravo - cheap, easy to blow, sound OK, good for beginners.

D'Addario Venn - I ordered one from WWBW March 2020 when they were first introduced. They have good reviews - from sax players (clarinet is more fussy).  The soft grade felt stiff as a popsicle stick. They sent me another one. Nearly as hard, like a 4 at least, causing me immediate jaw pain. I wrote to the company. They sent a nice letter explaining that they had some problems and here is a third one BUT it is EXACTLY the SAME. I think they are down for pandemic and have not responded again. Hopefully this will get straightened out, because they are a reputable manufacturer. It looks like cane but sandwiched between two glossy plastic skins. It feels slippery on the lip. Also, the tough skin on front and back makes it the only synthetic that cannot be sanded or scraped for adjustment.

That is my personal experience. Add yours?
« Last Edit: December 31, 2020, 05:35:17 AM by windydankoff »
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Offline LarryS

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Re: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2020, 06:43:47 AM »
Interesting, I've not heard of half of those brands. My experience for what its worth. I struggled for a couple of years finding good cane reeds, Rico and Vandoren mostly (I need to try other cane brands) but then I bit the bullet and made what was for me an expensive purchase, a Legere European cut strength 2.5. It totally transformed my playing, made life so much easier! Definitely worth the extra money.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2020, 01:18:01 PM by LarryS »
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2020, 07:05:33 PM »
I've tried Fibracell, Legere, and Bari

Fibracell: the most pleasant and easy to use. Good sound, looks like a real reed.
--used on Bb, Alto, and Bass clarinets

Legere: okay, too plasticky for my taste. Feels like a piece of plastic, which it is.
--used on Eb, Bb, and Contra-alto clarinets

Bari: reasonable, but not preferred. It has a very strange texture to it which isn't great but it is what it is.
--used on Bass clarinets

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Offline Abraxas

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Re: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2020, 09:34:38 PM »
I'm enjoying the old Plasticovers I have from Rico. Had them lying around for many (10 +) years on mpcs. Pick it up and it plays without any priming. Hope the newer one are the same. I'm too much of a novice to offer any critique on tone or other characteristics. Cheap and they last forever.

Offline Airflyte

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Re: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2020, 06:01:00 AM »
DAddario Venn - My copy received in the mail had a warped tip. Never tried it. Looked like a Fibracell. I may try again.

New Rico Plasticovers - giving these a go for soprano sax. So far so good! The new coating appears to be more durable than the old formula. Time will tell. Tone does seem different but not objectionable.

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Offline Dibbs

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Re: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2020, 07:52:31 AM »
DAddario Venn - My copy received in the mail had a warped tip. Never tried it. Looked like a Fibracell. I may try again.

New Rico Plasticovers - giving these a go for soprano sax. So far so good! The new coating appears to be more durable than the old formula. Time will tell. Tone does seem different but not objectionable.

The new plasticovers can't possibly sound any worse than the old ones.  They were truly awful.

Offline windydankoff

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Re: Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2020, 06:03:32 AM »
Lesson: There's no "best" reed among cane or synthetics – only a best reed for the individual. Like a shoe, it must match the physiology and the "terrain".

Physiology includes the pattern of your lip muscles as they tense, the angle of the instrument to the mouth, and the quality of your breath support. The "terrain" is the curvature of the mouthpiece facing, and its inner shaping. The musical style may be a factor too. And volume  – Do you prioritize low volume, so you can practice without disturbing others? High volume to be heard over a band? Ideally, you can maximize the dynamic range.

Best approach I think, is to keep trying until you find a reed that exceeds your expectations. Try them with various mouthpieces too, if you can. Plan to return some where it's allowed, or to lose a few $. Most likely, it will be worthwhile in the end.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2021, 10:06:04 AM by windydankoff »
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