How to Choose Saxophone Reed Strength: The Definitive Guide

How to Choose Saxophone Reed Strength: The Definitive Guide.

One of the biggest myths in the massively big subject of reeds is that the strength of reed is a measure of the thickness of the cane or the player's ability. So today's topic is precisely that—reed strength—so you know what a strong reed is and how to choose saxophone reed strength.

Reed strength is a very important subject in all saxophones—as I'm sure you'll agree.

We all know that reeds make our break your saxophone sound.

How to Choose Saxophone Reed Strength: The Definitive Guide

What Does the Strength of a Reed Mean? What do Saxophone Reed Numbers Mean?

The strength of reed—the numbering system you see on the back of the reed—is not about the actual thickness and gauge of the reed. It's actually a measure of resistance to breath pressure. The higher the number the stiffer the cane of the reed, the more resistant it is.

This is what the strength of the reed indicates—a position on the resistance system. A harder reed with a higher number is going to withstand a much stronger current of air before it vibrates.

Another way of looking at it is to imagine that you've got a scale of resistance.

If you apply that scale to a strength 1 1/2 and a stregth 3 1/2, the 3 1/2 will start vibrating further along in terms of breath pressure and end much further along than the strength 1 1/2.

And there's going to be a cross-over region where the same amount of air pressure will vibrate both reeds. But in that cross-over area, you're going to produce a quieter sound on that harder 3 1/2 reed while maxing out the softer 1 1/2 reed with that same given air pressure.

The Strength of the Reed is NOT a Measure of the Player's Ability

The idea that the stregth of the reed is a measure of the players ability is, again NOT TRUE.

You could have raced through the strengths when you start out.

So if, say, you start out on a 1 and end up to 4 in just a short period of time, that doesn't mean that you've suddenly picked up everything you need to advance your skill level within that duration.

You might feel like that, because there's this sort of feeling of progression as you go through the strengths, but that's just that—a feeling.

So that's how the strength of reeds work.

Lets

The Saxophone Reed Strength Comparison Chart

It is impossible to get the exact equivalent of reed strength between various brands and models in the market. So the following chart only gives a general comparative insight into reed strengths by brand as accurately as possible.

Saxophone Reed Strength Comparison Chart

Reed Strength (Softest to Hardest)
Brand 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0
Frederick L. Hemke 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
La Voz S MS M MH H
Légère B-flat Soprano 1.75 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0 4.25 4.5
Légère E-flat Alto 1.75 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0 4.25 4.5
Légère E-flat Alto Studio Cut 1.5 1.75 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5
Légère B-flat Tenor 1.75 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0 4.25 4.5
Légère B-flat Tenor Studio Cut 1.5 1.75 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5
Légère E-flat Baritone 1.75 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0 4.25 4.5 4.75 5.0
Légère B-flat Tenor Signature Series 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0
Légère E-flat Alto Signature Series 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0
Légère B-flat Soprano Signature Series 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5 3.75 4.0
Légère E-flat Baritone Signature Series 2.0 2.25 2.5 2.75 3.0 3.25 3.5
Plasticover 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 5.0
Rico 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
Rico Reserve 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
Rico Select Jazz 2S 2M 2H 3S 3M 3H 4S 4M 4H
Rico Royal 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 5.0
Rico Grand Concert Select 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 5.0
Vandoren 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0
Vandoren V16 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 5.0
Vandoren JAVA 1.0 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
ZZ 1.0 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
Sources:
Legere Reeds - https://www.legere.com/need-to-know/strength-charts/
Rico Reeds - http://www.ricoreeds.com/upload/ReedStrengthCharts_Tip_2102.pdf
Rico Reeds - http://www.ricoreeds.com/upload/RIBR_RIL0010_Strength_Comparison_12597.pdf

How to Choose Saxophone Reed Strength

storytime...

I think we all feel this sort of urgency to produce the biggest, fullest, smokiest sound and the feeling that this is going to come from a really hard reed.

Well, I'm not saying don't go for hard reeds, because they do work for some people in certain contexts. But I would say this:

For most player's my advice is that they should progress through the various different strengths and eventually settle on something that's somewhere midway up the scale that's going to give you a nice balance of everything.

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DuckingBeast

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I've played the alto and then the tenor saxophone for close to a decade now. I gig with several bands around the world for most months in a year. I created SqueakingSax to share with you some interesting tips and techniques I've picked up along the way.

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