The bassoon and contrabassoon are popular double-reed woodwind instruments found in orchestral, concert band, and chamber music, as well as in jazz and pop music (though not as commonly). A proper bassoon reed is essential to play the bassoon to its full potential.
Since the bassoon is such a popular instrument, it's no surprise that there are plenty of reed options for student, intermediate and professional bassoonists.
With such a wide variety of choices, knowing the market's top brands is useful. Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgment. In this article, I'll share my take on the top bassoon (and contrabassoon) reed brands.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the bassoon reeds
- Longevity of the bassoon reeds
- Variety of bassoon reeds available
- Accessibility of the bassoon reeds (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let's list out the brands.
The Top 8 Best Bassoon Reed Brands Are:
Let's detail each of these brands and explain why they belong in the top 8 best bassoon reed brands. I'll share their country of origin, some history, an example of a notable reed, and a link to their official website.
• Top 11 Best Bassoon Brands On The Market
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Vandoren is, nowadays, a synonym with excellence in reeds. For the past 11 decades, the company has been dedicated to growing its offer by utilizing alternative materials and researching tirelessly to create the perfect reed for wind and woodwind instruments.
This relentless search for excellence results in the company exporting 90% of its production to over 100 countries worldwide. Moreover, Vandoren achieved legendary status as a family-owned business. Today, it's in its fourth Van Doren generation, growing even further through bold innovation and uncanny quality.
Brass and woodwind players around the world know that if they're playing a Vandoren in their instrument, the tone and quality are guaranteed.
Notable bassoon reed: Vandoren HB10 Heckel Bassoon Reed
This quintessential double reed has been used in bassoons for generations. It is not a coincidence that this conservatory-level reed has become the go-to option for players around the world.
It is made with original cane grown, harvested, dried, and processed in the South of France. This is what the company has been doing for over a century. But that's not all; the cane used, and the technology applied to the processing offers perfect tuning and is flexible enough to navigate this instrument's broad tonal range easily.
Finally, this reed oozes Vandoren's tonal quality and legacy in every single blow. If you are serious about your playing, you must play with a Vandoren in your instrument.
Perhaps the secret to Jones reeds being one of the most sought-after reeds brands in the world is that the owner and founder was the maestro of the Eastern Washington University Symphony Orchestra for 14 years. Moreover, he received the University's Medal of Honor in 1981.
He built double reeds for his students on his kitchen table during his time there. The difference in sound quality and reliability between Dr. Jones' reeds and commercially available ones was so notorious that he developed a business structure around it.
Nowadays, after over half a century of commitment to excellence and non-stop innovation over a tested and proven model, Jones double reeds continue to be the go-to choice for a generation of bassoon players.
This is the model developed by Jones Reeds for intermediate and advanced players. They are completely handmade from the finest materials, including the handpicked cane. Moreover, the gifted team of testers working in Jones reeds provides the finishing touches to every product, ensuring you receive only the best quality.
A characteristic that sets these reeds apart from the rest is that they provide students with a better response throughout the range of the instrument, covering a vast sonic ground and sounding perfectly in tune at all times. These reeds, available in medium-soft, medium, and medium-hard, are tuned to 440 Hz.
Although the company was founded in the 1950s, the commercial take-off for Chartier came in 1976 when Greg, the eldest son of the founder, took over and expanded from handmade, small-quantity double reeds to synthetic materials and turned into a supplier of raw and partially-finished reeds to other companies in the industry.
This growth in sales allowed Chartier to invest in R&D and state-of-the-art machinery. That being said, this development didn't stop the company from embracing its roots and continuing to train its conscientious workforce to ensure the legendary Chartier quality is never lost.
So, even if the name Chartier wasn't written on it, chances are you have already played through one of these in the past. Therefore, trying the real thing can be a great way to find your next favourite double reed.
For gigging players who need to keep their instruments always ready and in tune, the synthetic material these reeds are made of is nothing short of a miracle. You can forget about weather conditions and also about soaking them; they're always ready to go.
Furthermore, this is a great choice for beginners who need to worry about finding their way around the instrument rather than the reeds. Also, they are great for the outdoors as they are for doublers.
Finally, these reeds are backed up by one of the biggest reed brands in the world and sound as good as they perform.
Hugo Fox wasn't just a remarkable reed maker; he was also an outstanding bassoon player who played for the Chicago Symphony for almost 30 years before retiring in 1949 to fulfill his dream of building the best bassoon the world had ever seen.
His main motivation to make this life-changing twist was that nobody knows better what a musician needs than another musician.
When the decade changed in the 1960s, Alan Fox took over the company and decided to invest in enlisting top artists to work as advisors for the R&D team. Therefore, musicians are involved in every part of the process of Fox products.
As a result, Fox has become a synonym for quality, legacy, and tradition that musicians around the world use to reach the highest performance standards.
Notable bassoon reed: Renard Contrabassoon Reed
This one's a bit different, as it's designed for contrabassoon. Nonetheless, it's worth a mention.
The Renard line of bassoons by Fox is one of the few exceptions to the rule of “paying more for more quality and better sound” that goes across the entire scope of the musical instrument industry. This is because Fox employs the same attention to detail and care in all its lines, regardless of the price tag.
Therefore, these reeds are handmade with the best materials but won't break the bank. Moreover, Fox describes them as the best reeds for bassoon players who don't yet make their own because they are the next best thing after making your own.
Fox is a brand you can trust; try their reeds today and feel the difference in your lips and in your pocket.
Légère was born because two Ph.D. holders got together to create the best reeds the world has ever seen. Besides having a Ph.D. in Chemistry, Guy Légère is also an accomplished musician who has played for the Brampton Symphony Orchestra.
During his years as a musician, he strived to find good-quality reeds and decided to find the perfect composition to create the ultimate reed and help fellow musicians struggle only with the playing part.
Today, over 2 decades after these scientists joined forces, the reeds made by Légère are among the most revolutionary, best-sounding, and most reliable in the world.
Notable bassoon reed: Légère Bassoon Reed Classic
Several characteristics make these reeds the go-to option for professional bassoon players around the world.
To begin with, they are made with a computer-controlled precision cutting machine that cuts them in halves and bonds them together with another digitally-controlled system. Therefore, the reeds are never moulded or stamped, giving them the perfect combination of tip thickness, heart, and flexibility.
But that's not all, since the material has been chemically altered to deliver perfect response right from the box without the need to be moistened and remain inalterable in any weather conditions.
Légère bassoon reeds are the next step in bassoon reeds; if you haven't played through them yet, you should.
Forrests has been a Berkley institution since its doors opened, offering woodwind artists, enthusiasts, hobbyists, and curious with everything needed to become proficient bassoon, oboe, and clarinet players.
Soon after opening, the word spread that the technicians working in the shop were elite level. Thus, musicians from San Francisco orchestras, conservatories, and universities visited them with their instruments. From there, the evolution into making their reeds was only a natural step.
Nowadays, Forrests reeds are famous in the entire state, and people from other countries play their beloved instruments through them. If you haven't tried them yet, they are a must for all serious bassoon players.
Notable bassoon reed: Forrests Black Label Bassoon Reed
The German-style professional reeds are the favourite of professional players because they have a stable and rather dark sound that remains constant throughout the entire register of the instrument. Moreover, these reeds are great for intermediate players because they can guarantee an even sound and a loud volume while staying perfectly in tune, regardless of the repertoire.
These reeds are available in soft, medium-soft, medium, and medium-hard. Furthermore, Forrests reeds tend to be firmer than other brands. Therefore, you can always try going one gauge less with them than you usually do with other brands.
Finally, if you are unsure what size to get, give Forrests a call, and they will guide you to the perfect choice.
What sets Clark reeds apart from the rest of the reeds on this list is that they are handmade by a remarkable bassoon player with a doctorate in musical arts and bassoon performance.
This is not a subtle difference but an important asset of this brand that takes no rush in its orders. You'll have to wait between one and two weeks for your order to be made and shipped before you can enjoy it.
This way, Dr. Dale Clark ensures the best quality in the world in every single unit leaving his facilities. Therefore, you can expect a one-of-a-kind reed that can grant you top-notch sound and uncanny reliability.
Notable bassoon reed: Clark SP – Stephen Paulson
This reed was developed by Dr. Clark and Stephen Paulson, the principal bassoonist of the San Francisco Symphony.
This is the perfect choice for those who play the principal bassoon or aspire to because the pitch in the tenor range is kept higher while resonance and response are kept throughout the entire range of the instrument.
Moreover, the reed features a Mechler-type shape with a thicker profile than the rest of the Clark reeds and a narrower tip for enhanced control and comfort. This professional-oriented reed can take your playing to the next level.
Advantage not only manufactures and sells reeds; the company specializes in staples, thread, and cane for manufacturing as well. In this vein, the company is perfect for beginners, intermediate, advanced, and professional reeds since they offer a wide variety of models not only made by Advantage but also by most of the biggest reed brands in the world.
Furthermore, Advantage provides a plethora of small-scale manufacturers with the elements to manufacture the reeds. Therefore, it is safe to say that even if it didn't have stamped the “Advantage” logo, you have played Advantage reeds before. Maybe it is time to try the real thing and see the difference.
Notable bassoon reed: The Advantage Synthetic Bassoon Reed
Made in mesmerizing turquoise and pink thread, this synthetic bassoon reed is crafted entirely with the perfect high-quality plastic to need no moisturizing before playing but delivering the sound you would expect from a top-notch reed. Moreover, since the material remains unaffected by weather conditions, musicians who often play outdoors will find it a great solution for their gigs.
Furthermore, the company strives to keep prices low and performance high; therefore, you can expect a professional-quality product that won't break the bank and will deliver consistently night after night.