The clarinet is one of the more popular woodwind instruments, finding itself in orchestras, chamber music groups, military and marching bands, jazz bands and more. A proper clarinet reed is essential to play the clarinet to its full potential.
There are plenty of reed options for the student, intermediate and professional clarinetists.
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 judgement. In this article, I'll share my take on the top clarinet 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 clarinet reeds
- Longevity of the clarinet reeds
- Variety of clarinet reeds available
- Accessibility of the clarinet 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 10 best clarinet reed brands are:
Let's detail each of these brands and explain why they belong in the top 10 best clarinet reed brands. I'll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable reed, and a link to their official website.
Being around for well over a century, Vandoren has been able to explore a plethora of materials trying to come up with the perfect reed. Since the brand is synonymous with quality, endurance, and performance, it is arguably fair to say that the company has achieved its goal.
Yet, this wasn't an overnight phenomenon; this family-owned business is in the hands of the fourth generation of Van Dorens. Every generation has pushed the boundaries further, turning Vandoren into the go-to option for professional musicians around the world.
Finally, Vandoren exports 90% of its production to over 100 countries around the globe; if you haven't already, it is time to try their reeds and hear the difference with your own clarinet.
Notable clarinet reed: Vandoren Black Master Traditional Reeds (link to check the price on Amazon)
Do you usually blow through Viennese-style, very closed Austrian mouthpieces? These are the perfect reeds for you because they offer a thicker and wider cut than Vandoren's legendary White Master Reeds.
Moreover, they are available in all strengths going from super soft “2” to the almighty “6+” to suit all playing styles and capabilities.
Finally, these reeds result from decades of relentless innovation, uncanny commitment to excellence, and a century-long tradition. If you haven't already, trying Vandorens in your instrument is a must.
Official website: vandoren.fr
Eugene Van Doren founded Vandoren reeds in 1905. Currently, the headquarters are in Paris, France.
To begin with, D'addario is one of the world's biggest, best-known string and musical accessories manufacturers and retailers. They not only make aftermarket strings but also OEM for countless brands.
Therefore, the Rico Royal acquisition in 2004 wasn't surprising for anybody. Moreover, the brand bought the brand and maintained the production in the hands of the experts, including the sourcing plants in Argentina and France.
Rico Royal reeds are among the best in the world. Moreover, backed up by D'addario's century-long quality tradition makes them a must-try before buying.
Notable clarinet reed: Royal By D'Addario Alto Clarinet Reeds (link to check the price on Amazon)
Made with D'addario's proprietary blanking process, performed by state-of-the-art machinery designed specifically for the matter, the cutting, sanding, and inspecting process in these reeds is at a new level than the rest. Moreover, they are sourced from the finest materials and can help beginners, and advanced players hit perfect notes easier.
If you haven't already, trying a Royal reed in your clarinet can change your tone effortlessly.
Official website: daddario.com
The story behind the D'addario family can be traced to the 1600s. That's how long this family has been making strings. The D'addario company as we know it today was founded by John Jr. and Jim D'addario. Current world headquarters are in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, USA.
The reed-making industry followed the rest of the world in sourcing alternate materials to enhance quality, performance, and endurance. In this vein, Légère is the result of two Ph.D. holders getting together to make the best reed in the world by manipulating its chemical composition.
That being said, Guy Légère is also an accomplished musician with a past in the Brampton Symphony Orchestra. This past as a professional musician allowed him to distinguish a top-notch reed from a beginner-oriented piece.
Therefore, every Légère reed to leave the factory is not only a technological advance for musicians but also a great reed to make amazing music with.
Notable clarinet reed: Légère European Cut for Clarinet (link to check the price on Amazon)
This is the brand's most flexible reed. This is, in large, because it is cut into a unique profile that allows players to achieve a brighter, more colourful, and clean sound without losing the instrument's natural warmth and mid-low frequencies.
But that's not all, since the flexibility and ease of use allow players to glide from one register to another (low to high or high to low) effortlessly. Moreover, the flexibility in the material will allow it to deliver the same precision and uncanny range night after night.
Finally, most Légère endorsers choose this model to play on the world's most demanding stages.
Official website: legere.com
Dr. Guy Légère and Dr. Mark Kortschot founded the brand in 1998. Currently, headquarters are in Ontario, Canada.
After being a school teacher for 15 years, David set out on a mission: get their students affordable, well-made reeds so they could get started with their instrument. This was around 1965. He worked with Arnold Brilliant to develop Fibercane, a composite material that could replace real cane.
The Selmer Corporation used Fibercane for reeds from 1966 to 2005. On the other hand, David kept trying to come up with the perfect reed material, and, by 1993, he presented Fibracell to the world. This new material can last up to 6 times as much as cane reeds and doesn't need any real cane to be made.
Because of performance, endurance, and price, trying Fibercell reeds is a must for all clarinetists.
Notable clarinet reed: Fibracell Premier Synthetic Clarinet Reeds (link to check the price on Amazon)
Fibracell has established the brand as an industry standard because of endurance, price, performance, and reliability.
The secret is that the sophisticated formula made of aerospace materials is designed specifically to duplicate the natural cane but in a more robust way.
Therefore, you can expect a stiff, sound-absorbing reed made with Aramid fibres suspended in a resin formulation. This offers a lightweight, low-price solution for all your reed needs.
Official website: fibracelldirect.com
David and Joyce Shaffer founded Fibracell in 1993. Currently, headquarters are in San Marcos, California, USA.
Yamaha is a corporation that applies the same deal of attention to the state-of-the-art ABS brakes of their motorcycles as the performance of their synthetic clarinet reeds. As a result, whenever the Yamaha logo is present, all musicians know they can expect quality, performance, and reliability.
Furthermore, the Yamaha legend was born in the music territory, and the three intertwined tuning forks are a great reminder of that. Therefore, the Yamaha music division has been making excellence a policy for the past 130+ years. Isn't it about time you give it a try?
Notable clarinet reed: Yamaha CLR 30 (link to check the price at Yamaha)
The idea behind the creation of Yamaha's CLR series was to create a reed that could last longer while performing better for its entire lifespan. Such is the case of the 3.0 or medium version of this series; it can respond perfectly in every corner of the instrument's sonic range, enhancing the player's scope and sounding natural the entire performance.
Yamaha is well-known for being a state-of-the-art company introducing innovations to the world rather than following trends; reeds are no exception to that rule.
Official website: yamaha.com
Yamaha was founded by Torakusu Yamaha in 1887. Currently, headquarters are in Hamamatsu, Japan.
Being the son of a famous trombone player with a busy schedule, turning into a professional musician touring the world with his clarinet wasn't something unexpected for Tom Alexander. Yet, after 20+ years of doing it for a living, he developed back and joint problems that forced his fruitful career to a full stop.
Tom realized he had always struggled to find good reeds that could perform under any and all circumstances.
Therefore, he decided to make his own and opted for a traditional approach: buying his cane from the finest source in the world: the Var region in South France.
As a result, Alexander reeds are the perfect combination of state-of-the-art machinery and the strongest source material in the world. Try one in your clarinet and feel the difference.
Notable clarinet reed: Alexander NY Clarinet Reeds (link to check the price at Woodwind Brasswind)
It took Tom Alexander countless prototypes and over a decade to create this reed model received critical acclaim in 2007. Its creation resulted from a combined effort between Tom Alexander and saxophone legend Michael Becker. Moreover, it was also sent, as a prototype, to worldwide endorsers to collect feedback after testing them on the road.
What you can expect from this reed is a bigger, bolder tone because of its redesigned profile and tip. Finally, since the tip is somewhat harder than the rest of the reeds offered by Alexander, the sustaining power, especially in the high-end of the horn, is more notorious.
Official website: gebr-alexander.de
Tom Alexander founded the Alexander brand in the early 1990s. Currently, headquarters are in New York, USA.
Robert Giardinelli was an Italian immigrant who opened up his first brass repair shop in New York in 1946 and managed to make mouthpieces and repair instruments for some of the biggest names in the history of wind instruments. Furthermore, during the 1980s, his shop was the meeting place for worldwide stars in the city.
Since his departure in 1996, the brand continues to be family-operated. It offers some of the best reeds in the market, which are the obvious outcome of someone who had such an integral and deep understanding of wind instruments as Robert did.
Giardinelli reeds are a step up from any other brand in the market; if you haven't already, you should try them today.
Notable clarinet reed: Giardinelli Clarinet Reeds (link to check the price at Music & Arts)
Giardinelli's tradition of excellence is clear when trying their reeds for the first time. This is because the 40+years of work on woodwind and brass instruments combined with the material sourced from the Var region in South France make them perform flawlessly night after night.
Moreover, the reeds offered by Giardinelli give players uncanny projection and superior control over its big, rich, and full tone with bright high end and rumbling lows.
If you want reeds that won't break the bank but will make your clarinet sound like never before, try Giardinelli reeds today.
Official website: giardinelli.com
Robert Giardinelli founded the brand in 1946. Currently, headquarters are in Frederick, Maryland, USA.
Rigotti is a brand founded in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, where the rivers and streams favour the growth of long, mighty cane trees that the company has been turning into the best reeds in the market for more than half a century.
Moreover, being a family-owned and operated business, the know-how and legacy from the founder, Franco, has been passed on to the next generation, and Daniel Rigotti is the man taking this reed brand into the future.
Rigotti has been making quality reeds for over six decades; isn't it about time you try them?
Notable clarinet reed: Rigotti Gold Reeds for Clarinet (link to check the price on Amazon)
The Rigotti Gold Reeds are the pinnacle of this brand's commitment to quality. Furthermore, they come in such a wide variety of types that any player, regardless of the style and taste, can find a reed to suit their needs.
Moreover, since they are made with the finest cane in the world, the precision level and endurance are uncanny. Finally, the company ensures the bright top end of the clarinet sounds clear and more powerful using Rigotti Golds.
Official website: rigotti.fr
Franco Rigotti founded the company in 1966. Currently, headquarters are in Arago, France.
Harry Hartmann is, before anything else, a bold pioneer. He was among the first players in the 80s who decided to investigate alternative materials to improve reeds' precision, endurance, and playability. Furthermore, he's been testing different compounds since the early 80s.
The company has become a synonym for quality, performance, and innovation.
Harry's revolutionary approach includes going for a hybrid composition between organic and synthetic materials that could create a more stable, reliable, and better-sounding reed.
As a result, you can buy Harry Hartman clarinet reeds made of copper carbon, onyx, hemp, carbon, and the natural classic.
Notable clarinet reed: Harry Hartmann's Fiberreed HEMP Clarinet (link to check the price at Woodwind Brasswind)
This reed by Harry Hartmann utilizes an 80% natural compound from hemp plants to create a bass-oriented, darker, earthy sound that perfectly matches the clarinet's natural warmth. Moreover, since the composition offers 20% of synthetic reinforcement to the already structurally-strong hemp, these reeds can last up to 30 times longer than regular cane reeds.
If you haven't already, it's time to join the hemp revolution with these super-durable clarinet reeds by Harry Hartmann.
Official website: fiberreed.de
Harry Hartmann founded the company in 1993. Currently, headquarters are in Oberaichen, Germany.
The foot of the Andes is one of the best places in the world to grow Arundo Donax, the best cane in the world to make reeds. The company's first move was to grow the best canes on their own plantation to source their products locally. At first, they only exported the material to other reed makers worldwide.
By 1995, they had polished the design to exhaustion when they presented the world with the first Gonzalez reeds, entirely made with pride on Argentinian soil with the best cane in the world.
Nowadays, Gonzalez reeds are used on the most demanding stages in the world.
Notable clarinet reed: Gonzalez Bb Clarinet Classic (link to check the price on Amazon)
The expressiveness that Gonzalez could imprint on these reeds is nothing short of spectacular. Moreover, these clarinet reeds perform flawlessly in every register, thanks to their French scraping.
In this vein, the elasticity and endurance of the Gonzalez Clarinet Classic reeds give them the kind of performance you would expect in reeds with a much higher price tag.
Finally, these are the perfect reeds for students since they cover the entire tonal range of the instrument effortlessly.
Official website: gonzalezreeds.com
Juan José González and his son, Juan Pablo founded the company in 1983. Currently, the headquarters are in Mendoza, Argentina.