Two reed brands that have the best reputation in the clarinet world are Vandoren clarinet reeds and Rico reeds. Rico is a company owned by D'Addario, another music company that makes clarinet reeds. This article will discuss Rico and D'Addario reeds that I highly recommend to clarinetists of all skill levels.
I have played on D'Addario's Reserve Traditional clarinet reeds and I recommend them to clarinetists who have a strong embouchure and air support. The Reserve Reeds offer a beautiful, round sound that projects extremely well. I have not played on the Rico Reeds (the orange box), but I hear they are very good reeds for beginners.
Rico and D'Addario reeds will come in plastic cases. I highly recommend purchasing a clarinet reed case to keep these reeds safe and in good condition.
Parts of a Reed
Reed terminology is important when learning about different types of clarinet reeds. The descriptions for each reed will discuss different parts of the reed and how each part differs from reed to reed.
The tip of the reed is located at the top of the reed. It is the thinnest and most fragile part of the reed. The tip of the reed is the part that vibrates when air is blown into the mouthpiece.
The vamp of the reed is the portion of the reed that covers the mouthpiece opening. Part of the vamp vibrates, producing the clarinet's sound.
The heart of the reed is the center of the reed. The heart is the core of the clarinet's tone.
The rail is the edge of the reed.
The spine of the reed is the line dividing the reed in half vertically. Much like our own spines, it keeps the reed straight.
Filed vs. Unfiled Reeds
The descriptions for each reed may say that the reed is filed or unfiled. It's important for us clarinetists to understand the difference.
A filed reed has an extra strip of cane removed just below the vamp. A filed reed has extra flexibility and a quick response. Typically, clarinetists who prefer a more resistant and darker-sounding mouthpiece will choose a filed reed because it allows the clarinetist to blow more freely and produce a brighter tone.
An unfiled reed has a distinct "U" shape at the bottom of the vamp. An unfiled reed produces a powerful tone. Typically, clarinetists who prefer an easy-blowing mouthpiece with a moderate to bright tone prefer playing on unfiled reeds.
There is no rule saying which reeds go with which mouthpieces. I recommend finding a mouthpiece that you like first and then matching clarinet reeds to that mouthpiece. Vandoren clarinet mouthpieces and a Vandoren ligature or Rovner clarinet ligature will be very compatible with Rico and D'Addario reeds.
Rico Royal reeds are great clarinet reeds for beginner clarinetists to advanced clarinetists. The Rico Royal reeds are French-filed to provide more freedom of response, especially in the lower register. This file cut also adds more clarity to the sound and aids in making softer attacks easier. Rico Royal reeds are made out of a premium-grade cane that creates a consistent response and playability.
Rico by D'Addario
The Rico by D'Addario reeds were designed for beginner clarinetists and music educators in mind. This Rico reed has a traditional blank and profile that allows the clarinetist's responses to be precise. This reed has an unfiled cut. This reed is made out of the most flexible cane to improve ease of blowing for beginner clarinetists.
D'Addario Reserve Reeds
Reserve reeds are made from naturally-grown cane from D'Addario's own foreign fields. The cane is then cut to its tightest tolerance to offer the most consistent performance. D'Addario's Reserve Reeds are only available for Bb clarinet. All D'Addario Reserve reeds come in strengths from 2.0 to 4.0 with special sizes like 3.5+ and 4.0+ strengths. Reserve Reeds come in boxes of ten reeds.
The D'Addario Traditional Reserve clarinet reeds are great reeds for intermediate to advanced clarinetists. The thick blank and rounded tip corners provide a rich and warm tone. The narrow rail and shorter vamp offer consistency in response time. The traditional tip thickness makes articulation attacks easier. The heavy spine provides dynamic flexibility and amazing tone quality in all three registers.
The D'Addario Classic clarinet reeds are great reeds for advanced to professional clarinetists. This reed has a thick blank that provides a rich and warm tone. The heavy spine provides dynamic flexibility and consistent tone quality in all three registers. The narrow rail slope aids in consistent responses. The thicker tip adds support and makes articulation attacks much easier. The corners of the tip are squared to also aid in support. Overall, the Reserve Classic reed will provide the clarinetist with a darker depth of tone.
The D'Addario Evolution clarinet reeds have the thickest blank out of all of the Reserve reeds. This Evolution Reserve reed produces a very round sound. Its heavy spine amplifies projection. The tick tip enhances articulation and provides a greater tonal warmth and flexiblity.
Rico and D'Addario reeds are great reeds for clarinetists of all skill levels. Rico and D'Addario have a variety of clarinet reeds that have unique things to offer to the clarinetist's sound. I hope you find a Rico and D'Addario clarinet reed that is perfect for you!