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To be honest, it has been difficult narrowing down this topic to one thing. It would be much easier to talk about multiple items, as the reed is essential to a good tone and success on the saxophone. However, I feel it’s important to sift through everything and get down to one basic item that will help every beginner succeed. Here it is!
Not all reeds are created equal. I’m not just referring to brand, but strength. Generally speaking, the vast majority of saxophone players use the following reeds strengths: 2.5, 3, 3.5, and 4. With different brands, you may have various measurements, but these are the basics.
How it Works
Here’s how reed strength works. The lower the number the less resistance the reed provides. Or, you can think of it in different terms. The lower the reed number, the easier it may be to play.
How it Affects Your Playing
When beginning on the saxophone it’s essential to have a reed that will help you succeed. If a beginner started with a 4 strength, they would probably think the saxophone is too hard to play, and possibly quit. That’s why we recommend starting with a 2.5 strength reed. It will be easier to play, which will allow you to focus on fingerings and reading music.
Graduating from 2.5
There are various strengths available for a reason. As you become more comfortable with the saxophone on the 2.5, you’ll notice that your tone may be a little buzzy when it did not have that issue before. The reason for this is because of your growing maturity as a saxophone player. This buzzy tone can be one sign that it’s time to change reed strengths. We recommend trying the next strength up: 3.
Your New Reed Strength
Many times, saxophone students will want to go back to the 2.5 reed after playing a 3 strength for a couple of minutes. Why? Because it will provide more resistance and it’s harder to play. Don’t be tempted to go back to the 2.5 reed when you’re ready to move on to the 3! Give the strength 3 an entire week of playing, and you’ll be more comfortable with it by the end of that time.
The Right Size
If you wore a size 10 shoe, and noticed that basketball players wore a size 15, would you jump up to a 15 because it would help you play like a pro? Of course not. If a professional saxophone player uses a strength 2, or a strength 4, you should not choose the same reed strength because that's what they are using. Find the right size reed like the right size shoe. Using the correct size will help you succeed.
The results of starting at a 2.5 reed will help you get to the best start possible. The tone will be easy to produce, allowing you to focus on different aspects of your playing. We don’t want you thinking of too many things at once; this can be overwhelming and discouraging. Once you find the right fit for reed strength there are many benefits. Here are a few:
- Improved tone
- Improved intonation
- Faster articulation
Your Reed Strength
What strength reed do you use? What has been your experience with various reed strengths? What benefits have you found through your exploration? Feel free to answer these questions in the comment section below. Or, if you have further questions about reed strength, please let us know!
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