What is the best beginner saxophone reed for new sax players?
When you’re starting out on saxophone, getting your reed wrong can make the difference between making great progress, and getting frustrated and even giving up.
Your reed is THAT Important.
So I’m going to show you how to choose the best beginner saxophone reed for you, and how to make sure it’s set up correctly so you can make great progress on your saxophone.
In Sax School I often get questions from students about how to get a better sound on their saxophone. And it’s often down to their reed choice.
Saxophone reeds made from cane are the most common type of reed.
Cane reeds are a great choice for beginner players. They aren’t too expensive, so you can try out lots of different strengths and brands of reed to find the one that suits you. You ‘ll also break a lot of reeds when you’re starting out!
What Size Reed
Cane reeds start at around 1.5, and they go up in half sizes (2, 2.5, 3, 3.5 and so on).
As a beginner saxophone player, a size 1.5 reed is the right reed to start with. This is a nice soft reed, and it’s the easiest reed for you to get a nice clear sound on your saxophone. You’ll probably find that you move onto the next size up pretty quickly, but a 1.5 is the best beginner reed.
There are loads of different reed brands out there, such as D’Addario, Marca, Vandoren, Rico. It can be confusing, but it’s a great idea to try a few different brands. Our friends at sax.co.uk offer a reed selection pack, so you can try reeds from different brands in the same size, which is a great idea.
You’ll find that reeds from different brands will play differently, even if they are the same size, so it’s best to try a few brands to find the one that is best for you.
Your Reed Set-Up
- Make sure the reed is wet
- Put your ligature onto your mouthpiece first – you’re less likely to break your reed
- Hold your mouthpiece with the flat part facing you
- Slide the reed underneath the ligature, so that the flat side of the reed fits on to the flat side of the mouthpiece.
- Adjust the reed so it is even on the mouthpiece and just below the tip of the mouthpiece.
- Make sure the ligature is below the bump in the mouthpiece then tighten so it is finger-tight.
When to Change to a Harder Reed
When you’ve been playing saxophone for a while, you’ll notice that the muscles around your mouth will develop and get stronger. You might feel as though your sound is a bit thin and weak, and you might even struggle to get the high notes on your saxophone. These are all signs that it’s time to switch to a slightly harder reed – a size 2 is perfect.
Reed too Hard or Soft?
How can you tell if your reed is too hard, or too soft?
Signs your reed is too soft
- Struggling to get the high notes, or palm key notes (high D, E, F)
- High notes sounding thin
Try going up half a level.
Signs your reed is too hard
- A breathy, airy sound because air is escaping around the mouthpiece
- Tired muscles around your mouth
- Sore lip
Try going down half a level.
Most players will begin on a 1.5 reed, and settle on a 2 or 2.5 reed. If you play a much stronger reed, it takes a massive amount of control to maintain your tone and sound on your saxophone.
Then it’s down to strengthening your embouchure by working on long tones, for example, to get the great saxophone sound you’re looking for.
Cane vs Synthetic Reeds
I’m a big fan of synthetic reeds, in fact I’m a Légère artist. I use their Signature synthetic reeds on all my saxophones.
Here are a few things to think about when choosing cane or synthetic reeds.
- Synthetic reeds are much more expensive
- …but will last MUCH longer – so I think they’re better value
- It can be tricky to find the right size synthetic reed – because they cost more, you might not want to buy several to test out
- Légère will allow you to swap if you buy the wrong strength reed
- Légère reeds come in quarter sizes, making it easier to find the perfect strength for you
- Synthetic reeds and consistent and they don’t change over the life of the reed – unlike cane reeds.
As a brand new beginner, you’ll want to start out on cane reeds until you find the right strength for you – then you can try synthetic reeds.
I hope this helps you choose the best beginner saxophone reed for you!
Supercharge your skills
Whatever reed you’re playing on, you’ll want to strengthen your embouchure and develop your technique so you can make great progress. My Ultimate Saxophone Toolkit has everything you need to get started on the right track. Grab it here.