The 8 Best Clarinet Reeds in 2021: Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

Clarinet reeds are arguably the most important piece of the clarinet and finding the right one can be tricky. These two and a half inch long pieces of cane may seem trivial at first glance, but without one, the instrument would be unable to produce its distinct tones.

To help you find the perfect one, we’ve reviewed what we think are the best clarinet reeds in 2021 and have also included our buying guide to help you know what to look when shopping for reeds. By the time we’re through, you’ll know all about the best reeds for a clarinet and, more importantly, you’ll know which types might work best for you. 

Quick Answer: The Best Rated Clarinet Reeds

How to Choose a Clarinet Reed: A Buyer’s Guide

You know you need a reed to produce sound on a clarinet, and we’ve shown you the top clarinet reeds on the market. As a clarinet player, though, it’s still helpful to learn the ins and outs of choosing the best clarinet reed. 

So below we’ll discuss a few of the basics like the importance of reed strength, reed cut, and maintenance. We’ll also talk about the top brands and what makes them so great. 

Reed Strength

What is reed strength and why is it important for clarinet players is a common question for beginner players. Put simply, reed strength is a measure of the flexibility and density of a clarinet reed.

Manufacturers designate reed strength on a scale of 1-5, with one being the softest and most flexible. Typically, reeds are available in half size increments, so you could purchase a 1.5, or a 3.5, and so forth. 

That said, the strength increments are not entirely standardized and they vary between manufacturers. A D’Addario Rico 2 is more flexible than a Vandoren 2, for example. You can use reed strength charts for easy comparisons. 

Soft Reeds 

We consider reeds up to a 3 in strength to be soft. In general, soft reeds are better for beginners because they’re easier to produce sound with. That said, the sound these reeds produce typically lacks depth. If you’re a beginner to the clarinet I’d recommend going for less than a 2.5 rating as you’ll find it a lot easier.

Hard Reeds 

Hard reeds are more challenging to play, but they produce more sound depth and better intonation. This is especially true when playing high and low notes. 

As you progress as a clarinet player, the muscles around your mouth will strengthen. That allows you to play stiffer reeds without a problem.

Reed Cut

Reeds also come in two different cuts: regular or french filed. The cut matters less to beginner players, but it is essential. Typically, players determine their preferred cut using the mouthpiece on their clarinet. That said, beginners tend to prefer French File cuts because they have a faster response time. 

Regular Cut

Unfiled or regular cut reeds are also sometimes called “American Cut” reeds. They feature a distinct U-shape at the base of the vamp or cut portion. The sound they produce is rich and bold. If you have an easy-blowing, light, and bright mouthpiece, regular cut reeds are ideal. 

French File

Manufacturers remove an extra strip of bark below the vamp to create French Filed reeds. This makes them thinner, which allows for greater flexibility and a faster response time. When you pair it with a resistant mouthpiece, you can create brighter tones than you would with a regular cut reed. 

Looking After Your Reeds

Once you find reeds that you love, it’s essential to care for them well. Reeds don’t last forever, but they can last a decently long time if you pay them proper attention. 

Make sure you store them in a case that protects them from moisture and temperature fluctuations. Something like the one below is a inexpensive option that’ll help you keep them safe.

Vandoren VRC810 Bb/Eb Clarinet/Soprano Saxophone Reed Case for 8 Reeds
97 Reviews
Vandoren VRC810 Bb/Eb Clarinet/Soprano Saxophone Reed Case for 8 Reeds
  • Ergonomically designed to open and close easily
  • Perfect accessory to keep track of reed rotation
  • A 'must' for every serious player

When playing a new reed, remember you have to break it in. Don’t play more than ten minutes at a time to begin. Then, when you finish playing, make sure you rinse and then wipe the reed dry. Don’t leave it in the mouthpiece where it will become warped with time. Check out how our guide to replacing your clarinet reed here.

You should also avoid playing the same reed every time you go to practice. Rotating reeds is important because reeds wear down faster with prolonged playing. 

To make reed rotation easy, try writing the date you begin using the reed on its back. That should help you keep track of how long you’ve been using it. 

Once you become more advanced, you may want to learn how to polish and flatten your reeds to extend their use. You may also decide to use reed knives and sandpaper to customize the reed to your personal preferences. 

Best Brands For Clarinet Reeds

There are a few reed brands that stand out over the others. We’ll discuss two of our favorites here: Vandoren and D’Addario.

Vandoren 

Vandoren has been manufacturing clarinet reeds since 1905, and many music teachers and professional musicians swear by them. You’ll see them on our list multiple times because they make quality reeds. 

Vandoren grows and harvests cane for making their reeds in Southern France. That’s also where their factory is located, but they ship over 90% of their products to other countries. That makes Vandoren one of the best-known brands in the world, and their reputation for being one of the best is well deserved. 

D’Addario

D’Addario is the world’s largest manufacturer of musical accessories. In 2004, they acquired Rico Reeds, a famous brand that almost every clarinet and saxophone player has used. 

D’Addario prides itself on innovative machines and processes that often make their reeds more affordable without sacrificing quality. They even produce a line of synthetic reeds that they claim have no loss in sound quality. 

Best Rated Clarinet Reed Reviews

Below we’ve listed our favorite clarinet reeds. Some are best for beginners; others are better for more experienced musicians. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you’ll find clarinet reeds that suit you on this list. 

#1. Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Reeds 

Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Traditional Reeds Strength 1; Box of 10
5,195 Reviews
Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Traditional Reeds Strength 1; Box of 10
  • Traditional reeds are known for their excellent response in all registers, allowing a pianissimo attack in even highest notes.
  • Extremely flexible, allowing the legato or staccato execution of large intervals while maintaining a richness of tone that gives body and clarity to...
  • Traditional reeds are available for all clarinets and saxophones in various strengths.

Our top choice for clarinet is from Vandoren, a trusted French brand that many respect for its impeccable attention to detail. They’re worled renowned for making quality reeds, and the CR101 for Bb clarinet is no exception. These, in particular, are excellent for beginners due to their flexible making them a lot easier to produce a sound.

They come in multiple strengths, but we recommend beginners start with the lower ratings (under 2.5) which ensures your instrument won’t be too difficult to play and allow you to develop your technique. Softer reeds with more flexibility typically mean a less rich sound. That said,  Vandoren reeds are high caliber, and even their lower strength options produce clear notes. Plus, each reed comes in a sealed “Flow Pack,” which ensures the reed stays fresh until you’re ready to use it.  

So, if you’re looking for an affordable, quality brand of clarinet reed, the look no further than these great ones from Vandoren.

#2. D’Addario Rico Bb Clarinet Reeds 

Rico Bb Clarinet Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-pack
5,442 Reviews
Rico Bb Clarinet Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-pack
  • EASE OF PLAY – Featuring a thinner vamp and unfiled cut designed for ease of play and a traditional blank for a clear sound, Rico by D’Addario Bb...
  • FROM FIELD TO FACTORY - Harvested by hand in France, the cane specifically grown to make Rico reeds is the finest in the industry. D’Addario’s new...
  • EDUCATION STANDARD - Rico reeds have been the standard among teachers and students for generations. Priced affordably, Rico reeds are designed to...

In at number two we have these reeds from D’Addario,. another respected manufacturer of clarinet reeds. They hand-harvest the canes used to make their reeds in France, so there are no synthetic materials here, and that means a better sound quality. 

These reeds are suitable for beginners or moderate-level players. Their thinner vamp and unfiled cut allow for easier play. That way, beginners can make sounds right off the bat, which is crucial. Nothing’s worse than the discouragement that comes when a student cannot make a sound with their instrument! 

Music teachers, in particular, love these reeds with a big part of that being because of the ease of play they provide. It’s also because D’Addario Rico reeds for Bb clarinet produce consistent sound at an affordable price. To read more and see the reviews from other customers click the button below.

#3. D’Addario Royal Bb Clarinet Reeds

Royal Bb Clarinet Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-pack
1,449 Reviews
Royal Bb Clarinet Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-pack
  • Traditional Rico cut with a stronger spine
  • Strength 2.5, Filed cut, box of 10 reeds
  • Works well for both classical and jazz applications

Another good option similar to theRico cut reeds above is the Royal D’Addario reeds. However, the royal cut is slightly stronger, which helps create a richer sound. They might be a little bit harder for beginners to play but if you’re opting for a low rating they will still suitable for beginners, whether they want to play classical music or jazz.

They feature a thinner vamp for easier play, just like the Rico reeds. However, the royal reeds have a filed cut. Filed cuts create greater ease of response in low registers, which beginners may appreciate, especially when executing a soft attack. Check them out below.

#4. Vandoren CR8035 V21 Bb Clarinet Reeds

Vandoren CR8035 Bb Clarinet V21 Reeds Strength 3.5; Box of 10
371 Reviews
Vandoren CR8035 Bb Clarinet V21 Reeds Strength 3.5; Box of 10
  • The V21 reed combines the conical shape of a 56 rue Lepic reed with a V.12 profile.
  • This unique combination makes all registers of the clarinet more accessible with warmth and a depth of sound. It will allow you to play with amazing...
  • V21 is the perfect reed for performances that require the ability to handle large interval leaps efficiently with an even rich tone.

Once you’ve surpassed the beginner levels and are ready to move on to a slightly stronger reed, the Vandoren CR8035 V21 is a good option. Vandoren always makes quality reeds, and these will work for a variety of styles and situations. 

The V21 reed has a basic conical shape, similar to the 56 Rue Lepic (which we’ll review later). Designers combined that with the profile of a Vandoren V.12. The unique combination allows you to play proficiently in more registers. It also provides a warmer and more resonant sound. 

When you need to navigate large interval leaps, the V21 will respond immediately with a rich and even tone. That means you can stay focused on playing and not worry about whether or not your reed can handle the jumps! 

#5. Vandoren V.12 CR1925 For Bb Clarinets

Vandoren CR1925 Bb Clarinet V.12 Reeds Strength 2.5; Box of 10
948 Reviews
Vandoren CR1925 Bb Clarinet V.12 Reeds Strength 2.5; Box of 10
  • Thicker heel with longer palette for more vibration
  • Deep, rich sound with body to the attack due to the thicker tip resulting in longer lasting reeds
  • Also available in other strengths

These Vandoren V.12 reeds have a more extended palette and thicker heel and tip than traditional clarinet reeds. In fact, Vandoren manufactures them using cane tubes the same diameter as alto saxophone reeds. 

A longer palette allows more of the reed to vibrate, which means you’ll produce a deeper and richer sound. Meanwhile, the thicker tip increases the longevity of the reed and will give body to attacks. 

Like all Vandoren reeds, these are packaged individually for freshness. You can buy a box of ten to start. Once you know you like them, they’re available in packs of 50 as well, which might save you some money in the long run.  

#6. Tanbi Music 10 Bb Clarinet Reeds

10 Bb Clarinet Reeds (Tanbi Music CLR101): 10 Soft Reeds Strength 1.5-2 and Clarinet Cork Grease
168 Reviews
10 Bb Clarinet Reeds (Tanbi Music CLR101): 10 Soft Reeds Strength 1.5-2 and Clarinet Cork Grease
  • PREMIUM QUALITY REEDS, great for beginners and experienced players. They are durable and easy to play on, giving you a good sound.
  • QUALITY PERSISTENT FOR ALL REEDS in the box – you will use 10 out of these 10 reeds.
  • EACH REED HAS ITS OWN PLASTIC CASE, and all reeds are sealed in nylon to give them maximum durability.

As we mentioned, softer reeds are best for beginners. They’re easier to play, though you might lose a bit of sound depth. These Tanbi Music 10 reeds are very soft at 1 – 2.5 in strength. They’re also affordable. So, they’re perfect for a beginner clarinet student. 

More experienced players can use these reeds, but they may have trouble reaching higher notes. And they may decide they want a greater depth of sound. A reed this soft will have difficulty creating accurate tones at higher registers. 

Tanbi seals their reeds in individual plastic cases for freshness. They also provide a tube of cork grease in every box. Cork grease will help you maintain your clarinet, so that’s not a bad freebie to pick up. 

#7. Vandoren CR121 Bass Clarinet Reeds  

Vandoren CR121 Bass Clarinet Traditional Reeds Strength 1; Box of 5
877 Reviews
Vandoren CR121 Bass Clarinet Traditional Reeds Strength 1; Box of 5
  • Traditional reeds are known for their excellent response in all registers, allowing a pianissimo attack in even highest notes.
  • Extremely flexible, allowing the legato or staccato execution of large intervals while maintaining a richness of tone that gives body and clarity to...
  • Traditional reeds are available for all clarinets and saxophones in various strengths.

Clarinet reeds are specific to the type of clarinet you play. So, for bass clarinet players, we love the Vandoren CR121 Bass Clarinet Reeds. These are traditional reeds ideal for beginner players. 

They are soft and flexible, which allows for easier sound production, and Vandoren prides itself on quality. You won’t lose much in the way of sound depth despite the softer reed strength. 

Vandoren CR121s are the most widely played reeds in the world. At least, that’s what the company claims. And we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s completely true. We love how responsive these reeds are and adore the quality sound they produce. 

#8. Vandoren 56 Rue Lepic Bb Clarinet Reeds

Vandoren CR5035 Bb Clarinet 56 Rue Lepic Reeds Strength 3.5; Box of 10
397 Reviews
Vandoren CR5035 Bb Clarinet 56 Rue Lepic Reeds Strength 3.5; Box of 10
  • Designed with thicker cane with a heel taper very similar to German-style reeds.
  • Emits a rich, centered and extremely pure sound, while providing maximum stability and quick response in all registers.
  • Strength graduations are smaller and more specific, resulting in reeds that are very consistent.

And last, but by no means least, the Vandoren 56 Rue Lepic is another unique reed and best for more advanced clarinet players. Vandoren produces them using a thicker cane and gives them a tapered heel. That design gives them a rich and pure sound. 

Players love that the 56 Rue Lepic reeds are immediately responsive regardless of the register, and everyone loves the focused tones they create. 

Though they’re available in a variety of strengths that even a beginner could benefit from, they’re relatively pricey. So, they’re typically not the best beginner option. Once you’re a little more experienced and well versed on the clarinet, the Vandoren 56 Rue Lepic is an excellent clarinet reed pick. 

Conclusion: Which Reeds Should you Buy?

Finding the right reed for your skill-level and instrument isn’t always an easy process. It takes time to find what works best for you and your clarinet. As a beginner, you probably want a softer reed (under 2.5) that’s easier to play, but there’s still plenty of variety to pick from. 

When it comes to quality, we love the Vandoren reeds, with these Vandoren CR101 being our favorite for beginners. If you’re serious about your instrument, they’re the best, in our opinion. But, the D’Addario Ricos are also really good.

But, everyone’s instrument is a little different, though so, we recommend you try out a few different brands and styles before you commit to buying a bulk box of reeds. Keep in mind that as you advance, your preferred style and brand may change. 

The best reed for a clarinet is the one that keep you wanting to practice and perform. Which strength, cut, and brand of reeds those happen to be, depends entirely on the musician. 

Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Traditional Reeds Strength 1; Box of 10
5,195 Reviews
Vandoren CR101 Bb Clarinet Traditional Reeds Strength 1; Box of 10
  • Traditional reeds are known for their excellent response in all registers, allowing a pianissimo attack in even highest notes.
  • Extremely flexible, allowing the legato or staccato execution of large intervals while maintaining a richness of tone that gives body and clarity to...
  • Traditional reeds are available for all clarinets and saxophones in various strengths.