Musical Instruments

Buy Instrument Straws

About Instrument Straws

The actual sound of a saxophone is produced by the vibration of the saxophone reed, which is attached to the mouthpiece. What the rest of the saxophone is doing is amplifying the sound and also changing the pitch of the tone. Keep reading to know more about instrument straws.

As the reed is responsible for the sound of a saxophone, it is the single most crucial part of the instrument. It is the reed that produces the distinctive sound frequency and tone of saxophones. You will feel the change in the tone of the instrument. Therefore, the type of cane, the climate in which it was grown, its maturity, and the way that it is made affects the quality of the saxophone reed. Read this article to know more about instrument straws. Having a better understanding of them will help you make the right choices when you are making the purchase.  

A beginner’s guide to saxophone reeds 

The saxophone is a single-reed instrument. That means this instrument uses the vibration of just one reed to produce the sound. While a reed is only an inch or two long, it is divided into different parts. The part of the reed that a saxophonist makes contact with lips is the vamp. It is slanted and extends to the centre of the saxophone reed. The rest of the length of the reed is the bark. Then there is the butt of the reed that actually connects to the instrument. All these things will affect the characteristics of the sound that the instrument straws produces.  

Properties of the reed 

The mouthpiece on the saxophone might not seem like a significant part of the instrument. But in reality, the reed sets the tone of the instrument. Also, the type of reed can determine the strength of the sound. And when you consider the reed itself, its most important part is the vamp. This is the part that will be in contact with the mouth of the saxophonist. It is the vamp that determines the characteristics of the instrument straws. If you compare saxophones used for jazz and those used for classical music, you notice that jazz reeds have a shorter vamp than classical breeds. 

Reed strength 

The easiest way to understand the reed strength is to think about it as the degree of stiffness. So, if a reed is stiffer, then it has a higher reed strength. Reed’s strength varies from “soft” to “medium” and “hard”. To check the strength of a reed, you don’t actually have to check its stiffness, though. Usually, the strength will be written and uses a scale of 1 to 5. A reed number of 5 denotes the highest reed strength. These reeds are pretty stiff and are only suitable for very experienced saxophonists. A reed with the rating of 1 is the softest reed, and people with less developed embouchure generally use this instrument straws.  

Synthetic reeds vs natural reeds 

The traditional material for making instrument straws used to be a certain type of grass called Arundo Donax. This is a specific type of cane that has a strong bark. Because the inside of the cane is already hollow, it is easy to shape it to make it suitable for the purpose. The fibrous structure of the cane resulted in a deeper, warmer tone. However, these days there are synthetic reeds that are cheaper and more durable. While a typical cane reed lasts only for a couple of weeks for a professional player, a good quality synthetic reed can last up to two or three months with proper care.  

Soft reeds vs hard reeds 

In the saxophone community, people generally view using a softer read as a sign of inexperience. This is also true to some extent. Beginner players use softer reeds because harder reeds require more strength of the mouth. However, this is not always true. Sometimes you might come across really talented and experienced saxophonists using soft reeds. They might be using it for one of the two possible reasons. Firstly, the tone of a softer reed is different from that of a harder reed. So, people might use a softer reed for achieving a specific kind of effect. Secondly, it is easier to produce vibrato and make notes blending with hard instrument straws. So, if a player has to do these often, they might actually prefer the softer one over a hard reed.

Tips on how to buy Saxophone Reeds

The world of saxophone reeds is quite extensive. Ideally, the best way to find the right reed is to experiment with all kinds of reeds and pick the one that works for you. However, this is not possible for beginners. Another way is to consider the different characteristics of the reed and pick the one that checks all boxes. Here is a list of things that you should look for in a saxophone reed. These tips will help you find the reed that is right for you.

  • Choose the right reed strength – Softer reeds are more flexible than harder reeds. Because of this, softer saxophone reeds only require less strength of the mouth to form a good seal. But the downside is that the volume of the sound will be lower. On the other hand, hard reeds can produce higher volume and sharper notes. But one will need more strength and developed techniques to use them.
  • Reed material – The traditional material for making reeds is cane. And among them, cane from places like France, Argentina and Spain are coveted for their tone. But these days, it is possible to make longer lasting reeds for a fraction of the cost of cane reeds. Because manufacturers can closely control the physical properties of synthetic reeds, they perform consistently and last much longer than natural reeds.
  • Filed reeds vs unfiled reeds – There are filed reeds and unfiled reeds. What filing does to a reed is that it smoothens the surface and hence offers a path of less restriction for the air. But an unfilled reed has a rougher surface and provides more resistance to the flow of air. While that doesn’t mean one is better than the other, the characteristics of the tone that you get out of both are different.
  • Brand, cost, and durability – Even small variations in the design of the saxophone reed can affect the characteristics of the sound. Therefore, there will be a slight difference between the tones that you get out of reeds from different brands. You should also consider the cost and durability of the reed.

Besides reeds, there are some other essential music accessories that might be helpful for you. These include cello tailpieces, drum sticks, drum skins, effect processors, guitar elements, guitar straps, grip masters, instrument cleaners, and instrument cases. You can easily find any of these using our shopping search engine. It will also let you compare the prices and features of different models and pick the right one. Finally, don’t forget to check out other fantastic products in the musical instruments category.

Question & Answer

What are saxophone reeds made of?

The cane used to be the most common material for making reeds. Even while there were plastic reeds that were more durable than the traditional ones, professional saxophonists actually preferred the traditional reeds because the sound that came from plastic reeds were inferior. However, the recent development in polymer technology has made it possible to create synthetic reeds that function similarly to the traditional ones but are more durable. So, as material technology gets more and more sophisticated, even professionals might start preferring synthetic ones.

Why are traditional saxophone reeds so expensive?

If you have ever bought a box of traditional can saxophone reeds, you already know how expensive they are. Well, this is because of the work that goes into making them. The first step of producing these reeds is actually growing the bamboo. For the best results, these bamboos require a specific type of climate and should be harvested at a specific level of maturity. And in order to turn the cane into reeds, it requires skilled labour. But in the case of synthetic reeds, much of the process can be automated, which helps in cutting the cost and speeding up the production.

How long do saxophone reeds last?

That entirely depends on the type of reed you are using and how often you use them. Interestingly, the way you play it also affects the life of the reed. So, for a professional player who might have to play the instrument almost every day, a traditional saxophone reed might last for about two weeks. But a good quality synthetic reed can last much longer than that. If you use it the right way, a synthetic reed can last for many months. For students who might not be playing as hard as professional players, they can get through an entire semester using the same reed.