Clarinet reeds are an essential component of the clarinet. They are responsible for producing the sound and tone of the instrument. There are two types of clarinet reeds: filed and unfiled.
The main difference between the two is the way they are cut. Filed reeds have a small amount of material removed from the top of the reed, while unfiled reeds are left untouched.
The type of reed that a clarinet player chooses can have a significant impact on the sound and tone of their playing.
Filed reeds are said to produce a brighter tone and are preferred by players who use easy-blowing and moderate to bright mouthpieces.
Unfiled reeds, on the other hand, are preferred by players who use resistant mouthpieces and want a darker, richer tone.
The strength of the reed is also an important factor to consider, as it can affect the ease of playing and the overall sound quality.
Difference between Filled and Unfilled Clarinet Reeds
What are Filled Clarinet Reeds?
Filled clarinet reeds are those that have been filed down at the base of the reed.
This filing process removes a small amount of material from the reed, which can make it more flexible and easier to play.
Filled reeds are often preferred by beginners or those who are looking for a softer, more mellow sound.
One popular brand of filled clarinet reeds is Rico. Rico reeds are known for their consistency and affordability, making them a popular choice for students and beginners.
What are Unfilled Clarinet Reeds?
Unfilled clarinet reeds, also known as unfiled reeds, are those that have not been filed down at the base.
This means that they are generally stiffer than filled reeds and require more effort to play. However, they can produce a brighter and more focused sound.
One popular brand of unfilled clarinet reeds is Vandoren. Vandoren reeds are known for their high quality and consistency, making them a popular choice among professional musicians.
When choosing between filled and unfilled reeds, it is important to consider your playing style and the sound you are trying to achieve.
Filled reeds are generally easier to play and produce a softer sound, while unfilled reeds require more effort but can produce a brighter and more focused sound.
In addition to choosing between filled and unfilled reeds, it is also important to consider the strength of the reed.
Clarinet reeds come in a range of strengths, from 1 to 5, with 1 being the softest and 5 being the hardest.
The strength of the reed can have a significant impact on the sound and playability of the instrument.
Overall, the choice between filled and unfilled clarinet reeds is a matter of personal preference and playing style.
Whether you choose a filled or unfilled reed, it is important to select a high-quality brand such as Rico or Vandoren to ensure consistency and reliability.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Filled Clarinet Reeds
Advantages of Filled Clarinet Reeds
Filled clarinet reeds, also known as filed reeds, have a thinner tip and a thicker heart, which makes them more flexible than unfiled reeds.
This flexibility allows them to vibrate more freely, producing a brighter and more responsive tone. Filled reeds are preferred by players who use resistant mouthpieces and those who play woodwind instruments such as oboes and bassoons.
In addition to their responsiveness, filled reeds are also easier to play in the upper register, making them suitable for players who need to play high notes frequently.
They also tend to have a longer lifespan than unfiled reeds, which can save players money in the long run.
Disadvantages of Filled Clarinet Reeds
While filled reeds have some advantages, they also have some disadvantages.
One of the main disadvantages of filled reeds is that they can be harder to control than unfiled reeds. This is because the thinner tip of the reed can cause pitch variations, which can be difficult to correct with embouchure alone.
Another disadvantage of filled reeds is that they can be more expensive than unfiled reeds, especially if players opt for higher-end brands such as Vandoren or Reserve.
Additionally, some players may find that filled reeds produce a brighter and more tonal sound than they prefer, especially if they want a darker or more mellow sound.
Finally, some players may prefer synthetic reeds over filled reeds because they are more consistent and require less maintenance. However, this is a matter of personal preference and playing style.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Unfilled Clarinet Reeds
Advantages of Unfilled Clarinet Reeds
Unfilled clarinet reeds, also known as “regular” reeds, have several advantages over filled reeds.
One of the main advantages is their flexibility. Unfilled reeds are more flexible than filled reeds, which makes them easier to play and allows for a wider range of dynamics.
This flexibility also makes it easier to produce a good tone, especially on resistant mouthpieces.
Another advantage of unfilled reeds is their brightness.
Unfilled reeds tend to produce a brighter sound than filled reeds, which is ideal for playing pop, jazz, and other styles of music that require a bright, cutting sound.
Some saxophonists also prefer unfilled reeds for jazz sax and bari sax because of their brightness.
Unfilled reeds are also more widely available than filled reeds.
They are made by many different manufacturers, including Rico Royal, Vandoren, D’Addario, and more. This makes it easier for clarinetists to find the right reed strength and brand for their playing style.
Disadvantages of Unfilled Clarinet Reeds
While unfilled reeds have several advantages, they also have some disadvantages.
One of the main disadvantages is their lack of consistency. Because unfilled reeds are made from a natural material (cane), there can be variations in their strength, response, and tone. This can make it difficult for clarinetists to find a reed that consistently produces the sound they want.
Another disadvantage of unfilled reeds is their durability.
Unfilled reeds tend to have a shorter lifespan than filled reeds, especially if they are not properly cared for. They can also be more susceptible to warping and cracking, which can affect their tone and playability.
Finally, unfilled reeds may not be the best choice for classical music or for playing on resistant mouthpieces.
While their brightness can be an advantage in some styles of music, it may not be desirable for classical music or for playing on mouthpieces that already produce a bright sound.
In these cases, a filled reed or a different type of unfilled reed (such as a Grand Concert Select or American Cut) may be a better choice.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Filled and Unfilled Clarinet Reeds
When it comes to choosing between filled and unfilled clarinet reeds, there are several factors that players should consider. These include sound quality, playing style, reed strength, resistance, and response time.
The sound quality of a clarinet reed is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing between filled and unfilled reeds.
Filled reeds tend to produce a brighter tone, while unfilled reeds produce a darker tone.
Players who prefer a brighter tone may want to opt for a filled reed, while those who prefer a darker tone may prefer an unfilled reed.
Another factor to consider is playing style. Players who prefer a more responsive reed may want to opt for a filled reed, while those who prefer a more resistant reed may prefer an unfilled reed.
Additionally, jazz players may prefer coated reeds, which offer a brighter tone and more precision.
Reed strength is another important factor to consider.
Players who prefer a softer reed may want to opt for an unfilled reed, while those who prefer a harder reed may prefer a filled reed.
Additionally, players should consider the thickness of the reed, as thicker reeds tend to produce a darker tone.
Resistance is another important factor to consider when choosing between filled and unfilled reeds.
Filled reeds tend to offer less resistance, making them easier to play, while unfilled reeds offer more resistance, making them more challenging to play.
Players should consider their embouchure and playing style when choosing between filled and unfilled reeds.
Finally, players should consider the response time of the reed.
Filled reeds tend to offer a faster response time, making them more responsive to the player’s movements.
Unfilled reeds, on the other hand, may take longer to respond, requiring the player to use more precision and control.
In summary, when choosing between filled and unfilled clarinet reeds, players should consider factors such as sound quality, playing style, reed strength, resistance, and response time.
They should also consider the thickness of the reed, the type of cut (such as French cut or double cut), and the brand (such as Meyer, Guardala, La Voz, Rico Jazz Select, Rigotti, Selmer, or Marca).
Additionally, players should play-test a box of reeds before purchasing to avoid getting stuck with duds, and should use a reed holder to keep their reeds in good condition.