Plastic Reeds: facts and myths

Reeds are both a blessing and a curse. Have you ever purchased a new box of reeds and gone through the entire box not liking the sound of any of them? This has been a regular occurrence in the last year or so of my playing. I have finally achieved a tone quality I am proud of and sometimes my reeds get in the way of creating that sound.If you’ve ever been in the same situation I have found myself in, there are two options for you. The first being making your own reeds. Now this can be very expensive to buy all the tools to take the process easier, but cheaper in the long run because reeds will no longer be $3 a piece, but more like 80 cents a piece!!!! Making reeds can be a lengthy topic and I have already started on a how to make your own reeds post, but right now I’d like you to consider option number two: The Plastic Reed.

plastic reed fact and myth

Fact or Myth?

Now most people have some concerns when it comes to plastic reeds because of some myths floating around the clarinet world about them so let’s get those out-of-the-way first.

“Plastic reeds are more expensive”

Fact. Plastic Reeds are more expensive than cane reeds. I got my Légère Classic reed for $17 dollars and can play on it for about 6 months. Where I paid $28 for a box of Vandorean V12 cane reeds that lasted about the same amount of time.They last longer than cane reeds because the plastic is much harder to crack than the cane is.

“Plastic reeds last forever”

Myth. Plastic reeds like most things have an expiration date. Of course like a cane reed precautions can be made to elongate the life of the reed. If you rotate 3 plastic reeds, you can get them all to last about a year. The tip of the plastic reed does weaken and wrinkle after excessive playing so be sure to take care of your reeds and break them in properly.

“Plastic reeds don’t chip”

Myth. They are made of plastic: they aren’t invincible. Over the last two years I have only had one plastic reed chip the way cane reeds do but in the reeds defense it got hit really hard by an ecstatic flute player at a football game.

“Plastic Reeds run thinner than the traditional cane reeds”

Fact. I normally play on a Vandorean V12 reed with a 3.5 strength and when I purchased my first Légère Classic reed with a 3.5 strength I notices immediately that the reed was weaker than my cane reeds. So I moved up to the 3.75 and felt much more comfortable playing.

“Plastic reeds produce a bad tone”

Myth. I am very proud of my tone on both my cane reeds and my plastic reeds and I don’t know anyone that can listen to me and tell me which reed I’m playing on.

Using a Plastic Reed

There are many occasions to use a plastic reed like marching band, teaching private lessons, and practice, but I would not play a plastic reed at an audition or a concert.

Marching Band

Plastic reeds are less resistant and allow you to produce a much louder and clearer sound that can be heard off the field better. Plastic reeds also don’t adjust to temperature or humidity changes, therefore they are perfect for playing outdoors.

Teaching Private Lessons

While teaching private lessons you can easily go 15 minutes without playing your clarinet. but in 15 mins, your reed will have completely dried out and have a wrinkled tip from drying on your mouth piece. With a plastic reed, you don’t have to wet it. You can pick up your instrument and start playing right away. Therefore you don’t waste anytime in your lessons wetting your own reed and the lesson can be more focused on your students playing.

While I love playing on plastic reeds, I have not and do not recommend making a complete switch to plastic reeds. Cane is the traditional reed material and will be used as long as the clarinet is. While cane may be unpredictable and annoying at times, it works and it works well. If you have any questions about plastic reeds or my set up please leave a comment!!

 

Clarineat Podcast Review and Interview with Sean Perrin

I discovered the Clarineat Podcast at Clarinetfest this fall and have been listening to Sean Perrin’s interviews and product reviews ever sense.  I am so excited to get the opportunity to talk with Sean Perrin and share my thoughts on the podcast.  Sean has  interviewed many artists including some of my favorites: Martin Fröst, Michael Lowenstern, Harry Sparnaay, and Michael Norsworthy.

Clarineat Podcast, clarineat podcast, Clarineat podcast

I chose to do a post on the Clarineat Podcast because I am very impressed with all of the work Sean is doing to bring “all that’s new and neat for clarinet” to his listeners all over the world.

How the Clarineat Podcast Came to Be

When asked why he decided to start his podcasts, Sean responded saying:

“In late 2015 I was listening to a lot of podcasts, as I always do, but I was becoming bored of the shows that I typically listened to. So I decided to search for something clarinet related iTunes, but there was nothing. Every month I kept checking back with no success, and I started to get a little impatient.

Then one day I got carried away chatting with Peter Spriggs on the phone for over an hour. He was sharing some great stories, and we were having such a great conversation. Suddenly it hit me: this was exactly the kind of conversation I wanted to hear on a clarinet podcast! Why couldn’t I try and make the very show I had been searching for?

After this “Eureka moment” I got to work right away, and I’m sure glad I did!”

Sean Perrin

How He Decides Who to interview

Sean interviews a wide range of performers(not all clarinetists), teachers, manufacturers along with giving his own opinion on products. He has a new topic of discussion for each of his interviews that makes each of them unique. When asked how he picked his guests for his podcasts, Sean explained that:

“I tried to select guests that are not only great clarinetists (ex. Martin Fröst and Michael Lowenstern), but also people who are interesting and meaningful to the community in an indirect way (ex. Etymotic Research, Daryl Caswell). In fact, I have found some of the most valuable conversations have actually been with non-clarinetists because their perspective is so different.

Looking back at the first season, it seems that I subconsciously focused on guests and topics who I really wanted to talk to (contemporary music, freelancing, technology, etc.). This is fine, of course, because it is important that I’m engaged with the guests and knowledgeable about the topic.”

He even gives some insight into what we can look forward to this year and how you can get involved if you have any suggestions for episode topics:

“However, I think for the second season I’m going to intentionally step outside of my comfort zone. I’m looking to include a wide variety of orchestral players, klezmer musicians, educators, manufacturers, and more.

In fact, I’m open to suggestions! If anyone would like to apply to be a guest, or send requests my way, I would encourage them to please get in touch at feedback@clarineat.com.”

Advice from Sean

Concerning careers in music, Sean is a very knowledgeable and experienced. I’m sure he could talk about the do’s and don’ts of how to succeed but here is a quick summary he offered for us:

1) It’s important that you take responsibility for your career. It may be hard to hear this, but the fact of the matter is that nobody really, truly cares if you succeed or fail except for YOU. You will have to decide what it is the really want to do, and then find a way to get there. If you don’t, you won’t. And not deciding, is deciding not to.

2) Spend some time outside the practice room learning some basic business, marketing, and networking skills. Then use them! Being good at your instrument is simply not enough these days (if it ever even was). Gigs might be perfected in the practice room, but they are never found there. Ever.

3) Nothing is more compelling than someone who is truly different. But nothing is more boring than someone who is different simply for the sake. Different doesn’t mean better. This brings to mind another quote:

My Personal Thoughts and Favorites

As I said before, I have been very excited to write this post not only because it is my first review, but because I have enjoyed listening to the podcast and my conversations with Sean. One of my favorite parts of the Clarineat podcasts are his interviews with Micheal Norsworthy of the Boston Conservatory. I personally have been looking into both the Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory for possible options for graduate school. Listening to Mr. Norsworthy talk about his own experiences with his lessons teachers  was very entertaining. I also enjoyed listening to Ryan Pereira of 3D Clarinet Innovations .  I first came across Pereira 3D at the 2016 Clarinet Festival hosted by the International Clarinet Association. I was very interested in how the 3D printing worked and how it effected the sound of the clarinet. I was very excited to see that Sean had already done all the work for me and all I had to do was sit and listen. These were the first two podcasts I listened to, but they were by far my two favorites. I personally prefer the interviews of musicians to the product reviews, but it has all been very interesting.

I am so glad that Sean Perrin has taken on the task of bringing the Clarineat podcast to life. Its a lot of work for one person, but he is doing a magnificent job and has many supporters. I encourage you to listen to his podcast on itunes or on his website here.

 

 

International Clarinet Festival 2016

Imagine walking through a 3 story maze of a school; hearing clarinet doodles from every direction. Each hall giving way to rooms filled with nothing but clarinets, music, reeds, and all things clarinet. That is exactly what the 2016 Clarinet Festival in Lawrence, Kansas felt like. The Festival, hosted by The International Clarinet Association(ICA) this last August. 5 days filled with competitions, concerts from international musicians, and lots, and lots of clarinet venders. The amount of clarinets I’ve seen in my life more than doubled. For a High School Clarinet Major pursuing a career as a musician, this was heaven. Clarinet Festival

At The Clarinet Festival

 I heard about Clarinet Festival from my private lessons teacher, Professor Nophachai. He knew I was looking to buy a new clarinet to take to college with me when I graduated and this seemed the perfect opportunity for me to see a wide range of instruments, decide which ones I liked and disliked, and get the best deal possible. I have been playing on my Buffet E11 for years now. It was an amazing instrument to start on, but I was ready to take the next step. After all you can only ever be as good as your equipment can allow. I originally went to Clarinetfest thinking I would come home with a brand new Buffet R13. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Because the clarinet fest landed on a school week I could not participate Wednesday through Friday, but Professor Nophachai took the time to test and pick a few of his favorites for me to check out when I came down on Saturday.

Throughout my one day at Clarinetfest, I learned so much about clarinet. I had never been asked to describe how it felt to actually play a clarinet, how I liked the sound or the feel, or to compare it to that of another clarinet. But I quickly learned what I liked and didn’t like. Resistance quickly became the word of the day. I tried many different Buffet Clarinets including multiple R13’s, Festivals, and RC’s all while getting some minor free repairs done on my E11. After switching back and forth between so many clarinets, they all seemed to run together and feel about the same. Deciding which sounded the darkest or brightest became a challenge. That when my lessons teacher brought me to to RZ Woodwind Manufacturers vender. I was very skeptical at first, because I had never heard of RZ Woodwind Manufacturing before. RZ Woodwind Manufacturing is a company that makes handcrafted Czech instruments. At the RZ booth, Nophachai introduced me to the cofounder of the company and principal clarinet player of the Czech Republic, Milan Rericha. Milan had performed a recital earlier during the festival that I had missed so he picked up one of the clarinets and just started playing for me. I had never seen someone pick up a clarinet and just start playing a long and complicated clarinet solo. He made it look so easy.

Clarinet Festival

Vendors

After trying the new RZ Bohem, the decision of which clarinet I’d go home with became easy. Milan got me all set up with my new clarinet, 3 barrels, a new BAM case, a silk triangle swab, and an autographed copy of his new album. After visiting all of the vendors including Pereira 3D printing, Clarineat Podcast, and all of the reed companies. Towards the end of the day I went to the Silverstein Works  concert including Milan Rericha, Rocco Parisi, Steve Silverstein, Raphael Sanders, Jiung Yoon, and many other Silverstein artists. It was an amazing concert with so many talented musicians. I had never seen a concert done with only clarinets and clarinet repertoire. I took the liberty of taking videos of parts of the concerts so that I could share them with you all. Check them out on the Videos page. 

Overall Clarinetfest was a blast. I met so many new people and got a ton of free stuff! Free , CD’s, music, water bottles, and lots and lots of free reeds. But most of all I got to listen to amazing clarinetists from all over the world. I am looking forward to going to the 2017 Clarinet Festival in Orlando, Florida this summer.