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.
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.
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!!
I am very late to getting this posted, but got very caught up with the end of the school year. But it is summer now so I will try my hardest to get caught up again. This last year I had the opportunity to interview clarinetist Eric Salazar. Eric is a clarinet soloist, chamber musician in the ensemble, Forward Motion, and a composer. He is a member of the International Clarinet Association and a BuzzReed committee member. Eric has been featured on the Clarineat podcast were he discussed his use of social media in expanding his career and how he became the second most followed clarinetist on social media.
Solo and Composing Career
Eric released his own album in 2016. This live recorded album features recordings of Salazar’s original compositions combining traditional musicians with electronic tracks and can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, Sound Cloud. This new form of music is often categorized under the indie-classical genre. Eric Salazar often introduces improvisation into his own works as improvise is the first step towards composing.
Eric performs with his chamber ensemble, Forward Motion. Forward motion is a relatively new ensemble based in Indianapolis. Keeping up with the indie-classical genre, Forward Motion brings this new art form to the public of Indianapolis.
Eric Salazar is a committee member and the graphic artist for the International Clarinet Associations new venture, BuzzReed. BuzzReed was established to bring information about “pedagogy, equipment, culture, literature, and history” to a younger audience. BuzzReed can be found on the International Clarinet Website and in The Clarinet Journal.
Eric Salazar runs a private studio and is an arts administrator. But he didn’t start out that way. Salazar said that at the beginning he “Knew how to play, but didn’t really know how to have a career in music.” I believe that the best way to pursue a career in music is to be in a constant search for performance opportunities and find what makes your playing unique. Eric Salazar did just that. His combination of instrumental and electronic music made him unique.
Q & A
I would love to learn more from Eric Salazar about careers in music. If you have any questions you would like to ask him please leave a comment or shoot me an email so that we can feature him again.
The Grammy Award winning percussion quartet, Third Coast Percussion, recently visited the Northwest Arkansas area to perform in the Walton Arts Centers 10×10 series. The 10×10 Arts Series is a season of 10 performances hosted by the Walton Arts Center with the intent to bring new and unique art forms to the Northwest Arkansas Community at the low cost of $10 a ticket. Third Coast Percussion has been performing and expanding the depth of the world of percussion.
Who is Third Coast Percussion?
Each of the four quartet members are classically trained percussionists and composers. Based in Chicago, the Third Coast Percussion is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Third Coast Percussion put on an outstanding performance that was full of new experiences that blew their audience away.
Throughout the week, the ensemble put on multiple master classes, and performances involving students of all ages and local musicians. Each of the members of Third Coast Percussion have been music educators at some point in their careers. This leads them be very passionate about their community outreach. They believe that “art is an invaluable experience for people of all ages.”
The program they performed Friday night, Lyrical Geometry , is a unique and energetic collaboration of both traditional percussion and unconditional instruments. During the performance, Quartet member, Robert Dillon commented on the diverse selection of instrumentation; asking “What is a percussion instrument?” The definition of a percussion instrument is “a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scrapped”, but Third Coast Percussion believe that a percussion instrument is “anything you ask a percussionist to play and they say yes” or anything “that the other musicians wont play.” This seemed to be the general theme for this concert. The program included obscure instruments such as Japanese Temple Bowls and amplified table tops.
The Lyrical Geometry Program :
Composed by Glenn Kotche, Wild Sound, uses a combination of marimbas and vibraphones that create an almost “wild” sound with its very fast and systematic layering of rhythms. At some points the rhythms were complementary, and at others, it was almost overwhelming. However, none of this distracted from the enjoyment of the piece. I was impressed by the way that the musicians maintained their inner pulse and were able to pull off such a feat so that their listeners did not get lost or distracted. This piece was an introduction to the rest of the performance by establishing the traditional percussion techniques with new flourishes and flares to establish a new art form all together.
Composed by Theirry De Mey, Table Music, was by far the audiences favorite piece in the program. After the show, everyone was wondering which of the Third Coast Percussion Albums had a recording of Table Music on it. Sadly, Third Coast Percussion has not yet released a recording of them playing this piece. I was blown away by the use of amplified tables in the Table Music piece performed by Peter Martin, Sean Connors, and David Skidmore. As a tap dancer, the idea of making rhythms with your hands was amazing. The music for this piece includes descriptions of the exact way to hit or touch the table to make a particular sound. This makes the piece resemble both music and choreographed dance at the same time.
Resounding Earth mvt. II Prayer
Composed byAugusta Read Thomas, Resounding Earth, was composed for and dedicated to Third Coast Percussion. This is a very unique piece that requires the use of hundreds of metal instruments including singing bowls and bells from numerous different cultures. This piece celebrates the idea that music brings cultures together and the vast variety of musical instruments.The piece is made up of four movements: Invocation, Prayer, Mantra, and Reverie. As Robert Dillon explained the entire work is about 30 minutes long. So for time’s sake, Third Coast Percussion only performed the third movement, Prayer. Prayer, is an even distribution of eeriness and beauty that seems to grow out of nothingness. Third Coast Percussion had me sitting on the edge of my seat afraid to move or disturb the perfect balance of silence and music.
Composed by Steve Reich, Mallet Percussion, is another composition written for two marimbas and two vibraphones with multiple movements. Third Coast Percussion played all three of these movements: Fast, Slow, and Fast. In the two Fast movements, the two marimbas provide the foundation cannon like background that continues through out the piece while the two vibraphones take turns playing the solo-like melody. I admire Sean and Robert for their fluidity as they seamlessly passed around the melody without delay. During the Slow movement, the instrumentation thins out. I enjoyed how the ensemble did not pause between the three movements and they seemed to just flow into one fluid song despite the contrast between slow and fast movements.
Composed by ensemble member, Peter Martin, BEND, is composed for a percussion quartet using two marimbas. This piece uses various different mallets, bows, and sticking techniques to create a unique sound. The bows create a very different sound when they are run across the edge of the keys that sounds like the bending of music. The piece ebbs and flows in an unpredictable and pattern-less way. As soon as a common theme is established, it is abruptly changed with the introduction of a new sound, or a drastic change of dynamics. This was a very entertaining piece that I was not expecting to hear. I especially enjoyed the use of the other end of the mallets.
Composed by ensemble member, Robert Dillon, Ordering-instincts, is a 10 minute piece including the only two drums in the program, wooden blocks, and a few metal “disks”. It was easy to get lost in all the new sounds you were hearing. But with the aid of a live video streaming to a screen above the stage, you could see the choreographed dance of the musicians. Their music provided a road map to guide them through the traffic of the piece. Creating perfectly organized sound, music.
Composed by Isaac Schankler, Blindness, is composed for 4 percussionists playing on one vibraphone accompanied by an electronic recording. At first I was a little skeptical about how 4 grown men could play the same instruments at the same time, but all of my doubts were put to rest the moment they began playing. In the past, my personal experiences playing with an electronic backing track have not been successful. But in this composition the electronic track did not take away from the ensembles performance, but added additional sound effects resembling sounds one would expect to hear if they were blind.
Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities
Composed by ensemble member, David Skidmore, Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities, was the perfect end to a phenomenal program. This piece incorporated visual art by projecting an animated design that was mesmerizing and moved with the music. This addition to the program emphasized how all art forms are connected in their abilities to express feelings and movement without out the use of traditional language. Art: music, design, dance, and literature are all abstract forms of communication used to express what one does not have the courage to express on their own. I feel that this composition described the diversity of life and talents among people.
I am not a percussionist but as a musician, I am enamored by new art forms and Third Coast Percussion did not disappoint. Each piece introduced a new theme accompanied by a perfect blend of traditional instruments and new sounds. The program was a perfect arrangements of pieces that made a statement: the art world is changing. I had never seen or heard anything remotely familiar to what Third Coast Percussion played. Third Coast Percussion never ceased to impress me.
A Percussion Quartet is not the norm, but Third Coast Percussion despite skepticism from friends, they did it anyway and won a Grammy for it! In the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, the quartet won their first Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance on their album featuring works by Steve Reich, an iconic percussionist and composer. In their Performance at the Grammy Awards, they performed the third movement Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet with jazz saxophonist, Ravi Coltrane. This is a huge game changer for the world of percussion as it is the first time a percussion ensemble has won a Grammy in a Chamber Music category.
Third Coast Percussion is opening doors for future generations of percussionists. Percussion has come a long way since the 18th century and the invention of the drum. Percussionists are constantly looking for new things to play around with to create new sounds. Third Coast Percussion is always pushing the boundaries of what percussion is. Modernist composer, Edgard Varèse, once said that music is “organized sound” when referring to his own musical style. I feel that this definition of music describes Third Coasts Percussion perfectly.
To listen to Third Coast Percussion check them out on sound cloud or my video page: