At Sweet Reeds we playfully use the term 'Size Guide' but we are really talking about reed strength.
The strength of the reed you choose is dependent on many factors, including cane density, the manufacturing process, the development of the muscles in your embrasure and your diaphragmatic control. Reed strengths usually start at Grade 1 (very soft) to Grade 5 (very hard) with half step gradations in-between. A harder reed may have an overall louder sound than a softer reed. Harder reeds generally play better in the high registers of the instrument. Softer reeds will generally play well in the lower registers as subtones are clearer through a softer reed. Soft reeds are easier to play quieter and provide better vibrato or bending effects. With the right embrasure and support it is also possible to play softer reeds up high and loudly. As you can see, reed strength is not necessarily straightforward.
Reed choice is also dependent on the type of playing you will be doing. Classical players generally prefer a harder reed with a narrower tip. Jazz musicians may favor a softer reed. Your choice of reed may also depend on your mouthpiece.
Manufacturers will provide a guide to reed strength to assist, but there are often variations between manufacturer gradings. For this reason, the strength information provided on the Sweet Reeds website is simply a guide to help you make your decision. There is much trial and error in reed choice. Enjoy trying different reeds of different strengths, and brands to suit your playing needs!
A general guide for Reed Strength
|Soft ||A very easy blowing reed suitable for beginners and very young players. Less air pressure is required to make the reed respond.|
|Medium Soft ||An easy blowing reed suitable for beginners and young players.|
|Medium||A reed with some resistance. Suitable for intermediate and maturing players.|
|Medium Hard||A harder reed with greater resistance. Players would need to have well developed blowing technique to successfully play these reeds easily.|
|Hard||A much harder reed. The tip is still thin, so it is responsive, but there is a lot of cane on the back of the reed which means a greater amount of air pressure is needed to play. There is room to adjust the reed if you are able to adjust your own reeds.|