FAQ Flavoured reeds
So who likes the taste of cane really?
Nobody tells you when you take up the Clarinet or Saxophone,
that you’ll put a piece of shaped cane in your mouth and suck on it. If they did, the population of woodwind
players would hit the endangered species list.
If you are like most new students, you are introduced to a woodwind
instrument at school. Before you know
it, you are blinded and enticed by the silver or gold keys, the shining bell,
how it sounds, everything except how it tastes.
By the time you are clutching your instrument of choice, in a state of
nerves and anticipation, you’re already committed. Then you’re given a reed and told to suck on
it for a while to soften it. That’s the
“citrus” moment. Where students
everywhere pull that face. You know the
face; and the taste… a lot like sucking
There’s a reason the collective is called wood wind. It comes from an ancient latin word meaning the wood eaters. Did you know, that serious reed players offer their dinner guests cracked arando donax cane on their meals? And it’s a little known fact that professional reed players discuss the taste of cane at length. Like connesseurs they peer through the rims of their spectacles and sniff and swill and assess their reeds as if they were sampling an aged wine.
OK, so maybe its not that bad… Maybe it’s only momentarily uncomfortable to taste the cane. After you’ve imbued it with enough spit, it just tastes like spit right? Yah…. that tastes so much better.
Well, the good news is that there are flavoured cane reeds.
Are you for real?
Totally! Flavoured reeds are made of good quality cane from the south of France, the same region where the cane for the high quality Vandouren reeds are sourced. Flavoured reeds are also made by a well known manufacturer in Paris.
There’s no gimmick, Flavoureeds are real playing reeds. To give you an idea, on my favourite flavour (cherry red) I can play high G effortlessly on Clarinet. Although it struggles to pop out the very, very stratospheric high notes (those notes that make the neighbourhood dogs howl) I have found that flavoured reeds perform well across the entire range of the instrument, with a clear, warm tone that sits somewhere between the Rico brand, which tend to be thin but clear, and Vandoren reeds, which are warm to the point of being a little stuffy.
Just a note on the flavouring
To create a Flavoureed, the creators took some classy French cane, added a simple no-added-sugar flavouring and wha la! They created a good quality reed, in a choice of flavours.
All the ingredients used in Flavoureeds are natural sugar-free food additives like those found in baked goods in any supermarket. The flavour is imbued into the pores of the reed, not just a glaze on the outside. This means that the flavour lasts, practically as long as the reed. Nifty huh!
Are they for everyone?
Students love flavoured reeds because they taste great, they
are fun and there is a variety of flavour choices. Teachers like them because the students tend
to practice more. At least the teachers
hope the students will practice more. The
thing is that the reeds are premium quality and can be played by a musicians at
How long does the flavour last?
Most good things come to an end, the same with the flavour of the flavoured reeds. Like bubble-gum, the taste gradually dissipates. There are some things you can do, however, to help save the flavour…
How to keep your reeds in top shape. I don’t mean take them to the gym, I’m talking about keeping them dry, secure and ready-to-play.
1. Be gentle with
your reed. They are delicate little
wafer-thin do-dads which require gentle handling. Gnawing on them or using them to clean your
teeth will dramatically reduce their life-span, maybe even inflict them with a
fatal condition known as splitting, cracking or general reed death. This is bad.
2 Keep your reeds in a flavour-saver otherwise known as a reed guard. Reed guards allow the reeds to dry out effectively between use and prolongs the life of your reeds by also keeping them safely encased.
3. Rotate the reeds
so you have two or three on the go at any one time – all which have been broken
in (a woodwind term for saddling your reed to your mouthpiece and making it play,
until it plays the way you like)
4. Keep your reeds away from puppies, pet rodents, small children and anyone who is going to likely to use them for ill gain. It’s tempting to suck on them like lolly pops, because they are just that yummy. I know someone who took her pina colada flavoured reed to every school class because she just couldn’t bear to take it out of her mouth. These people should alternatively just buy a lolly pop. The risk is that your reed will become damaged and wear out quicker than normal. If you’re a student, like my friend, your teacher will want you to like the taste so you’ll practice more. You will make your teacher happier by using your reed to practice with. Having said that, we also offer a number of flavour combinations you can try outside the practice room – in a future article.
3. Generally when the taste dissipates, it indicates that your reed is nearing the end of its illustrious life. Give it a funeral service, pop it in a matchbox bury it in the backyard, mourn for a few minutes, then get yourself a new reed!
Not all reeds are the same
Cane is a natural product, which is has individual differences, just the same as any living thing. Kittens born in the same litter have different fur colouring, different eye colour and different personalities. So each individual cane plant has slightly different properties to those in its family. Not all cane is the same, so not all reeds are the same. Some are harder to blow, or easier, they just have their own cute little personalities, and it’s a good idea to get to know each reed in your pack by using it for a period of time.
Reeds tend to soften when playing, and often become more responsive as a result. Some are sopranos, and play the high notes better, some are better at the low notes. Some are easier to articulate with, and different reeds will provide different tone qualities. It’s quite an exciting element of reed playing, getting a new box of reeds and learning about their different personalities. Sometimes you like the qualities of a reed, sometimes you just don’t get them. It’s all a normal part of reed playing. The reeds you don’t like can be reserved for a future use (as you develop as a player you may later come to like that style of reed), or swapped with a friend (just wash out / disinfect the reed first), or if you can always give them to your hamster or budgie, I hear they are good for their teeth. (The good thing about flavoured reeds is that should you decide you don’t like one, you can always use it as a lolly pop.)
And finally, remember to take good care of your instrument. Your flavoured reeds are fabulous and fun. To completely enjoy them